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Growing up in a Middle-Eastern household always heavily contrasted with the Catholic-American backgrounds of my peers. Therefore, it produced awareness regarding the vast amount of different perspectives of health, wellness, and rituals revolving around death that are present in each individual’s unique bloodline. These cultural differences ultimately highlight the immeasurable customs present in each culture and demonstrate the importance of adhering and respecting patient values.
The Muslim aspect of my culture, stemming from my father’s side, strongly idealizes a healthy lifestyle in mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. In Islam, the body and health are considered essential gifts from God. In the English translation, Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the last prophet Muhammad, said “Health is the best of blessings. One of the blessings of God is the abundance of wealth; however, better than abundance of wealth is the health of the body” (NanoWisdoms Archive, n. d. ). Even when my family members greet each other, the most common phrase utilized translates to, “May God grant you wellness. ” Therefore, aspects revolving around maintaining optimal health are emphasized, such as maintaining an active lifestyle, which is not only highly accepted, but recommended in Islamic culture. Additionally, relaxation and avoidance of stressful stimuli are highly encouraged, as the day is recognized for labor, while nightfall centers around tranquility and strengthening social relationships with family. Regarding nutrition, Islamic beliefs follow the principle of moderation, eradicating the importance of what one consumes, and focuses on how much one consumes. Relative to food intake includes the idea of fasting, a religious practice that teaches one to be appreciative of riches that those less fortunate lack, but also promotes and fortifies the ideal that one should refrain from eating until one is truly hungry and should stop when they are fully satiated.
The impact of the dying process, from a Muslim perspective, doesn’t view death as a negative end. Instead, we deem it as a transition of bodies. We believe that life goes on to the afterlife and one’s actions follow them. Therefore, if one successfully and correctly abides by the laws outlined in the holy book, the Koran, one will live a rewarded life when entering the afterlife. If one leads a good life, death becomes a reward in which the individual is removed from the corruptness of the world. However, if one lives a fraudulent and dishonest life, death strips an individual from enjoying the beauty of the world, an eternal punishment. When a Muslim is in their declining stages, family members and friends are present. The Talqeen is performed, which is a ritual that coaxes the dying individual to recite a specific prayer that unifies a person to Islam and prepares them for the journey into death. When the individual is approaching their last breath, they are encouraged to say a prayer known as the “Shahada,” which every Muslim must recite in order to be formally recognized as Muslim. When an individual finally passes, the individual’s deceased body is bathed and covered in white cotton, and the body must be buried within two days. At the burial itself, no discussion is present except for silent prayers. Due to Islamic customs, socializing is believed to correlate to alleviating suffering. Therefore, a social gathering later follows the funeral, almost resembling a party, equipped with aisles of food and refreshments and dancing music.
Being from a family that is divided between Lebanese and Greek Orthodox culture has ultimately exposed me to two distinct perspectives of health, lifestyle, and death. While Greek Orthodox practices strongly relate to rituals found in common Catholic customs that are heavily present in today’s society, I chose to focus my background on not only the culture that I identify more with, but the one that differs amongst many. By remaining open to other cultures and recognizing variations, nurses are able to fully develop strong, reliable, and meaningful patient-provider relationships and interactions.
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