Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Health Care Crisis in the US:
An Islamic Perspective
By Hassan Ali El-Najjar
Al-Jazeerah, ccun.org, August 22, 2009, 1st of Ramadhan, 1430
First, the facts about the health
care crisis in the US: *
1. Many insurance companies do not
renew insurance policies if the insured develops a
condition, like cancer.
2. Many insurance companies do not insure
persons with pre-existing conditions, i.e. those who are abandoned by health
insurance companies after developing a costly health condition, like
3. Many people lose their health insurance when they lose
their jobs, particularly in time of recession, which is a characteristic
of the capitalist system.
4. Many people cannot afford to buy health
insurance like new graduates or part-time job holders.
5. As a
result of the above, there are about 46 million people who do not have
health insurance in the US.
6. Health care costs have
contributed to the failure of businesses to be competitive, whether these
are small business or even giants, like auto makers.
7. The most
troubling of all facts about health care in the US is that it is projected
that the costs of the two government-administered programs of health
care, MEDICARE & MEDICADE, will grow to levels which threaten insolvency
within a decade from now.
Second, What do these facts mean, as signs of a looming
1. The millions of people who do not have access to the
health care system will be suffering and dying just because they are denied
2. Health insurance companies continue to reap huge
profits from people as long as they are healthy but without being obligated
to take care of them when they are truly in need, i.e. after developing a
costly health condition.
3. We will continue to have recessions at
least once in every decade, which are inherent in the capitalist system. It
is illogical that whenever we have recessions, they people who lose their
jobs will also lose their access to the health care system.
Millions of people who cannot afford buying health insurance work but their
income is not big enough to enable them to buy health insurance, like in the
case of minimum-wage workers. This is a case of justice. The legislative
branch of government has done this category of workers injustice by allowing
business owners to give them a “minimum wage” that does not enable them to
buy the minimum of life necessities, like health care.
businesses big and small will be more competitive locally and globally if
they are relieved of health care costs. A good example is the case of
American auto makers who have been competing against German and Japanese
auto makers. They could not win this competition simply because in Germany,
Japan, and other industrial societies, health care is shared by several
partners, particularly the government.
6. If nothing is done to
reform the system of health care in the US, tens of millions of poor and
elderly Americans, who receive Medicare and Medicaid, will be added to the
46 millions who are already without health insurance.
Third, consequences of leaving the health care system
as it is, without repair?
1. Whenever there is a crisis in
any aspect of life, society as a whole has to intervene to reform or repair
the system. This was the case during the 1930s depression and during the
2008 financial crisis. To save the financial system, the government bailed
out the banks, the housing industry, and the automobile industry with about
one trillion dollars.
The health care industry is not different from
the other industries, which were reformed by the government intervention
2. If the system is not reformed, and millions of people
continue without access to the health care system, they will still affect it
by adding INDIRECT costs to it through coming to the emergency rooms in
hospitals and through spreading infectious diseases.
3. Those who
are denied access to the health care system may become less competitive and
less productive members of society, which affects the productivity and
competitiveness of society as a whole in this current competitive global
4. American businesses will continue to be less competitive
locally and globally because their costly products as a result of the burden
of health care costs.
5. The most important negative consequence of
not reforming the health care system is that the poor, the needy, and the
elderly in society will be left behind to suffer alone without help from the
rest of society.
Society will grow to be less humane, without
mercy, without compassion, and without justice.
Nobody should be denied
access to health care in society if we want that society to be healthy,
competitive, productive, humane, merciful, compassionate, and just.
An Islamic Perspective on Health Care in Society
Then, what’s the Islamic position towards leaving millions of
people deprived of health care in society, with the negative consequences
Islamic teachings promote social cohesion and
social solidarity, in order for members of society to enjoy their life as
much as they can whether they are fortunate or less fortunate.
poor and the needy should not be left behind suffering. To the contrary, the
more fortunate should pay attention to and help those who are in need.
1. The third pillar of Islam, after the proclamation of faith and prayers,
is giving away charity (Zakat), the minimum of which is 2.5% of annual
savings. The objective is enabling the less fortunate to have the life
necessities, like food, clothes, housing, education, and health care.
In Verse 60 of Chapter 9 (Surat Al-Tawbah), Allah praise to Him specifies
the categories of people who should be the recipients of Charity. He says:
لِلۡفُقَرَآءِ وَٱلۡمَسَـٰكِينِ وَٱلۡعَـٰمِلِينَ عَلَيۡہَا وَٱلۡمُؤَلَّفَةِ
قُلُوبُہُمۡ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَٱلۡغَـٰرِمِينَ وَفِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَٱبۡنِ
ٱلسَّبِيلِۖ فَرِيضَةً۬ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِۗ
وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَڪِيمٌ۬
“Alms (Charity or Zakat) are for the poor and the needy, and those employed (to
collect and administer the funds); and for those whose hearts have been
reconciled (to Truth, the new believers); for those in bondage (to free
them) and in debt (to pay off their debts); in the cause of Allah; and for
the wayfarer: It is ordained (obligatory) by Allah, and Allah is All
knowledgeable, All wise.”
The needy have a right in the fortunes
of the wealthy because all the wealth is from God, entrusted to some of us
to spend on themselves and on others.
In Verse 19 of Chapter 51 (Surat
Al-Dhariyat), Allah praise to Him emphasizes that the needy have a
receive charity from the wealthy. He says:
وَفِىٓ أَمۡوَٲلِهِمۡ حَقٌّ۬ لِّلسَّآٮِٕلِ وَٱلۡمَحۡرُومِ
“And in their wealth, there is a right for (the needy) who asks and for the
deprived who does not ask.”
وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡبِرِّ وَٱلتَّقۡوَىٰۖ
(Help one-another) in righteousness (doing good deeds) and piety (avoiding
the violation of God’s prohibitions).”
In Verses 9 and 10 of Chapter
93 (Surat Al-Dhuha), Allah praise to Him instructs those who have wealth to
give some of it to those who do not have it, as in the case of the following
two categories of the needy. He says:
فَأَمَّا ٱلۡيَتِيمَ فَلَا تَقۡهَرۡ
"Therefore treat not the
orphan with harshness;
Nor repulse the petitioner (who asks you)"
The meaning is that
orphans represent a category of the needy who are too young to ask and too
helpless to fend for themselves. This is a command from God to take care of
them as well as taking care of the needy who petition or ask you to give
them of what God enabled you to get.
in a given society
partners in major
resources that affect life and death, as we were instructed by the Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in a Hadith
(saying) narrated by
Wakee’, Hareez, and Abu Khurash, May Allah be pleased with them.
حدثنا وكيع ،
حدثنا ثور الشامي ، عن حريز بن عثمان ، عن أبي خراش ، عن رجلِ من أصحاب
النبي ، صلى الله عليه وسلم ، قال: قال رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم:
شركاء في ثلاث: الماء ، والكلأ
The text of the Hadith states that:
“Muslims are partners in three
(resources): Water, grass, and fire.”
The meaning of the Hadith is
that people in a given society cannot survive unless they share basic
resources such as water for them to drink, grass for their animals to eat,
and fire (energy) for them to use in heating, cooking, production of
Health care is a basic societal resource which
protects people from diseases and keeps them healthy and productive. Denying
it to some people because of their poverty is like denying water to those
who do not own water wells or live far away from rivers and lakes. It leads
to their demise.
Societal intervention is required if danger is
expected by doing nothing. This is the lesson we learn from a parable story
taught to us by the Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings of Allah be upon
حدثنا أحمد بن
منيع حدثنا أبو معاوية ، حدثنا الأعمش ، عن الشعبي
، عن النعمان بن بشير قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم:
على حدود الله والمدهن فيها ، كمثل قوم استهموا على سفينة
في البحر ، فأصاب بعضهم أعلاها وأصاب بعضهم أسفلها ، فكان الذين في
أسفلها يصعدون فيستقون الماء ، فيصبون على الذين في أعلاها. فقال الذين
في أعلاها: لا ندعكم تصعدون فتؤذوننا. فقال الذين في أسفلها: فإنا
ننقبها. فإن أخذوا على أيديهم فمنعوهم ، نجوا جميعاُ. وإن
وإن تركوهم غرقوا جميعاً."
قال أبو عيسى هذ حديث
The parable story is
about two groups of people sailing in the same ship. One group stayed at
the bottom and the other stayed on top floor of the ship. The people on top wanted
to prevent those at the bottom to come up to fetch water. The people at the
bottom replied by threatening to make a hole in the ship to get water
directly. If they are allowed to do so, the ship may drown and all may die
but if they are prevented (by allowing them to share the water from the top),
they will all be saved.
The meaning of the Hadith is that societal
intervention is necessary to prevent danger from happening to the majority.
If millions of people continue to be denied access to health care and
millions more will be denied that access if the government-administered programs
collapse, then a great catastrophe may fall on society as a whole, as
In conclusion, Islamic teachings promote social
solidarity and assistance to the poor and the needy, and consequently
promote extending access to health care for those who lack that access.
The above-mentioned facts about the health care system in the US have been
used by President Barack Obama during his speeches about the topic in
various American cities, particularly his speeches in Montana and the
Organizing Forum about Health Care in the White House, on August 20, 2009.
All of the President’s speeches were published on the White House website.
C-Span has published major articles, videos, and debates about the US health
care reform. These can be found at:
* Dr. Hassan Ali El-Najjar has a Ph.D.
in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from the
University of Georgia, USA. He is also a native speaker of Arabic.