What we can do when visiting the sick
There are many things we can do when visiting the sick. Below are some important things that will enable us to make our visits more productive:
The Prophet used to treat illness with Ruqya (words said for the express purpose of protection or cure charms) for person afflicted with ulcers, wounds, or pain. He would place his index finger on the ground, then lift it and say: “In the name of Allah. The earth of our land and the saliva of some of us cure our patients with the permission of our Lord.” [Al-Bukhari]
We should take the time to listen to the complaints of the sick person. Encourage them to speak about their condition and about what the doctor has informed them regarding it. Some patients may want to discuss the medication they’re taking and how it makes them feel. If the complaint does not include any objection to Allah’s Decree or despair of Allah’s Mercy, then it is not reprehensible and should be encouraged. It shows that we are interested and that we care and are concerned, which gives them comfort.
It’s important for us to be understanding and remember that although our lives are going on as normal, their life is now limited to their illness and it consumes them for the most part. Allowing them to share all of the situations they are now faced with will also give us a glimpse into their life as it is now. They may feel the need to describe their suffering in great detail, mainly hoping for a kind word to reassure them and ease their suffering.
Reassure them of their recovery. This makes them feel more at ease with their circumstances when they see others optimistic. A sincere supplication from us, even in their absence, can give hope and do a world of good. The companions of the Prophet complained to him once of fever and he did not criticize them or prohibit them from doing so. He further promised them that it would be purification for them.
Talk to the sick about how to receive their affliction and trial with patience. Remind them to place their trust in Allah and of the good reward of seeking Allah’s Countenance and maintaining that difficult patience. 'Aa'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated that Allah’s Messenger, salallaahu alayhi wa sallam, said: “Whenever a Muslim receives a prick from a thorn or anything more serious than it, Allah raises him one degree and removes one sin from him because of it.” Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “The sins of a Muslim are expiated through hardship, even through the tearing of his shoelace, or by things he puts into his pocket and then loses them and becomes dismayed. He will find all of this in his record."
We should encourage the sick to hope for the immediate, good reward they may receive in this world of tranquility and contentment. Remind him of Allah’s Love for those who are patient and His promise to them of the reward in this life and the hereafter. Allah Says what means: “…And Allah loves the patient.” [Quran 3:146]
If we see the sick in fear or anxiety, then remind them of their good qualities. Acknowledging their good qualities and deeds, no matter how insignificant, will help to raise their self-esteem and restore their trust and good faith in Allah.
Telling stories can also have a very positive effect on a person, especially stories that have good lessons that everyone can learn from. Allah Says what means: “There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding...” [Quran 12:111]
Don’t neglect the significance of narrating a story; it is not only a form of education, but also entertainment - especially for those that now may be physically limited. We should first take care to ensure that the stories we tell are authentic and sound. The best stories, without doubt, are the ones contained in the Book of Allah or told by the Prophet . Those stories have great lessons and a good influence on our hearts and conduct, especially when we know that they are truthful and accurate. Some of the stories tell about our scholars, their righteous life and their great patience that can be inspiring to everyone in times of trials.
Remind them of the importance of repentance and returning the rights of others. Sick and healthy persons are commanded to turn to Allah with repentance because repentance is required at all times. Remind the sick of this implicitly, explicitly or metaphorically by telling a story.
Do not forget to educate the sick on the ritual acts of worship, such as purity and cleanliness, maintaining Salah (prayer), etc. If the sick has knowledge, then there is no need to remind them of this, because the reminder may be misunderstood and perceived as having bad thoughts about the person. However, if the sick person is considered an average person who may not know the rulings of some of these obligations, then we should try our best to explain these to them. Doctors should make sure that sand is available should the sick need to make Tayammum (dry ablution) if they are unable to use water. Hospitals should be informed of this issue so that they can facilitate this matter in various departments.
We can try our best to make the sick share some of our own concerns or business with them. This can be helpful to take the sick person out of his closed circle that he resides within. We can also consult them in these matters to get their mind off of their pain and suffering. Do not, however, overburden someone ill with talk of your problems or argumentative discussions. It’s also important not to bring up subjects that we know may upset them.
Relatives, friends and doctors should ask Allah for the patient’s forgiveness. They should praise Allah and thank Him for His Grace and Gifts that cannot be numbered. Doctors can do all of the things previously discussed if they ask Allah for help and do all of this for His Sake. Through their practice, doctors can be at worship all the time if they perform work for Allah’s Sake and seeking His Pleasure and reward.
Finally, we must all be aware of the rights that a sick person has upon their Muslim physician. If the sick person complains of pain, the doctor should attempt to raise his hope and promise to help him - even if the case is seemingly hopeless - for nothing is difficult or impossible with Allah. The doctor should gradually inform the ailing person and his family when of the nature of his illness reaches a point of seriousness and danger. To inform the sick of a serious condition without such an introduction, a reminder and attempt to raise their hopes of trust in Allah may end up affecting the patient and their family in a very negative way; possibly causing them to suffer and worry needlessly.
Muslim doctors should always remember that the sick, infirmed or diseased, is also a human being with feelings and emotions, and that as their doctors, they have the ability to influence their patients.