Prophetic medicine

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Prophetic medicine (Arabic: الطب النبوي‎‎, 'Al-Tibb al-nabawī) refers to the actions and words (hadith) specifically of the Islamic prophet Muhammad with regards to sickness, treatment and hygiene, and the genre of writings undertaken primarily by non-physician scholars to collect and explicate these traditions.[1] It is distinct from Islamic medicine, in that the latter is a broader category encompassing a variety of medical practices rooted in Greek natural philosophy. Prophetic medical traditions exhort humans to not simply stop at following Muhammad's teachings, but encourage them to search for cures as well. The literature of Prophetic medicine thus occupies a symbolic role in the elucidation of Islamic identity as constituted by a particular set of relationships to science, medicine, technology and nature. There has historically been a tension in the understanding of the medical narratives: are they of the same nature as Muhammad’s religious pronouncements, or are they time-sensitive, culturally situated, and thus not representative of a set of eternal medical truths? [2] This body of knowledge was fully articulated only in the 14th century, at which point it was concerned with reconciling Sunnah (traditions) with the foundations of the Galenic humoral theory that was prevalent at the time in the medical institutions of the Islamicate world.[3] It is nonetheless a tradition with continued modern-day currency, as suggested by the online presence of resources on the genre.[4][5]

Overview[edit]

Prophetic medicine is sometimes casually identified with Unani medicine or traditional medicine, although it is distinguished from some iterations of these and from scientific medicine most predominantly by the former being specifically a collection of advice attributed to Muhammad in the Islamic tradition.[6] One would do well to note that medieval interpretations of the medical hadith were produced in a Galenic medical context, while modern-day editions might bring in recent research findings to frame the importance of the genre. In the hadith, Muhammad recommended the use of honey and hijama (wet cupping) for healing and had generally opposed the use of cauterization for causing "pain and menace to a patient".[7] Other items with beneficial effects attributed to Muhammad, and standard features on traditional medicine in the Islamicate world, include olive oil; dates; miswak as a necessity for oral health and Nigella sativa or "black seed" or "black cumin" and its oils. These items are still sold in Islamic centers or sellers of other Islamic goods. The value of honey is traced to specific mention of its virtues in the Quran and not just Muhammad:

And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men's) habitations;
Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.

— Quran, sura 16 (An-Nahl), ayat 68-69[8]

Muhammad's firm belief in the existence of a cause and a cure for every disease is described in many hadith along the lines of the below:[7][9]

Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age.

This belief can be said to be a grounding philosophy of this otherwise loosely defined field,[11] and is said to have encouraged early Muslims to engage in medical research and seek out cures for diseases known to them.[9]

Some Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim Ahadith say that a mixture of camel urine and milk was recommended to certain people by the Prophet to be drunk as medicine.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23] Camel urine is sold as traditional medicine in shops in Saudi Arabia.[24][25][26][27][28][29] The Sunni scholar Muhammad Al-Munajjid's IslamQA.info recommends camel urine as beneficial to curing certain diseases and to human health and cited Ahadith and scientific studies as justification.[30][31][32][33] King Abdulaziz University researcher Dr. Faten Abdel-Rajman Khorshid discovered that cancer and other diseases could be treated with camel urine as recommended by the Prophet.[34][35][36][37][38][39] The United Arab Emirates "Arab Science and Technology Foundation" reported that cancer could be treated with camel urine.[40][41] Camel urine was also prescribed as a treatment by Zaghloul El-Naggar, a religious scholar.[42][43][44] Camel urine is the only urine which is permitted to be drunk according to the Hanbali madhhab of Sunni Islam.[45] The World Health Organization said that camel urine consumption may be a factor in the spread of the MERS virus in Saudi Arabia.[46][47][48][49][50] The Gulf Times writer Ahmad al-Sayyed wrote that various afflictions are dealt with camel urine by people.[51] Dandruff, scalp ailments, hair, sores, and wounds were recommended to be treated with camel urine by Ibn Sina.[52] A thesis from King Saud University for the Master's degree in the Department of Botany &Microbiology at The College of Science King Saud University by Aishea Mohammed Ba-hatheq found that camel urine had anti-bacterial properties.[53] Arab American University Professor of Cell Biology and Immunology Bashar Saad (PhD) along with Omar Said (PhD) wrote that medicinal use of camel urine is approved of and promoted by Islam since it was recommended by the prophet.[54] A test on mice found that cytotoxic effects similar to cyclophosphamide were induced on bone marrow by camel urine.[55] Infections in the eye, acne, burn wounds, infection sin the skin, cirrhosis of the liver, allergies, yeast and bacterial infections are treated with camel urine.[56] Besides for consumption as a medicinal drink, camel urine is used to help treat hair.[57][58] Bites from insects were warded off with camel urine, which also served as a shampoo.[59] Camel urine is also used to help treat asthma, infections, treat hair, sores, hair growth and boost libido.[60][61] Some cosmetic and aphrodisiac treatments contain camel urine.[62]

Several Sunni Ahadith mention camel urine:[63][64][65][66]

Some Shia criticized Wahhabis for camel urine treatment.[76][77][78] Shia scholars also recommend the medicinal use of camel urine.[79][80] Shia Hadith on Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq reported that shortness of breath (asthma) was treated with camel urine.[81][82][83] Shia Marja Ayatollah Sistani said that for medicinal purposes only, sheep, cow, and camel urine can be drunk.[84]

Locusts are Halal in Islam.[85][86][87] There is a Hadith which permits locust eating (أحلت لنا ميتتان، ميتة الجراد، وميتة السمك) ("Permitted for us are two dead things, dead locusts, and dead fish.").[88][89][90][91][92][93][94][95][96][97][98][99] Locusts are permitted for consumption by Muslims in “Al-Rawd Al-Moraba Fi Sharh Zad Al-Mustaqni” which is a work on Sunni Hanbali fiqh.[100] All four Sunni Madhhab allow consumption of dead locusts. A hadith allowing locust consumption by Muslims was narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar: ( عن عبد الله بن عمر، قال أُحِلَّتْ لنا ميتتان ودمان: الجراد والحِيتان والكَبد وَالطِّحال) ("about Abdullah bin Umar, he said permitted for us are two dead things and two bloods : the locusts, and the whales, and the liver and the spleen"). The Prophet Muhammad was reported to have eaten locusts during a military raid with his companions including Abdullah ibn Abu Aufa who narrated a hadith of this incident: (عن عبدالله بن أبي أَوْفَى رضي الله عنه قال غزَوْنا معَ النبيِّ صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم سَبْعَ غزَواتٍ أو سِتًّا، كُنَّا نأكُلُ معَه الجَرادَ) ("About Abdullah bin Abi Aufa radi Allahu anhu he said : our raiding with the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi wa Salam, seven raids or six, and we ate with him the locusts.").[98][101][102][103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111] Peninsular Arabs have proverbs in Arabic encouraging the eating of locusts: (إذا جاء الجراد انثر الدواء، وإذا جاء الفقع صرّ الدواء) ("If the locusts came dispersing the medicine, and if the Terfeziaceae came saving the medicine.")[112][113][114][115] and (إذا جاد الجراد كب الدواء) ("If the locusts appeared dispersing the medicine").[116][117][118][119][120] Locusts are eaten in Saudi Arabia,[115][121][122][123][124][125] consumption of locusts spiked around Ramadan in the Al-Qassim Region and Ha'il Region in 2014 since Saudis believe they are healthy to eat, however the Saudi Ministry of Health warned that pesticides they used against the locusts made them unsafe.[126][127][128][129] The use of pesticides against locusts led to an advisory for Saudi citizens cautioning them against picking locusts off the ground and eating them issued by the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture.[130] Locusts are eaten in Kuwait.[88][117][118][119][120][131][132] Yemenis were interviewed over whether they would like to eat locusts before a swarm of them was forecasted to enter Yemen in 2007 and said they were willing to do it.[133] ʻAbd al-Salâm Shabînî described a locust recipe from Morocco.[134][135][136] 19th century European travellers observed Arabs in Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco selling, cooking, and eating locusts.[137] They reported that in Egypt and Palestine locusts were consumed.[138] They reported that in Palestine, around the river Jordan, in Egypt, in Arabia, and in Morocco that Arabs ate locusts, while Syrian peasants did not eat locusts however in the Haouran region Fellahs (peasants) who were in poverty and suffered from famine ate locusts after removing the guts and head, while locusts were swallowed wholesale by Bedouins.[139] Syrians, Copts, Greeks, Armenians and other Christians and Arabs themselves reported that in Arabia locusts were eaten frequently and one Arab described to a European traveler the different types of locusts which were favored as food by Arabs.[140][141] Persians use the Anti-Arab racial slur "Arabe malakh-khor" (عرب ملخ خور) (Arab locust eater) against Arabs.[142][143][144][145][146][147][148][149][150][151][152][153][154] The Iranian rap artist Behzad Pax released a song in 2015 called "Arab Kosh" (عرب كش) (Kill Arabs) which was widely reported on the Arab media who claimed that it was released with the approval of the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.[155][156][157] One of the lyrics in the song call Arabs as "locust eaters".[158][159][160][161][162][163][164] The Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance denied that it gave approval to the song and condemned it as a product of a "sick mind".[165]

Works[edit]

While the prominent works focused on treatment of the hadith related to health date from several centuries A.H., Sahih al-Bukhari and other earlier collections included these as well. 'Abd Allah b. Bustâm al-Nîsâbûrî’s Tlbb al-a'imma, aggregating a legacy of several Shi’ite Imams, is widely considered to be the first known treatise on Prophetic medicine, although it is rooted in a somewhat different cosmology.[2] The canonical al-Bukhari corpus, divided into 97 books with 3450 chapters, includes over a 100 traditions in its book 76 loosely related to medicine, covering topics ranging from precautions against leprosy and epidemics to the forbidding of alcohol and suicide. The most notable works that still survive[166] are attributed to religious scholars and largely not to Galenic physicians, although the latter are occasionally referenced.

Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya in the 1300s produced one of the most influential works about prophetic medicine in his 277-chapter book, Al-Tibb al-Nabawiyy. Al-Jawziyya deals with a diversity of treatments as recommended by Muhammad but also engages with ethical concerns, discussing malpractice and the hallmarks of the competent doctor.[167] Ethics of medical practice continue to be an important marker of Islamic medicine for some.[168] Al-Jawziyya also elaborates on the relationship between medicine and religion.[1]

A theologian renowned for his exegetical endeavors, Al-Suyuti also composed two works on prophetic medicine, one of which was on sexual relations as ordered by Muhammad.[167] Al-Suyuti's other manuscript divides medicine into 3 types: traditional, spiritual and preventive (e.g. dietary regimen and exercise). Along with Al-Jawziyya, Al-Suyuti also included commentary that spoke to dealing with contagion and thus was relevant to the Black Death in the Islamic world.

Both of the works above also address bioethical issues of abortion and conception, issues that, like the idea of Islamic medical heritage as being holistic, continue to be important in constructions of modern Islamic identity.[169] Other notable works include those of Ibn Tulun (d. AD 1546) and Al-Dhahabi (d. AD 1348).

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Further reading[edit]

  • Ghaly, Mohammed, Prophetic Medicine, in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God (2 vols.), Edited by C. Fitzpatrick and A. Walker, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014, Vol. II, pp. 502–506. ISBN 1610691776

External links[edit]