“I am my own doctor”: A qualitative study of the perspectives and decision-making process of Muslims with diabetes on Ramadan fasting

Siham Bouchareb, Rabab Chrifou, Zohra Bourik, Giel Nijpels, Mohamed Hassanein, Marjan J. Westerman, Petra J. M. Elders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background Many Muslims with diabetes choose to fast against medical advice during Ramadan, potentially increasing their risk of acute complications. Patients are often reluctant to disclose fasting to their health care providers, and their needs regarding Ramadan are not met in consultations. For healthcare professionals to provide patient-centred care, it is important to gain more insight into patients’ decision-making process. This study therefore aims to explore how Muslims with diabetes decide whether to fast during Ramadan. Methods A qualitative study was conducted consisting of 15 focus groups with Muslims with diabetes within a constructivist paradigm. Convenience sampling was used. All focus groups were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using Braun and Clarke’s reflexive thematic analysis. Results Four themes were found to be important in the decision on whether to fast: (1) values and beliefs concerning Ramadan, (2) experiences and emotions concerning Ramadan, (3) the perception of illness, and (4) advice from health care professionals, imams and family. Many participants indicated fasting against medical advice and trusting their subjective assessments on whether they could fast. Moreover, three main stages in the decision-making process for eventually refraining from fasting were identified: (1) the stage where positive experiences with fasting dominate, (2) the stage where one encounters challenges but their determination to fast prevails and (3) the stage where one decides to refrain from fasting after experiencing too many physical difficulties with fasting. Conclusions Muslims with diabetes experience autonomy in their decisions on Ramadan fasting. The decision to refrain from fasting often resulted from a difficult and dynamic decision-making process and was often made after participants reached their physical limits. These findings highlight the importance of not only shared decision-making to empower patients to make well-informed decisions on Ramadan fasting but also pre-Ramadan diabetes education to help people with diabetes have a safe Ramadan.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0263088
Issue number3 March
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

Cite this