RELATIONS BETWEEN RELIGION AND HEALTH
Islam differs from other religions in that
it concerns itself with both this life as well as the hereafter. It is the
only religion that has built on earth a state and a society. Hence all the
instructions for administrating such a society descended directly from
heaven. Some concern the ruling system, others social and economic
dealings in addition to the hygienic regime.
The purpose of the hygienic regime in Islam
is to create a community that is healthy and immune against infectious
diseases, and the healthy individual (in body and mind) who is capable of
understanding and applying God's message and carrying it away to the whole
In this research we summarize Islam's instructions in the hygienic field and their efficiency in realising this objective
I. CLEANLINESS, PURIFICATION AND ABLUTION
1. Body: Islam recommends bathing for
twenty-three reasons. Seven of them are compulsory and sixteen are
2. Hands: Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) says:
“Wash thy hands before and after eating", and "Wash thy hands
after awakening. No one knows where his hands lay during his sleep."
3. Islam recommends cleanliness and
elegance in clothing "Ameliorate thy clothing and thy mount".
4. Food and drink: Orders for protecting
food from dust and insects, the prophet says "Cover thy vessels and
5. Residence: "Clean thy courtyards
and thy residence" as well as cleanliness of streets: "It is
charitable to remove harms from the road."
6. Water sources such as wells, rivers and
shores. Therefore, urinating and defecating are forbidden in any of
them--- "Avoid three evils; defecation in water sources, shades and
in the road.
If these instructions are followed
accurately in the twentieth century, we can put an end to all
gastrointestinal infections and exterminate harmful insects such as flies,
cockroaches and others.
II. ISLAM'S INSTRUCTION IN EPIDEMIC
Having mentioned the role of cleanliness in
preventing infectious diseases, we mention here Islâm’s instructions to
1. Isolation: Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) says
in this respect "Infectious cases should not contact the
2. Quarantine: on cases such as lepers
"Leave a space of a spear or two between ye and the leper"
3. Islam also laid basic rules for dealing
with an epidemic such as Cholera, plague and smallpox "Do not enter a
land of which you hear there is a pestilence, and if ye are in that land
do not try to leave it in escape" 2
4. Islam encourages every means of
protection from infectious diseases such as immunisation. When the prophet
(PBUH) was once asked whether such protective measures prevent God's fate,
he (PBUH) said that it is a part of God's will.
III. NUTRITION IN ISLAM
Islam concerned itself with three aspects
of the Muslim's food:
a. Forbidding the harmful food
b. Acquainting the Muslim with the beneficial food.
c. Rectifying his eating habits.
A. Forbidden Items:
God announces: -
“Forbidden to ye are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been invoked in the name of other than God. That which hath been killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a headlong fall, or gored to death; that which hath been partly eaten by a wild animal, unless you are able to slaughter it in due form” 3
Each of these forbidden items has an
undisputable scientific argument for being prohibited. It is true there is
a controversy around the harm of the swine flesh and the diseases it may
cause to human beings because of its dirtiness and its unhygienic
nutritional habits. Whereas some people claim that the swine in Europe is
being bred in clean pans and under medical supervision there are still
some harms in its flesh which science could not overcome such as the
excess of cholesterol and its liability to Trichina and Salmonella more
than any other animal.
Islam has also forbidden liquor in great as
well as small quantities, the harm of which is undisputed. Moreover, its
moral and spiritual harm is worse than its physical harm.
B. Un-forbidden Food:
Islam keeps pace with natural disposition.
Hence, all food is allowed except what is harmful. But, there are certain
foods that Islam recommends for their nutritional benefit such as meat,
fish, honey and milk.
Islam is against vegetarian doctrines that
forbid eating meat for religious reasons. The argument is that the human
body won't be healthy depending only on vegetables because the human
intestines are shorter than those of the herbivorous animals. Thus, it
does not suffice its need for proteins from a vegetarian meal.
C. Timing and Quantifying Meals:
Islam prompts people not to be extravagant
in eating The Prophet (PBUH) says "The stomach is the worst vessel to
fill" The Quran says 4 “Eat and drink but beware of extravagance,
God dislikes those who are extravagant.”
Islam originated Ramadan, a whole month of
fasting yearly, the benefits of which cannot be denied whether physically
On the other hand, Islam is against
doctrines that urge people to discard food or to over-fast to the extent
of weakness. The prophet (PBUH) announces: "Fast for good is not
proper fasting" He (PBUH) also declares "Every morsel a Muslim
eats is a deed of charity"
Islam attaches much importance to sports in
order to create a physically powerful generation capable of sustaining
fighting and resisting diseases. Therefore, Islam advises Muslims to teach
their children shooting, swimming, and horsemanship. "Teaching thy
children writing swimming and shooting is a duty" He (PBUH) also adds
"Teach thy children shooting and train them on horsemanship till they
excel" and since these were the only sports known at the Prophet's
time, then, Islam encourages all the sports known to us in the time being.
V. SEXUAL HEALTH IN ISLAM
Sex is one of the most important issues
that may affect human behavior and health. Some scientists and scholars
consider it the main motive behind most of human actions. Therefore, Islam
did not exclude one triviality concerning this issue from discussion.
1. Sexual education: Quran discusses it in
a refined style explaining to human beings sexual intercourse and the
creation of an embryo ”Was not he a drop of sperm transformed into a
clot of congealed blood then he hath created and further given order and
This text indicates that the sperms are the
decisive element in determining the embryo's sex. Quran also explains the
composition of the sperms. “He is created from a drop emitted proceeding
from between the backbone and the ribs.” 6 Then it illustrates the
development of the embryo from a drop of sperm to a clot of congealed
blood to a fetus lump etc.
2. Islam encourages early marriage and
teaches the Muslim the particulars of marriage and helps him choose the
proper wife. Moreover, it explains matrimonial relations and lays the
conditions for separation and discusses its dealings.
3. Islam explains the proper sexual
relation between husband and wife and how would each of them suffice the
other's needs in order to establish a happy marital life. Prophet Mohammed
(PBUH) interdicted copulation before paying ones wife amorous court. The
prophet (PBUH) also orders "Be fair to thy wife during copulation and
if ye reach your excitement before she does do not hasten her"
4. Islam forbids homosexuality and
copulating a woman through her anus for the diseases that may result.
5. It enjoins circumcising males and
detests it for females
6. Adultery is forbidden while polygamy is
allowed for men.
7. Cleanliness of sexual organs. Islam
imposes rinsing after urinating or defecation. Moreover, it forbids
intercourse during menstruation and requires cleaning after copulation and
VI. ISLAM AND PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH
Anxiety is one of the gravest problems in
the twentieth century particularly in Europe. We often hear of
millionaires committing suicide, of mothers and fathers becoming mentally
deranged and killing their children or their spouses if not their whole
The slightest cases are of millions of
people who live on sedatives and hypnotics in order to sustain their daily
life. The reason for that is not the well-known primitive causes such as
poverty, diseases and ignorance, for these countries enjoy easy living and
a high standard of education and health. The reason is what we may call
Many studies have been made on its causes.
They may be summed up as follows: - Prevalent materialism - spiritual and
religious vacuity - Lack of moral impulse and religious restraint - Lack
of sympathy and cooperation in modern society - Excess of luxury in
absence of human objective - City clamour.
This is the ultimate summary of all reports
made by scientific committees that were formed in search for the
origination of violence and anxiety in western societies.
It is quite apparent that the real cure for
all these points is religion; and Islam in particular. Islamic society is
the only one in which religious affairs are closely bound to worldly ones,
and this life with the hereafter. Thus, if Islam is properly applied in
our present time with proper understanding and knowledge, all the causes
of anxiety would be eradicated.
1. Islam achieves love, cooperation,
security and sympathy amongst its followers.
2. An Islamic society is vacant of cesspools of evil, liquors; gambling, drugs and adultery.
3. Islam rejects despair, despondence, and suicide, and urges people on patience, faith and struggle till victory.
VII. IDEOLOGIC METHOD IN HYGIENIC
It might be claimed that we are not in need
of religion in order to teach people hygiene, and that all the hygienic
instructions that were mentioned in this study do not differ from what is
in contemporary hygienic books. In answer to that we say that the
difference is great. Distributing hygienic leaflets on people or sending
them health inspectors is totally different from having these instructions
in an ideological religious mould. These instructions in Islam are part
and parcel of the dogma. They complement worshiping in a way that
religious rites cannot be performed without having these instructions
applied. This is the glory of Islam and its merit over any other regime.
It makes health and cleanliness a dogma and a social and religious
behaviour for all the classes of people rich or poor, educated or
THE FRUITS OF THESE INSTRUCTIONS WHEN
Contemporary Muslims suffer form hygienic
degradation because they abandoned their religion's instructions. The
defect is not in the religion itself of these instructions were applied
during the periods of Islamic awakening and have proved their ability to
create a perfect society.
In their flourishing days, Islamic capitals
were models in cleanliness and elegance. The streets were paved and were
daily swept and cleaned and illuminated by lanterns at night, Meanwhile,
Europe was a dump full of insects and pigs. The Muslim was considered an
ideal being preceeding his time, elegant in his costumes, his mount, his
habits and his food.
Dr. Sigrid Konke mentions in her book
"Alia's Sun on the West" 8 that the Andalusian explorer AI-Tartousi
described the Europeans in the middle ages as "Their beards and hairs
are long, they do not wash their clothes nor bathe more than once, or
twice a year".
Historic references mention that early
Muslims lived longer and healthier than the Muslims of today, that some of
the prophet's companions participated in contention till the age of sixty
or seventy. This is actually ascribed to following the hygienic
instructions of Islam and the avoidance of corruption. Moreover, epidemics
and diseases in the Islamic world were much less than they were in Europe
at the same period. Even the plagues which exterminated quarter of the
inhabitants of the European continent were nullified on the boarders of
the Islamic world.9 In this respect, Bernard Shaw mentions in his book
"The Doctor's Dilemma- that no sooner had Britain occupied the
Sandwich Islands and managed to convert its inhabitants from Islam to
Christianity than infectious diseases and epidemics spread among them, and
that, says Shaw, is ascribed to abandoning the instructions of Islam which
enjoin cleanliness even in trivial matters such as cutting the nails and
burying the pairings.
In conclusion, we say that if only one
Islamic nation in our present time would apply the instructions of Islam
as a result of proper modern understanding, this country would become the
first in the whole world in health standard, and it would be a model for
other countries to follow and gracious is God as He says “Ye were the
best nation of all people.”
We were, but when shall we become?!
1. DR. A.S. FANGARY "Preventive
medicine in Islam"
2. Bukhâri and Muslim.
3. Sűrah "Al Maida" "The table".
4. Sűrah "Al Ahraff, V31".
5. Sűrah "Al Qiyamah, V37 & 38".
6. Sűrah "Al Tariq V6 & 7".
7. "The problems of civilization" "The world of thoughts" Publisher Ministry of Information Kuwait.
8. DR. SIGRID HONKE "Allah Sonne Uber Dem Abendland Unser Arabishes Erbe".
9. BERNARD SHAW "The Doctor's Dilemma" introduction.
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