From the intents of all the heavenly religions that were bestowed upon their respective Messengers, the likes of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus son of Mary and Muhammed (alayhumusalaam), then they were all sent with noble legislative laws that although they differed in a variety of aspects they united upon protecting five necessities that make up the core of their principles. These five necessities are the protection of religion, life/health, honour/lineage, wealth and the intellects. Thus the preservation of life & health form an integral part of the religion of Islam with all the Prophets and this explains that when the last of them, Muhammed (alayhimusallam) was asked (by some bedouins as reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, from Ziyad bin Alqah from Usamah bin Sharik)
“O Prophet of Allah! Should we take medicine?” He said “ Yes , O servants of Allah! Seek cure, for Allah did not place any illness except that He has placed its cure, except one single illness.” They asked what is it? He said “Old age.”
The command or order to seek medicine is because the Prophetic medicine is not comprehensive of every illness and the variation of illnesses with different places, people and time for a variety of reasons. Over time we have witnessed a variety of disciplines for disease management and in principle the majority of them do not impinge upon or opposes the Prophetic medicine, rather they are complimentary to each other.
These disciplines of disease management include the likes of herbalism, traditional/folk medicine, homoeopathy, aromatherapy, Chinese medicine, physiotherapy, modern medicine etc. All of these disciplines of disease management are complimentary to one another and likewise complementary to the Prophetic medicine providing they are able to demonstrate benefit (see below). Even though these disciplines may differ in their approach to disease management and hence their differences in treatment, then this does not restrict an individual patient to a single form at anyone time, rather a patient may try a treatment from each form, providing the practitioners of each of these disciplines is content with this (although there may in specific situations be concerns of drug or technique interactions). This is why you may see modern medicine doctors who also have competency in homeopathy.
However what is best is to search for the most beneficial discipline of disease management and its practitioners after the Prophetic medicine in those matters that the Prophetic medicine is not specific thereby taking the means to a cure. This is evident from the approach of the Muslim scholar Ibnul Qayim (may Allah have mercy on him) in his book ‘Tibb an-Nabawiy (Prophetic Medicine)’ that he uses the medicine of his time and puts it into context using the Prophetic medicine, such that we see he often returns to the four elements of the body; water, earth, air and fire. This knowledge and classification originates from the Greeks and was the knowledge of that time in the sciences. This likewise gives scholarly weight to the coexistence of worldly medicine and Prophetic medicine.
Although health preservation and restoration itself is from the legislative necessities intended by Islam, there has not been any authoritative worldly health discipline that has been indicated to be followed absolutely. Rather the legislation has called for a collective responsibility (fard kifaayah) upon Muslims to excel in the field of health and medicine thereby determining the most beneficial treatments.
The various different disciplines of disease management in a Islamic legislative perspective are from the worldly means (al-wasaailul-kawniyyah) to achieve, with Allah’s permission, treatment of ill-health despite these disciplines having differences of opinion with one another. This difference of opinion is permitted and one could argue inevitable as their methods of approach are different. From the conditions of the worldly means (al-wasaailul-kawniyyah) is that they are required to be beneficial through observation or experience. An example of this is when a treatment is given then it needs to show that it brings about the desired effect and this can be observed through the likes of clinical trials where the treatment is ideally compared with a placebo or an already established treatment. (Note: Placebo effect is a phenomenon of when an individual takes a treatment and feels better even though the placebo in itself has no pharmacological activity but the mind feels better that it has taken something that will help, so in turn the body feels better.) If the treatment removes ill-health (statistically more so than placebo, if used) then one would regard it as an observed benefit. As for experienced benefit then this is what is passed from one clinical practitioner to another practitioner through the actual practicing of a form of medicine, i.e. one learns through experience with dealing with treatments such as when one uses a heart drug then realises it causes a consistent side-effect such as male potency. In this case the experience of using this treatment leads it to be used for another disease such as impotency (as occurred with Viagra).
Therefore providing these disciplines can show a benefit they are permissible but what is really sought is the most beneficial discipline and this in turn requires a need to look at evidences for each by Muslim doctors to determine. (we will expound on this later, insh’Allah).
In the next part we look at the widespread acceptance of modern medicine among the Muslim governments, scholars and even the muslim nation as a whole.