Question and answer details
|What is the concept of first aid and healing and its position in Islam?|
Thank you for your thought-provoking question, bringing to mind many facets of the humane nature of Islam.
Let’s start with Islam’s respect for the human body, leading to some of the basic human rights embedded in the ethical system of Islam:
Concept of the Human Body & Human Rights in Islam
Islam invokes respect for the body as a gift from Allah; a Muslim does not assume absolute “ownership” of his or her body, but only cares for it as a precious gift while he/she lives until it is returned to its Creator upon death. Muslims are required to take good care of their health and that of other Muslims as much as humanly possible. They’re also required to respect nature, the environment, and the physical well being of all living things, including humans of other faiths. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) conveyed to Muslims that they will be asked in front of Allah on Judgment Day about how they used the gift of healthy bodies in life. Contrary to some other faiths, a Muslim is prohibited from terminating his own life, is not allowed to abuse or destroy his body, nor is he required to humiliate it to achieve excellence in worship or closeness to the Creator. The Qur’an says what means:
Islam teaches that every living being has an equal right to life-sustaining elements, and humans get the greatest share of respect as the deputies of Allah on earth. Muslims are instructed to study the functions of their own bodies in order to appreciate Allah’s magnificence and to be able to save precious lives. The Qur’an says what means:
For example, in the Qur’an, Allah speaks about the stages of man’s embryonic development to invoke curiosity for learning among Muslims. The Qur’an says what means:
According to these rules, seeking medical help to “repair” affected or impaired physical functions becomes a priority for a good Muslim to maintain a body healthy enough to fulfill his Islamic duties on earth.
Islam, a Religion of Healing
Islam is a religion of healing for humans on all levels of their being: mind, body, and soul. Seeking medical help is advised in many prophetic traditions asserting that “there is a remedy for every malady and it’s excellent to get treatment.” (Narrated by Muslim.)
In addition to seeking medical assistance from a professional to cure the body on emergencies or chronic cases, Islam offers the sick and the ailing cure for their souls and minds through an array of Qur’anic verses and supplications called ruqyah. A Muslim believes that Allah is the Creator of everything in the universe, including germs, illness, accidents, natural disasters, etc. So, after seeking medical assistance, Muslims are instructed to turn to Allah to seek complete and comprehensive healing for the marvelous miracle that is the human body.
The healing philosophy is taken a step further as Islam looks at the Muslim nation as one healthy human body; if one member is sick, the rest of the body suffers, as Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) teaches in his tradition. Consequently, Muslims worldwide are supposed to offer assistance, first aid, and life sustenance to their Muslim brethren in other lands affected with natural disasters or epidemics—thus the creation of international organizations such as Islamic Relief and the Red Crescent.
Islamic Ethical System Refines Arabs’ First Aid Skills
Before Islam, Arabs lived in a very rough environment. Desert life resulted in an array of accidents and injuries that required all levels of medical skills to treat, whether those injuries were from domestic chores, child rearing, work, travel, hunting, war, or contracted diseases and infections. Cuts, burns, bruises, bone fractures, dehydration, sunstrokes, animal and insect bites, wounds and infections were all common problems for the native Arabs, who had a wide knowledge of the healing properties of animal extracts, medical plants, and various first aid materials suitable for each case.
As Islam spread, a comprehensive ethical system was introduced into all aspects of the daily lives of its followers, capitalizing on existent skills while refining them into a model example for civilized social systems. The Qur’an elaborates on being kind and humane to others, even to prisoners, captives, and enemies during wars. The Qur’an says what means:
Respect was granted to all, even to dead bodies, which were recommended for prompt burial out of protection and respect. Torture, mutilation, dismembering of dead bodies, or any kind of physical humiliation was prohibited. Even hitting the face in fury was prohibited, even between parent and child, to prevent humiliation, which is not suitable for a dignified Muslim.
Even during wars, medical help and first aid was systematically offered to everyone in equal measure, Muslim soldiers as well as prisoners of war. Muslim women volunteered as nurses at war, and Rufaida, the first female doctor in Islam was personally appointed by the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). She was given a spacious tent to serve as a makeshift battleground hospital. As a result, many captives embraced Islam after sampling superior humane treatment from their Muslim captors.
Many may not know that the modern international laws of the UN in use today for treating prisoners of war (POWs) were based on the impeccable conduct of the great Muslim conqueror Salah Ad-Din (Saladin) and his armies, who fought to liberate occupied Muslim lands in the Middle East in the Middle Ages.
Islam also takes into consideration the special conditions of the Muslim sick and wounded when performing acts of worship. They’re given the benefit of special rulings in Islamic fiqh (jurisdiction) to allow for their weakness. Other Muslims are expected to assist them and support them whenever possible. For example, senior citizens and severely ill Muslims can perform their five daily prayers sitting instead of standing, or even lying down in their beds if they can’t get up. Proper food, healthy living conditions, and tender loving care are detailed in many Qur’anic verses and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Muslim ethics and medical knowledge were spread through many other ways besides wars. Travel was required to perform Hajj and to fulfill the duty of da`wah (spreading the word of Allah) to all corners of the earth; thus, all Muslims, both men and women, found it necessary to learn some level of first aid in order to offer life-saving help whenever needed. Men and women excelled in medical practice and could treat each other in emergencies. Even the great Caliph `Umar ibn Al-Khattab on his nightly rounds personally offered first aid to poor people on various occasions—without revealing his identity so as not to intimidate them.
Consequently, Muslims were sought after as skilled first aid and medical experts when they traveled across the world. People came to them for advice and information. Many such stories are recorded in history and travel books in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In a few decades from the dawn of Islam, Muslims built the firm foundations of the science of modern medicine, anatomy, and surgery. The work of the great Muslim scientist Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is still taught at top international universities to this present day.
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