Rehanah was born in Pakistan on 14 April 1959 and came to the UK with her family when she was two years old, settling in Sheffield. Her family initially shared their house with another family, an Egyptian student, his wife and two children. After she finished school, her father wanted her to continue her studies and Rehanah initially trained as a laboratory technician. Discovering she was really a ‘people person’ she began searching other avenues. She worked for Mothercare and then taught in a private Muslim girls’ high school during which time she researched Islamic studies. She began to attend various student conferences where Muslim scholars were invited to speak about Islam, and then she herself began to give speeches on Islamic topics in the community, at colleges, institutions and on cultural awareness for service providers. In addition, she worked part time for social services as a Religious Instructor supporting Muslim girls in a girls’ home. Rehanah got married in 1984 and moved with her husband to Birmingham. Here she continued to teach including in after school madrasahs, and also work for a worldwide charity, Islamic Relief, in which she worked closely with women in the community. Her speaking role on Islamic topics increased and before long she found herself working with Muslim families and specialising in Islamic counselling. In 2000, Rehanah was alerted to a job vacancy for a female Muslim chaplain at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital, applied and was successful. A month later she also began work at the University Hospitals Birmingham. She has worked there ever since, offering pastoral, spiritual and religious care to patients, relatives and staff. Whilst addressing the needs of Muslims in hospital she also offers her ministry of care to those of other faiths and none. While working at University Hospitals Birmingham she worked hard to represent the views of Muslim female clinicians who came to her for advice about the ‘Bare Below the Elbow’ policy. This policy was introduced to ensure hygiene was maintained so as to reduce the risk of infection to patients and it recommended that staff should wear short sleeved uniforms. Suggesting this policy disadvantaged Muslim female clinicians who wanted to cover their arms for religious reasons, Rehanah helped trial disposable sleeves at the hospital. This pilot project was successful, and disposable sleeves are now worn by Muslim female staff wishing to do so.
‘Bare below the elbow’
Without compromising infection control I believed that there could be a solution for the Muslim female staff who felt they did not want to be bare below the elbow, as it would compromise their faith and dignity. They were washing their hands in accordance with procedures to ensure good hand hygiene, but wearing garments with full length sleeves which their supervisors and managers were not accepting. I was one of the people asked to join in a round table discussion with the Department of Health and Muslim Council of Britain. Eventually I piloted a 3 month trial with some of our junior doctors, using a disposable over-sleeve. Staff who may have felt compelled to give up their careers are now content.