CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Avicenna J Med 2018; 8(01): 1-13
DOI: 10.4103/ajm.AJM_134_17

The Islamic tradition and health inequities: A preliminary conceptual model based on a systematic literature review of Muslim health-care disparities

Aasim I. Padela
Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Danish Zaidi
Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
› Author Affiliations
Financial support and sponsorship Nil.


Objective: The objective of this study was to identify mechanisms by which Islamic beliefs, values, and Muslim identity might contribute to health inequities among Muslim populations. Methods: A systematic literature review of empirical studies in Medline from 1980 to 2009 was conducted. The search strategy used three terms covering health-care disparities, ethnicity, and location to uncover relevant papers. Results A total of 171 articles were relevant based on titles and abstracts. Upon subsequent full-text review, most studies did not include religious identity or religiosity as explanatory variables for observed health disparities. Of 29 studies mentioning Islam within the text, 19 implicated Muslim identity or practices as potential explanations for health differences between Muslim and non-Muslim groups. These 19 studies generated six mechanisms that related the Islamic tradition, Muslim practices, and health inequities: (1) Interpretations of health and/or lack of health based on Islamic theology; (2) Ethical and/or cultural challenges within the clinical realm stemming from Islamic values or practices; (3) Perceived discrimination due to, or a lack of cultural accommodation of, religious values or practices in the clinical realm; (4) Health practices rooted within the Islamic tradition; (5) Patterns of health-care seeking based on Islamic values; and (6) Adverse health exposures due to having a Muslim identity. Conclusion: While there is scant empirical research on Muslim health-care disparities, a preliminary conceptual model relating Islam to health inequities can be built from the extant literature. This model can serve to organize research on Muslim health and distinguish different ways in which a Muslim identity might contribute to the patterning of health disparities.

Publication History

Article published online:
12 August 2021

© 2018. Syrian American Medical Society. This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivative-NonCommercial-License, permitting copying and reproduction so long as the original work is given appropriate credit. Contents may not be used for commercial purposes, or adapted, remixed, transformed or built upon. (

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