NATURAL THERAPEUTICS OF
MEDICINE IN ISLAM
Zeyd Ahmad All, M.D
Sadiq H. Hussain, D.N., and
Ahmad H. Sakr, Ph.D.
Medicine is both an art and a science. It encompasses prophylaxis or prevention,
diagnosis, and tinally trellhnent (both curative and palliative).
Preventive medicine is especially important and has been neglected as a maJor factor in
health care. In fact, it is well documented b,t little known that most of the health gains (expressed
rts life expectancy, morbidity, and mortality) attributed to modem medicine are principally due to
advancements in diet and sanita'ion, rather than to the more complex technologies.
Preventive medicine as a natural measure of therapeutic stresses the involvement of the
individual in his own health care. This is accomplished by educating the patient as to Proper
nutrition, hygiene and physical activities. Equally important are the psychologic and spiritual
factors as these can greatly influence the disease.
Curative medicine is as important as the preventive one. In the process of healing, natural
approaches have been used. The natural art of thenpeutics is not a new approaches have been
used. The natural art of therapeutics is not a new approach in the field of medicine, rather it is as
old as man on this planet. Man has done his best in protecting himself from disease and in
preventing himself from sickness.
Preventive and curative approaches have been used by man to keep himself healthy,
happy and strong. Some of these so-called "primitive" measures have been shown to be
scientifically sound and have thus been added to the "modern" therapuetic regimens. Some
approaches were considered to be natural (e.g. herbs, natural foods, etc.) while other were
oriented towards to use of drugs and synthetic remedies.
Anyone studying or practicing medicine realizes that he is at best providing some therapy
to impede the disease process so that the body can take over and effect a cure with the mercy of
Allah. In an Islamic sense, the health care practitioner must be viewed as an agent through which
Allah acts. The health care practloner must not therefore delude himself Into a position of
In this paper the authors wish to approach the subject of natural therapeutics In medicine
vis-a-vis the Islamic approach of good and sound health. The paper also includes some aspects
of the following: types of natLlral therapeutics, diet as an approach to natural healing and colleges
that deal with natural therapeutics Some recommendations related to natural approaches in
medicine for the Muslim world are also given.
The information provided in this paper is helpful to all those concerned about sound
health of the individuals including those group dealing with the allopathic and the natural medicine.
This research is of great help to all those colleges teaching medicine and especially those
colleges teaching natural therapeutics. It is a source of help to the physicians, patients, hospitals,
grocery stores, health food stores and the like. This paper is of great assistance to the Third
World, I.e., the emerging nations whose technological resources are meager, and whose health
delivery approaches are more or less still oriented towards the natural therapeutic methods.
It is the hope of the authors that an eclectic approach be adopted by the Third World, i.e.
to pick up the best of every discipline. It is hoped that the Third World nations will establish an
INSTITUTE OF HEALTH CARE DELIVERY which will catalog the entire spectrum of medical
approaches Including the "natmal" methods. Ifthe Third World nations establish such a health
institute based on the natural approaches, they will undoubtedly help save themselves money,
time, effort and the more expensive technology. This will lead to better healin6 and finally faster
and better results.
II. ISLAMIC VIEWS ON THERAPEUTICS
Islam is a way oflife to live, a system to be followed, a code of ethics and a constitution to
be applied in the daily life of every person. As such, Islam has many constructive ideas to offer in
the fields of health and medicine. In order to find out what Islam teaches, one has to read the
Qur'an and the Hadith. Allah says in the Qur'an (Surah Al-Shu'ara 26:80) about healing: "... and
when I am ill, it is He who cures me."
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "For every disease there is a cure, and when the
cure matches the disease, the person recovers by the will of Allah..." This is reported by Jabir bin
Abdullah. Similarly Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said: "Allah never inflicts a
disease without providing a cure for it..."
Regarding the treatment of diseases Usamah bin Shareek reports, saying: "I was with the
Prophet (pbuh) when some beduins came and asked lrim, '0 messenger of Allah: I)o we have to
take medicine for· treatment?' He said:'Yes, 0 you the servants of Allah, take medicine, as Allah
Almighty has not created a disease without having created a cure for it except one disease.' When
they asked what it was, he said: 'Old age."' In another version the wording is "Allah never inflicts a
disease without providing a cure; only those who are aware of it know it, whereas those who are
not aware, are ignorant of it." As to the preventive approach in health, the Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) said: "An ounce of prevention is better than a ton of treatment."
As an art and a science, healing medicine works through prevention (prophylaxis),
diagnosis, treatment, and cure. In so doing, the individual may prolong his happy life and reduce
the degree and the rate of occurrence of illness. Islam encompasses all these approaches so that
a person may stay healthy, happy and strong.
III. LIMITATIONS OF DRUG THERAPY
Drug therapy has become the concern of many people. The reasons are obvious, among
which are the following:
A) Most of drug therapy must be closely monitored and carefully dosed. The dose may
have to be altered frequently due to the nature of a particular disease process or other
concomitant conditions the patient may have.
B) Even so, toxic effects may occur. Often one has to weigh the advantages of drug use
against the side effects. The choice is not always clear.
C) Therapeutic drugs are usually much more expensive than preventative measures.
D) The choice whether or not to use drug prescriptions depends greatly on the disease
process. Acute, life-threatening diseases usually require such intervention. However, for chronic,
non-curable diseases (such as arthritis) the rationale for drug prescriptions is much more
subjective. The psychelogical makeup of the patient is likely to play a greater role in deciding
whether to use a drug or not.
IV. TYPES OF NATURAL THERAPEUTICS
Among the natural healing treatments are the following:
A) Preventive medicine
B) Dietetic approach
C) Folk medicine
D) Hakim's medicine
Concerning this subject, Islam's approach to healing is an eclectic one, i.e. one is to use
the best of every discipline so that the health of the individual will be preserved.
V. DIET AND NATURAL HEALING
As far as the diet is concerned, Islam has laid down the foundation in the Qur'an and the
Sunnah for the best approach in preserving good health. This approach consists mainly selection
of the best, preventive methods, and awareness of any harmful drugs. The following is a summary
of the main Islamic principles relating relating to diet and health:
A) Allah commands everyone to eat what is lawful (Halal): "O ye people! Eat of what is on
earth, lawful and good." (Qur'an, 2: 168).
B) People are to ENJOY their food as it affects their personal charac ter. Enjoying food is
a part of worship like any other activity of life.
C) Muslims are to SELECT the best quality of food. The Qur'an (Surah Al-Kahf,
18:19)says: "Now send ye then one of you with this money of yours to the town: let him find out
which is the best food (to be had)..."
D) Muslims are to EAT the best food after selecting the best. Allah says: "Eat of the good
things We have provided for you." (Qur'an, Surah Al-A'raf 7: 160).
E) The best approach in the process of prevention is the concept of MODERATION in
eating habits. The Qur'an states emphatically "Eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for God
loves not the wasters." (Surah AlA'raf7:31).
F) Regarding the idea of moderation through diet, Allah says: "Eat of the good things We
have provided for your sustenance, but commit no excess therein." (Qur'an, Surah Taha 20:81).
G) Another approach that Islam prescribes for its followers is the idea of TOTAL
ABSTINENCE from food and drinks for one whole month from dawn to sunset. The benefits of
fasting have been tested and documented, especially in biochemistry, physiology, clinical
therapeutics, clinical nutrition, etc. It is beyond doubt that fasting helps the individual to get rid of
most of the toxins in his body. At the same time fasting increases productivity and by its frugality
curbs inflation. In this regard, it would be a good idea to point out here what Islam says in this
regard: "0 ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you,
that ye may learn self-restraint" (Qur'an, Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183). The Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) said: "Fast (the month of Ramadan) and get yourself healed."
The word Taqwa, translated in the above verse as 'self-restraint' in many ways is related
to health and disease, food and dietetics, physical fitness, etc., besides signifying self-training,
self-restraint, self-control, selfdiscipline, self- education and self-evaluation.
It should also be mentioned here that the personality, behavior, and performance of an
individual is affected by the food that he or she consumes and, therefore, one must select the best
type of food to maintain good health. There is thus a linkage between physical and mental health.
A sound mind and a sound body go together. It is not possible to have one without the other.
It is difficult to reason well while one is physically sick. Similarly, mental illness may
adversely affect various body functions, e.g., an ulcer). This dual, complementary approach to
mental and physical health is exemplified by Islamic views towards the nursing of infants. The
advantages of breast feeding are numerous since the mother transfers many nutrients, hormones,
and even antibodies through suckling. The particular amino acid composition of human milk may
accelerate and even increase cognitive development in the infant. In addition, one must not forget
how this close physical contact strengthens the emotional relationship between the mother and
child. About breast feeding Allah says in the Qur'an: "The mothers shall give suck to their offspring
for two whole years if the Father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their
food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can
bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child, nor father on account or his
child. An heir shall be chargeable in the same way. IT they both decide on weaning, by mutual
consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster mother for
your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (the mother) what ye offered, on
equitable terms. But fear God and know that God sees well what ye do." (Qur'an 2:233).
VI. COLLEGES FOR NATURAL THERAPEUTICS
"Substitutive therapy" auxotherapy; a therapeutic system in which disease is treated by
producing a morbid reaction of another kind or in another part - a method of substitution."
"A system of thel·apcutics in which neither surgical nor medical agents
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of healing a philosophy, science. art, and
Practice which seeks to promote health through education and the rational use of natural agents.
As a separate profession, naturopathic medicine incorporates all natural methods of healing,
including such things as botanical medicines, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, medical electricity,
psychology, and manipulative therapies.
The human body possesses tremendous power to heal itself through mechanisms of
homeostasis restoring balance in structure and function and adapting to environmental changes.
The naturopathic physician uses those therapeutic substances and techniques which act in
harmony with the body's self-healing processes and avoids treatments which are designed to
counteract or supervene them. Ideally, naturopathic methods are applied as a means of
stimulating and enhancing this "healing power of nature." are used, dependence being placed only
on natural forces."
a) "A system of therapeutic manipulation based on the theory that morbid symptoms are
dependent upon strained or contracted ligaments in the spine, thorax, or pelvis."
b) Naprapathic Philosophy, Theory and Principles. A system of specific manipulative
therapeutics based on the theory of interference to nerves, blood vessels and lymph channels, by
pathologic soft tissue such as connective tissue or muscles with consequent secondary pathology
or dysfunction resulting therefrom."
"A philosophic system of mechanical therapeutics that attribute disease to vertebral subluxations;
it treats disease with manipulation of the vertebra in order to relieve pressure on the nerves at the
intervertebral formation so that nerve force may flow freely from the brain to the rest of the body."
"A system of therapy developed by Samuel Hahnemann on the theory that large doses of certain
drugs given to healthy persons will produce certain conditions which, when occurring
spontaneously as symptoms of a disease, are relieved by the same drug in small doses."
"A school of medicine based upon the idea that the normal body when in "correct adjustment" is a
vital machine capable of making its own remedies against infections and other toxic conditions.
Practitioners use the diagnostic and therapeutic measures of ordinary medicine in addition to
Naprapathy is a system of manually applied movements, both passive and active,
designed to bring motion. with consequent release of tension, into abnormally tensed and rigid
ligaments. muscles and articulations of the human body. These tissues and structures are
normalty moveable. flexible and resilient.
Naprapathy contends that a favorable internal environment is essential for growth,
development and maintenance of all normal health. Naprapathy's procedures assist the body to
maintain this favorable internal environment by releasing points of tension and by the use of
rational dietary and hygienic measures.
Chiropractic medicine gives particular attention to the relationship of the structural and
neurological aspects of the body in health and disease. Its therapeutics utilize adjustive and
manipulative procedures, physiological therapeutics, dietary correction and supplementation,
kinesiology and rehabilitative procedures, and other drugless procedures to aid in restoration of
anatomical relationships and physiologic capabilities.
7) Folk Medicine
"Treatment of ailments in the home by remedies and simple measures based upon
experience and knowledge handed on from generation to generation."
"An ancient medical system of therapy using puncture by fine needles.
Most recently, this has been used for anesthesia."
9) Preventive Medicine
"The branch of medical science that treats by the prevention of disease."
10) Curative Medicine
A special type of medicine which is designed to restore health - it means: "to heal, to make well,
and is a special method or course of treatment."
Medical treatment, the specialty that includes the diagnosis andior medical, surgical, mechanical,
physical, and adjunctive treatment of the disease, injuries and defects of the human foot."
Hakim is an Arabic word. Literally, it means: a wise and a knowledgeable person. In practice it is
used for a physician without a formal education or a degree. His knowledge is through personal
tutoring as well as through inheritance. The "medicine" that a Hakim practices is composed of a
combination of herbal medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic and others. This type of
"medicine" is still practiced in most of the "Developing Nations"
VII. RECOMMENDATIONS ON NATURAL FOODS
A. Natural Foods
There are four different types of vitamins sold as "natural." These are:
1) An extract of food concentrated so that the vitamin is in higher quantity than the original
food - examples: Heart muscle as a source of B vitamins, liver and yeast as sources of B
vitamins, rose hips and edible organ meats as sources ofvitamin C.
2) Highly concentrated crystals or purified vitamins altered somewhat, but extracted from
foods - examples: Vitamin E acetate from vegetable oils, from B-12 as cobalamin concentrate.
3) Synthetic vitamins for which the starting materials are natural materials - examples:
Ascorbic acid from corn sugar, Vitamin A from citral, derived from lemon grass.
4) If a natural base such as veast is included, the addition of synthL·tic vitamins may not
prevent the product from being called "natural." Many food supplements include ground up
deposits of rock from the desert as sources of minerals and these are called "natural" minerals
because they come from natural rock deposits.
B. Reading Labels
When reading labels, one has to be careful of the following:
1) Look for Dietary Balance
a. Are the vitamins present in proportion to their individual recommended daily intakes?
b. Do B-complex formulas include all the B-complex vitamins, and are
they adjusted to recommended amounts?
c. Are ingredients listed in amounts ofactive components?
d. Are insignificant amounts of vitamins included for advertising pur-
e. How much "window dressing" is used?
f. Are ingredients adjusted to "cost" rather than requirements?
2. Know your preferences for sources
3. Look for expiration dates
4. How well are they assimilated?
5. Know what you mean by "natural" - "organic"
a. All vitamins are organic molecules and fall into this chemical classification.
VIII. RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MUSLIM WORLD
It is recommended that the Muslim World look into the concept, philosophy and benefits
of the natural and practical implications. It is also recommended that the ministries of public health
in cooperation with the ministries of higher education should establish colleges of natural healing
arts. Such colleges should include all types of natural healing including the old Arab Hakim, folk
medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, naprapathy and the like. It is recommended that
they take into consideration an eclectic approach as well as the needs of the Muslims everywhere:
urban and rural areas. Since most of the people in the Muslim World are inclined to a natural
approach of heal ing, such a project could be very successful, very beneficial, less expenslve and
much safer to the lives of the individuals.
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