Nowadays, nurses are appointed to serve and treat the sick. Is the nursing profession permissible for Muslim women?
In normal circumstances, it is not permissible for women to nurse (medically treat) strange (non-mahram) men because there is a fear of fitnah. This ‘fear of fitnah’ should not be misconstrued as unfounded or far-fetched, rather it is a common occurrence in [the modern workplace, not excluding] hospitals.
There is a leeway for a woman to work as a nurse in a ward which is designated for women only. She will fulfill her responsibility taking the Shar’ee boundaries of hijab into consideration.
It is not permissible for a woman to work in the male ward as a nurse or for her to be in seclusion with a male doctor or for her to wear such garments or uniforms which do not fulfill the requirements of Islamic hijab.
This is not imprisonment for our Muslim sisters, rather it is a means of securing and protecting her.[i]
Extraordinary situations, like when a natural disaster occurs, and a large amount of people are killed, or the case of war is slightly different from the normal case [in ruling]. In such cases, if there are not enough males to look after the wounded, then women will try their best, as far as possible, to fulfil the Shar’ee boundaries of hijab and treat the wounded. This is evident in a hadith which Imam Bukhari narrates from Rabee’ bint Mu’awwidh (May Allah be pleased with her) that she said, “We used to bring water with the Messenger ﷺ in the battle field, treat the wounded and transfer the slain.”[ii]
Under this hadith, in the hashiyah (footnotes) of Bukhari it is written that from this it is known that at times of dire need a non-mahram woman may medically treat a strange man.
فيه جواز معالجة المرأة الأجنبية للرجل الأجنبي للضرورة[iii]
However, as mentioned, the general rule cannot be based on isolated and abnormal circumstances.
(Faqeehul Asr Mufti Maulana) Khalid Saifullah Rahmani (May Allah preserve him)
Kitabul Fatawa Vol.6 Pg.209-210
[i] A simple glance of the news (October-December 2017/The Weinstein effect) proves that , in this society of ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’, majority of the women, across the full spectrum of the workplace, are being harassed by men.
In a United Nation website’s document titled ‘What is Sexual Harassment’, examples are given as follows: VERBAL: Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, babe, or honey · Whistling at someone, cat calls · Making sexual comments about a person’s body · Making sexual comments or innuendos, Turning work discussions to sexual topics · Telling sexual jokes or stories · Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history · Asking personal questions about social or sexual life · Making kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips · Making sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks · Repeatedly asking out a person who is not interested · Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s personal sex life NON-VERBAL: Looking a person up and down (Elevator eyes) · Staring at someone · Blocking a person’s path · Following the person · Giving personal gifts · Displaying sexually suggestive visuals · Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements · Making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips PHYSICAL: Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault, Giving a massage around the neck or shoulders, Touching the person’s clothing, hair, or body · Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking · Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person · Standing close or brushing up against another person.
Shar’ee Hijab, when practiced properly as Allah and His Messenger ﷺ ordained, protects the women folk from all of this. Allah Ta’ala says, “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known so as not to be harrased. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Ahzaab: 59)
[ii] Sahih Bukhari 1/403
[iii] Hashiyah ala Sahihil Bukhari 1/403 The Sahabiyaat helping out in the open air battle fields, where there was clearly no possibility of Fitnah, is still an example of the fiqhi maxim (الضرورات تبيح المحظورات) “Dire needs permit the prohibited.” This is derived from the verse in which, after listing many haram food items, Allah permits the person in dire need to consume them. He says, “He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Baqarah: 173)