Islam & Medicine P3 – Modern Medicine

Modern medicine particularly with the advent of evidence based medicine some 50 years ago has spread around the earth and being the overwhelming (>99%) medicine practiced in any urban populated area and accepted by all governments (both Muslim and non-Muslim) such that it is the main focus of their Ministry/Department of Health and thus implemented in nearly all hospitals. Hence among all the various disciplines of disease management then modern medicine has evolved with wide widespread recognition far beyond any other discipline. Yet despite this we have individuals making blanket statements trying to attack its fundamental principles.

Making use of various disciplines of disease management are clearly permissible from both intellectual perspective with sound reason and from a Islamic legislative perspective and the specific ruling will vary depending upon the situation. If the treatment will cause more harm then good then clearly it would be impermissible. If the benefit far out weighed any harm and the illness was major but not life threaten then the ruling for treatment would be highly recommended and possibly obligatory (based on the hadeeth of Usamah bin Sharik below). Yet if the benefit far out weighed any harm and the illness was life threatening then the ruling for treatment would be clearly compulsory as this would achieve the intent of the legislation of the necessity to preserve life and health. This is evident from the following narrations:

Imam Maalik collected in his Muwatta’, from Zayd ibn Aslam: A man, in the time of the Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) was wounded, and the blood became congested. The man summoned two men from Banoo Anmaar, who examined him. He declared then that the Messenger of Allah asked these two: أيكما أطب؟ “Which of you is the more skilled as a physician?” To which they asked: ‘Is there then some value in medicine, O Messenger of Allah?’ He replied: أنزل الدواء الذي أنزل الأدواء “The One Who sent down illness also sent down medicine.”

Also in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, from Ziyad bin Alqah from Usamah bin Sharik, that he said I was with the Prophet (upon him be peace) when some bedoiuns came to him and said, “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 said what is it? He said “Old age.”

Thus the medical disciplines have entered into this worldly means (al-asbaabul-kawniyah) since the time of the Prophet (upon him be peace) up until today as is established by the aforementioned narrations. “Seek Cure” as stated in the last narration is an indication of a religious command and the intent is about worldly medicines and remedies.

As for modern medicine specifically falling outside of these disciplines is unheard of and unknown from any of the Muslim scholars and people of knowledge, in any place or time (particularly over the past 45-60 years). However we find that some of the scholars are recipients of modern medication via the modern medical profession and have advised in some medical situations for Muslim individuals to refer back to these medical practitioners for their professional opinions. Likewise this recognition is not restricted to the scholars, but is also found from the trustworthy Muslims from modern medicine itself or the other disciplines of disease management and even from the consensus (ijmaa’) of the Muslim nation (ummah) as a whole.

Although the origins of modern medicine is from western non-Muslims similar to many other sciences and skilled professions such as aviation, engineering and even many teaching techniques in education, then providing such things do not incorporate that which is forbidden in Islam then its ruling to adopt is permissibility.  Rather the medicine that the doctors were practicing in the the Prophetic narrations and that which the bedoiuns came seeking were nothing except medicine that originated with non-Muslims. Yet they were commanded and ordered to seek it as discussed in the previous part.

In the next part, we will go on to discuss those from among the Muslim callers that criticise modern medicine and bring there statements as evidence for this.

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