The Significance of Health In Islam, By Murtadha Gusau
In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy
All Praise is due to Allah, We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah, is truly guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His servant, and His Messenger.
“O You who believe, – be aware of Allah, with correct awareness, and die not except as Muslims.”
“O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, and speak a straightforward word. He will forgive your sins and repair your deeds. And whoever takes Allah and His Prophet as a guide, has already achieved a mighty victory.”
“O mankind! Show reverence towards your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate and from the two of them scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;― Be conscious of Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (show reverence towards) the wombs (that bore you): for surely, Allah ever watches over you.”
My dear brothers and sisters, know that health is from the most precious of blessings. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) stated that:
“Health is one of the most precious favours Allah has bestowed upon His servants, the most generous of gifts, the most plentiful of His bounties. Rather, even more, [good] health is the most precious of favours without exception, so it is fitting that whoever is granted a portion of this fortune that he cherishes it, preserves it and guards it against harm. Imam Al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih from Ibn Abbas that Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said: “There are two blessings which many of the people lose out on: good health and free time.’” [See Zad al-Ma’ad, 4/196]
Imam Adh-Dhahabi (rahimahullah) stated that:
“It is compulsory upon every Muslim to seek nearness to Allah, the Most High, by way of every means he is able to muster. He must exert himself in fulfilling the commands and the acts of obedience to Allah. And after the affair of fulfilling the commands and keeping away from the forbidden matters, the most beneficial means and most successful path of nearness to Allah for a person is to maintain good health and treat his illnesses. That is because good health is something that one seeks in the legislated supplications and acts of worship.” [See At-Tibb an-Nabawiy, page 18]
Also Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) said:
“The foundations of the medicine of the body are three: (i) Preservation of health. (ii) A diet that avoids those things which may cause harm. (iii) Removing harmful matter from the body.” [See At-Tibb, page 9]
He then mentions that illnesses “are caused by consuming more food before the previous meal has been digested, by eating in excess of the amount needed by the body, by consuming food that is of little nutritional value and slow to digest, and by indulging in different foods which are complex in their composition.” He further states, “When a human being fills his belly with these foods and it becomes a habit, they cause him various diseases, some of which come to an end slowly and some more swiftly. When he is moderate in his eating and takes only so much of it as he needs, keeping a balance of quantity and quality, the body benefits more from this than it does from large amounts of foods.” [See At-Tibb an-Nabawiyy, page 13]
Sheikh Abdur-Rahman As-Sa’di (rahimahullah) said:
“Imam Al-Bukhari reports from Abu Hurairah (RA) that Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said: “Allah did not send down a disease except that He sent for it a cure.” This narration encompasses all illnesses, whether hidden or apparent. There is a medicine that combats them, either by way of prevention or by curing the sickness completely or by reducing its effect. So in this [narration] there is an encouragement to learn the cures of the body just as one learns the cures of the heart [and soul].”
He then elaborates just like the great scholars before him, saying:
“The foundations of medicine [or good health] are: (i) Controlling and managing one’s nourishment, so that a person does not eat unless he has the appetite for it, (ii) that he completely digests the food he has previously eaten, (iii) that he researches, investigates and finds the most nutritious foods – and this is in accordance with the state of lands, their people and their climate or conditions…” [See Bahjatu Qulubil-Abrar, no. 64]
In light of this it is not surprising that we now live in times where obesity, diabetes and other diet related diseases have reached epidemic proportions, yet those afflicted are also malnourished. How is that possible? Because they have become obese upon low quality, non-nutritious and harmful food. Additionally the food we consume quite often contains complex ingredients that are known to be harmful to the body and brain functions. So a Muslim is encouraged to research and investigate what he is consuming, so he or she only eats the most nutritious, and least complex food.
The fact is that in the mid 1960’s the boom in processed and refined food manufacturing emerged. As people began eating these refined, processed and nutritionally deficient “foods”, we began to see a significant rise in mood disorders, depression, diabetes, cancers, heart disease and so on. So instead of changing our attitude to health, and following the advice of our predecessors (Salaf), we continued harming our bodies, and the drug industry developed for us drugs that would suppress the outward symptoms and dull the pain without us having to make any health or dietary changes. This was the birth of the antidepressants, painkillers, chemotherapy and the “cut, burn and poison” generation. Poor diet, little exercise and reliance on drugs resulted in the present-day poor health and painful existence that many people find themselves in. We have come to believe that there is no alternative to drugs and they have become the first port of call for every ailment.
All of this shows that it is upon a person to maintain good health and eat good nutritious food, and if he is struck with illness, he does not race towards prescription of drugs as Imam Abdur-Rahman as-Sa’di stated:
“And all of this is without immediate recourse to drugs, this is better and more beneficial.” [See Bahjatu Qulubil-Abrar, no. 64]
That is not to say that there is no place for modern medicine, rather that drugs should not be the first port of call and certainly not the only available avenue. One should be fully informed of what he is introducing into his body, its purported benefits and side effects, and whether there is an alternative to a drug that is known to cause harm to the body. Read again the words of Imams Ibn al-Qayyim and as-Sa’di before reaching for that pill.
So since Allah has sent down the cure for every illness, it is important for a Muslim to recognise the best of those cures. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) stated:
“The Prophetic medicine is not like the medicine of the physicians, for the medicine of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) is certain, definitive, emanating from divine revelation, the lantern of Prophethood, and perfection of reason. As for the medicine of others, most of it is conjecture, presumptions and experimentations.”
“Only those benefit from it, who wholeheartedly accept it, they believe firmly in its ability to cure and completely accept it through faith and submission. This Qur’an is the cure for what is in the hearts. If it is not accepted with such acceptance, the healing of the hearts will not be attained by its treatments.” [See Zad al-Ma’ad, 3/97-98]
There are many, many examples of Prophetic medicine from the Qur’an and Sunnah that bring about cure from even the most chronic of illnesses. From those means that Allah, the Most Generous, has provided to bring about cures are as follows:
1. Supplicating for the sick. Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) stated:
“Whoever visits a sick person whose time of death has not yet come and says in his presence seven times: “As’alullahal-Azim Rabbal-Arshil-Azim an yashfiyak” Translated as: “I ask Allah, the Magnificent, Lord of the magnificent Throne to cure you” except that Allah relieves him of that illness.” [Abu Dawud]
And when the Messenger (Peace be upon him) would visit the sick he would say:
“Adh-hibil-ba’s Rabban-Nas, ashfi antash-Shafi, la Shifa’a illa shifa’uka, shifa’an la yughadiru saqama” Translated as: “Remove the harm, O Lord of the people! Heal, for You are The Healer. There is no healing that avails except your healing. A healing that leaves behind no ailment.” [Muslim]
2. Reciting the Qur’an is a cure:
Allah the Most High says:
“And We sent from the Qur’an that which is a cure and a mercy to those who believe.” [al-Isra’, 82]
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) would visit the sick, make supplications for them and make Ruqyah, which is to cure with the recitation of the Qur’an, which he would also perform upon himself during illness. Aishah (RA) mentioned that during the final illness of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), he would recite Surah al-Falaq and Surah an-Nas and blow over his body. And when his illness became severe, she would recite them and blow over him, and make him rub his body with his own hands for the blessings. Imam az-Zuhri stated:
“He (Peace be upon him) would blow over his hands and pass them over his face.” [Al-Bukhari]
3. Honey is also a cure, as Allah the Most High has stated:
“There comes forth from their bellies (i.e. the bees), a drink of varying colour wherein is a healing for men.” [An-Nahl, 69]
4. Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said:
“In the black cumin (Habbatus Sauda/Nigella Sativa) is a cure for every illness except death.” [Al-Bukhari]
5. Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said:
“Healing is in three: (I) blood cupping (hijamah), (ii) in the drinking of honey and (iii) cauterisation with fire (branding), and I have forbidden my nation from cauterisation.” [Al-Bukhari]
6. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“The water of Zamzam is for whatever it is drunk for.” [Musnad Imam Ahmad, 3/357]
Ibn Abbas (RA) used to drink Zamzam water and say:
“O Allah! I ask you for beneficial knowledge, and plentiful sustenance and cure from every illness.” [Musannaf of Abdur-Razzaq]
7. The fresh milk of cows is a cure, as the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Indeed Allah, the Most High, did not create a disease except that He created for it a cure. So upon you is the cow’s milk, for indeed it feeds from every herbage.” (Sahih al-Jami’]
Imam Ibn al-Qayyim stated over seven centuries ago:
“Milk is at its best when freshly milked.”
He also said:
“Milk in general is the most beneficial drink for the human body due to the nutritive elements contained in it.” [See Zad al-Ma’ad, 3/353]
The milk of the cow is beneficial due to what it feeds upon that passes through into the milk as is clear from the Prophetic words. Milk that is fresh, non-pasteurized, non-homogenized and organic is best for health and well-being.
Where does your food come from? The Sahabah used to take care and not eat meat from animals that had been feeding upon filth or impurities. Animals that feed from impurities were termed al-Jallalah by the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him). Ibn Umar reports said:
“Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) forbade the eating of al-Jallalah and drinking its milk.” [Abu Dawud]
“Ibn Umar (RA) would confine chickens away from impure feed for three days before slaughtering and eating them.” [Ibn Abi Shaibah, 8/147, no. 466, see also al-Irwa of al-Albani, no. 2505]
So the respected listener and the respected reader can see from what has been stated thus far that Islam gives concern to good health, healthy food, a balanced diet, exercise and keeping away from that which harms.
If a person is afflicted by any illness, then upon him is to be patient, because a cure may be delayed due to Allah’s divine Wisdom, and due to patience the afflicted is elevated in the sight of Allah, and his sins expiated. Patience is one of the greatest virtues of a believer. When some people become afflicted with illness, they attach their hopes to the means (such as pills, drugs, hospitals and physicians) whereas it is obligatory upon them to attach themselves to Allah and trust in Him first and foremost, for He is the Healer. So the afflicted person should never despair, rather he should take the necessary means and trust in Allah, seeking His aid. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) explained this clearly when he said:
“Strive to attain what will benefit you and seek Allah’s aid and do not sit back without acting. And if something afflicts you, do not say: If only I had done such-and-such, then such-and-such would have happened, rather say: Qaddarallahu wa ma sha’a fa’ala (meaning: It is as Allah has decreed, and whatever He wills, He does).” [Muslim]
Respected servants of Allah, the small discussion above leads us to the realisation that a Muslim should never despair, even if the illness is regarded as chronic or terminal. You should investigate and look for the best cures, and quite often you will find that the cure may not be in drugs and pills, but in dietary changes and that which Allah has placed in pure water, herbs, fruits, seeds and vegetables. Many people today are turning to “raw green” diets and leaving off complex foods, fizzy-sugary drinks, sweets and “microwave chemical” meals. People in their thousands have turned to healthier living. Take this as example:
“At the age of 31, Kris was diagnosed with a slow-growing yet extremely rare and incurable stage IV cancer. After several second opinions, a supposed expiration date and recommendations to have a triple organ transplant, Kris decided to take matters into her own hands. One of the first things she did was adopt a plant-powered diet. She went to Whole Foods, introduced herself to kale, healthy living and never looked back. Ten years later, Kris is absolutely thriving. Her diagnosis was the wake-up call she needed to turn her life around. You may not have a serious illness like Kris does, but how many of you are truly thriving? I mean sleeping well, thinking clearly, spring loaded with energy and beaming with love and joy nearly every single day. Your body simply can’t function correctly without the proper nutrition. Nowadays we are surrounded by Franken-foods – stuff created in a lab and filled with chemicals. The effects of a diet laden with these types of foods are low energy, excess weight, weakened immune system, mental fog, skin issues and the list goes on..” [See hungryforchange.tv]
Dear brothers and sisters, this is not to say that one does not use the expertise of modern medicine – and remember that one should seek appropriate expert help, look at alternatives and then decide upon the best course of action.
Today, people are turning to healthier alternatives, such as large fresh salads, vegetables and steamed or grilled fish – and they and their families feel all the better for it. When they fall sick, they increase their raw green and natural food intake, increase their doses of vitamin and mineral supplements – and of-course one seeks the aid of Allah. They remain patient and they do not despair. Some of the people of knowledge narrate events that give encouragement to those afflicted with illness. For example:
“There was a man involved in a car accident and he remained in a coma for four months. His mother would sit at his bedside reciting the Qur’an over him and making plentiful supplications – wallahi he recovered completely.”
“Another man was afflicted by cancer – the specialists and doctors ruled that there was no cure for him. So he continued taking honey, black cumin, along with certain herbs and vegetation for a few months, and Allah, the Healer, cured him.”
And one of those responsible for the Grand Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) in Makkah narrated that:
“People that have had what the doctors describe as ‘terminal illnesses’ (that cannot be cured) would come to the Grand Mosque and remain there for days in worship, drinking Zamzam water, supplicating and beseeching their Lord, and their Lord had cured them.”
Stories such as these are many, even here in Nigeria. Allah, the Most High, has cured people suffering from chronic illnesses due to them taking the means that He, the Most High, has provided – and by supplicating to Him sincerely, seeking His aid and by showing patience, knowing that Allah is Ever Watchful over His servants. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Amazing indeed is the affair of the believer. All of his affair, for him, is good. And this [goodness] is not for anyone except a believer. If good comes to him, he is grateful, and that is best for him. And if harm comes to him, he is patient, and that is best for him.” [Muslim]
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Jumada al-Ula 28, 1441 A. H. (January 24, 2020).