The relevance of Prophetic Medicine

  • Among the diverse fields in which the Prophet (ﷺ) directly contributed to, is that of traditional or Prophetic medicine (al-tibb al-Nabawi), which is recorded in the various sayings (ahadith) of the Prophet (ﷺ) and collected by early Scholars such as Imam Bukhari. The Prophet (ﷺ) prescribed remedies for the preservation and restoration of one’s health through herbal teachings, dietary practices and personal hygiene.
  • Prophetic medicine possesses two unique features. On one hand Prophetic medicine provides numerous remedies as prescribed by the Prophet (ﷺ), and on the other hand, it serves as a system which coalesces one’s inner (spiritual) and outer (physical) well-being when treating an illness. Accordingly, the scope of Prophetic medicine is significantly broadened when considered beyond the remedies prescribed, and instead, appreciated in its entirety as a thorough system which provides a “holistic approach” to medicine, addressing the complete person physically, spiritually and socially in the management and prevention of an ailment.
  • The core message of Prophetic medicine is the integration of spiritual with physical for the well-being of a person wholly. As Ibn Al Qayyim eloquently explains, “Whenever the soul and the heart become stronger [spiritually], they will cooperate to defeat the illness” (Abd El-Qader, 2003, p 17).
  • Although “Prophetic medicine” and “Islamic medicine” are terms which are used interchangeably in various texts, they are considerably different. Ibn Qayyim states that “Prophetic medicine deals with the overall principles, while scientific [and Islamic] medicine fills in the details”.
  • Islamic Medicine should be understood as a category of scientific medical knowledge practiced by early Muslim physicians whereby such knowledge was developed through hypothesis, observation and experimentation and subsequently codified into an Islamic medical system.
  • Whilst Prophetic medicine offers limited remedies for specific illnesses, it nevertheless embraces a unique system in that it combines one’s spiritual and physical well-being, thereby promoting a holistic approach to medicine. Accordingly, the scope of Prophetic medicine is largely broadened when considered as a comprehensive system rather than purely perceived as a catalog for remedies.
  • Contemporary physicians and organisations in the medical field are gradually acknowledging and adopting this holistic approach since there is a demand for the need to focus on the complete person in order to attain a superior level of wellness.

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