Some societies have a significant impact of religion on them. Throughout history, religion has been a tool for man to create civilized communities, wherein the people can live in peace and harmony with each other, abiding by the irrefutable laws and guidelines set by their religion to lead their lives (Sherman, pp. 19-33, 2001). Faith does not only serve as a means of providing a path for spiritual enlightenment for an individual but if followed in its real sense, it possesses the fundamental principles upon which, the foundation of entire countries is primarily based (Wood, pp. 23-25, 2002). In specific, Islam is the second-largest religion in the world (Turner, pp. 41-47, 2006). It was the observation that several experts have put efforts to identify the impact of other religions on the social context of health. Thus, this paper will focus on the effects of Islam on the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, specifically in terms of health. In brief, the report will include discussion on religion, and one of the significant reasons for selecting religion is that its knowledge will allow the researcher to respond to patients’ expectations more effectively. Also, the sense of choosing the Borough of Tower Hamlets was a lack of studies in this region. Thus, the following research will be very beneficial for students and professionals.
The number of Muslims inhabiting Tower Hamlets reaches more than 73,000. Islam first arrived at Tower Hamlets about 300 years ago, being the religion of seamen and merchants of the Middle East and Africa who came here (Schulze, pp. 56-71, 2002). Over a period, Muslims from different places such as Bangladesh, the Balkans, Malaysia, and East Africa have also come to live in Tower Hamlets. Muslim communities were mainly around the docks of Shoreditch and Whitechapel, where they prospered and developed (Chamberlain, pp. 56-63, 2001).
Chaucer has even mentioned about Muslims in the Canterbury Tales since they have been living in and around London for centuries. There are numerous mosques in Tower Hamlets that signify the rich religious legacy of Tower Hamlets, one such mosque being the London Jamme Mosque in Brick Lane (Daftary, pp. 66-70, 2000). It was by Huguenots around 1743 that fled persecution in France. It is one of the two remaining chapels built by him. After they had left, the building turned into a Wesleyan Chapel for a short period, before the Jewish community raised a sum of 6000 pounds to use it as a synagogue. Finally, in the year 1976, it again became a mosque depicting constant cultural changes occurring in the borough (Ebaugh, pp. 80-88, 2006).
A Muslim Community
In particular, “a community is a group of people with similar traits, living together in a populated environment” (Spierling, pp. 20-29, 2008). The purpose of creating a community is to bring together certain people with the same characteristics and beliefs and instil in them a sense of strength and protection. The world in which we are living is a potpourri of diversified things. Currently, the ratio of suicides is increasing with a horrible rate in the whole world, including the United States (Reitzes & Mutran, pp.11, 2006). A large pool of people thinks that the stance of suicide is associated with the official religion’s belief and the community a person belongs to in the region.
The community here can be defined as ‘a group of people having common interests and religion’. Inevitably, an extensive collection of research documents the positive effect religion has on the social and mental health of a person (Ellison & Levin, pp.48, 1998). Usually, in a community, congregants often acquire an elevated level of social assimilation through the sharing of religious convictions and practices. Studies reveal that these religious involvements and integration reduce suicide rates consequently (Colucci & Martin, pp.66, 2008). The sharing of faith, traditions and beliefs in religious services leaves a positive impact on the mental health of a person and improves the overall social context of his health. One of the dominant forms of social prop up people gain from the community based religious participation is professed emotion support, which certainly plays a crucial role in the maintenance of social health.
Also, one can say that religious involvement has a real positive effect on the social as well as the mental health of a person, which varies from community to community. Organizational religiosity reduces the indications of depression and on the other hand, increases the levels of sanguinity and self-esteem, which are the essential ingredients of a person’s life (Mirola, pp.85, 1995). In Tower Hamlets, several Muslim communities exist for providing the already present and the newly converted Muslims the right knowledge of Islam and enlighten them with the teachings of the Holy Quran, the Holy Book of Muslims (Turner, pp. 39-47, 2006). A strong community acquires its recognition by others and has a voice of its own to convey its opinions on different matters. People in a properly functioning community not only bring benefits to their kind by doing good acts of charity but are also helpful for those outside the church.
Today, the Muslim communities in Tower Hamlets are facing a crisis. There is an alarming increase in population, illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, and criminal activities taking place among the Muslim communities in Tower Hamlets (Koenig, pp. 79-85, 2008). All these affect the health of a Muslim community, which is now suffering from sickness and disease.
The reason for these disasters is the negligence to follow the teachings of Islam, which indicates the impact of religion on the social context of health in a community. In particular, Islam is a religion of peace and wisdom, which encourages its followers to do good deeds and abstain from evil acts that directly or indirectly discourage the Muslim community from going against the betterment of social context of the health of the city.
Theories of Marxism and Functionalism
Marxists (Goldstein, pp. 29-33, 2006) believe that every human being is responsible regardless of their cast, colour, or religion for rising against oppression and suffering of a significant number of people in a particular area that is avoidable by having dialogues with the leaders of the communities. On the other hand, Functionalists proposed that unification and creation of one more city is the primary objective of the religion. In other words, faith is not something private but public involving rituals and ceremonies. In this regard, this essay will be advocating the theory of functionalists; in other words, proposals of Durkheim (pp. 213-303, 1994) during its discussion.
Sources of Information
In brief, sources of information play an imperative role in every research, and for this reason, the researcher has given significant importance to the methodology. Although the internet has now enabled users to acquire information in a very efficient manner, however, experience has indicated that it comes up with more than required, as well as unessential details that result in the waste of time. For such purpose, the researcher focused primarily on the books for the acquisition of information related to the impact of religion on the social context of health while focusing specifically on the London Borough. The significant advantage of relying on the books is the accuracy and validity of the information, as still amid considerable advancements in the field of information and technology, books are still the accurate and valid sources of information that inclined the researcher to focus on them. Also, relying on books did not mean to go at the library; however, the researcher took advantage of the internet and used the time efficiently by browsing books on the internet databases of books that were very vital in completing the research quickly. However, the major drawback of relying on books, or specifically, secondary research was the unavailability of customized information required for the topic. Also, it was an observation that some books although indicated sufficient information but were outdated that, another drawback of secondary research that several studies were carried out many years ago, and thus, there was an urgent need of new courses in the same field. Besides books, the internet also resulted in many disadvantages; the major one was lack of accurate and valid results. Although internet research resulted in a vast number of websites that had information about practices of Islam, as well as data about Tower Hamlets, many websites had plagiarized information. Also, several websites had incorrect information that resulted in waste of time, but, besides such advantages, the internet was an efficient tool that played a vital role during the research.
Muslims in London Borough of the Tower Hamlets are no doubt living in a terrible health state; however, it is an observation that individuals or families practising their religion correctly are pursuing a better healthy life, which once again indicates the impact of religion.
During the research (Goldstein, pp. 49-59, 2009), there have been various findings indicating the relation of religion and its teachings with the social context of health. In this paper, the following section will focus on results related to different practices of Islam and its impact on the social context of health as identified during the observation of Muslim community in London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Prophet Muhammad, in its earliest days, laid down the five pillars of Islam obligatory for all Muslims under certain conditions (Turner, pp. 25-30, 2006). One of them is Zakat, which is a form of charity in Islam aimed at supporting the poor in society by creating a vital central financial institution. Islam strongly condemns the concentration of wealth in a few hands or insensitivity of the privileged in the community towards the underprivileged. Quran at multiple occasions has identified Zakat as means to purify ones possession to wealth (Turner, pp. 25-31, 2006). It is important here to note that Zakat is paid on savings and not on income and only the people, whose income reaches a fixed level, they are obliged to pay 2.5 per cent of it as Zakat. Moreover, the Quran warns the people about strict and bitter consequences who try to evade Zakat (Chamberlain, pp. 49-58, 2001).
By giving away some part of your wealth to the poor Muslim brothers and sisters of the community, one not only ensures well-being but also provides social security for all including yourself (Turner, pp. 34-39, 2006). In other words, it gives the messages that those who are fortunate enough today to own a certain amount of money and that they can pay Zakat, tomorrow when they will be in need, they would be provided for by the community through the same system to help them live decently (Colucci & Martin, pp. 99-101, 2008). This is one of the most significant examples of the welfare of the social context of health by religion.
Zakat is an instrument by which society can create win-win situations for everyone. Companies that have historically supported the concentration of wealth either have perished or have faced severe consequences due to the same. Also, it creates a sense of purity and satisfaction within the Zakat payers that their money is going for a noble cause. Eventually, a society where the poor receive attention and help from the other people becomes the society where peace, development, progress, and competitiveness prevail as the order of the day (Daftary, pp. 87-91, 2000). Important here to note is the mental satisfaction and internal peace attainted by the Zakat payers due to the feeling of doing something right and getting close to the almighty.
Prayer and Fasting
Like Zakat, offering prayers five times a day, Salat, as mentioned in the Quran, is also obligatory on every Muslim male and female (Turner, pp. 39-44, 2006). Only the Muslim who is in the worst possible health conditions receives exemption from offering these prayers. A careful analysis of the same; however, reveals that prayers offer some considerable benefits in the domain of health as well. These prayers involve a brief exercise of cleaning eyes, nose, and hands until knees, feet, ears and the whole face, which is known as “Wudu” (Turner, pp. 51-57, 2006). Carrying out this activity five times a day keeps a man clean and tidy, which in turn saves him from many diseases and contributes towards a healthy lifestyle (Ebaugh, pp. 59-63, 2006). Furthermore, the prayers that a Muslim offer requires him to stand up and sit down, fold and unfold his hands, homage and others move to offer a great deal of physical exercise. These exercises increase the rate of muscle metabolism, prevent the muscles from being stiff, and increase the smoothness in blood flowing back to the heart. Research (Hood, pp. 88-99, 2009) has shown that conducting these moves five times a day prevents a lot of aches, minor diseases, and heart diseases.
Fasting is another pillar of Islam in which, Muslims refrain themselves from eating and drinking from sunrise until the sunset during thirty days of ‘Ramadan’ (Schulze, pp. 81-88, 2002). Medical science has proved that the relaxation that they offer to their digestive system results in better ad longer functioning of liver, stomach, and kidneys. Moreover, it provides an excellent way to lose weight. It is also important to note that this practice helps the person to strengthen his control over his desires.
Similarly, the medical benefits of prayers, performed in the month of Ramadan, are also of great value for the Muslims (Koenig, pp. 70-87, 2008). At the time of breaking of the fast, the blood glucose levels are deficient, after an hour or so, these levels immediately begin rise along with plasma insulin levels in the body. “The liver and the muscles take up the circulating glucose. The blood sugar level becomes highest in an hour or two and this is when the good effects of prayers come to take place” (Schulze, pp. 22-31, 2002). The metabolization of glucose takes place during the prayers, which breaks it down into carbon dioxide and water (Schulze, pp. 37-59, 2002). Therefore, prayers become a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, improve coordination amongst the body muscles, and enhance the flexibility of the body and helps in losing the unwanted calories.
Muslims are required to offer the Friday and the Eid prayers in the mosque in congregation among their fellow Muslim brothers in Tower Hamlets. It is an observation that when Muslims are praying in church, they stand shoulder to shoulder with other Muslims in prayer and there is no distinction of caste, colour, or status of an individual (Larson, pp. 20-26, 2001). All men are equal to standing before their Lord. This creates a sense of equality, and no one feels ashamed or conscious of his or her rank or position in society. In this regard, the absence of any distinction provides a sense of safety and security, which subsequently plays a vital role in improving the status of health socially.
Along with the benefits mentioned above of congregational prayers in the mosque, it also provides an opportunity to the Muslims to get together on a single platform and discuss the various problems they may be facing (Reitzes & Mutran, pp. 30-44, 2006). Many important issues can be resolved in the light of Islam and the opinions of brothers from the entire Muslim community. Furthermore, when one gets to meet fellow Muslims, friends, family and neighbours regularly in the mosque, it relieves the daily stress and tension of the worldly affairs for the time that one is present in their company. This also helps in the development of good relationships among Muslims. It relieves one of depression.
Listening to The Khutba and Dars (Islamic Lectures)
Since the earliest times (Schulze, pp. 29-48, 2002), Muslims, now and then, listen to Islamic sermons by religious scholars aimed at educating the community and helping them in finding the answer to their spiritual problems and religious questions. In this way, they also bond a city away. Muslims refer to these sermons as ‘Khutba” (Turner, pp. 30-37, 2006). It gives the community hope, guidance, and propagating Islam. The role of the speaker is very burdensome and a serious matter. The speaker is responsible for every person who stands behind him in prayer; if he makes a mistake or delivers a wrong speech to fulfil his purposes, he will be held responsible for all those who were present in the mosque following him and listening to him (Ebaugh, pp. 35-40, 2006). A successful speaker is one who is optimistic in his speech and can catch the imagination of the listeners to bring that image to reality. He has to be convincing and passionate in his words so that he can put across the teachings of Islam to the Muslims.
Further analysis regarding the Islam in London borough has indicated that women can also learn about their religion by attending the Islamic lectures or they can also participate in the Khutba and pray in the mosque in rooms explicitly assigned for women. It also aids in their psychological well-being (Hood, pp. 59-64, 2009). Many times, a person does not want to disclose his problems in front of other Muslims, this issue has also been resolved since in such cases by allowing private sessions with the religious leaders. It is also a good practice in London Borough to bring children or those about to reach puberty to listen to these holy speeches or lectures. In this way, children from a very young age, learn the difference between what is morally wrong and right and what is prohibited or encouraged by their religion, thus instilling in them the higher status of the social context of health.
Cleanliness and Etiquette of Wuzu (Ablution)
In Islam, cleanliness is a part of faith. According to the Holy Prophet, “It is the duty of every Muslim to take bath once a week, washing his head and body” (Turner, pp. 44-50, 2006). Muslims are required to perform ablution before praying, recitation of the Holy Quran etc. It cleanses and purifies the different parts of the body. One of the aspects of ablution is to wipe the nape of the neck with water. This practice not only cleans away the dirt and sweat but in actual relaxes the nerves at the back of the neck and relieves stress and tension. Another aspect of ablution is the snuffing of water up the nose; it was a recent discovery that by doing this a person could cleanse the nose of germs that cause Vitiligo (Sherman, pp. 63-68, 2001). Medical experts (Larson, 50-59, 2001) have identified it as a disease, which results in white patches over the skin. The same happens to the de-pigmentation of the tissues of that specific area. It is, therefore, essential to keep one clean at all times. A healthy community is one in which the people take care of their cleanliness.
Conclusively, the researcher put enormous efforts to understand the influence of religion on the social context of health. Many people today lay particular emphasis on jogging and frequent as a healthy exercise that can keep you fit and fine and can prevent many diseases. A recent study (Hood, pp. 51-57, 2009) carried on 17000 Harvard alumni revealed that moderate aerobic exercises like jogging just three per day could contribute to your mental and physical fitness and can even add many years to your life. This study also stated that people who burn more than 2000 kcal of energy every week are 33 per cent less likely to die than their other classmates who did little or no exercise. Moreover, these short exercises add up to the training and activeness of the individual in daily activities such as the sudden lifting of children, chairs or catching a bus. An individual can keep on reaping these benefits of these simple exercises until his or her old age where he or she would be able to accomplish these tasks more efficiently and safely. However, in the recent past, research proved that praying five times daily has more physiological and physical advantages than jogging or walking for a couple of hours at a speed of three miles per hour.
Also, the paper identified that in Islam, God has repeatedly commanded Muslims to be useful to humankind. Islam says that you do not indeed become a Muslim until you wish for your brother that which you want for yourself. It is an observation that Islam is becoming the fastest-growing religion in the Tower Hamlets is because it provides rights to all its followers, be they men, women, children, parents, neighbours, and even servants, and this indicates the level a religion can leave an impact on the society, as in the case of this paper, on health.
A resident of Tower Hamlets, Saleema Aslam (a senior local government officer) has recently moved to London and is now busy in building her network of Muslim contacts around her new home. According to her, Islam gives her a sense of purpose in life, and during difficult times, it provides her with comfort (Hood, pp. 40-46, 2009). It assures her that every good deed performed in this world will become a reward in the hereafter. Many believers living in Tower Hamlets, like Saleema Aslam, agree, which subsequently results in enhancement of the health socially.
Finally, the principles mentioned above were some of the aspects observed as a practice in a healthy and active Muslim community of Tower Hamlets to some extent. By following these, Muslims of Tower Hamlets, and especially London Borough of Tower Hamlets can lead to prosperous and healthy lives socially. While researching this paper, the researcher came across facts about Muslim communities living in the Tower Hamlets and their current situation. This activity has also helped in understanding the theological aspect of human life, and Islam is a religion that helps individuals deal with day-to-day matters. Thus, by carrying out daily activities under the principles of faith, people can have a positive effect on their lives socially.