The Role Of A Muslim Doctor
Disease and Cure
"Perfect health" is a wish that humans crave for. They know that they can
never attain this state of perfection, if only because they cannot conceive what is
"perfect". Accordingly, they satisfy themselves with a relative "good
health", where the individual would be living without imminent suffering or pain. As
living organisms, humans are subject to genetic and environmental influences that affect
the functioning of their organs. Any negative effect would cause a disease.
The force of life inexorably urges living organisms to resist disease which constitutes by
definition an obstruction to the fulfillment of the ultimate objective of the ailing
organism. Not only humans who live for some purpose in life but one dare say every
particle has a role and is commissioned to undertake it to the best of its ability. This
innate tenacity in all organisms to function in accordance with their respective eternal
laws ministering their roles and missions is a part of what the Qur'an terms as
"The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein,
declare His Glory: There is not a thing but
celebrates His praise, and yet you understand not how they declare His glory. Verily He is
forbearing most forgiving." (XVII-44)
Both words "glorifying" and "praising" in the above verse have been
used by translators to imply "Tasbeeh", but they should be construed to mean the
conformity with the laws enacted by Allah to administer the ideal relationships among all
beings in course of their functioning and performance. When there is any disturbance to
our deviation from the inherent discipline of Tasbeeh, then there is a disease. In humans,
such a disease can be pure moral (psychological), pure pathological, or
moral-cum-pathological. When a person goes astray in his behavioral conduct, or when he
contracts a virus infection, or where the cholesterol in his blood increases to the extent
that affects his meditative faculties and behavior, this person is accordingly considered
sick. To cure him, an appropriate course of treatment must be followed. The person who is
qualified to judge whether a person is suffering from a "disease" as such, and
who assumes the functions of healing is called a medical "doctor".
To help understand the role of the Muslim doctor, let us have a general idea about the
texts in the Qur'an and Hadith relating to the subject. God talks in the Qur'an about
moral disease and cure in several suras (chapters). He says:
"O mankind! There hath come to you a direction from your Lord
and a healing for the (disease) in
your hearts, - and for those who believe, a guidance and a mercy."
The "direction" in this verse to the Qur'an itself, it is considered a sure cure
to any moral or psychological disease that may afflict true believers.
"It (Qur'an) is a guide and a healing to those who
There is no doubt that genuine belief in god can be the best cure for most of our
psychological disturbances. It brings peace to our hearts as one reckons to his Creator
and resigns in Him.
"But He guideth to Himself those who turn to Him in patience, -
Those who believe, and whose hearts find peace and satisfaction in the remembrance of God:
for without doubt in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction and peace."
Moral disease has been frequently expressed as disease in the heart. For instance,
depicting the psychological picture of the Hypocrites (Munafiqeen) God says:
"In their hearts there is a disease; and God has increased
their disease: and grevious is the penalty
they (incur), because they are false (to themselves)."
Transgressors, unbelievers and ill-intentioned individuals suffer from a moral weakness -
a disease in their hearts. This term has been repeated about thirteen times in the Qur'an.
From the physical point of view, there are many verses that mention the ill and the
patient, giving them due license from some commissioned obligations and prescriptions. For
instance, the ills allowed not to keep the fasting during Ramadan, (11. 184), not to
observe the usual ablution (IV, 43), not to abstain from cutting his hair during the
pilgrimage (11, 196), not to respond the call of Jihad (IX, 9 1) etc. In general, the
ailing person is treated as a special case and is given the due chance for recovery and is
always given special treatment and licenses.
It is granted that Allah is the ultimate healer. Ibrahim (P.B.U.H.) arguing with his
people about the omnipotence of Allah said,
"...(Allah) who created me and it is He who guides me, who
gives me food and drink, and when I am ill, He cures me..."
However, Allah insinuates the need for treatment by ascribing a healing potentiality to
honey produced by bees:
"...there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying
colors, wherein is healing for men... "
The Hadith, as usual, gave us striking revealing facts concerning disease and cure. Our
Prophet (P.B.U.H.) informed us that the general rule is that there is a cure to every
disease, whether we are aware of it or not. We know at present that our cells produce
antibodies to fend against the agents of disease: the viruses and virulent bacteria.
Homeopathic philosophy is based on helping the body to overcome the disease by giving the
sick very small doses of drugs that would stimulate the same symptoms in a healthy person
if given in large doses. In simple words, the well established Hadith narrated on the
authority of Ibn Maso'ud
"God has not inflicted a disease without prescribing a cure to it, known to whoever
knows it, and unknown to whoever does not know it." (cited by Ahmad of Nayl-al-Awtar,
V. 9, p. 89), this Hadith is a confirmation of the natural law of auto-resistance of
self-defense. It indicates as well the necessity for discovering cures to our diseases. He
(P.B.U.H.) said - on the authority of Usama Ibn Shuraik - when a Bedouin asked him whether
be should seek treatment: "Yes, servants of God seek treatment; God has not set a
disease without setting a cure to it, known to whoever knows it and unknown to whoever
does not know it"
(cited by lbn Majah, Tirmizi and Abu-Dawood). And again, on the authority of Abu-Huraira,
the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said,
"God has not sent any disease without sending a cure to it" (cited by Ahmad,
al-Bukhari and Ibn Majah).
The Muslim Patient
Every human being is bound to feel ill sometime and somehow. A Muslim does not panic when
afflicted with any sickness because his belief in the mercy of God, his faith in destiny
and his faith enjoining forebearance and patience, all these elements give him strength to
stand fast and endure his ordeal. However, he is supposed to seek treatment in response to
the Prophet's (P.B.U.H.) order. By accepting the Prophet's (P.B.U.H.) statement that there
is a cure to every disease, the Muslim patient builds up a strong hopeful attitude that
helps him and his doctor to resist the disease and overcome it.
The Muslim Doctor
The Muslim doctor shares with the Muslim patient the two main characteristics: the faith
in God and destiny, and the conviction that there is a cure for every disease But the
doctor must have something more; he is supposed to know, or at least try to know, the
proper diagnosis and the proper cure. He must be aware of his mission or commission
entrusted to him in his capacity as the agent of healing. Being an agent, he believes that
the act of healing is not entirely his, but it depends on God's will. It seems to me that
medical doctors are more aware than others of the divine power and God's will. They meet
every day with cases where destiny plays the major pan and they encounter the most
unexpected results. Our Prophet (P.B.U.H), on the authority of Yasir, says: "For each
disease there is a cure; and when the (fight) treatment is given, the disease is cured by
the Will of Allah", (cited by Ahmad and Muslim).
The art of healing, which is called the medical profession in modern language, has been
highly respected all through the ages.,For a long period in human history this an was
closely correlated with religious leadership and quite often confluent with magic and
miracles. Since the advent of Islam 1400 years ago, medicine has become a science subject
to human intelligence and discovery. Nevertheless, the medical doctor has persistently
captured the appreciation and respect of his contemporaries, especially as medicine was
usually associated with other philosophical and social knowledge. In fact this close
marriage between philosophy and medicine distinguished the medical history of Islam. The
gist here is that doctor's prognosis included the spiritual, psychological and social
sides of the patient over and above the pathological aspects. I earnestly believe that in
an Islamic state, all Muslim doctors in course of their every day practice, and when
dealing with Muslim patients in particular, should keep this traditional prognostic
attitude in mind. I am sure, if they do they will never regret the act.
But what is it that makes a Muslim doctor different from other non- Muslim doctors? From
the technological and scientific points of view, all doctors fall in one category.
However, when it comes to practice, the Muslim doctor finds himself bound by particular
professional ethics plus his Islamic directives issuing from his belief. In fact, the
Muslim doctor - and I mean by this that doctor who tries to live his Islam by following
its teachings all through - such a doctor is expected behave differently in some occasions
and to meet greater responsibilities than other non-Muslim doctors.
1. The Public Responsibility: A Muslim doctor is supposed to belong to a Muslim
community where there is some common cause, common feelings and mutual solidarity.
"Believers are brethren" (IXL, 10) God also says:
"And hold fast all of you together to the Rope of Allah, and be
not divided among yourselves: and
remember Allah's favor on you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts together, so
that by His Grace you became brethern..."
The implication is the Muslim doctor is a member in a Muslim community where the same body
of the individual is crucial for its survival and development. T'he doctor has a big say
and great weight in influencing his patients and in righteously guiding their orientation.
Besides, he should be actively involved in propagating true Islam among Muslims and non-
Muslims. Almost all Christian missionaries depend on medical doctors when approaching
alien masses, taking advantage of the humanistic service doctors render to poor diseased
people. In a country like this where we live, the best missionary service to be render-ed
by a medical doctor is to behave aU the time in accordance with his Islamic teachings, to
declare his conviction, and to feel proud of it. Then he serves a good model that would
convince others and gain their hearts.
2. Faith and healing: By accepting the fact that Allah is the healer - and that
the doctor is only an agent, both patients - irrespective of their creeds - and their
doctors, fight their battle of treatment with less agony and tension. I think it is an
established fact that such spiritual conviction would improve the psychological state of
the patient and boost his morale, and thus help him overcome his physical weakness and
sickness. There are many examples where faith played a miraculous part in the process of
healing. In my opinion, a Muslim doctor must make of faith the backbone of his entire
3. Reprehensible, Prohibited and Permissible Acts: More than any other
professional, the Muslim medical doctor is confronted more frequently with questions
regarding the Islamic legitimacy of his activities. There are almost daily controversial
problematic issues on which he is supposed to decide: e.g. birth control, abortions,
opposite sex hormonal injections, trans-sexual operations, brain operations affecting
human personality, plastic surgery changing physionomy, extra-uterine conception, etc. The
Muslim doctor should not be guided in such issues merely by the law of the country. He
must also find the Islamic answer and rather adopt it as much as he can. To find the
answer is not an easy matter, especially if the doctor himself has no reasonably solid
background in the field of Islamic teachings. Yet, to gain such knowledge is very simple
and would not consume much time as generally presumed.
In general, every Muslim must have a preliminary knowledge of what is reprehensible and
what is prohibited. One has to admit that our early education as individuals is very
deficient in this regard. But this does not justify our ignorance of the essentials of our
religion and our indifference towards its injunctions. There is no difficulty nowadays to
obtain a few reference books about our Shari'ah and to find out the answers to most - if
not all - our medical queries. The most preliminary study to the Islamic science of
"Usul" would give the doctors the main principles of analogy, 'Qias',
preferentical application Istihsan) and jurisdictic initiation (Istihsan). The importance
of such knowledge becomes conspicuous when the subject of the issue is purely technical
and thus lies beyond the reach of the normal religious scholar. Besides, there are many
secondary questions that arise in, the course of dealing with patients where the personal
judgement of the doctor is the only arbiter. There, as always, the doctor needs a
criterion on which he can build his code of behavior and the ethics of his medical
To conclude, the role of the Muslim doctor is briefly to put his profession in service of
his religion. To this end, he must know both: medicine and Islam.
Prof. Mahmoud Abu - Saud