Muslim Worldviews: Implications for Helping Professionals Providing Culturally Competent Care

Muslim Worldviews: Implications for Helping Professionals Providing Culturally Competent Care

Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0018-7.ch001
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This chapter seeks to provide an overview of traditional and contemporary Muslim worldviews, specifically beliefs and attitudes that may relate to help-seeking and interaction with human services such as counseling, health services, educational systems, and social services. Traditional Islamic beliefs and views, combined with contemporary issues and the experiences of living as a religious minority, can impact successful interaction between members of the Muslim community and service providers. In addition, basic knowledge of Muslim worldviews can aid helping professionals in providing effective, culturally competent care. This chapter focuses on traditional Islamic concepts of health and illness, common lay beliefs that stem from traditional views, attitudes towards treatment, and help-seeking patterns. The interplay of religiosity, acculturation, gender, family dynamics, and other relevant factors on help-seeking and service utilization are also presented to provide the reader with a holistic perspective of prevalent Muslim worldviews.
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The area of culturally competent care is one that has been emerging not only for mental health professionals, but for all individuals involved in providing services within a multi-cultural, multi-religious society, including health care providers, mediators, educators, social workers, and providers of other social or community services. Cultural competence is an essential tool for helping professionals to effectively serve all facets of their community. Successful care relies on both the desire of the helping professional to learn about the cultural background and circumstances of the client, and the willingness of the client to share in an honest and open manner his or her perceptions of the situation leading him or her to utilize a service. For Muslims, who have long been viewed as outsiders in non-Muslim majority countries, lack of cultural competency can impact willingness to utilize available services in their community. In addition, a negative encounter with a service or helping professional can significantly reduce the chance that an individual and others in their community will seek out services in the future.

Islam as a global religion provides a distinct cultural narrative that is based upon Islamic doctrine, but is also influenced by the cultures, languages, and countries in which the practice of Islam exists. Islam provides a foundation for those who identify as Muslim and plays a strong role in influencing attitudes and behaviors, as Muslims tend to view Islam as an entire way of life. The Muslim worldview, like other worldviews, consists of sets of beliefs and assumptions that shape reality and therefore influence individual thinking and behavior (Koltko-Rivera, 2004). However, Muslims are not a homogenous group and therefore there is not one definitive Muslim worldview, but rather multiple worldviews that are shaped by both the level of adherence to Islamic theological concepts and other cultural and social factors. Thus, it must be cautioned that there is a great deal of diversity that exists within this unity, just like in any population.

The following chapter provides an overview of key aspects of traditional and contemporary Muslim worldviews as they relate to health and illness, social problems, and help-seeking behaviors, as well as how these worldviews are influenced by the context in which Muslims live in Western society. Topics covered include traditional Islamic views of physical and mental illness, attitudes towards help-seeking, gender and family norms that may impact help-seeking, and traditional Islamic forms of treatment. The chapter describes the usage of both biomedical and psycho-spiritual models of health by contemporary Muslims, and how lay conceptions often differ or co-exist with theological concepts of health and wellness.

Potential factors that influence willingness to use available services and seek help within a country include immigration status, prevailing attitudes towards Muslims in that country, the person’s level of religiosity, fear of stigma from both within and outside of their community, language barriers, and the availability of same gender, same culture, or same religion service provider (Vu, Azmat, Radejko & Padela, 2016; Shafi, 1998; Pilkington, Msetfi & Watson, 2012). The cultural, racial, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds of the client must therefore be assessed or taken into consideration by the service provider. Beliefs and attitudes that are shaped by an individual’s background can influence Muslims’ use of available services to address mental and physical illness, addiction, disability, childhood issues, and trauma. The chapter includes descriptions of common Muslim social norms that may be important to help a professional avoid bias or misunderstanding and increase rapport with Muslim clients.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Evil Eye: Within the Islamic tradition, the evil eye is the belief that a person can cause misfortune, physical or mental illness, by placing a curse on another person as a result of envy. Often referred to as Nazar.

Spiritual Assessment: Oral or written questions designed to assess a client’s spirituality or religiosity, to strengthen communication between a provider and a client, and elicit a better understanding of the role of spiritual or religious belief in the individual’s life and decision making.

Qadr: Often translated as pre-destination or fate, it indicates Divine Will for followers of Islam. Allah (God) is unrestricted by time and knows the final outcome for each individual. The concept does not fully discount the idea of free will.

Shame: Shame, honor, or izzat originates in the collectivist notion that an individual’s actions reflect in their reputation and the reputation of their family and even larger community. Sinful behaviors, either committed by an individual or against an individual (such as rape, sexual abuse, or domestic violence) may all be viewed as bringing shame on an individual and household.

Jinn: Beings within Islamic theology made from “Smokeless fire” and distinct from humans and angels. Jinns can be bad and good and belong to different religions. Traditionally, it is believed that jinn can possess humans and cause symptoms of physical and psychological illness.

Religious Identity: The role of religion in personal identity, and the importance of religion in the person’s group membership and overall self-concept.

Religiosity Measures: Psychometric instruments that measure some aspect of religiosity or religious commitment either within a specific religion or measuring religiosity in general.

Acculturation: Acculturation is a process that can occur for any individual or group trying to adjust or adapt to the dominant or host culture as a result of contact between cultures.

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