1,001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet

Prophetic Medicine

Sayings and Deeds of the ProphetThe hadiths, along with the Koran, make up the immutable laws of Islam, if not the universe. When it comes to treating what ails you, it is a law that is often broken with impunity. The reason that Saudi Arabia, until recently, was ruled by a gerontology was more the result of modern medicine, especially advances and innovations in the treatment of coronary and heart disease, than whatever Muhammad prescribed.

A concerted effort was made, after the ban on innovation, to set up a school of "Prophetic Medicine" based on the sayings and example of Muhammad and his Companions.

An attempt was made to create an alternative system of medical science, 'prophetic medicine' (tibb mabawi). This represented a reaction against the tradition which came from Galen. Its system was built upon what the Hadith recorded of the practices of the Prophet and his companions in regards to health and sickness. It was not created by medical men, however, but by lawyers and traditionalists who held the strict view that the Qur'an and Hadith contained all that was necessary for the conduct of human life.

It was the view of a minority, even among religious scholars, and a critical opinion was expressed, with his robust good sense, by Ibn Khaldun. This kind of medicine, he asserted, could occasionally and accidently be correct, but it was based on no rational principle.

A History of the Arab People, Albert Hourani, Harvard University Press, 1991, p. 203

It did not meet with the expected success, and the laws governing Prophetic Medicine remain the most flouted of Islamic laws, and for good reason.

Cupping was a favourite therapy of God’s Messenger for whatever ailed him, and it’s a therapy that comes highly recommended in the hadiths.

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:

That he paid Al-Muqanna a visit during his illness and said, "I will not leave till he gets cupped, for I heard Allah's Apostle saying, 'There is healing in cupping.'"

Bukhari 71.600

Cupping therapy is an ancient Chinese form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin. Muhammad’s cupping treatment would likely have involved heating the cup and/or the air inside it, then quickly placing the cup on the skin. As the air inside the cup cooled, it would have created a small vacuum that exerted a small tug on the skin. Conventional medicine has not found cupping to be effective in the treatment of any disease. In an Abu Dawud hadith, Muhammad recommended cupping for a headache and dyeing your legs with henna to relieve the pain.

Narrated Salmah:

The maid-servant of the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him), said: No one complained to the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) of a headache but he told him to get himself cupped, or of a pain in his legs but he told him to dye them with henna.

Abu Dawud 28.3849

Muhammad would recommend cupping for a headache when even achieving a sacred state could not relieve that persistent migraine.

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The Prophet was cupped on his head for an ailment he was suffering from while he was in a state of Ihram ("a sacred state which a Muslim must enter in order to perform the major pilgrimage (Hajj) or the minor pilgrimage (Umrah)Wiki) at a water place called Lahl Jamal.

Ibn Abbas further said: Allah's Apostle was cupped on his head for unilateral headache while he was in a state of Ihram.

Bukhari 71.602

Fasting was not an impediment to cupping.

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The Prophet was cupped while he was in the state of Ihram, and also while he was observing a fast.

Bukhari 31.159

Of course, cupping was what you paid a medical professional to have done to you. For the squeamish, or those who could not afford it, there was always sea incense.

Narrated Anas:

That he was asked about the wages of the one who cups others. He said, “Allah's Apostle was cupped by Abd Taiba, to whom he gave two Sa of food and interceded for him with his masters who consequently reduced what they used to charge him daily. Then the Prophet said, ‘The best medicines you may treat yourselves with are cupping and sea incense.'”

He added, "You should not torture your children by treating tonsillitis by pressing the tonsils or the palate with the finger, but use incense."

Bukhari 71.599

Incense is not mentioned in the following hadith as one of the three things with the best healing properties, but I am sure it is an oversight.

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

(The Prophet said), "Healing is in three things: A gulp of honey, cupping, and branding with fire (cauterizing). But I forbid my followers to use (cauterization) branding with fire."

Bukhari 71.584

It is a good thing that a man who found women lacking had resourceful daughters after he banned the cauterization of open wounds with heat.

Narrated Sahl bin Saud As-Sa'idi:

When the helmet broke on the head of the Prophet and his face became covered with blood and his incisor tooth broke (i.e. during the battle of Uhud), Ali used to bring water in his shield while Fatima was washing the blood off his face. When Fatima saw that the bleeding increased because of the water, she took a mat (of palm leaves), burnt it, and stuck it (the burnt ashes) on the wound of Allah's Apostle, whereupon the bleeding stopped.

Bukhari 71.618

Black cumin as a cure for every disease except death.

Narrated Khalid bin Sad:

We went out and Ghalib bin Abjar was accompanying us. He fell ill on the way and when we arrived at Medina he was still sick.

Ibn Abi Atiq came to visit him and said to us, "Treat him with black cumin. Take five or seven seeds and crush them (mix the powder with oil) and drop the resulting mixture into both nostrils, for Aisha has narrated to me that she heard the Prophet saying, "This black cumin is healing for all diseases except As-Sam."

Aisha said, "What is As-Sam?"

He said, 'Death.'"

Bukhari 71.591

When your stomach lies, the answer is honey.

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

A man came to the Prophet and said, "My brother has some abdominal trouble."

The Prophet said to him, "Let him drink honey."

The man came for the second time and the Prophet said to him, "Let him drink honey."

He came for the third time and the Prophet said, "Let him drink honey."

He returned again and said, "I have done that."'

The Prophet then said, "Allah has said the truth, but your brother's abdomen has told a lie. Let him drink honey."

So he made him drink honey and he was cured.

Bukhari 71.588

Milk I can understand, but camel piss?

Narrated Anas:

The climate of Medina did not suit some people, so the Prophet ordered them to follow his shepherd, i.e. his camels, and drink their milk and urine (as a medicine).

So they followed the shepherd that is the camels and drank their milk and urine till their bodies became healthy. Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels.

When the news reached the Prophet he sent some people in their pursuit. When they were brought, he cut their hands and feet and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron.

Bukhari 71.590

Sweets will cause a release of feel-good endorphins, therefore the following recipe may have some merit in curing depression.

Narrated Ursa:

Aisha used to recommend At-Talbina (a meal made from barley flour, formed by adding milk and honey to the dried barley powder) for the sick and for such a person as grieved over a dead person.

She used to say, "I heard Allah's Apostle saying, 'At-Talbina gives rest to the heart of the patient and makes it active and relieves some of his sorrow and grief.'"

Bukhari 71.593

If black cumin is not the answer, then it’s back to incense.

Narrated Um Qais bint Mihsan:

I heard the Prophet saying, "Treat with the Indian incense, for it has healing for seven diseases; it is to be sniffed by one having throat trouble, and to be put into one side of the mouth of one suffering from pleurisy."

Bukhari 71.596

How to get rid of lice:

Narrated Ka'b bin Ujrah:

The Prophet came to me during the period of Al-Hudaibiya, while I was lighting fire underneath a cooking pot and lice were falling down my head. He said, "Do your lice hurt your?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "Shave your head and fast for three days or feed six poor persons or slaughter a sheep as a sacrifice."

Bukhari 71.604

Kohl is an ancient eye cosmetic thought to have medicinal properties. In Islam, only men can use cosmetics in public therefore Muhammad, a user of khol, was correct, if insensitive to the woman’s discomfort, in the following hadith, ignoring her request to use the eyeliner.

Narrated Um Salama:

The husband of a lady died and her eyes became sore and the people mentioned her story to the Prophet. They asked him whether it was permissible for her to use kohl as her eyes were exposed to danger.

He said, "Previously, when one of you was bereaved by a husband she would stay in her dirty clothes in a bad unhealthy house (for one year), and when a dog passed by, she would throw a globe of dung. No, (she should observe the prescribed period Idda i.e. waiting period) for four months and ten days."

Bukhari 71.607

Collyrium is an eye cleanser which Muhammad also denied a grieving widow.

Narrated Umm Salamah, Ummul Mu'minin:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A woman whose husband has died must not wear clothes dyed with safflower (usfur) or with red ochre (mishq) and ornaments. She must not apply henna and collyrium.

Abu Dawud 12.2297

Something else to help what ails the eyes: mushroom secretions.

Narrated Said bin Zaid:

I heard the Prophet saying, "Truffles are like Manna (i.e. they grow naturally without man's care) and their water heals eye diseases."

Bukhari 71.609

Allah is responsible for spreading contagious disease and for some contagious diseases, you should run away from the afflicted.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "(There is) no Adwa (no contagious disease is conveyed without Allah's permission) nor is there any bad omen (from birds), nor is there any Hamah, nor is there any bad omen in the month of Safar, and one should run away from the leper as one runs away from a lion."

Bukhari 71.608

During a plague, Muhammad recommends you stay put. And should doing so lead to your demise, you will be rewarded as if you had been martyred.

Narrated Aisha:

I asked Allah's Apostle about the plague. He said, "That was a means of torture which Allah used to send upon whom-so-ever He wished, but He made it a source of mercy for the believers, for anyone who is residing in a town in which this disease is present, and remains there and does not leave that town, but has patience and hopes for Allah's reward, and knows that nothing will befall him except what Allah has written for him, then he will get such reward as that of a martyr."

Bukhari 77.616

That fever you are experiencing…

Narrated Nazi:

Abdullah bin Umar said, "The Prophet said, 'Fever is from the heat of Hell, so put it out (cool it) with water.'"

Nafi added: "Abdullah used to say, 'O Allah! Relieve us from the punishment,'" (when he suffered from fever).

Bukhari 71.619

Debilitating fevers like those associated with cholera epidemics became a common occurrence after Muhammad and his followers made Medina their home, and Hell may have had nothing to do with it.

Narrated Abu Sa'id al-Khudri:

I heard that the people asked the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him): Water is brought for you from the well of Buda'ah. It is a well in which dead dogs, menstrual clothes and excrement of people are thrown.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) replied: Verily water is pure and is not defiled by anything.

Abu Dawud 1.0067

Narrated Abu Sa'id al-Khudri:

The people asked the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him): Can we perform ablution out of the well of Buda'ah, which is a well into which menstrual clothes, dead dogs and stinking things were thrown?

He replied: Water is pure and is not defiled by anything.

Sahih Muslim 1.0066

The fly carries both the disease and its cure, if handled properly.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "If a fly falls in the vessel of any of you, let him dip all of it (into the vessel) and then throw it away, for in one of its wings there is a disease and in the other there is healing (antidote for it) i e. the treatment for that disease."

Bukhari 71.673

What about a mouse?

Narrated Maimuna:

Allah's Apostle was asked regarding ghee (cooking butter) in which a mouse had fallen. He said, "Take out the mouse and throw away the ghee around it and use the rest."

Bukhari 4.236

Some dates eaten as part of a balanced breakfast will make you immune to poison and spells.

Narrated Saud:

The Prophet said, "If somebody takes some Ajwa dates every morning, he will not be effected by poison or magic on that day till night." (Another narrator said seven dates).

Bukhari 71.663

Prayer, but not just any prayer, is the cure for snake bites and a scorpion’s sting.

Narrated Abu Said:

Some of the companions of the Prophet went on a journey till they reached some of the Arab tribes (at night). They asked the latter to treat them as their guests but they refused.

The chief of that tribe was then bitten by a snake (or stung by a scorpion) and they tried their best to cure him but in vain.

Some of them said (to the others), "Nothing has benefited him, will you go to the people who resided here at night, it may be that some of them might possess something (as treatment)."

They went to the group of the companions (of the Prophet ) and said, "Our chief has been bitten by a snake (or stung by a scorpion) and we have tried everything but he has not benefitted. Have you got anything (useful)?"

One of them replied, "Yes, by Allah! I can recite a Ruqya (not unlike an exorcism where repeating over and over specific verses from the Koran figure prominently), but as you have refused to accept us as your guests, I will not recite the Ruqya for you unless you fix for us some wages for it."

They agreed to pay them a flock of sheep. One of them then went and recited (Surat ul-Fatiha): "All the praises are for the Lord of the Worlds" and puffed over the chief who became all right as if he was released from a chain, and got up and started walking, showing no signs of sickness.

They paid them what they agreed to pay. Some of them (i.e. the companions) then suggested to divide their earnings among themselves, but the one who performed the recitation said, "Do not divide them till we go to the Prophet and narrate the whole story to him, and wait for his order."

So, they went to Allah's Apostle and narrated the story.

Allah's Apostle asked, "How did you come to know that Surat-ul-Fatiha was recited as Ruqya?"

Then he added, "You have done the right thing. Divide (what you have earned) and assign a share for me as well."

The Prophet smiled thereupon.

Bukhari 36.476

Narrated Al-Aswad:

I asked Aisha about treating poisonous stings (a snake-bite or a scorpion sting) with a Ruqya. She said, "The Prophet allowed the treatment of poisonous sting with Ruqya."

Bukhari 71.637

Ruqya could also cure diseases whose provenance was unknown.

Narrated Abdul Aziz:

Thabit and I went to Anas bin Malik.

Thabit said, "O Abu Hamza! I am sick."

On that Anas said, "Shall I treat you with the Ruqya of Allah's Apostle?"

Thabit said, "Yes."

Anas recited, "O Allah! The Lord of the people, the Remover of trouble! (Please) cure (Heal) (this patient), for You are the Healer. None brings about healing but You; a healing that will leave behind no ailment."

Bukhari 71.638

Ruqya, in combination with the spit of certain people, was the best.

Narrated Aisha:

Allah's Apostle used to read in his Ruqya, "In the Name of Allah, the earth of our land and the saliva of some of us cure our patient with the permission of our Lord" (with a slight shower of saliva) while treating with a Ruqya.

Bukhari 71.642

Islam is a product of the Dark Ages. This is the period in our history (generally accepted to be between 400 and 1000 CE) when irrational beliefs and fears overwhelmed common sense and reason. Muhammad, if not typical of his generation, was a product of his time, as his belief in an evil eye will attest. 

Narrated Um Salama:

That the Prophet saw in her house a girl whose face had a black spot. He said. "She is under the effect of an evil eye; so treat her with a Ruqya."

Bukhari 71.635

Ablutions are always good for whatever ails you, but be careful where you get your water.

Narrated Ali:

I used to get the emotional urethral discharge frequently so I requested Al-Miqdad to ask the Prophet about it. Al-Miqdad asked him and he replied, "One has to perform ablution (after it)."

Bukhari 3.134