A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Islamic focus on healthcare|
|10/18/05 at 02:04:51|
|Islamic focus on healthcare |
Panorama, The Gulf Today
Ramadan is back and all devout Muslims are fasting from sunrise to sunset. It would be rather repetitive to elaborate on the boons to abstinence from eating and drinking during Ramadan. But as the month advances health issues that relate to fasting are again in focus. Abstinence is a perfect remedy for many illnesses. But because fasting is always perceived as difficult, the majority would feel reluctant to tap it as the ideal approach to good health. It is partly true that people in general are not bound to observe fasting other than as a religious duty. And the most pious will only fast on some extra days on certain occasions. However, the holy month will always remain associated with health matters and is bound to figure as the starting point for elaborating on healthcare from an Islamic perspective.
Newspapers, magazines and TV channels are allocating a large space for health updates. They continue to capitalise on the majority's need for all types of health products, making considerable gains in terms of promotions and ads. So much so that their focus sometimes becomes redundant, their recipes and prescriptions contradictory and confusing leaving people torn between what is genuinely useful and what is fake. Scores of books and websites offer diets and health tips as if diversity is becoming the key in a field that essentially requires accuracy. But a quick look at our world is enough to tell us why concern about health has dramatically increased.
The abundance that resulted from technological development has not excluded food and nutrition. The pros are indisputable, but it is always important that they should exceed the cons or at least maintain a balance with them, for the dominance of the negative aspects of things should eventually mar their usefulness.
The variety of food products coupled by the promotion of new drugs and health items is certainly part of the boom. And however laudable it is, it still shows that people are consuming more than what is appropriate. The flip side is an intensive focus on healthcare aimed at dealing with the consequences of over-consumption. Browsing through pages of Islamic medicine, one would realise that there is one unequivocal view on treatment.
It is a prescription, a recipe or a medicine that remains linked to lifestyle. And with a lifestyle marked by abundance and extravagance such as ours not a thousand treatments would work. But the force that fuels that lifestyle is beyond our reach, some would argue. True, but when the pinch of the negative impact of saturation is felt, that force will have to be checked, somehow. Before we go on theorising let us examine the components of good health in modern environment.
Modern life has disconcerted the body clock with night shifts that force activity at a time when physical and mental energies are at their lowest. For instance, long distance flights that result in jetlags, television, nightclubs, cinemas, dining out, all this reverses the natural sleep order while long office hours do not accommodate siesta. The biological tempo changes gradually from peak to nadir in accordance with a specific time framework that never falters or changes. That rhythm is one of the characteristics of all living organisms including man. It is affected by light and darkness, sleep and movement, and noisy and quiet surroundings. All such factors work together to help the body clock readapt to the environment.
Quranic verses come to reiterate man's biological tempo, stressing that day is for work and activity, dark night for serenity. It also underlines the necessity of taking a siesta and the benefit of getting up early and offering prayers during the last third of the night, all of which amazingly corresponds to the natural and regular changes in human mechanism within one day.
The findings of modern science are perfectly in line with the tips that were given by the Prophet (PBUH) some 14 centuries ago. He said: "Observe the siesta, devils never do." Of late it has been found out that the siesta or the short afternoon nap gives mental and muscular relief that helps increase productivity. No wonder then that some companies are considering equipping offices with beds for the purpose. But still some not only ignore the siesta but also endanger their health by going ahead with a night work schedule, overlooking the Quranic verse that "God has created the night for your serenity (Ghafir 61)."
Research conducted at the Arizona University, US, revealed that sleeping at night in blacked out surroundings would augment the secretion of Melatonin which boosts the immunity system against cancer. Light in the bedroom during night sleep could block the flow of Melatonin.
Similarly daylight activates other hormones that increase resistance against several other diseases. Are not these simple but stunning revelations that should persuade us to follow the natural order of things? Quranic verses and Hadith are replete with tips that bear on the benefits of self-restraint, two-year breastfeeding, circumcision, the use of Suwak -- a specific type of tooth-cleanser as well as a lot of other health issues.
But to narrow down the focus, the tips on dieting remain one of the most critical questions. It is a craze that never subsides. Every day an expert comes up with a new diet. One American woman once mocked at the fact that people want to lose weight and stay healthy while consuming large amounts of foods. One of the confirmed Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) is that "the stomach is the centre of the human body and all veins link to it. A sound stomach will beam with healthy veins, a diseased stomach will grapple with troubled veins."
In another Hadith: "Dieting is the essence of all medicine and the stomach is the shelter of all illnesses. Every living person, therefore, should not divert from its rooted eating habits." According to Hadith, dieting is of two types: A diet that protects against diseases and another that cures them. The former is that of healthy people, the latter is prescribed for the sick groups. "Dieting will prevent sickness before it falls. But once it occurs it will stop it from aggravating." There are recipes for treating our current health problems from blood cholesterol and hypertension to depression and colon problems as well as guidelines for the convalescent. They are all based on the Prophet (PBUH)'s daily practices and interactions with his people and companions.
Certainly these are the workings of divine guidance but what persists is not only the miracle of an illiterate man whose words are being tried and tested everyday by modern science. It is the dilemma of whether to fall back on tradition or turn our back on it. The Quranic verses and Hadith have been compiled, illustrated and elaborated upon in volumes known as Al Tib Al Nabawi -- Prophetic Medicine. Through ages this was a fountainhead for the West that translated it into modern medicine. True that those of the Prophet (PBUH) and the companions were simple and primitive desert surroundings and ours are complex urban entities that encourage consumption and satiety. But satiety did also exist within a simple environment and there will always be a need for abstinence -- the real spirit of Ramadan and the starting point on the path to good health.
We are going in a risible cycle of consumption followed by another of healthcare.
Everyday we might step on simple objects or substances, not knowing they could be true remedies for our diseases. The world is divided into the rich and the poor and the surplus that causes satiety is definitely the share of the needy. The responsibility of the well-to-do is to narrow the wide gap between the starved and the satiated. Only then the physical and psychological balance will be achieved. Let us hope Ramadan will be the beginning.
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board