Muslim woman going to a male gynecologist.

Q. Can a Muslim woman go to a male gynecologist? My wife has been to 2 female gynecologists and hasn’t received the best care. This is her first pregnancy. Most people are telling us that the male doctor gives better care than the female. If not, are there any recommendations I may use?

A. The laws of Purdah and Hijaab in Islam are very strict, and it is not allowed for a man to view the concealable parts of a woman’s body (awrah). Only in the case of a dire necessity, an allowance has been given to the extent of need.

In the famous book of Islamic Jurisprudence, it is written, ‘it is not permissible for a man to look at a strange woman (one who is not a blood relative) except to the face and hands up to the wrists. (Muktasar Al Qudoori, Al Hidaya). The law goes further to state, ‘and it is not permissible for him to touch her face and her hands (and any other part of her body) even though he is free from desires (Al Hidaya).

This is the general law that has been given, and is based upon the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAS). However, sometimes due to extreme cases of need and necessity, an allowance is given, and in the case of medical attention, the Fuqaha (jurists) have given the following allowance:- ‘And it is permissible for a doctor to look at the place of sickness in a woman only on account of a necessity. However, it is proper that a woman learns medicine in order that she may attend to females, since it is easier and more acceptable for a woman to view the body of a woman.’ (Muktasar Al Quduri, Al Hidaya). It is further explained in these authoritative books of Islamic Jurisprudence, ‘if women are not able to treat the woman (and there is no alternative except to visit a male doctor) then the male doctor must cover all the parts of her body except the area which he needs to attend to. Then he may look at her and lower his gaze as much as possible’. (Al Hidaya)

From the explainations given by the great jurists of Islam, it becomes clear that a woman may only attend to a male doctor when there is a dire necessity to do so. This dire necessity will only come about when there are no female doctors to attend to. If there are female doctors, then there will be no necessity and hence, it will not be allowed for a Muslim woman to go to a male doctor, especially when it entails the act of looking at and touching her body.

Having said this, the guideline of the shariah with respect to what you have asked is that seeing that there are qualified and competent female gynecologists available, it will not be permissible for your wife to go to a male gynecologist.

There are many women (both Muslim/non Muslim) who go to female gynecologists and they are well attended to. Probably you need to look around.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan