The world, in contemporary times, is confronted with a lot of problems; economic, political, security, health, to mention but few. Intellectuals across the world do not cease in seeking for lasting solutions to all these global challenges. One of the most critical of these challenges—due to its centrality to humanity—is health. With recent breakthrough in technology and medicine, there emerge improved health care system, advanced health technologies, and improved health specialists. Sadly, amidst all these developments, the modern society is still plagued with all sorts of serious health challenges—perhaps more than the pre-technology period. Considering numerous health challenges the world faces today, one may ask; is it not logical for the health practitioners, and indeed everybody, to begin to think outside the box in searching for lasting solutions to modern day health challenges? It is in this vein that this paper attempts to critically discuss Islam as a solution to modern day health challenges.
The viability of Islam as a solution to modern day health challenges
‘Islam is not only a religion but also a complete code of life,’ says Mamarinta Umar P. ‘All facts of life, public and private alike, are covered under the realm of Islamic law.’1 Islam addresses all aspects of life, through its basic source of law; Quranic injunctions and prophetic teachings, and health (our focus in this essay) is not excluded. The holy prophet Muhammad (SAW) says:
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—Abu Dawud, Sunan Abu Dawud2
Thus, we shall, in this section, consider the viability of Islam as a solution to health challenges by considering the two sources of Islamic law: Quran and hadith.
The Islamic law
In addressing health care challenges, the Islamic law adopts two strategies; the preventative strategy and the curative strategy. The preventative strategy deals with practices/traditions that naturally prevent vulnerability to diseases while the curative deals mainly with (Islamic) drugs/medicine recommended for various diseases/illnesses.
The preventative strategy
The Islamic law enforces some certain rules and regulations which, when strictly followed, serve as a potent way of checking rampant health challenges. These include injunctions on personal hygiene, nutritional restrictions (prohibition of alcohol, pigs, etc.), sexual limitations, and so on. Let us take some examples:
First, the holy Quran prohibits adultery and fornication—‘nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and evil, opening the road (to other evils)’ (Quran 17: 32).3 Today, AIDS and other STDS are rampant in our society and one of the primary sources, researches have shown4, of these deadly diseases is indiscriminate sexual intercourse (through adultery and fornication). Different measures have been put forward for preventing AIDS but the Islamic prohibition of adultery, fornication and other promiscuous sexual practices proves reliably the best solution—as this epidemic is due largely to sexual promiscuity.
Moreover, the holy Quran also prohibits the intake of alcohol and other harmful drugs that pose threat to health5. So, a simple adherence to the Quranic injunction will safe people from the menace of alcoholism. Besides, more than 1400 years ago, the holy prophet Muhammad has preached some basic hygiene6, e.g. regular washing of hands, which medical practitioners are now drumming to the ears of people to prevent (viral) diseases like the Ebola virus.
Curative strategy: The Prophetic medicine
Prophetic medicine refers to the actions and words (hadith) of prophet Muhammad (SAW) with regards to sickness, treatment, and hygiene…7. It could be seen also as the divine medicine that was gifted by Allah to prophet Muhammad (SAW) by through divine inspiration.
Prophetic medicine, which is from a divine source, has an edge over the orthodox medicine which is mainly based on hypotheses, observation, and experimentation. Besides, while orthodox medicine, in the medical processes, makes use of certain chemicals that are even dangerous themselves, the prophetic medicine is usually based on natural materials. The holy prophet (SAW), narrated by Ibn Abbas, says that:
Healing is in three things; a gulp of honey, cupping and branding with fire (cauterization). But I forbid my followers to use (cauterization) branding with fire.8
However, why a lot of people have refused prophetic medicine is because of its attachment to the Islamic faith. Though it is true that some aspects of the medicine purely needs Islamic knowledge9, the main aspects of the prophetic medicine—being focused here—are those that do not necessarily need the knowledge of Islam in their application. For instance, the holy Prophet recommends treatments with Indian incense, honey, dates, etc.10 and these are natural materials that are not faith-bound.
The Islamic approach/solution to modern day health challenges is a viable one that could produce lasting solutions if only medical specialists could rise above the sentiments of religion and research on it. The preventative measures discussed are very crucial as it is widely affirmed that prevention is better than cure. The curative measures are also effective as they are mostly rooted in natural components. On a note of reiteration, Islam has an effective solution to modern day health challenges if the world can see through the façade of religion.
- Umar p. Mamarinta. “Islamic Solutions to World’s Social Problems.” www.islamicawareness.net/solution.html
- Abu Dawud. Sunan Abu Dawud: Partial Translation by Prof Ahmad Hassan
- The Holy Quran: Quran 17: 32
- “Human Immunodeficiency Virus.” Microsoft Encarta 2009 [DVD], Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
- The Holy Quran: Quran 5: 90, Quran 2: 219
- Muhammad Al-Hafdh Abu Abdullah and Adh-Dhahabi Ibn Ahmad Ibn Uthman. The Great Sins. Saudi Arabia: International Islamic Publishing House, 1420 AH/2000 CE. Pg 31
- Muzaffar Iqbal. Science and Islam. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007
- Sahih Muslim. Volume 7, Book 71, Number 584
- Sahih Muslim. Volume 7, Book 71, Number 631
- Sahih Muslim. Volume 7, Book 71, Number 633