ISLAM AND MEDICINE
Hasan Ghaznawi, M.D.
Islam is the religion of all times and places. It is a perfect system of temporal values.
Every word of the Qur'an is in fact an experience of great reality, and science helps take a step in
that direction. Knowledge is limitless and its horizons are constantly expanding with every stride of
progress opening up fresh horizons. According to the Qur'an, knowledge is a comprehensive text
and it involves all branches of science, religion, technology, agriculture, engineering and medicine.
It is definitely a miracle of Islam that it expands on all branches of human knowledge. The Qur'an
says: "We have revealed to you the Book so that it might he a clear evidencefor everything. "
In the present paper, I have tried to elucidate that the guidelines given in the Qur'an and
Sunnah concerning the promotion of physical health of humans have been duly proved by years
of modern medical science research all over the world. Here I will deal with some of them.
In Surah Al-Qamar God deprecates those "who are careless in their prayers or offer them
only~for show. " The blessed Prophet (pbuh) told us "Prayers certainly promote health."
Although the real purpose of prayers is the worship of God, yet it has a large number of additional
When we eat three times daily, we need exercise to lessen the chol terol in the body
which increases in blood after meals, thickens it and leads to the deposition of slit-like substance
in the arteries.
In addition to saving us from sins and elevating us to the heights of spirituality, prayers
are great help in maintaining our physical health. They keep our body active, help digestion and
save us from muscle and joint dis eases thrOllgh regular balanced exercise I.hep help the
circulation of blood and also mitigate the bad effects of cholesterol. Prayers play a vital role in
acting as apreventive measure againts heart attack, paralyses, premature senility, dementia, loss
of sphincter control, diabetes mellitus, etc.
Collateral circulation plays a major role in decreasing the danger of heart attack in
patients. Patients above 55 years of age with this type of circulation have less severe attacks.
of collateral circulation by regular and balance exercise performed during the prayers that are not
only potent, preventive measure against coronary heart diseases but also help in the development
of collateral circulation in those people who have already suffered a heart attack or are prone to it.
Heart patients should offer the fiveobligatory prayers regularly as and when permitted by
their doctor to leave bed.
The prayers are arranged in a manner that those at the time of empty stomach are brief
but those after meals are longer and give more exercise to the body.
During the month of Fast (Ramadan), an additional twenty Rakaat (Tarawih) are offered
besides the late evening prayers, which incidentally help to expend the additional culories usually
consumed after breaking fast.
The performance of prayers put almost all muscles of the body in action. Different groups
or muscles are activitated while performing prayers. During Sajda blood supply to the brain is
improved. One of the useful methods to strengthen the muscles of the knee joints to mitigate the
strain on knees in osteo arthritis is the regular exercise of these muscles during prayers.
This vital organ of the body has to be always healthy and efficient as it is responsible for
the circulation ofblood. Diseased heart results in deterioration of the healthy body. We obtained
this knowledge after centuries of sclentific research yet we were told about this fourteen hundred
years ago by our great Prophet (peace be upon him): "Verily in the hody there is a piece of flesh
which if it is sound the whole body , becomes unhealthy. Behold, this piece of flesh - it is heart "
(Bukhari and Muslim).
It was the habit of our blessed Prophet to take a short nap after lunch; his companions
also followed this practice. This short nap gives relief to the vital organs of the body like the heart
and the brain.
MODERATION IN FOOD
Both the Qur'an and the Hadith have touched on this topic. The Qur'an tells us in Ayah 30
of Surah Al A'raf: "O children of Adam, take your adornment at ever?, place of worship and eat
and drink but do not he prodigal. Lo! He loveth not the prodigal. "
Emphasizing this, the Prophet strictly forbade overeating, saying, "it is enough to eat a
few morsels of food to keep one 's back straight. "
"lf you must eat more be sure that only one third of your stomach is filled with food, one
third is left for water and the remaining one third for air"
"A Muslim eats in one intestine (stomach) whereas a non believer eats in seven
It has been proved beyond doubt that overeating is the root of many diseases and also
responsible for premature senility. It produces obesity, predisposes to dangerous diseases like
diabetes mellitus, hypertension, coronary heart disease and paralysis.
This is due to insulin deficiency. Overeating causes the special cells of the pancreas
(islets of Langerhans) to overwork, so it cannot meet the increased demand for insulin. Those
cells may get tired, be atrophied and cause deficiency of insulin.
PARALYSIS, CORONARY HEART DISEASE AND PREMATURE SENILITY
Their basic cause is the narrowing of the coronary arteries. Paralysis is natural result of
blocking of an artery in the brain. Should this happen the heart myocardial infarction results.
Premature senility results when the majority of the arteries in the body get narrowed.
Silt in the form of cholesterol and triglycerides is deposited in the arteries. Overeating
increases blood cholesterol levels. Pork and beef con cholesterol while on the other hand birds
have the least amount. The Qur'an mentions that bird meat is one of the delicacies of Paradise.
The olive has been repeatedly mentioned in the Qur'an, and statistics heart attacks occur more
in Northern Italy where they use butter and margarine for cooking than in Southern Italy where
olive oil is generally used.
Patients suffering from the narrowing of the coronary artery usually develop the heart
attack after a heavy meal.
FORBIDDEN ARTICLES OF FOOD
Ingested blood on reaching the intestine is acted upon by various bacteria normally
present there, producing poisonous products like ammonia which is toxic to the liver. Therefore,
God has forbidden us to eat or drink blood and has prescribed a method for slaughtering animals
which drains most of their blood.
There are two harmful worms harbored by pigs, one is "TAENIASOLIUM" which on
ingestion passes to the brain and can cause epilepsy. The other is "TRICHINELLA SPIRALIS"
which passes to the muscles and brain causing muscular swelling and pain and also epilepsy.
Pork has more fat and cholesterol than any other meat.
Numerous diseases have been attributed to alcohol, including dyspeptic trouble, peptic
Lllceration, stomach cancer, pancreatitis, cirrhosis liver, vitamin deficiency and coronary heart
It is a sunnah for every Muslim to be circumcised. This is medically suggested nowadays
as a toxic substance called Smegma may collect under the redundant skin causing cancer of the
genitalia in both a man and his wife, inflammation of the penis, phimosis, sticking of the redundant
skin over the urethral opening leads to difficulty in urination.
WASHING AFTER DEFECATION
This benefcial habit saves us from Pilonidal sinus which is an hairy abscess and occurs
near the anal opening.
Pylonephritis: This is more common in women due to the proximity of the urethral opening
to the anus so using tiolet paper may transfer germs like E.coli to the urethra.
A prerequisite of prayers and a most hygienic procedure, it usually keeps the exposed
parts of our body like the nose and mouth clean thus avoiding infection.
PREVENTION OF INFECTION
Infection may be transmitted through dirty hands or dirty food.
Hands: It is essential to wash our hands before and after meals. Our blessed Prophet told
us: "it is a blessing to wash your handv hc~fi~r-e and after meals. " (Abu Dawud & Tirmidhi).
He also advised us not to clean our hands with a towel before meals as It may convey
infection from one person to the other particularly viral diseases like infective hepatitis or bacterial
infection like Typhoid dysentery and cholera.
Likewise he said "Whosoever gets Irpfrom slumber should not dip his hand in an?/ utensil
unless he washes them three times, M·ho knoM's M,hat things he touched during sleep. "
(Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasa'i).
ARTICLES OF BEVERAGES
These articles should be handled with great care. If the food is in an open utensil. it
should be covered to avoid contamination. Stressing this the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Cover up the
utensils and tie the mouth of.the water skins " (Bukhari and Muslim).
He also said, "Why did you not cover the utensil carrying the milk even if it was with a
piece of`wood. "
Particular stress has been laid by the Prophet on this as it is very important in the
prevention of disease. He attached great importance to the use of"Miswak" or a tooth brush. "if I
had not thought this to be an unbearable hardship for my followers I would have prescribed the
use of Miswak before every pravers. " (Bukhari and Muslim).
According to modern dentistry the best method of using a Miswak or a ;tooth brush is up and
down the length of the teeth, and this is exactly the way our Prophet used his Miswak.
The blessed Prophet said "Whosoever eats should pick hits and pieces in between his
It is a beneficial act so that the teeth do not rot and produce disease.
Covering the head and neck as our Prophet used to do, mitigates the danger of
hyperpyrexia which is brought about by an imbalance of the heat control center situated in the
hind brain, which may lead to death.
TREATMENT OF FEVER
Death occurs if the temperature of the body exceeds 106 irrespective of the cause.
Medically speaking the first line of treatment is to lower the temperature of the body by cold water,
ice sponging or even immersing the patient in cold water. On this Prophet said: "The~ft·vev is
related to the Hrll. Application of'cold Mla,er keeps ii awav "(Ibn Maja).
The blessed Prophet advised that while defeacating keep pressure on the left foot (Tabranj). In squatting position this maneuver will cause pressure on the descending colon. Medically this helps
evacuation of feces from the descending colon thus relieving constipation, particularly when
muscles ofthe abdomen are weak.
DISEASES OF DIGESTION
Several ahadith pertaining to this include:
"it is unbecoming to eat in the Bazar (Market). "
"Whosoever eats earth aid his death " (Tabrani).
"Use curry with food even if it is in the form of water " (Tabrani).
"Vinegar is a very good curry. "
"The best curry is common salt. "
Salt depletion through perspiration increases during summer, thus it is important to use
common salt during this period.
Our Prophet liked pumpkin (one of the vegetables) as it is easily digested and less likely
to produce flatulence.
He also said, "it is not right to eat your food quickly, besides this one sholud eat from what
lies nearest to one " (Bukhari and Muslim).
Hygiene is very important. Cleanliness prevents infection entering the citadel of the
human body and this guards us against ill health and epidemics. God ordered our Prophet in
Surah Al-Muddathir: "0, Prophet keep your apparel clean and meticulously avoid filth and rubbish"
Our Prophet said, "God Almighty is himself pure and likes purity, God
himself is clean and He likes cleanliness " (Tirmidhi).
"God AImighty dislikes dust, dirt and disheveled hair. "
"Avoid three things Mihich are cursed. To urinute at the ssource of water, in the shade, in
the pathways " (Ibn Maja).
"No one should pass water in standing water. " (Bukhari, Muslim, and
"If any one of you yawns, he should cover his mouth with his hands "
(Muslim and Abu Dawud).
One should avoid coughing, sneezing, yawning or laughing with fully
open mouth near other persons as the exhaled air may spread bacteria in the atmosphere that
may be conveyed to other persons.
STREET AND ROADS
Town planning should be based on broad and airy roads so that there is no obstruction to the flow of traffic and to avoid congestion which helps spread communicable diseases. Our blessed Prophet fourteen hundred years ago said "Keep the hreadth of'the streets seven arms length."
This is mentioned in the authentic Hadith as an effective treatment for several diseases.
Research is being done in China and other parts of the world to use acupuncture as a method of
There are other rules of medicine which have been dealt with in Islam,
1. Quacks should not treat patients.
2. Treatment and prevention of disease have been recommended and practiced
by the Prophet.
3. When you visit a patient do not stay long.
There are many priceless gems of knowledge in the Qur'an and hadith from which man
can benefit immensely. These are but brief facts of mcdi which are mentioned in the Qur'an and
hadith long before they were discovered and studied by modern science.
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