Medicine, like other sciences, drew it's nourishment from the Quraan and its philosophy of life. And like other sciences, the principal of harmony and balance also worked through and influenced the science of medicine.
The whole study of Medicine is also related to the Islamic faith through the injunctions of the Holy Quraan and Hadith of the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) concerning hygiene and better and healthy living. In short, the Islamic Shariah has issued directions regarding ablution, cleanliness, general hygiene, dietary habits, healthy foods and many other elements affecting the body and it's health.
There is certainly another intimate link between medicine and Islam. The human body is considered to be the formal residence of the soul (Ruh) and therefore closely related to both the spirit and the soul. Thus both soul and spirit, are intimately related to and are dependent upon the physical body of man because the former cannot exist in this world without the latter. Secondly, man has to maintain his outward form as well as his inwardly in a good and healthy condition to exist at all. Therefore the health and care of the body becomes an important matter both for medicine and religion, in order to keep man outwardly and inwardly in a healthy condition.
The anatomy and physiology of the human body provided a wide field of study for philosophers, theologians and physicians. Quranic studies further encouraged the study of the human body, it being one of the signs (Aayat) of the Creator. Man being the supreme and noblest creation, the study of his physical body was therefore considered necessary and important for the proper understanding of Allah's Wisdom. The Quraan has invited man to look into the matter of his own creation in order to find the Wisdom of Allah and to understand the purpose of the whole creation.
It is necessary to keep the physical body very healthy so that spirit and soul may also remain healthy in order to achieve spiritual attainment as well as material.
Let us briefly examine some of the health regulations prescribed to us by the Quraan and Sunnah:
1) The dietary regulations plays an important role in Islamic medicine. Islam has prohibited certain foods because of their ill-effects, and allowed all other pure, good and clean things. Allah says, "O Believers! Eat of the good and pure things that we have provided for you and render thanks to Allah, if it is (indeed) He whom you worship." (2: 172)
As regards the criterion for judging whether a thing is pure or not? It should be noted that all those things are pure which are not unclean according to any principle of Islamic Law, or which are not offensive to good taste or have not universally been regarded as repugnant by cultured people. After stating this general principle with regard to permissible foods, the Quraan specifies the prohibited foods in these words "He has only forbidden you dead meat and blood and swine flesh and that food over which the name of other than Allah has been invoked" (16 :115)
These four things are absolutely forbidden in Islam for reasons known to Allah. However, research on these things have shown that some of them are injurious to human health - as dead meat, blood and swine meat, and some are harmful to moral health as well - flesh of swine, and still others to spiritual health as food over which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked.
2) Alcohol is also prohibited because of it's harmfulness is greater than it's benefits. The physical, moral, social and spiritual evils of intoxicants and gambling are clearly referred to in the Quraan as the filthy work of Shaitaan.
3) The Quraan has also given very useful tips regarding a balanced diet which contains every useful ingredient necessary for the growth and repair of the human body, including protein, fat, calcium, iron, salts etc.
The most balanced diet consists of meat, especially roast fat, calf or fish, fresh milk, cheese and fruit. The Quraan makes indirect references to the importance of animal protein in human diet on various occasions. "There came our Messenger to Ibrahim with glad tidings, They said, 'Peace'. He answered, 'Peace! and hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf". (11.69).
Then the Quraan also mentions the meal of fowls "And the flesh of fowls, any that they desire". (56:21)
Fish is also considered to be food of very high protein and very important for human consumption. The Quraan refers to this fresh food in these words, "It is He who has made the sea to be of service that may you eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender". (16:14).
The Quraan then refers to the importance of animal protein in general in the human diet. "And the castle He created for you, from them you derive warmth and numerous benefits, and their meal you eat". (16:5).
The usefulness of fresh milk is stressed in these words. "And in the cattle there is truely a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies". (23:21)
The benefits of fruit as good nourishment is described in these words, "And of the fruit of the date-palm, and grapes, you get out wholesome drink and also good nourishment". (16:67)
The Quraan mentions the great medicinal uses of honey for mankind "And your Lord taught the bee to build it's cells on mountains on trees and inhabitants." (16:68).
Honey seems to possess immense medicinal value for various diseases. It is extremely effective and useful for heart diseases and provides top-grade, ready made glucose for body weaknesses. Very good for the eyes, that if used regularly, young people can get rid of their spectacles in a few years.
Honey has also been used for preparing and preserving other medicines. Because it does not rot, which is why it is a substitute for alcohol, good for common colds, blood diseases, digestion and so on. In fact the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) recommended the use of honey for a great many illnesses.
Abdullah Bin Masoud (Radhiyallaahu Anhu) reports Messenger (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) as saying, "Make use of the two remedies, honey and the Quraan".
So in short, the ingredients of honey show that it is being useful in these ways:
a) As good nourishment.
b) As a protective measure
c) As a medicine for various kinds of diseases.
It's ingredients are calcium, sulphur, carbon, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, chlorine, sodium, potassium and iodine.
There is no verse of the Quraan which specifically mentions surgical and anatomical operations as such but by implication and interpretation, a few scholars reported to have taken this verse in this context, "Have we not expanded your breast" (94: 1-3).
This is given further support by an incident which occurred during the time of the Prophet's (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) childhood when two men clothed in white threw him down and opened his belly and searched therein and stretched it apart.
There is a possibility the above incident might well have initiated surgical medicine in the early phase of Islamic civilization and might have encouraged many physicians to take the line of medicine. Famous physicians like Ibn Sina, Ibn Al-Quff and so on were encouraged performing surgical operations.
A little reflection on the aayats of the Qur'aan will show that the central theme of the Islamic faith unity. Tawheed covers every aspect of human life and every field of human study. Tawheed is the essence of the science and you cannot proceed even a step forward without referring it in one one way or another, because Allah is the starting and finishing point of everything. This is the great distinguishing point between a Muslim scientist and a non-Muslim scientist. Therefore, the former sees everything and all knowledge spring from Allah and must be referred back to Him.
Shisha smoking a major health risk
ABU DHABI — Numerous cafes and restaurants serving shisha (hubble-bubble) have become a disturbing feature of most residential areas across the emirates and pose a menace due to noise and air pollution.
The increasing trend is also blamed for multiplying the parking woes of the already suffering residents.
What is really serious about the phenomenon is that most shisha smokers wrongfully take to the hubble-bubble thinking that it poses only 'light' health risks compared to the serious health related complications of cigarette smoking.
Medical experts have warned that shisha has a more perilous impact on health compared to cigarette smoking. They say most shisha smokers have a misconception based on a wrongful and unscientific notion that tobacco used in shisha is herbal and does not affect body organs.
Residents of buildings with coffee shops and snack counters that serve shisha expressed their resentment over the outlets for the multiple problems they cause them. They called upon the authorities concerned to adopt certain measures to control spread of shisha outlets in the country.
It is to be noted that in their efforts to combat smoking, the health ministers of the GCC states have proposed a hike in the fees of commercial licence issued for cafes and restaurants serving shisha in the member countries. Despite several steps taken by the country to control the spread of tobacco, the UAE is considered among the world's leading consumers of tobacco.
Medical experts have also cautioned that one of the hazards of smoking shisha is lung cancer.
"Most people misleadingly believe shisha does not contain tobacco and that when they smoke they inhale herbal products. It is the added flavours that make them feel they are smoking herbs, while they are actually taking in tobacco and are highly likely to become addicted to nicotine. Shisha smokers should realise that it is far more dangerous than cigarette smoking because the amount of nicotine in shisha cannot be measured due to packing differences," a doctor in the government sector warned.
Moreover, while smoking hubble-bubble the aluminium foil, which is usually of poor quality, reacts with the burning charcoal and produces aluminium fumes that are carcinogenic or in other words causes cancer, he said.
He clarified that the amount of carbon dioxide inhaled through shisha is very high compared to cigarette smoking, adding that one shisha smoke is equal to seven or 10 cigarettes depending on the packed ingredients.
He stressed shisha smokers should also be aware of the fact that when smoke goes through water humidity in smoke increases and it then tends to stay for a longer time in the lungs. Some germs, mainly bacteria that cause tuberculosis, live in the shisha pipe.
"According to recent studies the pipe could act as a good medium for conveying bacteria causing infectious diseases like Hepatitis A that can be easily transmitted when shisha pipe is used by multiple smokers," apprised the medical expert.
Maria Antonia, a resident, said: "it is a bad influence for young kids as they too feel like smoking cigarettes and having shisha."
Imli Jungla, another resident, wondered whether something can be done to curb the trend, which she finds sickening. "I find the smell sickening, can't they stop the roadside hubble-bubble culture?" she asked.
Aseel Maad (name changed) said: "Serving shisha in the residential areas has become very annoying to most people in the emirates. I personally believe authorities concerned should intervene to regulate the spread of shisha outlets, especially in residential areas. Besides health risks of hubble-bubble, it distracts youth from becoming creative and utilising their leisure time for doing something useful."
Duriya Ahmed, a 54-year-old housewife, said: "I believe shisha cafes and restaurants distort the beautiful look of cities. They also allure young people to taste the much promoted type of smoking (shisha), which I fear might soon become a habit of elegant and educated young people. I believe authorities concerned should be alert to control prevalence of this harmful phenomenon."
2008 Khaleej Times
Stress and A Big Belly
By Nora Belfedal
Young or old, thin or big, many Muslims are getting a paunch and have to bear some feelings of heaviness in the abdomen. But aside from being a nuisance, having a big belly can also lead to serious diseases.
It has been found that if the abdominal muscles do not work well, the entire metabolic system becomes affected. Badly sustained, the organs fall downwards, pulling the spine into an incorrect position. The intestines become unable to launch exhalation as they should and hence keep the carbon dioxide inside the body, making the renewal of oxygen especially difficult. A study of 17,150 men also showed the link between abdominal obesity and the risk of developing cataracts. In this study, reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a big belly was cited as the main risk factor (Eller).
However, contrary to popular belief, lack of exercise is not always the culprit in obesity. Before addressing the issue of exercise, doctors first look at their patient's lifestyle to determine possible causes for digestive troubles. "For most of my patients, the weight gain was due to a digestive disruption," says French dietician Francois Pallardy (Pallardy, p. 5).
The Prophet Mohammed (saws) also commented on the importance of proper eating habits, saying, "A believer eats in one intestine (is satisfied with little food) and a kafir (unbeliever) or a hypocrite eats with seven intestines" (Bukhari). This hadith (saying of the Prophet) explains the problem of obesity well. Obesity occurs when people eat too much and too fast, which causes a swollen belly due to constipation or abdominal wind.
The digestive system is a wonderful system. But, to keep it functioning properly, people are advised to reduce their consumption of acidic products that increase the acidity rate in the stomach, which can lead to heartburn and bloating. Acid-forming foods include: vinegar, red fruits, milk products, some vegetables such as tomatoes and watercress, jams, sweet drinks and stimulants like coffee and tea, among others. Abdominal wind can also be due to presence of gas in the stomach caused by chewing gums and fizzy drinks like soda (webmd.com).
Moreover, food fermentation often increases if one is continually nervous or anxious, thus causing bloating because stress upsets the bile and insulin production needed to digest the foods. A Yale University team found a link between chronic psychological stress and fat storage. Stress makes the brain, especially the hypothalamus, secrete an excessive amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, which may contribute to a high fat rate or an upset of the insulin rate responsible for diabetes, high cholesterol, and ulcers (webmd.com).
Many experts also believe in the psychological factors of many digestive diseases. "The cause probably has something to do with the stress, which affects the nerves connected to the intestines and cause cramping," says Thomas M. Ball, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Arizona (webmd.com).
Furthermore, the development of some bad genes may be halted or slowed down if the person stays relaxed as Dr. Smith advises in his book Low-Stress Diet. Dr. Smith says, "Stresses can allow genetic traits to appear" (Smith, p. 17).
Furthermore, we usually react to stress by smoking, stopping exercise and overeating. Psychiatrists used to say that stress, or the perception of stress, can lead to low blood sugar, thus causing people to overeat. If stressed people are on a diet, they often feel guilty if they overeat; which creates more and varied stresses that can cause them to perceive they are weak and unable to control their bodies. Learning to accept one's self will also help us get to know our bodies, making it easier to exert control. Many scientists think that "mind-body" techniques might make a difference in many diseases (Smith, p.20).
Doctors advise that in order to stimulate better digestion, a person should try to reduce stress with imagery techniques. For example, people can imagine themselves relaxing in a calm cottage. Doctors also advise breathing fresh air, exercising three times a week, and following certain rules while eating. The following guidelines are also recommended:
1. Remember this Hadith: "Mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish what is nearer to you" (Bukhari).
2. Shut the television at mealtime and you will more easily concentrate on your food and become satiated faster.
3. Allow your appetite to dictate eating times. Eat small portions, but as often as you are hungry.
4. Avoid cutting out foods and eat mainly fresh foods, for they contain more vitamins, which will quell hunger.
5. Never eat sugar and protein at the same time. Protein should be eaten first, followed by legumes and grains, then vegetables such as salads. "Protein needs acid for its digestion; by ingesting water, fruit, or salad before the protein you dilute the hydrochloric acid" (Smith, p. 67).
6. Have some raw foods with each meal, which are convenient and a good source of Folate and B vitamins.
7. Drink fresh juice and water instead of coffee, tea or soda.
By relieving the system of stress, and maintaining good eating habits, a person will notice a real difference in their life. Their energy will increase, their nerves improve, and indigestion symptoms will often disappear.
Eller, Daryn. "The Mind Body Connection." Sciences et Avener Magazine.
Pallardy, Francois. "Health Problems and Obesity." Top Sante Magazine #120. September 2000.
Sahih Bukhari. "Book of Food, Meals."
Smith, Lendon, MD. "Dr Lendon Smith's Low-Stress Diet." USA: Avenir Press. 1985.
Q & A on Water and Sanitation in Islam
The following issues were discussed by the IOMS, The Fiqh Academy at Jeddah and WHO in various meetings held between the years 1980 - 2000.
Q: 1) What importance Islam gives to personal cleanliness?
A: Islam attaches great importance to cleanliness. This is clearly apparent in Islamic legislation which makes ablution and bathing a duty. Islam also requires to wash our hands before and after meals, and to wash our clothes to purify them. All these obligations are related to individual and collective acts of worship, emphasizing the Islamic concept which considers man's body and soul two parts of a single entity which are mutually complementary.
Q: 2) Is cleanliness a prerequisite for prayers?
A: Yes. God has made ablution an essential preliminary for prayers. He explains that: "God does not want to impose any hardship on you, but wants to make you pure" (5:6). Ablution is a divine obligation to be undertaken by everyone who wishes to pray. God says in the Quran: " Believers, when you prepare for prayer, wash your faces and your hands upto elbow, and wipe your heads and wash your feet up to the ankles (5:6). The Prophet (PBUH): "God does not accept any prayers which have not been preceded by ablution".
Q: 3) Are Muslims urged to perform ablution for purposes other than prayers?
A: Yes. A person who is in a state of ceremonial impurity, i.e. janaba, is encouraged to perform ablution if he wants to eat or sleep, though the state of janaba required taking bath in which one washes the entire body. However, Islam encourages a person in such a state to perform ablution if he delays taking bath. The Prophet (PBUH) was asked whether a person in a state of ceremonial impurity may sleep, eat or drink. He answered: Yes, if he performs ablution in the same manner as when he wants to pray".
Islam also requires a man who has had sexual intercourse with his wife and wants to do so again to perform ablution in the interval. According to an authentic hadith: "If any one of you has had intercourse with his wife, and wants to repeat it, he should perform ablution".
Muslims are also recommended to perform ablution before going to bed, and when one is in a state of anger or has touched or carried a dead person, and before reciting the Quran or reading the hadith, and for attending Islamic lessons, entering a mosque, calling for prayer, giving a sermon or visiting a graveyard.
Q: 4) Is taking a bath considered obligatory in Islam?
A: Yes, taking a bath is considered obligatory in Islam on a number of occasions, including the end of menstruation and post natal discharge, after sexual intercourse and wet dreams. In this connection, God says in the Quran: "If you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, purify yourself" (5:6). He also says: "Believers, do not come near prayers when you are drunk until you are aware of what you are saying, nor when you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, except during traveling, until you have taken a bath" (4:43).
Islam requires its followers to take special care to keep themselves clean by taking bath regularly, even in the absence of above causes. A Muslim is required to take bath before the weekly Friday prayer and for attending prayer on the two annual Islamic feasts. It is also recommended to bath frequently during the pilgrimage and the Umra and on such occasions as entering Mecca, prayer for rainfall, when there is an eclipse, on regaining consciousness after fainting, after having washed the body of a dead person, when one feels that one's body odour is becoming unpleasant, before retiring to a mosque for mediation and prayer, when entering Medina and before attending any gathering.
Until the 16th century C.E. the operation of Caesarean section was a mystery and highly controversial in Europe but in the Middle Ages, Muslims wrote about the operation and even illustrated it with pictures. Towards the end of the 12th Century C.E. the European nations were beginning to surpass their rivals in the Islamic East.
The increasing strength of the West took full advantage of scientific and literary discoveries of the Muslims. Far from giving any credit to the Muslims or acknowledging their contributions to science, the Western scholars painted a very distorted picture and left highly biased opinions of their predecessors from the Islamic world. This fact can be very easily illustrated by many examples from the history of medicine.
It is unfortunate that the Western medical historians have not appreciated the value of the writings of early Muslim scholars. On the contrary, for many centuries they have made positive efforts to discredit the Muslims. As an example, it is a generally held view in the West that surgical advancement was discouraged by great Muslim physicians like Ibn Sina because, in his Al-Qanon he did not emphasise surgical procedures. In these futile efforts it is forgotten that Al-Qanon was primarily a treatise on internal medicine and not on surgery.
Many European authors of later ages produced medical texts on similar patterns. Moreover these shortsighted historians completely ignored surgical geniuses and the contributions of people like Abu Qasim (known in the West as Al Bucasis). In this context, the history of Caesarean section presents a good example. In 1863 a French medical historian by the name of C. Rique recorded that the operation of Caesarean section was strictly prohibited in Islam. He went on to say that according to Islamic jurists any child born by such an operation should be killed immediately as a child of the Devil. This author also quoted the name of an unknown Arab to justify his conclusion. But even after exhaustive searches this reference can not be found in the authentic Arabic literature. From the middle of the last century until modem times, Rique's statement has been quoted and referred to by many historians without establishing the truth or its validity.
The literature on this subject is littered with references to the above quotation without even referring to the original source. On the contrary, no medical historian has ever mentioned that during the middle ages it was a well known belief in Europe that the devil or the Antichrist would be born by Caesarean section before the end of the world. This legend is mentioned and supported by a picture in a book published in 1898 by R. Procter and can be seen in the British Museum.
Unfortunately worthwhile literature of the early Islamic period is scanty and scattered or else is in the wrong hands. Many valuable manuscripts are either in private hands used only as profitable investments or in museums all over Europe and America. The Islamic states and the statesmen who can easily afford to collect and compile copies of these manuscripts for free circulation have never shown any interest in this wealth of inheritance. Lack of interest and research in these early manuscripts has created an atmosphere of doubt and misinformation.
If someone cared to devote time and effort searching through the available literature, a great a deal of truth could easily be found buried under the sands of time. As regards Caesarean section we know that in the pre-Islamic days the Romans used to perform this operation after the death of a pregnant woman. This practice was strictly governed by law. Jewish religious books have also mentioned various rules in relation to a child born by an operation. If we go further back into history, in India we find that the Buddha was possibly born by an operation.
A famous Indian medical man by the name of Susruta wrote about such an operation in 6th or 7th century B.C. All these rich sources relating to Caesarean section were available to Muslim scholars of the Middle Ages, when a vast amount of scientific literature was translated into Arabic. In fact many of the Syriac, Creek and Sanskrit texts were only saved and are available to us because of their Arabic translations whilst the originals are lost forever. Many of the famous translators in the Islamic period were Christians or Jews. We known that an Indian by the name of Manka was appointed to translate Susruta's works into Arabic.
A unique and extremely rare manuscript exists in Edinburgh University Library. It is manuscript number 161 called "Al-Asrar-al-Baqiyah-an-al-Qurun-al-Khaliydh" or the Chronological History of Nations. It was written by the famous Muslim, Al-Beruni, who died at the age of 78 in 1048 C.E. Al-Beruni has also left us a large volume on the history of India and many other texts. He travelled extensively in pre-Muslim India and his writings were greatly influenced by these experiences. In particular he was impressed by medicinal plants form India.
In the above manuscript Al-Baruni has mentioned that Caesar Augustus (63 B.C. - 14 C.E.) was born by post-mortem Caesarean section. He also wrote that a folk hero Ahmed-Ibn-Sahl was born by Caesarean section after the death of his mother. Apart from these two very relevant references he actually included a picture of the Caesarean section in his book. Without any question this picture is the first ever illustration of such an operation in a textbook and places its author at least 500 years ahead of others.
Another famous name and contemporary of Al-Baruni was Firdousi (935-1025 C.E.), author of the well known "Shahnama". In this 60 000 verses long poems he described the birth of Rustum by Caesarean section. This lively and fascinating description and use of anaesthesia during the operation is there for everyone to read and provides convincing proof that the concept of Caesarean section was mature and its use was an accepted fact.
When we seek help from the religious authorities we discover no less than the towering figure of Imam Abu Hanifah (699 -767 C.E.) who decreed that an operation on a living or dead woman to save the life of an unborn child is allowed in Islam. This is mentioned in a book called Radd al-Mukhtar published in 1844 in Egypt.
Further strong evidence is available in the Fatawa Alamgeeria-a collection of Islamic decrees compiled by Sheikh Nitzam-ud-Din of Burhanpur under the auspices of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, who himself was well versed in Islamic Sharia. In this document there is a decree that if a pregnant woman dies and a child is expected to be alive, then the child must be removed by operation. It goes on to say that the operation should also be performed in order to save the life of a mother when the child is known to be dead.
In conclusion it can be proved that Caesarean section has never been prohibited by any Muslim authority. On the contrary, the Muslims in the Middle ages were the first to write about it in text and poetry and to illustrate the operation in pictures. They also formulated rules governing religious matters to allow such a procedure when the need arose.
by Dr. N. H. Naqvi
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