I am a certified Electrocardiogram Technician. However, to do this job, I must place electrodes on a person’s chest. I must place six on the chest and four on the arms and legs. However, I would have to look at a women’s chest and even touch their left breast to properly place the leads. Would it be halal for me o get a job doing this, since I am a male. Also, would it make a difference if the patients were all old?
I am also becoming a nurses’ aid. In this profession, I will deal with old people who are 65 years of age or older 99%of the time. I would have to give them baths, clean their genitals and anus. Can I as a Muslim male do this job? There are institutions where males take care of males only. However, during the training period I can’t choose the setting where to practice, I will have to work with female patients. Would this be allowed for the training period only?
The nakedness (awra) of a woman in front of a non-Mahram male is all her body except her face, hands and feet, and the nakedness of a male is from below his navel up to and including his knees. (See: the major fiqh references). Hence, it will not be permitted to expose, see or touch the Awra except in the most dire of situations.
Medical treatment is considered by the jurists (fuqaha) to be a genuine case of need; hence, they permit a male practitioner to examine and treat the effected area of a woman’s body, provided certain conditions are met.
The renowned Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states whilst discussing the genuine reasons for the permissibility of a man looking at a woman’s Awra:
“…And for medical treatment, in that a male doctor may look at (and treat) the effected area (of a woman’s body) but only to the extent of need, for cases of need are restricted to the actual need… And it is preferable that the male doctor teaches and instructs a female to treat her, for looking at (and treating) someone from the same gender is a lesser of an evil.” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 6/371)
Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains in his Radd al-Muhtar that, if the treatment is connected to the private parts of a woman, then only in extreme situations will it be permitted for her to be treated by a male doctor. He states:
“If the treatment is on her private parts, then he should teach and instruct a female to treat her. If this is not possible and it is feared that the woman patient may perish or undergo unbearable pains, only then will it be permissible for a male doctor to treat her, provided her non-effected parts of the body are completely covered and provided he keeps his gaze low as much as possible except from the effected area.” (ibid)
Based on the above, in principle it would be permitted for you to take up your profession as an electrocardiogram technician or work as a nurses’ aid. However, in the situation where you will be required to treat and touch the Awra of a woman, especially her genital area, you will need to keep the following in mind:
If a female is available to treat the woman patient, it will not be permitted for you to treat her, especially when the treatment is connected to her private parts; rather, you will have to instruct a female to carry out the treatment. You should try and avoid treating the genital and breast areas of a woman. However, if the case is extreme, in that there is no female available to treat or examine her, and it is feared that her condition will worsen; then it will be allowed for you to treat her. In doing so, you must ensure to keep your gaze away from parts of the body that do not require to be examined, and also ensure that those areas of her body are properly covered. If possible, have a third person with you whilst treating the female patient, such as her husband, brother and the like. Always be conscious of accountability to Allah Most High.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK