The Journey of the Nafs and the Muslim Physician: Moral Plasticity in Medicine

  • Thalia ArawiEmail author
  • Maya Chebaro
  • Wadad Hoss
Living reference work entry


The physician-patient relationship is being subjected to factors that, with time, continue to destroy the core of the medical profession – which has trust at its center. In the Arab region, bioethics is theologically oriented as a rising interest in medical ethics connected to the Muslim faith is witnessed. The means by which Islam helps the physician follow her moral compass and remain faithful to the profession of medicine and what it stands for is the subject of this chapter. The authors argue that the Islamic notion of the levels of the soul (nafs) as portrayed in the Qurʾān offers a guide for the physician to fight the lures of modern medicine and to do the right thing even when no one is looking. The authors begin by looking at the human as portrayed in Islam; then they proceed to describe the nafs and the three levels which it can attain as portrayed in the Qurʾān. They examine the characteristics of the nafs at each level as well as the ascension of the nafs from one level to the next in order to attain the state at which a person chooses to do (and does) what is right.


Physician-patient relationship Islamic bioethics Levels of the nafs Levels of the soul 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Salim El Hoss Bioethics and Professionalism Program, Department of Internal MedicineAmerican University of Beirut Medical CenterBeirutLebanon
  2. 2.International CollegeBeirutLebanon

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