East Meets West In Timeless Truths About Health: A Comparison of Islamic Medicine and Medical Heilkunst
Summary: Several areas of arguable common ground between Islamic Medicine and Medical Heilkunst, a complete system of Western medicine, are history, sources of knowledge, purpose of life, purpose disease and health, the place of the soul, principles, prevention, epidemics, and regimen. Comparative quotes and brief commentary shed light on the similarities and differences in these areas. Here, in health, and by extension, the purpose of life, health, disease, and more, East seems to meet West on a significant level.
Table of Contents
- What is Islamic Medicine? What is Heilkunst?
- A very brief history of Islamic Medicine
- Sources of Knowledge
- The Purpose of Life
- The Purpose of Disease and Health
- Place of Soul in Islamic Medicine
- The Principles of Islamic Medicine
- Preventive Medicine
- Introduction to Quotations about Islamic Medicine regarding the Four Pillars of Regimen as found in Heilkunst
The purpose of this paper is to provide an introductory comparison of Islamic Medicine and Heilkunst, a Western system of medicine. It was prompted by the observation that the average Muslim woman with whom I have had the pleasure of dialoguing about health from the perspective of Heilkunst, seemed to intuitively understand the principles in question. This has not been my experience with the average non-Muslim woman. Upon inquiry, I learned that the same principles are addressed in the Qur’an and by extension serve as the “guiding light” of Islamic Medicine.
Several areas of arguable common ground between the two systems surfaced during research: history, sources of knowledge, purpose of life, purpose disease and health, the place of the soul, principles, prevention, epidemics, and regimen. This text provides comparative quotes and brief commentary which shed light on the similarities and differences within these areas… (Introduction continues)
II. What is Islamic Medicine? What is Heilkunst?
Although there seems to be no agreed upon definition of Islamic Medicine, for the purposes of this paper, the following one proposed by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. in his article “Islamic Medicine: Its Meaning and Principles” will be used: Islamic medicine is defined as medicine whose basic paradigms, concepts, values, and procedures conform to or do not contradict the Qur’an and sunnat. It is not specific medical procedures or therapeutic agents used in a particular place or a particular time. Islamic medicine is universal, all-embracing, flexible, and allows for growth and development of various methods of investigation and treatment of diseases within the framework described above.
Islamic medicine may be distinguished from Qur’anic Medicine, Prophetic Medicine, and Spiritual Medicine, which seem to emanate almost if not exclusively from the Qur’an, and the words of the Prophet Mohammed, PBUH, as written in the Hadiths without additional knowledge provided by any kind of science. Dr. Husain F. Nagamia, Chairman of the International Institute of Islamic Medicine clarifies in his article Islamic Medicine History and Current Practice that not much is actually stated in the Qur’an about health and medicine, but that the “Qur’an is the guiding spirit that every Muslim has to follow”. On the other hand, he writes the Hadith literature … accumulated a number of sayings and traditions of the Prophet under a collection called the ‘Prophetic Medicine’. These edicts expounded on virtues of diet, natural remedies, and management of simple ailments like headache…. More importantly however injunctions were prescribed against contact with persons having a contagious disease …thus helping to limit the disease.
Professor Kasule elaborates on Prophetic Medicine (Tibb nabawi) in his article Prophetic Medicine Between Nass and Empirical Experience: Tibb nabawi is not one monolithic or systematic medical system… It is varied and circumstantial. It covers preventive medicine, curative medicine, mental well-being, spiritual cures or ruqyah, medical and surgical treatments. It integrates mind & body, matter and spirit.
There seems to be no debate regarding Spiritual Medicine as it refers simply to “a collection of the verses of the Qur’an or prayers to the Almighty, which invoked blessings and which had to be recited when affliction was to be expurgated.”
According to the chosen definition of Islamic Medicine, it can be argued that Islamic Medicine embraces both Prophetic Medicine and Spiritual Medicine.
Heilkunst, on the other hand has been written as being: the name given by Dr. Hahnemann to the complete system of medicine and health found in his writings, most notably the Organon der Heilkunst, his central work…. Heilkunst encompasses an extensive variety of health-promoting methods… ranging from nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices, through various therapies to support one’s innate natural healing power (massage, manipulation, energy work), to medicine (first aid, acute and chronic diseases) and into the realm of spiritual evolution. Each of these methods is interconnected through a dynamic system of timeless principles that allows the true physician to use them scientifically, that is on clear principles…for the attainment of true health…
The key words here for our comparison purposes are that the “Qur’an is the guiding spirit that every Muslim has to follow” and “dynamic system of timeless principles”. Based on these words, I suggest that both Heilkunst and Islamic Medicine may meet where the Truth prevails and excluding recourse to allopathic, in the sense of “unprincipled”, approaches or approaches that are not based in Truth.
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9000 words. Full paper available upon request.