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Comparing Faith Practices in Healthcare: Sikhism, Judaism, Bahaism, and Christianity

Comparing Faith Practices in Healthcare: Sikhism, Judaism, Bahaism, and Christianity

During their practice, the healthcare providers get into contact with people of different faiths. In order to take care of the individual in a way that is accessible and admissible by his religion, the healthcare provider should focus on the person’s way of living, place in society, family life, etc., which are based on religious regulations. Distinguish features of such faiths as Sikhism, Judaism and Bahaism will be shown and compared with Christianity.

The Sikhs believe that there is only one universal God for all people. Sikhs have spiritual books that guide their spiritual, moral and social life. They practice meditation and prayers for unity with God, but they do not pay much attention to rituals and ceremonies. The central part of Sikhs’ devotional life is prayers: hymns (Hukamnama), devotional readings (Paath), meditations (Naam Simran) and five daily prayers (Nitnem Banis). Sikhs also have five symbols of the faith (5 KS): Kesh (uncut hair for both men and women, which symbolizes saintly qualities and nature-loving disposition), Kangha (a small wooden comb, a symbol of cleanliness), Kara (a steel bungle, a symbol of social vanity), Kirpan (a short sword, which shows the person’s duty and right to take arms in order to destroy evil) and Kaccha (some kind of undershorts). The doctors and nurses under no circumstances should touch or remove these 5 KS without the owner’s permission and before washing hands. Personal hygiene is highly important for Sikhs, and even before drinking a glass of water, the patient would like to wash his or her face and hands. Most Sikhs do not eat beef, eggs or fish. Sikh faith strictly prohibits tobacco, alcohol and any intoxicating substances. Also, Sikhs believe that all people have equal rights, and they do not discriminate against people on the grounds of their color of skin, sex or outlook. Nevertheless, they would prefer a healthcare provider of the same sex for intimate procedures. During illnesses, they pray to seek God’s help, remember God’s name to obtain peace, ask for forgiveness, listen to sacred hymns, and may also ask for audiotapes of mystical music (Keertan). Sikhs believe that with the help of hymns, their spirit and body will become stronger. They may consider illness as God’s will and also believe that God is merciful and well-wishing, but the patient has to make everything possible to get better (including resorting to medical treatment). Sikhs believe that everybody who is born has to die. They believe that the body is perishable and the soul is eternal (it is a part of God, and it will unite with Him after death). Sikhs do not actively convert others to follow their faith. They mostly encourage everybody to follow Sikhism, and anyone who has the desire to follow their ideas is welcome to become Sikh.

Judaism considers a human as a creature of God. In contrast to Sikhs, Jewish people pay much attention to traditions, prayers, reading and studying the Torah (which describes more the way of life than the religion), and strict observance of the Sabbath, which originates from the Torah. During Sabbath (from nightfall on Friday until sunset on Saturday) is a day of rest and mutual rejuvenation. On this day, Jewish do nothing that is considered work. It should be stated that physical contact between men and women is allowed only between relatives but not between the healthcare provider and the patient. Traditionally, a small skullcap (yarmulke) covers men’s and boys’ heads, but it can be removed if this is required by a doctor. Jewish people do not eat pork. They also wait for about six hours between eating dairy products and meat. Healing in Judaism involves the use of traditional resources in combination with mind–body techniques, community and psychological insights. The holistic approach to Jewish healing is considered in the MiSheberach prayer, which is pronounced when somebody is ill. Jewish people pray for complete healing that involves healing of both body and spirit. Although healing itself can facilitate physical improvement, it is not the same as a physical cure. When the person feels that he wants to convert to Judaism, he should make an appointment with Rabbi, who will test the individual’s commitment and make sure that becoming a Jew is truly what he wants. Notwithstanding strict observance of traditions, which are shown above, the highest value for Jewish people is a human’s life. So, they will observe all doctor’s prescriptions even if they happen to come against their religious rules.

Bahai religion is based on the study that the physical body is the form of existence of humans on Earth, and the primordial essence of each person is the soul. The soul will continue its existence after a human’s death and will unite with God in heaven or will go to hell (i.e., to move away from God). Bahai states that all religions have the same spiritual foundation and that all humans are created equal. There are a lot of mystical texts that Bahai people consider necessary to follow. They also admire high moral principles, peace, justice and unity. Each person should search for the truth by himself by means of prey and observe the fast and the directions stated in holy books. According to the Bahai faith, there are two ways of healing sickness: material and spiritual. The first one is possible through the use of remedies and medicines; the second one consists in praying to God and turning to Him. In case of illness is caused by physical accidents, medical remedies should be used; if the illness is caused by spiritual problems, then spiritual means of healing should be applied. If the illness is caused by some fear or nervousness, the patient will need more spiritual treatment than physical one. In any case, it will be better to use both types of medical treatment. Bahai people consider that person’s spirit highly affects the condition of his body. If the healthcare provider makes the patient happy and brings joy to his life, the patient’s health will recover faster. In any case, material treatment should be followed along with spiritual one. Tobacco and alcohol are strictly prohibited by the faith. Bahai people promote cleanliness during daily life and a diet that is based on the consumption of simple food and a minimum of meat. These rules make the personal discipline and pay all attention to his or her spiritual life. If someone meets the basic spiritual requirement for being a Bahai and wants to become a Bahai, he or she can freely do it just by contacting other Bahais in their area.

Christianity is based on the domination of spiritual life over a physical body and material world. Christians pay much attention to religious traditions: prayers, visiting church ceremonies, studying the Bible and other holy books, obeying 10 commandments, fasting during the holy periods etc. Traditionally, healthy adult Christians fast during the holy periods (40 days before Christmas Day and 50 days before Easter Sunday). Instead of meat, they eat fish, although, nowadays, this tradition is not strictly observed. Also, Christians believe that all people are sisters and brothers, and the patient usually does not pay much attention to the gender of a doctor. Visits of relatives and friends are highly important for sick and dying people. Also, the pastor or members of the church can come to the hospital. Before death, a sick person may ask a priest to come and make a holy sacrament or express a desire to confess. These procedures are very important because they prepare the patient for death. Healing for Christians is a kind of relationship between God and humankind, a physical expression of salvation. Suffering is seen as a manifestation of an individual’s faith and belief in miraculous healing. Christians highly believe that prayer and penitence have a miraculous force and can heal even hopelessly ill people.

This research shows the distinguishing features of such faiths as Sikhism, Judaism, Bahai and Christianity. Some of the representatives of these religions pay much attention to traditions, but most of them pay particular attention to a person’s spiritual life and his or her unity with God. The above information will help healthcare providers to work with patients of different faiths and take care of them in a way that is not contrary to their religion.

📎 References

1. Collins, A. (2002, February 28). Nursing with dignity part 1: Judaism. NursingTimes.net. Retrieved from https://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/nurse-managers/nursing-with-dignity-part-1-judaism-28-02-2002/.
2. Gill, B. K. (2002, April 2). Nursing with dignity – Sikhism. NursingTimes.net. Retrieved from https://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/nurse-educators/nursing-with-dignity-sikhism-02-04-2002/.
3. Guidelines for Health Care Providers Interacting with Patients of the Sikh Religion and Their Families. (2000). Retrieved from http://www.sikhwomen.com/health/care/protocol.htm.
4. The Baha’i Faith and Health Care. (2010). Retrieved from http://bahaicoherence.blogspot.com/2010/02/bahai-faith-and-health-care.html.