What is the science behind Ruqyah

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

This is a response to the article posted by Amar Alam titled “Have the Muslims failed with Intellectual Disabilities?”

In this article, the author seeks to emphasise the great need to cater and adapt to disabilities within Muslim communities. On the whole, I am in agreement with him about the negative stigma attached to children with disabilities and also to their parents. I also agree with his views on how the community must adapt to cater for their needs and to integrate them within our communities. However, there are a few major mistakes made by the author which need exposition and clarification.

The author states: “The prevalent belief among Muslims is that Intellectual Disabilities are caused by mental illness, possession by Jinns, supernatural phenomena and punishment for previous sins”

Upon referencing the source material for this claim it transpires that the author has used research papers which examined only the Pakistani community and not the Muslim community as a whole; therefore it is incorrect to claim the entire Muslim community shares the attitudes of one portion of the Muslim society. One may argue that the Pakistani community forms the majority of Muslims in the UK but this is still not enough to make a blanket claim about the beliefs of Muslims in the UK.

The author continues: “However, such beliefs are borne out of ignorance, and only serve to reinforce stigma, negative attitudes and discrimination.” – here the author claims that to think any disability is a result of magic/jinn or supernatural phenomena is “borne out of ignorance”.

This is an extremely erroneous stance to take and shows an error in the methodology and understanding of the author. There is a need for balance, one where every case is examined on its merits, avoiding blanket statements of “ignorance” or otherwise.

Imam Ahmad, Malik, al-Nasai and Ibn Hibban narrated from Sahl ibn Haneef that the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) came out and travelled with him towards Makkah, until they were in the mountain pass of al-Kharar in al-Jahfah. There Sahl ibn Haneef did ghusl (bathed), and he was a handsome white-skinned man with beautiful skin. ‘Amir ibn Rabee’ah, one of Banu ‘Adiyy ibn K’ab looked at him whilst he was doing ghusl and said: “I have never seen such beautiful skin as this, not even the skin of a virgin,” and Sahl fell to the ground. They went to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, can you do anything for Sahl, because by Allah he cannot raise his head.”

In the narration mentioned above, the companion Sahl did not possess the physical ability to lift his head – one wonders if Sahl was brought to the author, perhaps he would dismiss it as a developmental disability and look for a scientific / medical explanation or say there is no cure?

But the messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do you accuse anyone with regard to him?” They said, “‘Amir ibn Rabee’ah looked at him.” So the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) called ‘Amir and rebuked him strongly. He said, “Why would one of you kill his brother? If you see something that you like, then pray for blessing for him.” Then he said to him, “Wash yourself for him.” So he washed his face, hands, forearms, knees and the sides of his feet, and inside his izaar (lower garment) in the vessel. Then that water was poured over him, and a man poured it over his head and back from behind. He did that to him, then Sahl got up and joined the people and there was nothing wrong with him.  Classed as saheeh (authentic) by al-Albani in al-Mishkat.

The intention behind mentioning the narration above is NOT to state that every disability is a result of a spiritual illness; rather it is to show that spiritual illnesses do have very real, tangible, physical effects. Perhaps a medical doctor would rush to examine Sahl and diagnose him with a medical condition – not knowing that evil eye (‘ayn) was the real cause behind his problem.

The author continues: An Intellectual Disability is defined as a significant impairment in intellectual functioning and socially adaptive behaviour, which has an onset before adulthood[9]. It can take the form of a number of conditions, some of which are Autism, Down’s syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome and Fragile X. These are primarily caused by biological factors, either through genetics, brain abnormalities or complications at birth, none of which necessarily have theological or supernatural foundations.

It is extremely important to grasp a concept that many fail to understand. In the presence of a spiritual illness there will be tangible, physical signs and symptoms. To demonstrate this fact, I will briefly mention a ruqya case which looked entirely medical but was actually something else. A patient came and mentioned how doctors had told her that the efficiency of her heart had dropped to such a degree that she had just a few days to live. The doctors saw the symptoms of this illness which they diagnosed as problems with the valves in her heart. However, what they could not diagnose was the underlying cause –  there was a jinn sitting in the patient’s back playing with the valves of her heart, causing problems with blood flow etc. After ruqya, the patient was completely cured by the permission of Allah and the doctors were dumbfounded, declaring they had no idea how she was still living. Many similar cases exist of doctors being completely amazed after seemingly “incurable” diseases disappeared after ruqya. Claiming that such cases do not exist for autism or mental disabilities is incorrect and short-sighted.

Further, Allah mentions about magic in Surat Al Baqarah, Ayah 102, that the people who practice magic “seek to separate a man from his wife” – the scholars use this as a refutation of the mu’tazilah who place their own intellects over the texts and declared that magic is not real. So the husband and wife will begin to argue, to become suspicious of one another, even becoming physically repulsed by one another. I.e. there is a tangible, measurable effect of spiritual illnesses. Once again, the need for balance must be emphasised – one where we do not deny that spiritual illnesses can cause mental and physical disabilities, nor do we affirm that everything is jinn or magic.

The author continues in a catastrophic fashion: “In light of these misconceptions, there has been a long history of families being exploited within the Muslim community by “spiritual healers” (rāqīs), who falsely claim that these disabilities are curable through spiritual healing (ruqya). For financial gain and out of pure ignorance, many spiritual healers exploit vulnerable families by persuading them that their child has a “disease” that can be cured. They cite the well-known hadīth that there is no disease that Allāh has created, except that He has also created its treatment[10]. However, they fail to explain to families that Intellectual Disabilities are not diseases but rather, biological conditions that have no known “cure”

The sheer number of errors in this one paragraph necessitates that we break it down and clarify each one.

Firstly, the author calls so-called spiritual healers “raqis” – this is a major mistake. Rather, “spiritual healers” are those who claim to be able to heal any illness with their cunning speech and impermissible actions, contradicting pure tawheed and seeking the assistance of the devils. The raqi is the one who performs “ruqya”, which according to the author is “spiritual healing” – Allah’s aid is sought. In acting upon the statement of Allah – “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.” (4:59) – we will now go to the texts and see if “ruqya” is just “spiritual healing”.

“A group of the Companions of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) set out on a journey and travelled until they made came near one of the Arab tribes. They asked them for hospitality but they refused to do so. Then the leader of that tribe was stung, and they tried everything but nothing helped him. Then some of them said, Why don’t you go to those people who are staying (nearby)? Maybe some of them have something. So they went to them and said, O people, our leader has been stung and we have tried everything and nothing helped him. Do any of you have something? One of them said, Yes, by Allaah. I will perform ruqyah for him, but by Allaah we asked you for hospitality and you did not give us anything, so we will not perform ruqyah for you unless you give us something in return. So they agreed on a flock of sheep, then he started to blow on him and recite Al-hamdu Lillaahi Rabb il-‘Aalameen. Then he recovered quickly from his complaint and started walking, and there was nothing wrong with him.” (bukhari / muslim)

In the narration above – the man was stung either by a snake or by a scorpion i.e. a venomous animal. Nobody would ever class this as a “spiritual illness”; yet the companion said I will make “ruqyah” for him. Upon reciting surat al fatiha and blowing; the man recovered quickly and there was nothing wrong with him. When the companions came to the Messenger of Allaah and told him what had happened. He said, “How did you know that it is a ruqyah? (bukhari and muslim) – the messenger did not rebuke them and tell them to seek a medical cure for the sting, rather he told them that they had done well by reciting Qur’an over a physical sting/bite.

This is a proof and evidence for any sane muslim that the Qur’an and is not just a healing for magic, jinn possession and evil eye; rather it is a cure for every single ailment.

Muslim narrated from ‘Uthmaan ibn Abi’l-Aas that he complained to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about pain that he had felt in his body from the time he had become Muslim. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to him: “Put your hand on the part of your body where you feel pain and say ‘Bismillaah (in the name of Allaah) three times, then say seven times, ‘A’oodhu bi ‘izzat-illaah wa qudratihi min sharri ma ajid wa uhaadhir  (I seek refuge in the glory and power of Allaah from the evil of what I feel and worry about).”

Al-Tirmidhi (2080) added: He said, I did that, and Allaah took away what I had been suffering, and I kept on enjoining my family and others to do that.” (Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 1696)

Once again, this was a physical pain that the companion was suffering from, but making ruqyah brought about a cure for his ailment. So, “ruqya” is not spritiual healing, rather it is the recitation of the Qur’an and authentic duaas mentioned in the sunnah, calling upon Allah with pure tawheed, seeking a cure for every illness – be it spiritual, mental or physical.

The author then continues: “For financial gain and out of pure ignorance, many spiritual healers exploit vulnerable families by persuading them that their child has a “disease” that can be cured. They cite the well-known hadīth that there is no disease that Allāh has created, except that He has also created its treatment[10]. However, they fail to explain to families that Intellectual Disabilities are not diseases but rather, biological conditions that have no known “cure”[11].”

Herein lies another problem in the methodology of the author. For him, the claim that there is no “known” cure for disabilities within science is enough for him to say that out of ignorance the authentic hadith is cited there is no disease that Allāh has created, except that He has also created its treatment. One wonders, 100 years ago many diseases were thought to be incurable yet today they are cured with ease by the permission of Allah, perhaps if the author was alive at that time he would have limited the use of the Qur’an and said it won’t benefit for those illnesses either? Limiting the effectiveness of the Qur’an to what science thinks is achievable is an extremely dangerous and erroneous methodology. The Qur’an is the uncreated speech of Allah; whether Autism and mental disabilities are diseases or “biological” conditions is completely irrelevant; claiming that the Qur’an cannot cure them is extremely dangerous.

Rather, this Qur’an is such that if it was revealed upon a mountain, the mountain would turn to dust;

Allah says “If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah . And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought. (59:21)

And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss. (17:82)

O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers. (10:57)

Say, “It is, for those who believe, a guidance and cure.” (41:44)

The ayaat above go to show the magnitude of the Qur’an. It is the speech of Allah and speech is one of the attributes of Allah – within His speech, Allah has told us that this Qur’an is a mercy, a healing, and a guidance. The scholars have mentioned that the healing and mercy are not limited to the realms of spirituality and we have shown how the companions understood these ayaat and their practical implementations of them; using them as healing for physical ailments.

Allah has never created a disease but created its cure, it is known by some people and unknown to others, except death. (At-Tabarani) – this authentic narration applies to any illness/disease; not just to what the medics consider a disease in the English language. It may be a disease/illness of the heart such as backbiting, a “spiritual disease” such as magic or a physical ailment. Citing this hadeeth is not ignorance, rather claiming that the Qur’an cannot be used as a cure for any illness is ignorance.

Yes, we must affirm that there are illnesses that a person must live with for his entire life such as physical deformities or mental illnesses (in some cases) but this does not mean that we do not seek a cure. These situations are a test and trial, both for the individual in question and those around him. The Muslim is forever optimistic and has good thoughts of Allah; he does not simply declare that science claims that he cannot be cured. Rather, he takes the means and then places his trust and reliance upon Allah alone. So he understands that the Qur’an is a means to the cure from Allah, the medicine he takes is a means to a cure, honey is a means to a cure from Allah and every other path he takes is a means – he takes it hoping that Allah will cure him from his ailment. And what better means to a cure then the speech of Allah?!

An example from the life of the messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) of such an illness where ruqya was not used is shown in the following narration:

‘Ata bin Abi Rabah said Ibn ‘Abbas once said to me, “Shall I show you a woman of the people of Paradise?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “This black lady came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, ‘I get attacks of epilepsy and my body becomes uncovered; please invoke Allah for me.’ The Prophet said (to her), ‘If you wish, be patient and you will have Paradise; and if you wish, I will invoke Allah to cure you.’ She said, ‘I will remain patient,’ and added, ‘but I become uncovered, so please invoke Allah for me that I may not become uncovered.’ So he invoked Allah for her.” – Bukhari

In the narration above, ruqya was not used for epilepsy, even though conditions mimmicking epilepsy are commonly found in people who are possessed. This is because the illness of the black woman was not related to spiritual problems, rather it was a real condition. She was told that if she was patient she would have jannah – this is a glad tiding for those who are suffering and also their families that they must remain patient and rewards will be great. However, and all praise is due to Allah, this does not contradict the hadith: 

Allah has never created a disease but created its cure, it is known by some people and unknown to others, except death. (At-Tabarani)

Because the messenger would have supplicated for her and she would have been cured – indicating that duaa would still have been a means to shifaa from Allah. So once again, one sees the need for balance; between exclaiming that everything is jinn related and on the other side; claiming certain illnesses have “no cure” – we must be balanced and stick to the narrations.

One may argue that “science” proves there is no cure for such illnesses but once again; the Muslim is the one who submits to the speech of Allah and His messenger and places them above all things, science included. If the Muslims placed “scientific fact” above the revealed sources in every age then the very foundations of Islam would have been lost. It must also be noted that scientific theories are only as good as the first time they are proven to be incorrect, at which point they are abandoned and a new “theory” is created.

If I was to say that a man is completely blind, would anyone argue that science claims that it cannot be cured?

It is reported by Ahmad and others with an authentic chain of narration from Uthmaan ibn Haneef: “That a blind man came to the Prophet and said, “Supplicate to Allah that He should cure me.” So he said, If you wish I will supplicate for you and if you wish I will delay that, for that is better (and in a narration: and if you wish have patience and that is better for you). So he said, “Supplicate to Him.” So he ordered him to make wudoo, and to make wudoo well, and to pray two rak’ahs, and to supplicate with this duaa, O Allah I ask You and turn to You by means of Your Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of mercy, O Muhammad I have turned by means of you (i. e. your duaa) to my Lord in this need of mine, so that it may be fulfilled for me, O Allah accept him as a supplicant on my behalf, and accept my supplication for him (to be accepted for me).” He said, “So the man did it and he was cured.”

Here we have something clinically “incurable” being cured. No doubt, this was due to the immense position of the messenger (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) but nonetheless we have a miracle in our midst also – the Qur’an.

Once again, it is important to note the need for moderation and balance. Claiming every mental disorder is a disease caused by jinn or magic is incorrect and very detrimental but so is the claim that there is no “known” cure for “biological” conditions such as autism and other mental disabilities.

This balance and moderation was the way of the messenger (sws) as summarised by sheikh ibn uthaymeen:

“But as there is no contradiction between using permissible physical medicines as prescribed by doctors and using spiritual medicines such as ruqyah and seeking refuge with Allaah and other du’aa’s that are proven in sound reports, the two may be combined, as the Prophet SAWS (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did. It was proven that he used both kinds of treatment, and he said, “Strive to pursue that which will benefit you and seek refuge with Allaah, and do not feel helpless.” And he said: “Seek treatment, O slaves of Allaah, but do not seek treatment with things which are haraam.” Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, Fataawa Islamiyyah, 4/465, 466

I regularly come across cases within ruqyah where people are told they have “incurable” diseases yet they are cured by the permission of Allah. Indeed, multiple patients of mine are GPs (general practitioners) who themselves are suffering from “incurable biological illnesses”. For brevity’s sake I will mention only one case which is currently ongoing and I invite the author to attend the ruqya sessions and to hear and see the effects for himself. A woman has been affected by magic, this has caused problems with her but also with her children. Her eldest child has sever Autism which means he cannot talk or communicate.  The patient herself is married to a GP who claims his son is suffering from nothing but a mental disability which has no cure. However, whenever the patient comes for ruqya she notices a major improvement in the condition of her son. Why? Because usually when a woman is affected by magic, some or all of her children will also be affected – particularly if she was affected during pregnancy. Therefore, what science terms as “incurable” has actually improved greatly since the start of the ruqyah treatment (I have just spoken to the patient and reconfirmed this). Do we expect science to affirm this? Are we waiting for a scientific approval before we accept this is the case? Once again, I invite the author to attend these sessions and to speak to the patient himself.

The author has made other mistakes in tafseer but the main points have been addressed in this article, and we end with the words of the renowned scholar  Ibn al Qayyim:

“The Qur’an is a complete cure from all diseases related to the heart and body, and all the ailments of this world and the hereafter. But it is not necessarily the case that each and every person is successful in its application. If the one who is ill seeks medication through it in a manner with truth, iman, acceptance, strong belief and having fulfilled all the conditions – then it is impossible for the disease to withstand it.

If the speech of the Lord of the heavens and earth was revealed on a mountain it would cause the mountain to crumble, how then is it possible for the disease to withstand it?

The one who has been granted understanding of the Qur’an realises that the cure for every single illness of the heart and body has been pointed out in the Qur’an. The way to protect oneself from these diseases has also been mentioned.

Whosoever is not cured by the Qur’an then may Allah not cure him. And whosoever does not find the Qur’an sufficient, may Allah make nothing sufficient for him” (Ibn al Qayyim in Al-tibb al-nabawi)

And Allah knows best.

All praise is to Allah, may Allah send His peace and blessings on the final messenger Muhammad, on his family and his companions in totality.