Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
In some hospitals it is the law for a doctor to close the door to examine a patient to ensure patient privacy. When this happens with a patient of the opposite sex, is it considered unlawful khalwa? If so, what should the doctor or medical student/resident do to avoid such situations, given the law that it is required by the hospital?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The position of Muslim doctors and medical practitioners is very delicate indeed, because they find themselves in many situations where it is very easy for one to fall into a sin. Only the fear of Allah, piety and moral ethics will prevent one from committing a sin.
Doctors have to regularly interact with patients of the opposite sex. Thus, they need to be very careful and mindful in that they don’t transgress the limits set down by Shariah.
As far as being alone with someone of the opposite sex (khalwah) is concerned, it is common knowledge that this is not allowed in Islam, due to the many Prophetic statements declaring it to be unlawful or at the least prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman), for example:
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “A man must not remain alone in the company of a woman, and a woman must not travel except that her Mahram is accompanying her.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 2488)
Therefore, a medical practitioner should try his/her best in order not to be alone with someone of the opposite sex. If it is possible for one to have a nurse or some other third person in the room, then one must do that. If that is not possible, then one should try and keep the door open. If one is forced by law to keep the door closed, then one must ensure the door is not locked (and I believe by law also, one cannot lock the door).
In the case where the door is closed, one should try and practice in a room with a view into the room. There should be an unveiled window through which people are able to see inside the room. A door which has a see-through window would be sufficient.
If none of the above is possible in that one is forced by law to close the door, not have a see-through window and not have a third person present, then due to the rule of “need and necessity” it would be permitted to be in seclusion with the patient of the opposite gender.
However, one should keep in mind the Juristic principle which states: “Cases of need are restricted to the actual need” (Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir, P. 86). Thus, one must be careful that the remaining in Khalwa is only restricted to the actual need. One must not remain in seclusion any longer than what is “typically” required for consultation. Also, one must lower their gaze and save themselves from anything inciting, for the third person amongst them will be Shaytan.
As far as the ruling for a patient is concerned, he/she must avoid being alone (khalwa) with a doctor of the opposite sex. It will not be permitted to be in Khalwa with a doctor of the opposite gender if a doctor from one’s own gender is easily available and one is satisfied and content with his/her medical treatment. However, if this is not possible, it will be permitted due to need and necessity.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicetser, UK