What 1s Islamic Medicine?

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Islamic Medicine
Staff member
Dr Ahmed El-Kadi

With the growing for the restoration of Islamic values, there is increasing demand on Muslim scientists to restore and develop the Islamic sciences. It is essential, however, for the Muslim scientist to have a clear and sound understanding of the science he is expected to restore and develop. The majority of Muslim health professionals have no clear idea as to what Islamic medicine is. Even the ones who have an idea may differ in their concept and definition of Islamic medicine.

What is Islamic medicine? Is it the old medicine, still being practiced by some Hakims in the east? Is it natural medicine utilizing mostly herbs,diets, and lifestyle adjustment? Is it a medicine limited to the health related teachings found in the Qur'an and the prophet' s tradition? Is it primarily faith-healing and prayers for the sick? Is it customary medicine given an ills? None of the above is in itself Islamic Medicine, but all together, and a great deal more, are its ingredients. According to Islamic teaching, God has made available a treatment for every illness He has Created. This teaching implies that every available a treatment for every known to us should be utilized, and that if a treatment for a certain illness is not yet known to us, it is our duty to search for it until we find it. Therefore Islamic medicine cannot be limited to any branch of the healing arts which does not have the answer, or at least the potential to have the answer, to all illnesses. The treatment in question may be spiritual or physical exercise, nutritional adjustment, pharmaceutical preparation, be it all natural ingredients or purely synthetic, surgical procedure, radiation therapy,or a combination of any of these modalities.

Although Islamic Medicine may include, among many others, all the modalities of modern medicine, it differs from modern medicine in that it fulfills all the following six criteria: it is excellent and advanced compared to other brands of the healing arts: it is a medicine based on faith and Divine ethics: it is guided and oriented, it is comprehensive. paying attention to the body and the spirit, to the individual and the society, it is universal, utilizing all useful resources, and offers its services to all mankind: and last, but not least, it is scientific.

While modern medicine proclaims these criteria; i.e. to be excellent. ethical, oriented, comprehensive, univerrsal, and scientific, it has failed to fulfill any of them .An examination of modern medicine with regard to these six criteria will show how poorly it rates Statistics from the United States of the last decade will be used as representative of modem medicine.

The first criterion is excellence performance of modern medicine will be evaluated according to its ability to save life. to eradicate or control disease,and to improve personal well- being.

Modern medical statistics may give the impression that the average age of the population has been extended, and that more lives are being saved. A key figure in mortality statistics is infant mortality since it affects total mortality figures and also the average age of the population. Infant mortality For 1978 is presented as 22,010, which is a great improvement over the 43,205 reported for 1970. For some reason, however, modern medical statistics completely ignore the huge figure of 1,150,776 babies who died in 1978 during their first nine monthof life, and who were classified as abortion and not as a mortality. This 1978 figure represents an almost 600% increase over the 1970 figure of just 193.491. Counting all dead babies will change infant mortality numbers from 1,172.786 in 1978 as opposed to just 236,696 in 1970. As to mortality due to other leading causes of death, the progress made by modern medicine in some areas was almost cancelled out by the deterioration in other areas (Table I). All areas combined, but without counting abortions, the mortality figure of 1,809,818 in 1970 decreased to 1,776,390 in 1978, or a meager 18% improvement. Counting abortions, true total mortality was 2,003,309 in 1970 and 2,927,166 in 1978, or a 46% difference. As to eradication or control of disease, modern medicine has made a few steps forward in a few areas, and many more steps backward in other areas (Table 2). The total incidence of the so-called dangerous diseases has increased from 1,065,012 in 1970 to 1,281,952 in 1978, or a 20% difference of disease control over an eight-year period. The ability of modern medicine to improve personal happiness and well-being also declining as can be seen by the increasing incidence of suicide, 23,480 in 1970 to 27,500 in 1978 (2), and the soaring incidence of divorce, 708,000 in 1970 to 1,128,000 in 1978.(2) It is obvious, with these poor performance figures, that modern medicine does not fulfill the first criterion of excellence.

The second criterion of Islamic Medicine is that it is involved with faith and Divine ethics. All evidence indicates that moder medicine has no faith in God as the Supreme authority and that modern medical ethics are by no means Divine. Modern medicine approves of the termination of the life of an innocent human being just for the convenience of another human being; it approves of premarital or extra-marital relations; it approves of homosexual relations; and it sees no harm in providing alcohol in the great majority of liquid medicinal preparations. All these are clear violations of God's teachings, and these are just a few of many examples. The supreme authority in modern medicine is the consensus of the majority of physicians, opposing God's opinion on a given subject.

The third criterion of lslamic Medicine is that it is guided and oriented. Examination of current medical practices proves that modern medicine is quite misguided and disoriented. The philosophical foundation of modern medicine is confused and lacks sound logic. Modern medicine is trying to save all the lives it can save, but is willing to destroy the lives of millions and millions of unbom babies. Modem medicine recognizes electrical brain activity as a sign of life and would not dispose of any person as long as this activity is present. However, it is willing to dispose of huge numbers of unborn babies even though they have electrical brain activity.

Modern medicine proves beyond any doubt that alcohol is hazardous to health, but is willing to add alcohol to most of the liquid medicinal preparations although a substitute is within reach. Modern medicine is very quick to accept the request of young females for permanent sterilization, then it goes to painstaking lengths to restore fertility in the very same young females who later discover that their initial decision was wrong and that they do not want to be sterile. Modern medicine claims to be doing its best to prevent the development or the spread of disease,it does not at all discourage and may actually, directly or indirectly, encourage certain socio- sexual behavior and attitudes which have proven to lead to the development and spread of disease. Modern medicine claims to be the most ethical profession, but it shows no hesitation in violating and ignoring the Divine ethical rules.

The fourth criterion of Islamic Medicine is that it is comprehensive, paying attention to body and spirit, the individual and society. Examination of our modern medicine will show that its approaches are usually one-sided and inadequate, leading in many instances to disastrous consequences. Modern medicine has been greatly concerned with the physical growth of young children while it ignores the needs of their ethical upbringing and spiritual growth. This deficient approach has resulted in a large number of these children growing to be victims of drug abuse and juvenile delinquency, a frightening problem of epidemic proportions. Modern medicine has promoted sex education but has ignored the proper ethical and moral restrictions which should be included in such programs. This has resulted in an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies, an increase in the number of illegitimate children, and a soaring rise in the incidence of venereal disease, as well as marital problems and unhappy families -- results which are exactly the opposite of what was intended from the sex education programs. Modern medicine has fairly advanced knowledge of the physical components of peptic and cardiovascular disorders and also of ways and means of dealing with these components. The incidence of these disorders, however, is still quite high due to the lack of consideration and attention given to the spiritual and social needs of the patient and which may be playing an important role in the etiology of the disease.

The same one-sided approach is manifest at the level of basic science and clinical research. Considerable time, energy, and money are spent on the physical aspects of disease while very little, if any, attention is paid to the spiritual and ethical aspects, be they the cause or the results of the somatic diseases.

The fifth criterion of Islamic Medicine is that it is universal, utilizing all useful resource and offering its services to all mankind. Such a medicine must be willing to look into any potentially useful treatment modality, subject it to proper investigation, and utilize it if it proves to be useful. Modern medicine, however, seems to be quite reluctant to become involved with any treatment modality which does not originate from its own schools Although some of these "non- conventional" treatment modalities may be effective and may have already passed the test of centuries and proved to be successful, modern medicine would look on them with suspicion or even with prejudiced condemnation rather than approach them with inquisitiveness and an open- minded investigative spirit. As a result of this restrictive attitude, modern medicine is missing a great deal of good ideas which could provide simple, safe, and inexpensive treatment for many disorders.

The sixth criterion of Islamic medicine is that it is scientific. The last thing one would expect is to declare modern medicine non-scientific. Unfortunately, it is. There are certain requirements which have to be met for it to be scientific. These requirements, just to mention a few, include honesty in handling available data, accuracy of figures and statistics, thoroughness in considering all variables, consistency, and some clarity of purpose. Critical examination of modern medicine shows that it fails to fulfill these criteria. There is no clarity of purpose because of the numerous conflicting and contradictory practices and attitudes. There is no consistency of philosophy and policy as was demonstrated earlier in this discussion. Many variables are often ignored, many statistics lack accuracy, and consequently wrong conclusions are often reached. The fact that modern medicine is afflicted with increasing mortality and increasing incidence of disease in spite of all the technological advances, is not reasonable and does not make sense. It indicates that there must be something missing.

The big question is: Can Islamic Medicine overcome all the problems of modern medicine, and can it provide its missing ingredients? The answer is a confident yes. In all the and moral guidance, lack of a standardized value system, disregard of certain restrictive or instructive rules related to ingested materials, or disregard of certain hygienic and social guidelines governing human relations and social life. These missing items are the very ones abundantly provided by Islamic teachings.

The detailed elaboration on the correlation between various Islamic teachings and the course or development of various diseases is beyond the scope of this paper and will be the subject of separate investigations. The combination of Islamic teachings and the existing technological advances, which are fully supported by the Islamic teachings, Produces a unique blend of healing arts which qualifies as Islamic Medicine, a medicine which is most up-to-date and progressive while in full harmony with Divine teachings and guidance. The basic Islamic teaching asserting that there is a cure for every illness (and it is up to us to find it) is an unbeatable stimulus for study and research towards unparalleled progress and achieve ment. The establishment of such a healing art entails the total re-evaluation and revision of all existing basic and clinical sciences. will reflect the link between the Creator and His creation, thus rein forcing the concept of Oneness of God (Tawheed) and automatically improving the faith of the student through his own professional study. These tests and curricula will also reflect the oneness of creation by show ing how the Various systems of animated and non-animated creatures follow very much the same laws of nature, or better stated, laws of God, thus broadening the horizon of the student which will in turn make him a better scientist and a better person. It will be a monumental task to establish, but a task worth undertaking.
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