Tibb nabawi refers to words and actions of the Prophet with a bearing on disease, treatment of disease, and care
of patients. The Prophet enunciated a basic principle in medicine that for every
disease there is cure. The sources of tibb nabawi are revelation, empirical
experience, and folk medicine of the Arabian Peninsula. Tibb nabawi can be spiritual, curative
or preventive. Most of tibb nabawi is preventive medicine. Tibb nabawi is
an authentic and valid medical system. The general principles of this system are applicable at all times and all places. The
specific remedies taught by the Prophet (PBUH) are valid and useful. They however can not be used today without undertaking
further empirical research because of changes in the human and physical environments.
CAHARACTERISTICS OF PROPHETIC MEDICINE
Search for cures: The Prophet enunciated a basic principle in medicine that for every disease there is cure (ma anzala allahu daa; illa anzala lahu shifa'a- Kitaab al Tibb, al Bukhari). This is an impetus for us to look
for remedies. Thus the prophetic medical tradition does not stop at only the medical teachings of the prophet but goes beyond
to encourage humans to search and experiment with new treatment modalities. This implies among other things that prophetic
medicine is not static. There is room for growth and even breaking new ground. Another implications of this hadith is that
seeking treatment does not contradict qadar (pre-determination). Thus both the
disease and its treatment are part of qadar.
SOURCES OF TIBB NABAWI
Pre-Islamic Arab medicine: Tibb nabawi
has several sources: revelation, wahy; empirical experience of the prophet, folk
medicine of that time in the Arabian peninsula and it is possible that some medical knowledge
of other communities could have been known in Makka or Madina at the time of the prophet.
The Qur’an as a source of tibb nabawi. Many
verses of the Qur’an relate to diseases of the body and the mind and their treatment.
The Qur’an talks about physical ill health and mental ill-health/diseases of the heart. The Qur’an contains
dua for good health as well as guidance on specific therapy such as honey, eating only healthy halal food, avoiding unhealthy haram food and not eating in excessive
amounts. The Qur’an is not a textbook of medicine but a book of moral guidance. It contains basic information and guidance
on medical matters leaving the room open for humans to undertake research and fill in the details. Confining medicine to only
the teachings in the Qur’an would make it very limited because the Qur’an is very selective in coverage of details
leaving the field open to humans to observe, search for an understand Allah’s signs on earth, aayaat al llaah fi
Hadith as a source of tibb nabawi: The following were the forms of the prophet’s
medical teachings: words of the prophet on medical matters, medical treatment practiced by others on the prophet, medical
treatments observed the prophet with no objections, medical procedures that the prophet heard/knew about and did not prohibit.
The total number of hadiths on medicine is about 300; many do not reach the degree of hasan. Bukhari in his Sahih
narrated 129 hadiths directly related to medicine. He devoted two books to medicine: kitaab
al tibb and kitaab al mardha. There are many other hadiths in Bukhari indirectly
related to medicine. Other books of hadith also narrate more hadiths with relevance to medicine. Scholars have collected these
hadiths together and some have related them to available medical knowledge. Hadiths on physical remedies are either wahy
or based on empirical experience. In most cases we cannot distinguish between the two sources unless there is a specific indication
that wahy is involved such as in the hadith of using honey in treating an abdominal ailment of a brother of a companion.
Thus hadiths that are not specifically wahy are not binding, ghair mulzimat. However all hadiths on spiritual
cures of disease are wahy and are binding, mulzimat
Books on tibb nabawi: Many books have been written about tibb al nabawi down the centuries. Books with the title al Tibb al Nabawi
were written by Ibn al Qayyim al Jawziyyat (d. 751H / 1350 M), al Hafidh Abu Abd al llaah Shams al Ddiin Muhammad bin Ahmad
al Dhahabi (d. 748H), Abu al Qasim al Husain bin Muhammad bin Habiib al Naisapuuri (d. 206H), Abu al Sunni Abu Bakar Ahmad
bin Muhammad al Dainawiri (d. 364H), Abu Nu’aim Ahmad bin Abd al llaah al Asfahani (d. 430H), Abu al ‘Abbaas Ja’afar
bin al Mu’utazz al Mustansiri (d. 433H), Dhia al Ddiin Muhammad bin ‘Abd al Waahid al Maqdasi (d. 643H), Shams
al Ddiin Abu Abd al llaah Muhammad bin Abi al Fath al Ba’ali (d. 709H), Abu Abd al llaah Muhammad bin Yusuf al Sanuusi
(d. 895H), Abu al Hasan Nur al ddiin Ali Bin Muhammad al Jazaar al Masri (d. 914H), Qaysuufi Zaadet Muhammad Badr al Ddiin
(d. 1020H), Abd al Waziir al Abhari. Jamaal al Ddiin Daud,
Mukhtasar al tibb al nabawi was written by Jalaluddin al Suyuti. Al Ahkaam al Nabawiyyat fi al sina’at
an tibiyyat was written by the physician ‘Ali bin Tarkhaan. Kitaab al tibb fi al hadiith by Abu ‘Ubaid bin al
Hasan al Harraani (d. 369H). Al Ahkaam al Nabawiyyah fi al sina’at al tibiyyat by Ali bin Abd al Karim al Hamawi (d.
720H). Al Rahmat fi al Tibb wa al Hikmat by Mahdi bin Ali al Sabiiri (d. 815H), al Sayr al Qawi fi al Tibb al Nabawi by Muhammad
bin And al Rahman al Sakhaawi (d. 902H), Al Manhaj al Sawi a al Manhal al rawi fi al Tibb al Nabawi by Jalal al Ddiin Abd
al Rahman bin Abu Bakar al Suyuti (d.911H). Al Rahmat fi al Tibb wa al Hikmat by Jalal al Ddiin Abd al Rahman bin Abu Bakar
al Suyuti (d.911H). Rawdh al Insan fi Tadaabiir Sihhat al Abdaan by Khair al Ddiin Khidhr bin Mahmud al ‘Atuufi al Murzaifuuni
(d. 948H). Al Masaabih al Sunniyyat fi Tibb Khair al Bariyyat by Shihaab al Ddiin Abu al ‘Abbaas Ahmad bin Ahmad bin
Salamah al Qalyuubi (d. 1069H). Sihhat Aabaad by Othman Zadeh Taa ib Ahmad (d. 839H). Mukhtasar al Tibb al Nabawi by Mur’ish
ZadehQudduus Ahmad Affendi (d. 1265H).
Need for new books on tibb nabawi: In his book, A
Tibb al Nabawi, Imaam Ibn al Qayim al Jawziyat mentions many medical conditions
for which the Prophet provided guidance. He interpreted the hadiths using the available medical knowledge of his day. This
book needs rewriting and it will look very different if written interpreting the prophetic traditions using today's medical
knowledge. With modern medical knowledge we can identify more hadiths with relevance to medicine than was possible in the
CLASSIFICATION OF TIBB
Preventive tibb nabawi: The classification of traditions
relating to medicine depends on the state of knowledge and changes with time and place. Jalaluddin al Suyuti published a book
on tibb nabawi and divided medicine into 3 types: traditional, spiritual and preventive.
Most of tibb nabawi is preventive medicine which is a very advanced concept given
the level of scientific knowledge at the prophet's time and certainly must have been divinely inspired. Al Suyuti (1994) listed
preventive medical measures such as food and exercise. Other preventive measures taught in hadith include: quarantine for
epidemics, hijr sihhi, forbidding urination in stagnant water, use of tooth stick,
siwaak, precautions in the house at night regarding fire and pests, leaving a country
because of its water and climate, marriage and mental health, marriage and sexual health, dietary control to avoid excesses,
cleanliness and avoiding filth.
Spiritual tibb nabawi: Study of tibb nabawi reveals that there are spiritual aspects of healing and recovery. Prayer, dua, recitation of the Qur’an, and remembrance of Allah play a central role. Psychosomatic diseases could
respond to spiritual approaches. The use of ruqyat (surat al fatiha, al mu’awadhatain) falls
between physical curative and spiritual. The curative part of ruqyat can be understood
in modern terms in the way the psyche can modulate immune mechanisms that protect against disease.
Curative tibb nabawi: Ibn Qayim al Jawziyat listed many diseases with their recommended treatments from
tibb nabawi. Diseases in tibb nabawi treatable by natural remedies: fever, humma;
bowel movements, istitlaq al batan;
dropsy, istisqa; wounds, jarh; epilepsy,
sar’a; sciatica, ‘irq al nisa;
temperaments, tabau’; skin itch, hakk
al jism; pleurisy, dhaat al janb; headache
and hemicrania, sidau and shaqiiqat; inflammation of the throat, ‘adhrat; enlargement of the heart, al maf’uud; ophthalmia, al ramad; catalepsy, khudran al kulli; pimples, bathrat; skin eruptions, awraam; food poisoning, sum;
witchcraft, sihr; and head lice.
He also mentioned other diseases like: plague, leprosy, eye diseases, throat and tonsils, diarrhea, abdominal disease, fever,
plague, snake bite, scorpion bite, food contamination by a fly, headache, nose bleeds, teeth, cough, dropsy, sprain, fracture,
bite by rabid dog, and the evil eye. The medical treatments mentioned were honey, al
'asal; cold water for fever, al mau al barid; diet, ghadha; milk, al laban; camel milk; camel urine. The black seed, al
habba al sauda, was especially emphasized. The surgical treatments mentioned
were: cupping, al hijaam; cauterization,
al kayy; venesection with cauterization,
qatiu al uruuq wa al kayy.
APPLICATION OT TIBB NABAWI TODAY
General considerations: There are 3 aspects that we have to deal with regarding modern application of
tibb nabawi. (a) is tibb nabawi part of the sharia? (b) what is the scope
of tibb nabawi? (b) spatio-temporal changes (c) empirical research on tibb nabawi.
Tibb nabawi as part of the shari’at: We can distinguish two parts of the shari’at:
(a) fixed and immutable regulations applicable to all places and times and (b) general principles whose details of application
change with place and time. If we take the meaning of shariat in (b) above we can
conclude that prophetic medicine is part of Islamic shariat that can change and
grow using ijtihad and empirical research to apply general shariat principles to changing circumstances.
Scope of tibb nabawi: Tibb Nabawi as reported to us did not cover
every conceivable disease at the time of the Prophet neither can it cover all ailments today or in the future in various parts
of the world. This is easy to understand from the context that although the Prophet
practiced medicine, his main mission was not medicine and he was not a full-time physician. The hadiths of the Prophet should
not be looked at as a textbook of medicine. They should be used for the diseases
that they dealt with. The proper way to get additional medical knowledge is through
research and looking for signs of Allah in the universe.
Spatio-temporal changes: Whatever the Prophet said or did was valid and must be followed because he never
uttered any untruth even when joking. The ijtihad of the prophet even in worldly
matters was protected, ma'suum. The record of authentic hadith that we have is
valid whether in 'aqidat or worldly matters. The attempt to distinguish between
the medical teachings of the prophet-messenger and as a human living in Arabia at a particular
historical epoch is of no practical significance. The question is whether all
or some of the tibb nabawi should be used today.
If the diagnosis of a disease and all the circumstances surrounding it are exactly like those at the time of the Prophet,
then we have no hesitation in saying tibb nabawi should be used. In actual
practice it is difficult to ascertain that the conditions are the same. Changes in disease pathology, changes in the genetic
pool of the patients, changes in the genetic pool of the medicinal plants, weather and climatic conditions are among many
variables that may make a particular remedy recommended by the Prophet not appropriate for a medical condition today. The
circumstances of time and place have changed. Indiscriminate use of the historical remedies could be using the right drug
for the wrong disease. There is even a more serious linguistic problem. The meaning of words has changed. What was called
fever in the 1st century AH may not be the same as the meaning of the same world today. Even medicinal plants like
the black seed may not be exactly the same plant. We can therefore conclude that the teachings of tibb nabawi can only be a foundation to guide and encourage scientific research for remedies that are suitable
for our times.
Empirical research on tibb nabawi: There
is a lot of scientific interest in prophetic teachings on medicine. The black seed (nigella
sativa) is an example of a prophetic remedy that has been studied extensively
by both Muslims and non-Muslims.