Health and Sickness, and the Importance of a Healthy Diet to Boost the Immune System ―in Light of Islamic Teachings

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.

Health is from the Most Precious of Blessings

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim (died 752 AH, rahimahullāh) stated: “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. Al-Bukhāri narrated in his Saheeh from Ibn Abbās that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: ‘There are two blessings which many of the people lose, good health and free time.’” (Zād al-Ma’ād, 4/196)

Imām Adh-Dhahabi (died 748 AH, rahimahullāh) stated: “It is compulsory upon every Muslim to seek nearness to Allāh, 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.” (At-Tibb an-Nabawiyy, p.18)

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim 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)

Then Ibn Al-Qayyim also stated that illnesses “are caused by:

1. consuming more food before the previous meal has been digested,
2. by eating in excess of the amount needed by the body,
3. by consuming food that is of little nutritional value and slow to digest,
4. 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.” (The Prophetic MedicineAt-Tibb an-Nabawiyy, p.13).

The ‘Allāmah, Abdur-Rahmān As-Sa’di (died 1375 AH, rahimahullāh) said: “Al-Bukhāri reports from Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) 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:

1. Controlling and managing one’s nourishment, so that a person does not eat unless he has the appetite for it,
2. that he completely digests the food he has previously eaten,
3. 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 Quloobil-Abrār, no. 64)

The modern lifestyle the “Western diet” conspire to contradict what has been mentioned above, so it is not surprising that obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other diet-related diseases have reached epidemic proportions, while at the same time it is true to say that those afflicted with these diseases are malnourished.

How is that possible? Because they have become obese by consuming low quality, non-nutritious, refined carbohydrate-laden, sugary and chemically enhanced processed foods and drinks. The food we consume quite often contains complex ingredients that are known to be harmful to the body and brain function. So a Muslim is encouraged to research and investigate what he is consuming so that he only consumes the most nutritious, healthy and least processed food.

In the mid-1960s the boom in processed and refined food manufacturing changed the diets of hundreds and millions of people. As people began eating these refined, processed and nutritionally deficient “foods”, we began to see a significant rise in mental disorders, depression, diabetes, cancers of all types, heart disease and so on. Instead of changing our attitude to food and health, and following the advice of our Muslim predecessors, we continued to harm our bodies (mostly without recognising the connection), and the pharmaceutical industry developed a plethora of drugs and pills that suppressed the painful symptoms of diseases without curing the actual diseases. Hundreds of millions of people were prescribed anti-depressants, pain-killers, diabetes drugs, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, ―people were cut, burned and poisoned to rid them of cancer. And nothing much has changed for nearly half a century, and people are getting sicker and sicker, and more and more reliant on pharmaceutical drugs. When people are looking to live or work somewhere, they look to see whether they in close reach of a hospital in case they need medical-care and pharmaceutical drugs!

A diet of processed food and drink, a lack of understanding of nutrition and its effect on the body, little exercise, pollution and consumption of unprecedented amounts of pharmaceutical drugs has led millions of people to a miserable and painful existence. We have come to believe that there is no alternative to drug therapy ―and the pharmaceuticals prescribed by your doctor have become the first port of call for every ailment. The vast majority of doctors today do not understand the role of food and nutrition as medicine (because they are not taught it) and simply follow pharmaceutical protocol: “Diagnose the problem and prescribe a drug”. The physicians of old (especially from the great Muslim scholars) understood nutrition, the importance of food as medicine, they were skilled dietitians and experts in Prophetic medicine, natural remedies and complex medicine. Unfortunately, that is not the case today. So, that is why people need to study the role of food, nutrition, Prophetic medicine, ruqyah (supplications and invocations), vitamins, green-food, mental well-being, fresh air, water and supplements in curing diseases, so they are no longer reliant on the pharmaceutical industry for all their ailments.

It is upon each person to take responsibility for their well-being, maintain good health and eat good nutritious food ―and if you are struck with an illness, do not rush immediately to prescription drugs as Imām As-Sa’di (rahimahullāh) said, “And all of this is without immediate recourse to drugs, this is better and more beneficial.” (Bahjatu Quloobil-Abrār, no. 64)

That is not to say that there is no place for modern medicine, but pharma-drugs should not be the first thing that your reach for and they are certainly not the only available avenue. One should be fully aware of what he is introducing into his body, its purported benefits and side-effects ―and whether there is an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.

So since Allah has sent down the cure for every illness, it is important for a Muslim to recognise the best of those cures. Imām Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullāh) stated: “Prophetic medicine is not like the medicine of the physicians, for the medicine of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) 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 experimentation.” He continues, “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.” (Zād al-Ma’ād 3/97-98)

There are numerous examples of Prophetic medicine from the Qur’an and Sunnah that bring about cure for even the most chronic of illnesses. Our Muslim doctors need to learn the Sunnah ―and may Allah guide them to it. From those means that Allah, the Most Generous, has provided to bring about cures are the following:

1. Supplicating for the Sick

Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) stated: “Whoever visits a sick person whose time of death has not yet come and says in his presence seven times:

«As’alullāhal-‘Adheem Rabbal-‘Arshil-‘Adheem an yashfiyak»

‘I ask Allaah, the Magnificent, Lord of the magnificent Throne to cure you’ except that Allaah relieves him of that illness.” (Abu Dawood, no. 3106).

When the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) would visit the sick he would say:

«Adh-hibil-ba’s Rabban-Naas, ashfi antash-Shāfee, lā Shifā’a illa shifā’uka, shifā’an lā yughādiru saqama»

“Remove the harm, O Lord of the people! Heal, for You are The Healer. There is no healing that avails except your healing. Healing that leaves behind no ailment.” (Muslim, no. 2191)

2. Reciting the Qur’an is a Cure

“And We sent from the Qur’an that which is a cure and a mercy to those who believe.” (al-Isrā’: 82).

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) would visit the sick, make supplications for them and make ruqyah, which is to cure with the recitation of the Qur’ān, which he would also make ruqyah upon himself during illness. Ā’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) mentioned that during the final illness of the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam), he would recite Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās 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. Imām az-Zuhri (rahimahullāh) stated: “He (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) would blow over his hands and pass them over his face.” (Al-Bukhāri, no. 5735)

3. Honey is a Cure

Allah (the Most High) has stated: “There comes forth from their bellies (bees), a drink of varying colour wherein is a healing for men.” (An-Nahl: 69)

4. Black Cumin (Nigella Sativa)

Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “In the black cumin (Nigella Sativa) is a cure for every illness except death.” (Al-Bukhāri, no. 5688).

5. Cupping (Hijāmah)

Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Healing is in three: blood cupping (hijāmah), in the drinking of honey and cauterization with fire (branding), and I have forbidden my nation from cauterization.” (Al-Bukhāri, no. 5681)

6. Zamzam Water

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “The water of Zamzam is for whatever it is drunk for.” (Musnad Imām Ahmad, 3/357)

Ibn ‘Abbās (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) used to drink Zamzam water and say: “O Allāh! I ask you for beneficial knowledge, and plentiful sustenance and cure from every illness.” (Musannaf Abdur-Razzāq, no. 9112).

6. The Fresh Uncorrupted Milk of Cows is a Cure

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Indeed Allāh, 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.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 1808).

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.” (Zād al-Ma’ād, 3/353).

The milk of the cow is beneficial due to what it feeds on that then 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.

Food, Diet, Sickness and Cure

Where does your food come from? The Sahābah used to take care and not eat meat from animals that have been feeding upon filth or impurities. Animals that feed from impurities were termed al-Jallālah by the Prophet of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam). Ibn ‘Umar said: “Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) forbade the eating of al-Jallālah and drinking its milk.” (Abu Dawood, no. 3785-6). So, Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) would confine chickens away from impure feed for three days before slaughtering and eating them. (Ibn Abi Shaybah, 8/147, no. 466, see al-Irwā of al-Albaanee, no. 2505).

So 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 because of patience, the afflicted is elevated in the sight of Allāh, 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 doctors) whereas it is obligatory upon them to attach themselves to Allāh 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 (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) 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: Qaddarallāhu wa mā shā’a fa’ala (It is as Allaah has decreed, and whatever He wills, He does).” (Muslim, no. 2667)

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 pharmaceutical drugs and pills, but in dietary changes and that which Allāh has placed in pure water, herbs, fruits, seeds, vitamins, fresh country air, supplements, organic milk, pickled and fermented foods, dates, fish and green leafy vegetables. Many people today are turning to raw and green diets and leaving off processed foods, fizzy-sugary drinks, sweets, fast and deep-fried food, and “microwave meals”. People in their thousands have turned to healthier living and they are being cured (by the will of Allah) from chronic diseases. Take this 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, green food and 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…” (Ref: hungryforchange.tv).

This is not to say that one does not use the expertise of modern medicine ― and yes, you should seek appropriate expert help, and look at alternatives and then decide upon the best course of action, and that does not have to be pharma-drugs with are packaged with vicious side-effects. After all, it is your body, and no one should compel you with anything without your knowledge and understanding.

People are turning to healthier alternatives, such as large fresh salads, vegetables and steamed or grilled fish and organic or grass-fed meats ―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 must always seek 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:

  • 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 – and 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 seeds, along with certain herbs and vegetation for a few months, and Allah, the Healer, cured him.
  • One of those responsible for the Haram in Makkah narrated that people that have had what the doctors describe as ‘terminal illnesses’ that cannot be cured would come to the Haram 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 all over the world. 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 (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Amazing indeed is the affair of the believer. All of his affairs, for him, are 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, no. 2999)

This article was compiled by Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Wāhid Alam.

Please visit: www.healthymuslim.com

Download the leaflet as a PDF here → Health is Blessing Leaflet