Prayers and Healing
By Shahid Athar, M.D.
We, the physicians, have now come to accept a fact known to our patients for centuries: that healing is from God, and we are just an instrument of the Healer. We give the same medication to two different patients with the same type of medical problem or perform similar operations on two patients otherwise at the same risk and one will survive and the other one doesn't. It is more than simple luck. As Socrates put it, "I dress the wound and God heals it." This was also acknowledged by the Prophet Abraham, "and when I am ill, it is He who cures me" (Quran 26:80). God himself attests to it by saying "If God touches thee with an affliction, no one can remove it but He" (Quran 6:17).
Healing from the Quran
The Quran is not a textbook of medicine, rather it contains rules of guidance that if followed will promote good health and healing. This is why the Quran calls itself a book of healing.
"O mankind, there has come unto you a direction from your Lord and a healing for the heart and for those who believe in guidance and mercy" (Quran 10:57).
"We have sent down in the Quran that which is healing and a mercy to those who believe" (Quran 17:82)
Healing from the Quran is of three types:
- Legislative effect: This includes faith (iman) in God as not only the Creator but the Sustainer and the Protector. This also includes the medical benefits of obligatory prayers, fasting, charity and pilgrimage.
- Health Guidelines: Health-promoting items from the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) including the use of honey, olives, fruit, lean meat, avoiding excessive eating, and the prohibition of alcohol, pork, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity and sex during menstruation.
- The direct healing effect of the Quran: Recitation of Quran by the ill or for the ill (ruqya) has shown to have a direct healing effect. This most likely uses the medical benefits of echo.
Use of Meditation in Prayer and Healing
Meditation includes acts of remembrance and communications with God as ordained to us.
- "When my servant asks you (O Muhammad) about me, (tell them) I am close to them: I listen to the prayer of each supplicant when he asks Me. Let them listen to My call and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way" (Quran 2:186).
- "Your Lord says: "Call on Me and I will answer your call" (Quran 40:60).
- "Those who believe and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of God, for in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest" (Quran 13:28).
- "Remember Me, I will remember you; thank Me and reject Me not" (Quran 2:152).
- "Remember thy Lord much and praise Him in the evening and morning" (Quran 3:41).
- "Such as those who remember God standing, sitting and reclining" (Quran 3:191).
- "and men who remember God much and women who remember God, God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward" (Quran 33:35).
- "O you believe! Remember God with much remembrance and glorify Him in the morning and evening" (Quran 33:41-42).
The Prophet Muhammad
- "There is a polish for everything that removes the rust and the polish for the rust-of- heart is the dhikr (remembrance) of God."
- He was asked which people are most virtuous and most highly esteemed by God on the Day of Judgement. The messenger of God (P) replied "Those who remember God often."
- It is narrated in a hadith Qudsi (direct revelation to Prophet Muhammad) "God Most High says I am as my Servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me by himself, I make mention of him to Myself. If he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than his. If he comes closer to Me a hand span, I come closer to him arms-length, if he comes to Me walking, I come to him running."
Seeking Help with Prayers
According to Imam Ghazali, illness increases faith and brings man closer to God. Knowing this nature, we are told by the Quran -
"O you who believe, seek help with patience and prayers, as God is with those who patiently persevere" (Quran 2:153).
The Prophet Muhammad used to comfort the ill when he visited them and would say the following prayer:
"O Allah remove the hardship, O Lord of mankind, grant cure for You are the Healer. There is no cure but from You, a cure which leaves no illness behind."
He would also make following prayer for his own health:
"O Allah cure my body, cure my heart and cure my eyesight from any illness" (repeated 3 times).
Do Prayers Work?
Yes they do. Dr. Larry Dossey in his book "The Healing Words" has documented the healing effects of prayer. Citing one example from the research conducted by Dr. Byrd at San Francisco General Hospital in 1988, 393 critically ill heart patients admitted to the intensive care units over a 10-month period were divided into two groups. Patients categorized into group (A) were prayed for by name until they left the hospital. Those in group (B) were not prayed for. Those giving the prayers were not told how to pray. The results were very interesting. Those prayed for left the hospital early, had a lower incidence of cardiac arrest, 2-1/2 times less incidence of congestive heart failure and required 1/5th less antibiotics. The research team also observed that prayer combined with loving care worked even better. Men who had angina pectoris and a loving, caring wife, reported a 50% reduction in angina than men who were single or divorced.
Prayers work for us even while we are sleeping. The Prophet Muhammad advised us to say prayers from Quran (Surah Ikhlas, Al Falaq, Annas and/or last verse of Al Baqra (2:286) before going to sleep.
My Own Practice
I do dhikr in all my free time, especially while driving, and I pray for myself, my family, my friends and my patients by name, knowing that cure is only from God.
One time I visited a critically ill patient who had an adrenal tumor (pheochromocytoma) and was in hypotensive shock. I asked her what I could do for her and she, out of desperation (doctors had told her she wouldn't make it) asked me to pray. So I placed my hand over the site of the tumor and made the prophetic prayer and left. The next day when I came, I was surprised to see her sitting up in bed smiling. She told me that in the evening, the radiologist x-rayed her again and found no trace of the tumor. He could not explain it but thought that the arteriogram might have infarcted the tumor.
The Sufi Practices
In the treatment of diseases, Sufis use prayers and the knowledge of specific verses of the Quran and the names of Allah. This is called the Science of Tawidh (Taweez). They use science of numerology associated with Arabic alphabets. Some sample tawidh is given for illustration. One must know the healing is not in a piece of paper, words or numbers, but only from Allah. In my humble opinion, Tawidh is only a way to become God-conscious and receive His mercy as a result.
Shahid Athar, M.D. is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Athar is also the Chairman of the Islamic Medical Association of North American and a member of the Islamic Academy of Sciences (IAS).