ETIQUETTES OF VISITING THE SICK
Today, few people do not even perform the minimum, using excuses like “I’m too busy for long drive!” ” or “I’ll ask about them on the phone,”or “I don’t like going to hospitals”. Muhammad ﷺ said, “Six are the rights of a Muslim over another Muslim. It was said to him: Allah's Messenger, what are these? Thereupon he said: When you meet him, offer him greetings;when he invites you to a feast accept it. when he seeks your council give him, and when he sneezes and says:" All praise is due to Allah ﷺ," you say Yarhamuk Allah (may Allah show mercy to you) ; and when he falls ill visit him; and when he dies follow his bier.” [Sahih Muslim 5379]
In the days of the Muhammad ﷺ and his companions, visiting the sick was not limited to relatives and acquaintances, but included strangers and non-Muslims (remember the Jewish kid who served Muhammad ﷺ and took the shahadah on his deathbed when Muhammad ﷺ went to visit him.) Here are 8 ways to make sure you are productively fulfilling one of the five rights a Muslim has over another Muslim: visiting the sick.
“Ali Ibn Abi Taalib related that he heard Muhammad ﷺ said: ‘If a man calls on his sick Muslim brother, it is as if he walks reaping the fruits of Paradise until he sits, and when he sits he is showered in mercy, and if this was in the morning, seventy thousand angels send prayers upon him until the evening, and if this was in the evening, seventy thousand angels send prayers upon him until the morning” [at-Tirmidhi].
Visiting sick someone who is ill is a highly rewarded act, but you can make it even more rewarding simply by making several intentions. Examples include: making a fellow Muslim happy, supporting another Muslim intime of need, improving relations with family or friends, softening the heart of a non-Muslim, and so on. Act smart and be sincere!
Inpatients are probably used to receiving visitors during visitation hours, but out of courtesy make sure you text the patient or their family member to notify them of your visit. This way you will avoid going at a time when they are sleeping, eating, taking a bath or receiving treatment. Be flexible and understanding if you are asked to come at a later time and don’t let this put you off making a visit altogether; you don’t want to miss the opportunity for tremendous sawab. It’s also a good idea to take a friend or more with you, but don’t turn it into a party! If you’re being accompanied by someone unknown to the patient, it is advisable to check with the patient first since they may not be ready to meet strangers.
Generally, flowers and chocolates seem to be the most popular gifts people take when visiting someone who is sick.
Although flowers are beautiful to smell and gaze upon, they wither quickly and usually end up outside the patient’s room (it’s funny, but they sort of ‘compete’ with the patient for oxygen). It’s time we put more thought and creativity into the gifts we buy, by considering the person’s age, health condition, and any restrictions (e.g. dietary). Think of what would make the person happy and help them make good use of their free time without exerting themselves. Ideas include personal items they can use during their hospital stay items they can fill their time with (books).
While patients enjoy some company, it’s highly recommended that we make it short and sweet. Inpatients wake up early particular and sleep early, and medication may wear them out. Unless you are a very close friend, be a light guest; try not to stay for more than 20-30 minutes (or less), depending on how well they are. In addition, don’t act uncomfortably if there are no chairs or if it’s too hot, for example, and try to minimize chatter if the person looks too tired to engage in conversation. Avoid bringing your children if they are too young or you will end up disturbing other patients.
Please don’t feed your curiosity and start off by asking, “So, what’s wrong with you exactly?”
Remember that you are here to get them out of the mood, not probe them for medical information! What if they had a surgery that is embarrassing to discuss? Instead, ask about how they’re feeling and when they’re expecting to return home, for example. Offer to babysit their children for a day if you can, or offer any other help they may need to reduce their burden. If they choose to reveal details to you, be a good listener. Give them advice, cheer them up, remind them of Allah’s mercy and how He tests His good servants to elevate their ranks. This is not the time to remind them of death and hellfire or share with them depressing news! Choose your words wisely and carefully.
How does this authentic hadith relate to visiting a sick person? Well, if you’re suffering from a bad cold, it may not be wise to visit someone who is already weak. In this case, apologize and pay them a visit when you’re better. On the contrary, if the patient is suspected to have a contagious disease, do not put yourself at risk; follow safety protocols as instructed by the hospital staff. A good intentioned behavior which is not appreciated is a transplant recipient with a very low immunity level i.e., refusing to wear a face mask. These things do more harm than good, so please be aware!
One of the most beautiful things in Islam is the collection of supplications we have been provided with to recite in each and every situation we may encounter in our daily life. Instead of saying “Get well soon!”, learn this dua
Muhammad ﷺ : “Laba’s, tuhoor In Sha Allah (No worry, it is a purification, if Allah ﷺ wills).” So we should try to cheer him up and give him glad tidings of healing in sha Allah, for that will comfort the sick person. (al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 5/171-176)
Remind them to regularly make dua for themselves, perhaps even give them a small book of supplications. Before leaveing, don’t forget to ask them to make dua’a for you as well.