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WHAT IS ISLAMIC MEDICINE?

Ahmed El-Kadi
U.S.A.

With the growing movement for the restoration of Islamic values, there is an increasing demand on Muslim scienists 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. The question then arises: What is Islamic Medicine?

Is it the Id medicine, still being practiced by some Hakims in the east? is it natural medicine utilizing mostly herbs, diets and lifestyle adjustments? Is it a madicine limited to the health related teachings found in the ur'an and the prophet's tradition? Is it primarily faith-healing and prayers for the sick? Is it customary medicine given an Islamic label? Or is it some new discovery providing a cure for almost all ills? None of the above is in itself Islamic Medicine, but all together, and a great deal more, are its ingredients. 

Accordin to Islamic teaching, God has made available a treatment for every illness, He has created'. This teaching implies that every available and useful treatment known to us should be utilised, 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 atleast the potential to have the answer, to all illnesses. The treatment in question may be spirit al or physical exercise, nutritional adjustment, pharmaceutical preparation, be it all natural ingredients 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 leading among other brands of the healing arts. It is a medicine with faith and Divine ethics. It is guided and oriented. It is comprehensive, paying attention to body and spirit, to the individual and the society. It is universal, utilzing all useful resources, and offering 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, niversal and scientific, it has failed to fulfill any of them. An examination of modern medicine wit regard to these six criteria will show how poorly it rates. United States statistics of the last decade will be used as representative of modern medicine.

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

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 presen ed as 22,010 which is a great improvement on the 43,205 reported for 19702. For some reason, however, modern medical statistics completely ignore the huge figure of 1 , 1 50, 776 babies who died in 1978 d ring their first nine months of life, and who were classified as abortions and not as a mortality. This 178 figure represents an almost 600% increase over the 1970 figure of just 193 ,4913. To count all dead babies will change infant mortality to 172,786 in 1978 as opposed to just 236,696 in 1970. As to mortal it 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 1 ). All areas combined, but without countin abortions, the mortality figure of 1 ,809,818 in 1970 decreased to l' 776,390 in 1978, or a meagr 1.8% improvement. Counting abortions, true total mortality was 2,003,309 in 1970, increasing to 2,927,1 6 in 1978, or a 46% deterioration. As to eradication or control of disease, modern medicine has made few steps forward in a few areas and many more steps backward in other areas (Table 2). The total in idence of the so-called dangerous diseases has increased from 1 ,065,012 in 1 970 to 1,281 ,952 in 197 , or a 20% deterioration of disease control over an eight-year period. The ability of modern medicine to improve personal happiness and wellbeing is also declining as manifested by the increasing incidence of suicide from 23,480 in 1970 to 27,500 in 19782; and the soaring incidence of divorce from 708,00 in 1970 to l' 128000 in 19782. 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 a medicine with faith and divine ethics. All evidence indicates that modern medicine has no faith in God as the Supreme authority, and that modern medica 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 extramarital 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 regardless of God's opinion on a given subject.

The third criterion of Islamic 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 & millions of unborn babies. Modern medicine recognized electrical brain activities as assign of life and would not dispose of any person as long a these activities are present. However, it is willing to dispose of huge numbers of unborn babies even t ough they have electrical brain activities. 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, but it does not t 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 as been greatly concerned with the physical growth of young children while it ignored 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 problem of epidemic proportions and frightening magnitude. Modern medicine has promoted sex education but has ignored th 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, 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 cardiovasc lar 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 an social needs of the patient and which may be playing an important role in the etiology of the diseas .

The some 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 so called somatic dis ases.

The fifth criterion of Islamic Medicine is that it is universal, utilizing all useful resources 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, seem to be quite reluctant to become involved with any treatment modality which does not originate from ts 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 me dicine 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 requirements for a scientific approach to qualify as such. 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 som clarity of purpose. Critical examination of modern medicine shows that it fails to fulfill these criteria. There is no clarity of purpose as manifested by 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 increasin incidence of disease inspite of all the technological advances is not reasonable and does not make sense. It indicates that there must be something missing, and there is.

The big question is: Can Islamic Medicine overcome all the problems of modern medicine, and can it provid its missing ingredients? The answer is a confident "yes". In all the problem areas of modern medicine listed in this paper, the deficiences are either lack of ethical and moral guidance, lack of standardized value system, disregard of certain restrictive or instructive rules related to ingested materials, or disregardle of certain hygienic and social guidelines governing human relations and social life. These missing item, are the very one 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 suported by the Islamic teachings, produces a unique blend of healing arts which qualifies as Islamic medicine, a medicine which is most upto 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 seto find it) is an unbeatable stimulus for study and research towards unparalleled progress and achievement. The establishment of such a healing art entails the total reevaluation and revision of all existin basic and clinical sciences. In addition to providing the new medical foundation, the revised texts and restructured curricula will reflect the link between the creator and His creation thus reinforcing the concept of oneness of God (Tawheed) and automatically improving the faith of the student through his own professional study. These texts and curricula will also reflect the oneness of creationiby showing how the yarious 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.

Table 1

LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH AMONG AMERICANS
( SOURCE: U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE )

Cause of Death
Number of Deaths
Death Rate (Per 100,000)
  1978     1970 1978    1970

Heart & artery diseases

789,820         

800,818
362.2
  394.2

Chronic heart diseases  

337,260       

344,175
154.7
169.4

Sudden heart attack   

303,630       

357,241
139.2
   175.8

Arteriosclerosis

29,190            

31,682
13.4
 15.6

Rheumatic fever    

12,790           

14,889    
5.9
 7.3

Hypertensive heart

10,020          

1 4,991
4.6
 7.3

Hypertension

   5,460           

 8,273
2.5
4.1

Cancer 

*396,060       

330,730
181.6
162.8

Digestive organs

104,990         

94,703
48.1
46.6

Lungs      

  98,820         

69,517
45.3
 34.2

Genital organs

  44,670          

41,190
20.5
20.3

Breast    

  34,950          

29,917
16.0
14.7

Urinary organs   

 17,080          

15,514
7.8
7.6

Leukemia

 15,780           

14,492
7.2
7.1

Mouth and pharynx

   8,590            

 7,612
3.9
 3.7

Other cancer    

 71,180          

57,785
32.6
28.4

Stroke

172,520      

 207,166
79.1
101.9

Cerebral thrombosis

  37,690        

 57,845
17.3
28.5

Cerebral hemorrhage    

  21,520         

41,379
9.9
 20.4

Other cerebrovascular diseases

113,310        

107,942  
51.9
 53.1

Accidents

107,930     

114,638
49.5
56.4

Motor vehicle  

  53,610        

54,633
24.6
26.9

All other acdidents

  54,320       

60,006
24.9
29.5

Pneumonia

  54,330       

59,032
24.9
29.0

Violent deaths        

  48,580       

 40,328
22.3
19.9

Suicides.

  27,500        

23,480
12.6
11.6

Homicides

  21,080        

16,848
9.7
8.3

Diabetes  

  32,780         

38,324
15.0
 18.9

Ill-defined conditions .

  31,460         

 25,781
14.4
12.7

Cirrhosis of the liver

  29,910         

31,399
13.7
15.5

Infant mortality

  22,010         

43,205
10.1
21.3

Injuries in birth

  11,640           

2,801
53
11.2

Other infant diseases

  10,370          

20,44
4.8
10.0

Emphysema

   15,970        

22,721
7.3
11.2

Congenital defects

  12,780         

16,824
5.9
8.3

Nephritis and nephrosis

    8,010           

8,877
3.7
4.4

Blood poisoning

    7,780          

3,535
3.6
1.7

Peptic ulcer  

    5,660           

8,607
2.6
4.2

Benign tumors

    5,400           

4,828
2.5
2.4

Hernia and intestinal obstructions

    5,330          

7,235
2.4
3.6

Bronchitis

    4,050        

7,156
1.9
3.5

Influenza.    

    3,960          

3,707
1.8
1.8

Anemias    

    3,170             

3,427
1.5
1.7

Kidney infections

    3,130           

8,190
1.4
4.0

Nutritional deficiencies.   

    2,860          

2,470
1.3
1.2

Tuberculosis  

    2,830         

5,217
1.3
2.6

Gallstones  

    2,800          

3,973
1.4
2.0

Asthma    

    1,790          

2,322
  0.8
1.1

Enteritis and diarrhea

    1,650          

2,567
  0.8
1.3

Meningitis  

    1 ,590        

1,701
 0.7
0.8

Prostate disease

        880         

2,168
  0.4
1.1

Appendicitis

        730         

1,397
 0.3
0.7

Hepatitis, infectious

        430        

1,014
   0.2
0.5

Syphilis

        190           

461
   0.1
0.2

TOTAL MORTALITY REPORTED
(Without Abortions) 
         

1,776,390

1,809,818

Abortions

1,150,776      

193,491

TRUE TOTAL MORTALITY

2,927,166   

2,003,309

Table 2

DANGEROUS DISEASES IN THE UNITED STATES: 1970-1978
SOURCE: U.S. CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL

DISEASE

1970  

1978

 

Case

Rate

Case

Rate

Amebiasi     

2,888

1.42   

   3,937

1.84

Anthrax   

        

 

Aseptic Meningitis   

 6,480

3.18  

   6,573

3.01

Botulism       

12

0.01

105

0.05

Brucellosi (Undulant Fever)  

 213

0.10

213

0.10

Diphtherial             

435

0.21

76

0.03

Encephalitis, Primary      

 1,580

0.78

266

0.14

Encephalitis, Postinfectious   

370

0.18  

65

0.03

Hepatitis A      

56,797

27.87

 29,500

13.53

Hepatitis B               

8,310

4.08

   5,016

6.8

Leprosy          

129

0.06

168

0.08

Leptospirosis  

47

0.02

110

0.05

Malaria

3,051

1.50

731

0.34

Measles (Rubeola)         

47,351

23.23

26,871

12.32

Meningococcal Infections   

2,505

1.23

2,505

1.15

Mumps

104,953

55.55  

16,817

7.81

 Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

4,249

2.08

2,063

0.95

Poliomyelips, Total

33

 0.02

15

0.01

Paralytic           

31

0.02

9

0.00

Psittacosis        

 35

0.02  

140

0.06

Rabies in Man

2

0.00

 4

0.00

Rheumatid Fever, Acute

3,227

2.45      

851

0.60

Rubella (German Measles)

56,552

27.75 

18,269

8.38

Rubella, Congenital      

 77

0.04

30

0.01

Salmonellosis   

22,096

10.84

29.410

13.49

Shigellosi (Dysentery)  

13,845

6.79   

19.511

8.95

Tetanus    

148

0.07   

86

0.04

Trichinosi

109

0.05  

67

0.03

Tuberculosis    

37,137

18.22

28,521

13.08

Tularemia  

172

0.08    

141

0.06

Typhoid Fever

346

0.17

505

0.23

Typhus Fever. Flea-Borne  

27

0.01

40

0.02

Typhus Fever. Tick-Borne

380

0.19

1,063

0.49

Venereal iseases Syphilis  

91,382

45.30

64,875

30.00

Gonorrhea    

600,072

297.47

1,013,436

468.25

TOTAL   

1,065,012

530.97

1,281,952

592.00