The Medicine of Prophet Muhammed ﷺ (PBUH)

The medicine of the Prophet ﷺ (Peace and Blessing be Upon Him) is a neglected yet very important aspect of our religion. The early Muslims gave this topic much thought and investigation and as a result, they advanced in medicine infinitely more than other civilisations at the time. Historic Islamic scholars such as Imam al-Bukhari and Imam al-Tirmidhi included separate chapters on Kitab al-Tibb (the book of medicine) in their revered compilations of hadith. Implicitly this indicates that in the same way as it is important to learn how to perform Wudu, Salah and Hajj from the Messenger, importance should also be attached to taking our medical knowledge from him too.

1. The Importance of good health in Islam

Good health is considered one of the greatest gifts of Allah (God). It is impossible to fulfil the rights of Allah as His creation in the absence of good health. This is the reason why there are so many Shari’ah legal rulings that are suspended for the sick, for example fasting in Ramadan and attending Friday jum’ah prayers.

There are many other ahadith of the Prophet ﷺ (PBUH) that stress the importance and value of good health. Here are just a handful:

a. The Prophet ﷺ (PBUH) said:

“There are two gifts of which many men are cheated – good health and free time.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)1

b. The Prophet ﷺ (PBUH) said:

“Whoever wakes in the morning with a healthy body and a Self that is sound and whose provision is assured, is like one who possesses the whole world.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)2

c. The Prophet ﷺ (PBUH) said:

“Ask Allah for forgiveness and health. After certainty of faith, nothing better is given to man than good health.” (al-Nasa’i)3

d. Amongst the wise sayings of Prophet David/Dawud (PBUH) were:

“Health is a hidden kingdom.”

“Sadness for one-hour ages a man for one year.”

“Health is a crown on the heads of the healthy that only the sick can see.”4

2. The Prophet Muhammed’s expertise

Once we accept that the final Messenger ﷺ (PBUH) was taught directly by Allah Almighty, then we are assured that he possessed the best and most comprehensive knowledge of all humans. The Qur’an states:

“And He (Allah] taught that which you did not know. And ever great is the grace of Allah upon you.” (4:113)

In the field of worship, the Messenger of Allah gave us advice and guidance that would lead to the doors of paradise. But even in the field of medicine and science, he displayed unbelievable expertise. One example highlights this fact.

The dog saliva hadith

In a hadith reported by Imam Muslim, the Prophet ﷺ (PBUH) instructed us that when a domestic animal drinks or licks a bowl, then the item should be washed three times with water. However, he made an exception for dogs. If a dog licks from a bowl, then it should be washed seven times and it must also be rubbed with earth/soil.5

Recently, a group of Muslim scientists in the Middle East conducted experiments to explore this instruction from the Messenger. Their extensive tests showed that with animals like cats, the bowl became free from germs and bacteria when it was washed thrice with water. However, they established that with a dog, cleaning the bowl with water alone did not rid it of germs. Rather, they found that the germs and bacteria multiplied. It was only by rubbing it with earth/soil that the bowl was totally free from impurities. Subhan’Allah!

The scientific explanation was that the virus from dog saliva is very small and soft. The smaller the size of microbes, the more effective they will be in sticking to the side of a container. Dog saliva contains viruses that are shaped like a ribbon. In this case, soil plays an important role as an absorber of the microbes and viruses that are contained in the vessel. Soil is also an effective element that can kill harmful germs. For example, when a corpse is left outside it spreads disease more quickly than when buried in earth. This is because the soil fights and controls the germs.

Barakah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

In addition to this, the Prophet ﷺ (PBUH) had great baraka or blessings too. He used to cure others of all types of diseases:

  • Al-Qadi Iyad reports in al-Shifa that Habib ibn Fudayk’s father suffered from blindness in old age. The Prophet (PBUH) blew in his eyes. His eyesight returned. Habib reports that he witnessed his father inserting a thread into a needle at the age of eighty.6
  • During the battle of Uhud, Qatada (may Allah be pleased with him) was hit in the eye with an arrow. The Prophet ﷺ (PBUH) placed his blessed saliva on the affected area and placed the eye back into its socket. His sight returned and in fact, it became the stronger and more illuminated of the two.7
  • Salman al-Farsi accepted Islam at the hands of the Prophet ﷺ (PBUH). He at the time was a slave belonging to a Jew. The Prophet purchased him, but the Jew added the condition that Salman will not go free until he plants date trees in his garden and the dates become ripe. Date trees give dates after a minimum of seven years. So the Prophet, with his blessed hands, planted thirty-nine date-tree seeds in the garden. Umar planted the fortieth one. The thirty-nine seeds planted by the Prophet, all became mature within one year and began to give dates during this period. As for the one planted by Umar, it did not grow. The Prophet asked: ‘What is wrong with this one?’ Umar replied that: ‘I am the one who planted this one.’ The Prophet ﷺ (PBUH) dug it up and planted it again with his own blessed hands. It too grew and gave fruit within one year.8

3. The Islamic approach to good health

a. The causes of disease

The scholars have divided the main causes of disease into groups, which have been summarized by Al-Suyuti as being:

i. Air. Air is essential to keep the self evenly balanced. If the air remains pure, it acts as an invisible protection. Each season produces diseases compatible with it and expels what is incompatible. For example, summer causes bile but cures cold diseases. Cold air strengthens and improves the digestion system. Hot air has the opposite effect.

ii. Food and drink. What we put into our bodies has an impact on the way our body functions and how resilient it is against diseases. Consuming fresh and healthy foods and water helps our bodies and our immune systems to be strong and active to help protect against diseases. If we consume impure or unhealthy foods, our bodies are unable to function adequately and will not be able to protect us from disease.

iii. Bodily movement and rest. Movement causes warmth in the body and vice versa. Exercising our bodies helps to keep our limbs and organs active. It helps to oxygenate the blood and improve circulation.

iv. Emotional movement and rest. This means things like anger, joy, anxiety, and shame.

v. Waking and sleeping. Sleep is one of the best defences against disease. While we sleep, our bodies can rest, repair, and regenerate themselves.

b. Prevention before cure

Muslims are encouraged to adopt a lifestyle that stops them from getting ill in the first place. Certain foods and drinks that are forbidden in Islam work on this exact principle. All are forbidden because they are filthy and harm the mind and body.

a. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: ‘The children of Adam fill no container worse than the way in which they fill their stomachs. Let the children of Adam have a few mouthfuls to strengthen the loins. If possible, one third of the stomach is for food, one third for drink, and one third for one’s breath. (al-Nasa’i, al-Tirmidhi)

b. Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Waqid said: ‘Allah put all medicine into half an ayah when He said: ‘Eat and drink but not excessively’ (7:31).

c. Do not eat one meal immediately after the other.

d. Exercise mildly before a meal, but not immediately after it.

e. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ forbade eating the following together at the same meal:
(i) Milk and fish (ii) vinegar and milk (iii) fruit and milk (iv) lettuce and fish (v) garlic and onions (vi) dried meat and fresh meat (vii) grapes and excessive aubergines.

f. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ forbade consuming uncovered food and drinks.

g. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ forbade eating whilst lying down.

h. Walking after dinner is beneficial and performing Salah has the same effect.

i. Drinking very cold water should be avoided. It results in hoarseness and cough. Constant use of cold water leads to bloody eruptions, catarrh, and chest pains.

Prophetic/ Sunnah foods and their benefits

There are several foods that have been mentioned in the Quran or in the hadith of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Many of these foods are known today to be beneficial to our health and wellbeing. Consumption of these foods is not an alternative to proper healthcare advice from a medical professional but may help to attain a generally healthy lifestyle.

Olives and Olive oil

Olives and olive oil have been mentioned in the Quran and hadith.

“And a tree that grows on Mount Sinai which provides oil – and enjoyment for those who eat it” (Quran 23:20)
“Lit from the oil of a blessed tree, an olive tree, neither of the east (i.e., neither it gets sun rays only in the morning) nor of the west (i.e., neither it gets sun rays only in the afternoon, but it is exposed to the sun all day long), whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it.” (Quran 24:35)

At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah narrated that Abu Hurairah (ra) related from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that he said:
“Eat the Zait and use it as an ointment, because it is produced by a blessed tree.”

When olive oil is used as a balm, it is known to help fortify the hair. It is good for the limbs and combatting old age. Drinking the oil is beneficial in cases of poisoning. It keeps the bowels on the move, soothes pains and expels worms in the stomach. It is also known to have beneficial properties for burned skin or blistering. Olive oil may also be beneficial against sore gums, skin infections ad ulcers.

Honey

Allah Almighty states:

‘…There comes from their bellies a drink of many colours in which there is healing for mankind’ (16: 69)

Ibn Maja reports that Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘Whoever eats honey three times a month will not meet any great disaster.’
He also said: ‘You have two medicines: honey and the Qur’an.’

Al-Bukhari also classed honey as a medicine.

Honey has many antiviral and antibacterial properties which help it to combat diarrhea, especially when it is mixed with warm water to drink. It strengthens the stomach and stimulates the appetite. Honey is good for the elderly and for those who suffer from phlegm or respiratory problems
Eating honey on an empty stomach removes a depraved appetite and clears blockages of the liver, kidney, and bladder. It can also be used as a substitute for sugar.
The Messenger (PBUH) used to drink a cup on water containing honey on an empty stomach every day. Al-Suyuti writes that ‘this is a tremendously prudent thing to do to preserve one’s health. In short, it is a great cure for our illnesses. In Al-Suyuti’s words, ‘it is the food of foods, the drink of drinks and the medicine of medicines.’

Figs

There is an entire surah in the Quran names at-Tin (the fig) in which Allah swt swears by the fig and the olive. In the context of this surah the fig and olive are used as metaphors of two different locations. However, this is the only time figs are mentioned in the Quran.

Abu’d-Darda quoted the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as saying:
“If you are going to say that any fruit has come from the Garden (paradise), then truly you should mention the fig, for it is indeed the fruit of the Garden.”
Figs are known to be a nourishing fruit, which can relieve coughs, act as a diuretic and clears blockages. Eating figs on an empty stomach in the mornings is recommended as it can help to kickstart the metabolism.

Dates

The date is known as the fruit of the desert. They are mentioned in the Quran more than 20 times. There are numerous hadiths which show that this was one of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ favourite fruits.

It has been narrated that Abdullah bin Ja’far (ra) said, “I saw the Messenger of Allah Muhammad ﷺ eating cucumber with ripe dates.”

Abu Dawud also narrated that Anas (ra) said, “The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad ﷺ used to break his fast on some ripe dates, and if he did not have any, on dry dates. Otherwise, if he did not have dry dates, he would have several sips of water.”
Dates are a very nutritious fruit. They can help satiate hunger and stabilize the blood sugar levels very quickly. They can help to avoid hunger pangs as they keep you full for longer. It is a sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to have some dates (usually an odd number) first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

There are different types of dates. The Ajwah dates which are pressed, and dried dates are one example. Sa’d bin Abu Waqqas (ra) narrated the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to say, “Whoever east 7 dates of Ajwah in the morning will not be harmed by poison or magic for the rest of that day.”

An-Nasai’ and Ibn Majah stated that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that “The Ajwah is from Paradise, and it is an antidote against poison.

Black Seed

“Use the black seed, because it contains a cure for every type of ailment, except for death.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ahmad and Ibn Hibban).

The black seed is known to have many beneficial properties. It can be blended with honey and drank with some warm water, which helps to alleviate kidney stones, prostrate problems and it can also act as a diuretic. It is helpful in relieving symptoms of cold/ flu and can even be used to relieve the effects of certain poisons.
One of the main active ingredients with black seeds is Thymoquinone (TQ) which is a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is regularly used by patients suffering from cholesterol, high blood pressure, inflammation, congestion, and asthma. Research studies have also shown that the black seed has immune system boosting properties.

Milk

Allah Almighty says:

“…pure milk, tasting good to those who drink it’ (16:66).”

This suggests that we should use pure, raw milk as much as possible.
Imam Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi report that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
Let whoever is given milk by Allah say, ‘May the blessing of Allah be in it, and may He give us more of it, for I know that there is no better food or drink that can take its place.’

Milk purifies the body, relieves depression, and stimulates the brain.
When taken with sugar, milk improves the complexion and results in plumpness. It also alleviates minor itching and scabies. It also improves the memory.
The Quran and Hadith mention the benefits of milk from cows, goats, and camels. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ drew attention to the benefits of cow’s milk and is quoted by Ibn Mas’ud to say:
“Allah did not create any disease without also creating a remedy for it – so drink cows’ milk, for cows feed off all sorts of plants.”

However, it is also mentioned in the hadith that it should be avoided by whoever has a headache or a fever. Ibn Abbas reports in a hadith recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to rinse his mouth out after drinking milk, saying that that the fat in the milk was bad for those who suffered from fever and headache.

Barley

“It has been related by ‘Ayesha (ra) that whenever anyone in the household of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to suffer from a painful fever, he would prescribe barley soup, and this would be prepared for them.” (Ibn Maja).
The Prophet ﷺ stated “It strengthens the heart of the sad person and relieves the heart of the ill person, just as one of you would wash the dirt off her face with water.”

Barley-water is known for its therapeutic properties particularly with coughs, sore throats and dehydration. It can also act as a diuretic, relax the stomach and cool down heat within the body.

Watermelon

It has been narrated that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to eat watermelon with ripe dates and would say “The hotness of the of this substance (dates) neutralizes the coolness of that (watermelon) (At-Tirmidhi).

Watermelon acts as a cleanser for the body especially the stomach and intestines.

Pumpkins

This food has been mentioned in the Quran, in the story of Yunus (as) when He says:

And We made a tree of gourds grow above him…” (Quran 37:146).

Muslim hadith has stated that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was very fond of dry pumpkin. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is also reported to have once said, “Let them have pumpkins, for they stimulate the intellect and the brain.”

It relieves coughs and it is the best food for anyone with a fever.

References:

As-Suyuti’s Medicine of the Prophet.
Jalal al-Din Abd al-Rahman al-Suyuti. Taha publishers, London

Healing with the medicine of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyah. Darusalam Publications. (Also available as an app in the Apple App store.)

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