Monday, December 7, 2009

Medicine and Islam

Scholars in the like of al-Ghazzali (d. 505H) and an-Nawawi (d.676H) had discussed the importance of medicine in their works and they view it as a communal obligation (fardh kifaayah)

an-Nawawi said: " As for the knowledge of intellect, some of them are communal obligation such as medicine and mathematics..."

alGhazzali said: " You can not deny that medicine and mathematics are from the communal obligations. Because the knowledge such as farming in which people can not live without is a communal obligation, and medicine and mathematics are more important"

When the past Islamic scholars spoke about medicine, medicine is always spoken in the same breath as Islamic sciences.

We can see from the statement of our Imam, as-Shafiee where he said:

I have not known any knowledge after (the knowledge of ) Halal and Haraam that is more noble than medicine
It is no surprise to see that as-Shafiee himself had studied medicine in depth (this is besides of
the knowledge of Islam) to the extent, he baffled one of the doctors of his day with his medical knowledge.

One doctor said:

" When as-Shafiee came to Egypt and he discussed medicine with me to the extent that I thought he was not profiecient in anything else but medicine"

Another scholar worth mentioning is al-Imam Muwaffaq ad-Deen alBaghdaadee (d.557H) who has been described as "with his great knowledge in Shaariah and depth in Arabic, he was very learned in medicine" and "that students of Islam as well as doctors used to sit with him to study "

Now, one may wonder why such a prominence. Yes, we know that the knowledge of medicine is a communal obligation because of the survival of the nation depends on the health of its individuals but why after the knowledge of Shariaah? What is so special about it?

If we can agree that human is of two components: Spiritual and Physical. The health of human spirituality depends on the knowledge of the religion and its implementation, whilst the physical health is important to ensure the implementation of spiritual component of human.

Human spirituality and physicality interact with each other and affect one another. It is in this spirit that for example, we are to take food in precedence over prayer and we are not to hold onto the two al-akhbaathain (filths: urination and defecation) whilst in prayer.

It is this two aspects that we have to mindful of. It is sad when one fails to see the other aspect of the other because failure to see this two aspects will bring on the failure to treat and approach individuals as it is meant to be.

For example, it is sad to see where one ascribes Postnatal Depression to devil's whispering depriving the victims from the much-needed therapies while, in reality, it may or it may not be the case. I do not deny that it can be of the devils as much as I do not deny that it can be caused by organic dysfunction.

Ahkaam al-Jaraahah at-Tibbiyyah, Dr Muhammad ibn Muhammad alMukhtar AsShanqiti, Maktabah asSohabah, 1415H

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