Will you give information about Tibbb an-Nabawi (prophetic medicine) and the advice of the Prophet (pbuh) about health and medicine?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Quran gives information that will form the basis of various branches of science such as medicine, astronomy, geology and botany, each of which has been subject of research by Western scientists.(1) In particular, medical subjects, which interest human health, have an important place.(2) The Prophet (pbuh) has many hadiths about health. They form Tibbb an-Nabawi (Prophetic Medicine).

In fact, we, Muslims, know the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as tabib al-qulub, that is, "doctor of the hearts", who gives life to the people whose souls and worlds are dark due to disbelief, brings them enlightenment and eternal salvation.

If the hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) about medicine are considered with the eye of a doctor, it is seen that some of them consist of general medicine subjects, but that most of them are medicinal prescriptions of preventive medicine and that some of them are related to therapeutic medicine. They can be summarized as medical advice, and prescriptions. Apart from being compatible with our current medical understanding, those hadiths played an important role in correcting the medical practices in the Arabian Peninsula and giving a scientific identity to medical practices, leading to the emergence of an Islamic medicine that dominated the Middle Ages.(3) In fact, Arabs had various wrong views and practices regarding medicine in that era. The following examples can be given in this regard(4,5):

Arabs believed that if they had a rabbit bone with them, they would be protected from diseases; if somebody was bitten by a snake, they would keep him awake lest the snake's venom should spread throughout the body and they would put bells on him. If a woman was scared a lot, they would make her drink hot water, believing that her heart had cooled. They believed that if they threw the rotten teeth of children toward the sun, new teeth would come out neatly; they would treat strabismus by making the person look at a millstone; they would cauterize wounds with hot iron, bray like donkeys in order to be protected from plague, take patients to the priests, do magic, sacrifice animals for the temples; they believed that the devils that had entered the bodies of ill people would go out when they did so.

The Prophet (pbuh) abolished those practices, which are mentioned above, and which were superstitious and unscientific; he introduced a new understanding to medicine: If those who were not doctors treated ill people and harmed them, they would have to pay for the damages; the money the doctors obtained was legitimate; taking measures in order to be protected from infectious diseases, not entering the place where an epidemic is located, and not going out of a place where there is an epidemic (quarantine); paying attention to body cleaning, the cleanliness of food and the environment; consuming food and drinks moderately; undergoing treatment in case of illnesses and paying attention to treatment; forming a new understanding of medication through description of various treatment methods in diseases; not applying treatment with haram things, applying to a skilled doctor in case of illnesses; avoiding ignorant doctors. Many examples can be given regarding the issue. (3,4,5,6,11)

1) "Anyone who practices medicine though he does not have enough knowledge will be held responsible." (Abu Dawud, Diyat 23; Nasai, Qasama 41; Ibn Majah, Tibb 16).

2) Sad Ibn Vaqqas became ill. The Prophet (pbuh) went to visit him. When he saw Sad lying ill, he said, "Call Harith bin Kalda. He is a good doctor; he will treat you." (Abu Dawud, Tibb 12)

3) "Allah has sent down both the disease and the cure, and He has appointed a cure for every disease; so, treat yourselves medically, but use nothing unlawful (haram)." (Abu Dawud, Tibb 11)

4) "Allah did not create cure in intoxicants." (Bukhari, Ashriba 15)

5) "There are two blessings which many people lose: Health and free time." (Bukhari, Riqaq 1; Tirmidhi, Zuhd 1; Ibn Majah, Zuhd 15)

6) "Be on your guard against two things which provoke cursing." They asked,
- "O Messenger of Allah! What are those things? The Prophet (pbuh) said,
-"To urinate or empty the bowels on the thoroughfares or under the shades where people take shelter and rest." (Muslim, Taharah 68; Abu Dawud, Taharah 15; Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad 2/372)

7) "Do not urinate on dead water." (Bukhari, Wudu 68; Muslim, Taharah 94; 96; Abu Dawud, Taharah 36)

8) "Do not visit a patient before three days pass." (Ramuz al-Ahadith 2/489)

9) "If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place." (Bukhari, Tibb 30; Muslim, Salam 92, 93, 94, 98, 100)

10) "Run away from a leprous person as if you run away from a lion." (Bukhari, Marda 19; A. Bin Hanbal, Musnad, 2/443)

11) "Talk to a leprous person from a distance of a spear-length." (Ramuz al-Ahadith 2/471)

12) " If a dog licks a utensil, wash it seven times. Clean it with the soil in one of those seven washings." (Bukhari, Wudu 33; Dawud, Taharah 37; Tirmidhi, Taharah 68)

13) "Why do you come to me with yellow teeth? Use miswak." (A. b. Hanbal, Musnad 1/214)

14) "I have repeated my advice about miswak many times." (Bukhari, Jumu’a 8; Nasai, Taharah 5; A.b. Hanbal, Musnad 3/143; Darimi, Wudu 18)

15) "Allah is clean and loves clean things. Clean your environment." (Tirmidhi, Adab 41)

16) "Cleanliness is half of belief." (Muslim, Taharah, 1; Tirmidhi, Daawat 86; A.b. Hanbal Musnad 4/260, 5/342, 343, 344, 363, 370, 372; Darimi, Wudu 2)

17) "It is the right of Allah upon every Muslim that he should take a bath at least on one day during the seven days of the week." (Muslim, Jumu’a 9)

18) "Do not leave the lids of the containers of food and drinks open." (Muslim, Ashriba 96, 98; Abu Dawud, Ashriba 22; Tirmidhi At'ima 15)

19) "The garment that the Prophet likes best is hibara." (Hibara is a green cotton cardigan produced in Yemen.) (A. b. Hanbal, Musnad 3/292; with different words Abu Dawud, Libas 12)

20) "There is no cure in alcoholic drinks." (Darimi, Ashriba 6)

21) "Every intoxicant is haram." (Bukhari, Adab 80; Muslim Ashriba 73, 75; Abu Dawud Ashriba 5)

22) "Avoid alcoholic drinks. It is the key to all evil." (Hakim, Mustadrak; Bayhaqi, Shuabul-Iman; Ramuz al-Ahadith, 1/212)

23) "Allah damns men who try to resemble women and women who try to resemble men." (Faydul-Qadir 5/271)

24) "Marry the women that are equal to you." (Ibn Majah, Nikah 47).

25) "O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze… and whoever is not able to marry, should fast." (Bukhari, Nikah 3, 60)

26) "Perform fasting so that you will be healthy." (Faydul-Qadir 4/212)

27) "People are of various origins. The best in the pre-Islamic period are the best in Islam provided they comprehend the religious knowledge." (Bukhari, Anbiya 19)

28) "Do not allow foolish women to breastfeed your children because they will be affected." (Kanzul-Irfan)

29) "Travel so that you will be healthy." (Tabarani)

30) "Five practices are characteristics of the Fitrah (human nature): cutting the moustache short, shaving the pubic region, plucking the armpit hair, clipping the nails and circumcision." (Bukhari, Libas 63, 64; Muslim, Taharah 49, 50).

The hadiths quoted above are the ones we have chosen related to general medicine and preventive medicine. Now we will give some examples related to treatment:

When somebody applied to the Prophet (pbuh) about medicine, he would either advise him some medication or send him to a doctor.

1) "Apply ithmid (kohl/antimony) on your eyes because it brightens the eyes and makes the eyelashes grow." (Tirmidhi Libas 23; Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad 3/476)

2) "The Prophet gave the following advice to a person who had a pain in his eyes: ‘Treat it with sabur (aloes).’" (Muslim, Hajj 89, 90)

3) "There is healing in black cumin for all diseases except death." (Bukhari, Tibb 7)

4) "Healing is in three things: A gulp of honey, cupping, and branding with fire (cauterizing)." (Cauterizing was forbidden afterwards.) (Bukhari, Tibb 3; Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad 1/246)

5) "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, Tibb 10; Muslim, Salam 86,87; Ibn Majah, Tibb 12, 17)

6) "Asma bint Umays used to use shubrum (euphorbia piteous) as a laxative. The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘It is hot and too strong.’ Then, she used senna as a laxative." (Tirmidhi, Tibb 30)

7) "When somebody complained about his headache, the Prophet (pbuh) advised him to get his blood drawn." (Muslim, Salam 71)

8) "The bleeding of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was stopped as follows: Hz. Ali brought some water in his shield. Hz. Fatima washed his blood. Then, a mat was burnt and the wound was covered with the ash remaining from the mat." (Bukhari, Wudu 72; Tirmidhi, Tibb 34, Ibn Majah, Tibb 15; Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad 5/330, 334)

9) "The Prophet recommended that a woman who had fever should be cooled with water." (Muslim, Salam 82)

10) "The Prophet (pbuh) forbade tattooing." (Bukhari Tibb 26, Libas 86; Abu Dawud Libas 8).

11) "The Prophet (pbuh) allowed a golden nose to be made for a person whose nose was cut off." {Tirmidhi, Libas 31).

The hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) about medicine attracted attention beginning from the first years of Islam. Hadith scholars and the writers of the famous six hadith books (Kutub as-Sittah) had separate books or chapters for Tibb an-Nabawi (Prophetic Medicine). Bukhari had two chapters called Kitabut-Tibb and Kitabul-Marda, Abu Dawud one chapter called Kitabut-Tibb and Tirmidhi one chapter called Tibb in his book called Jami’. Similarly, Ibn Majah, Muslim, Nasai, Ahmad Bin Hanbal and Imam Malik included hadiths related to medicine in their books. Afterwards, separate books called Tibb an-Nabawi were written. The first Tibb an-Nabawi was written by Abdul-Malik b. Habib, who lived in 120 H. (7)

Brokelman ve Katip Çelebi mention that there are more than ten Tibb an-Nabawi books written in Arabic. There are also Tibb an-Nabawi books written in Persian, Urdu and Turkish. We have determined that there are more than twenty books of Tibb an-Nabawi written in Turkish in the libraries in Istanbul. (3) The last Tibb an-Nabawi book written in the Era of the Ottoman State was the one by Dr. Hüseyin Remzi (1896). (12) Mahmut Denizkuşları prepared a doctoral thesis in the Republican Period at Bursa İslam Enstitüsü.(9) Tibb an-Nabawi books were used as a health manual in the Islamic countries until recently.

The hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) about medicine are in accordance with our medical understanding today as it is mentioned above. Those hadiths should be regarded as wise medical advice and even medical miracles since they were said centuries before today’s medical developments. Tibb an-Nabawi studies should be done jointly by hadiths scholars and specialized doctors.(13)

Click for more information:

1. Bucaille, M.: La Bible, le Coran et la Science.
2. Opitz, K.: Kur'ân'da tababet (Translated by Uzluk. F.N.) Ankara Ü. Tıp Fakültesi yayınları No: 240, A.Ü. Basımevi, 1971.
3. Ataseven, A.: Kırk Tıbbi hadis Tıbb-ı Nebevi (is being prepared)
4. Corci Zeydan: İslâm Medeniyeti tarihi (Translated by Megamiz, Z.) Volume III. Istanbul p. 35, 1876.
5. Tahirül-Mevlevi: Müslümanlığın Medeniyete Hizmetleri (Simplified by Sert, A.) Vol. I. İstanbul p. 57, 1974.
6. Sarı, Akdeniz. N.: Tıbb-ı Nebevi, Yeni Symposium. 19:65, April 1981.
7. Küçük, R.; Tıbb-ı Nebevi literatürü üzerine bir deneme. İlim ve Sanat, Issue 3. September-October 1985.
8. Ataseven A.: Tıbb-ı Nebevi'den bahisler, bulaşıcı hastalıklar. İslâm Mec. Volume 1 Issue 1, p. 52 July 1984.
9. Denizkuşları, M.: Peygamberimiz ve Tıp, Doğuş matbaası. Ist. 1981.
10. Ataseven. A.: Sünnet "Hitan" Hekimler Birliği Vakfı, Kandil Matbaası Ankara, 1985.
11. Aşçıoğlu, Ö.: Tıbb-ı Nebevi'de Dermatoloji. Gevher Nesibe Bilim haftası ve tıp günleri, p. 518, 1982.
12. Dr. Hüseyin Remzi: Tıbb-ı Nebevi (Ottoman) Istanbul, 1324/1906.
13. Ataseven, A.: Tıbb-ı Nebevi (Dr. A. Ata)

(Prof. Dr. Asaf Ataseven, Tıbb-ı Nebevi', Issue: 2 October - November - December 1988.)

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