The Relationship Between Medical Quackery and Shirk (Polytheism)

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful…

The great scholar, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have Mercy on him) was asked once about bracelets worn to alleviate rheumatism. His brief and insightful answer includes a very beneficial principle that can be used to differentiate between real medical treatments and fraudulent medical quackery, as the real difference between the two is that of towheed (Islamic monotheism) and shirk (polytheism). With this in mind, understanding this issue is of the utmost importance.

He (may Allaah have Mercy on him) said:

“Know that a medical treatment is (merely) a means toward recovery, while the One who provides that means and makes it effective is (only) Allaah, the Most High. Thus, there exist no means or methods (of recovery) other than what Allaah, the Most High, has made to be a (genuine) means.

There are two types of genuine means that Allaah, the Most High, has made:

The first type are spiritual means (toward healing), like the Noble Quran (itself) and supplication, as the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) said about Soorah al-Faatihah (the opening Chapter of Quran):

«وما يدريك أنها رقية»
“And how did you know it was a ruqyah (recitation used as a method of healing by the Permission of Allaah)?” [Saheeh al-Bukhaaree]

As well, the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) used to perform ruqyah for the sick, by praying for them. With these supplications, Allaah would heal whomever of them He chose.

The second type (of legitimate means to medical recovery) are physical means, like the usage of the medical treatments known through either textual evidences of Revelation, like honey, or what is proven effective through practical trial and error, like many medicines.

This type must have a proven effect, and it cannot be something based on presumptions and imagination. When proven observably effective, this kind of medical treatment may then be used. It brings about healing and recovery only by the Permission of Allaah, the Most High.

However, sometimes it is merely baseless presumptions and imagination at work, when a sick person only assumes the treatment is effective (in a medically unproven way), and thus he relaxes and imagines that he is recovering, having a positive psychological effect on him (i.e. placebos), perhaps making him feel genuinely happier, and thereafter the illness even goes away. Even in such a case, it is still not permissible to rely upon such treatments, nor is it allowed to consider them (genuine) medicine. This is to keep the people from giving in to baseless presumptions and illusion. Thus, wearing bracelets, strings, and similar things to alleviate illness or prevent it has been forbidden. Whatever is not an established spiritual or medical means of recovery is not allowed to be considered a genuine means of recovery. That is because this actually includes a kind of infringement upon the (exclusive) Dominion and Authority of Allaah, the Most High, and ascribing partners to Him, in how others are considered to share with Allaah, the Most High, in providing the legitimate and effective means (for recovery or maintenance of good health).

Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhaab, may Allaah have Mercy on him, wrote as the title of this topic in Kitaab at-Towheed: “Chapter: A Kind of Shirk (Polytheism) is the Wearing of Bracelets, Strings, and Similar Items to Repel or Alleviate Trials.”

I do not consider the bracelets for treating rheumatism provided by the pharmacist, as mentioned in the question, to be outside of this category (shirk, polytheism), since those bracelets are not legitimate spiritual means, nor have they been tested and proven scientifically effective in the treatment of rheumatism. Therefore, there is no justification for them, and it is not appropriate for the afflicted person to use those bracelets, until he knows (for certain) how they actually treat the disease, and Allaah (alone) provides success.”

Source: His Fatwaa Collection (7/69-70). [PDF]

IMPORTANT POINTS OF BENEFIT:

1) Matters of healing, recovery, and health maintenance must be, like all matters in the life of a Muslim, based on sound, authentic knowledge. Allaah has said:

ولا تقف ما ليس لك به علم
“And do not follow after what you have no knowledge of” [Quran 17:36]

2) Ignorance along with the lack of an investigative and critical approach can land a person into shirk (polytheism).

3) Placebos as medical treatments are not permissible. Placebo treatments are based on deceiving the sick person into thinking he is being given legitimate treatment, while he is not, in order to produce a positive psychological effect. Beyond being an act of deception (which is not permissible for Muslims), it is as well, as described by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen above, “A kind of infringement upon the (exclusive) Dominion and Authority of Allaah, the Most High, and ascribing partners to Him…”

4) Tameemahs (amulets and talismans) are in essence placebos (yet harmful), as those who believe in them may take on a more positive psychological state and become happier, thinking that the treatment is healing them. This is textually forbidden by clear narrations from our Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace), like:

«من علق تميمة فقد أشرك»
“Whoever hangs a tameemah (talisman, amulet) has certainly commited shirk (polytheism).” [Musnad Ahmad, authentic]

5) In many cultures and traditions, the use of “taweez” amulets and armbands are common. These are shirk (polytheism), based on the explicit wording of the aforementioned hadeeth.

6) In modern culture, magnetic and/or copper bracelets (for healing), “power-balance” sports bracelets, energy bracelets, and other marketing gimmicks are common. These things are far more dangerous than most assume them to be, as they are from the generality of what Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have Mercy on him) mentioned in the article above:

Whatever is not an established spiritual or medical means of recovery is not allowed to be considered a genuine means of recovery. That is because this actually includes a kind of infringement upon the (exclusive) Dominion and Authority of Allaah, the Most High, and ascribing partners to Him, in how others are considered to share with Allaah, the Most High, in providing the legitimate and effective means (for recovery or maintenance of good health).

7) Crystals, gems, and stones, kept or worn for healing, protection, or just “positive energy” is just another kind of baseless gimmick. Some of them are claimed to be ancient rocks from meteorites. These are similar to (polytheistic) good luck charms, with a slightly more advanced pitch behind them.

8) In modern times, there has appeared a new gimmick, copper sports wear – braces, sleeves, and other sportswear made with either copper bands or copper-infused material. Companies initially promoted these copper products as items which would “promote faster healing and recovery, prevent or heal arthritis and rheumatism,” and other noteworthy claims. Based only on emotional testimonials and devoid of any empirically proven results, leading companies later paid out millions of dollars after being sued and fined for false advertising. The same kinds of copper sportswear remain in the market today, stripped of the bogus claims of copper-based healing and recovery, yet unofficial personal testimonials continue to cite copper-based healing powers, deceiving unsuspecting buyers.

I asked Shaykh Muhammad ‘Umar Baazmool (may Allaah preserve him) about a company which combines between ordinary medical wear (braces, sleeves, etc.) and copper specifically, which has not proven to be an established means of recovery. He replied:

استعمال ما ذكرت هو من التمائم، ومن تعلق بتميمة لا أتم الله له، وشراء هذه الملابس لقصد النحاس هو من هذا الباب
“The usage of what you have mentioned is from tameemahs (amulets, talismans), and whoever hangs a tameemah, Allaah shall not keep him complete (protected, safe, etc.). Purchasing such (medical) wear, intending (to benefit from) the copper is from this generality.”

It helps to remember that our sworn enemy has vowed to lead us astray from every angle possible! Coming directly at you with a talisman might be too obvious a violation, so he brings one wrapped up in what appears to be medical technology to slip it in!

قال فبما أغويتني لأقعدن لهم صراطك المستقيم ثم لآتينهم من بين أيديهم ومن خلفهم وعن أيمانهم وعن شمائلهم ولا تجد أكثرهم شاكرين
“He (Iblees) said: As you have led me astray, I shall certainly sit along Your Straight Path, plotting against them. Then, I shall come to them from in front of them, from behind them, from their right sides, and from their left sides, and You will not find most of them to be grateful.” [Quran 7:16-17]

9) Today, there are “medical” offices in the West under legitimate names like chiropractic medicine or alternative healing, in which the practitioner asks patients to hold a vial or bottle and then tests their reactions to their arms being extended or pulled down, combined with tapping certain areas of the body to “open up clogged or blocked meridians (energy pathways).” These treatments are promoted through emotional testimonials and personal recommendations, without any verifiable evidence to support them. Often, patients are requested to sign an agreement that includes an acknowledgment that the visit not being considered a medical treatment, to protect their scheme legally. Based on what you have read and understood, these treatments must be avoided as well.

10) It is not a proof that a person is healed, or claims to have recovered, after using an impermissible method of recovery. This does not legitimize the treatment or make it permissible, as Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, in the article above, affirmed that a placebo might indeed have a psychological effect, “Perhaps making him feel genuinely happier, and thereafter the illness even goes away. Even in such a case, it is still not permissible…”

The great Companion, ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him), said:

إن الله لم يجعل شفاءكم فيما حرم عليكم
“Allaah has not made your healing to be found in matters He has forbidden you from.”

The narration was mentioned by al-Imaam al-Bukhaaree in his Saheeh. It was studied, along with Prophetic narrations on the topic, by Shaykh al-Albaanee in Silsilatul-Ahaadeethis-Saheehah (#1633).

And Allaah knows best.

Translation and commentary: Moosaa Richardson

rev.AR

17 thoughts on “The Relationship Between Medical Quackery and Shirk (Polytheism)

  1. Asalāmu ‘Alaykum!

    This question is regarding non muslim friends. If someone wants to cut ties with non muslims who he/she viewed as friends before, can the person just cut ties with them without an explanation? or should an explanation be given? does it matter if they think badly of the muslim after he/she cut ties with them?

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. A Muslim should use their pre-existing friendships from before Islam to invite them to Islam. For example: “You know me as a genuine friend, so please listen to this important advice. We have been created by an All-Wise and Knoweldgeable Creator. He has created us as a test, to see who will be grateful and who will not. We are to seek Him out and worship Him alone…”

      Let this be a common theme in your communication, and they will either investigate Islam and accept it, or they will leave you. Beg Allaah for their guidance and represent your Religion well in your dealings with them. If they accept Islam, that would be better for you (and them) than everything in this world!

      فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَقُلْ حَسْبِيَ اللَّهُ لا إِلهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
      “And if they turn away, then say: Sufficient for me is Allaah, there is no deity worthy of worship other than Him, upon Him I place my trust, and He is the Lord of the Great Throne.”
      [9:129]

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. We remain between fear and hope. With blessings specifically, we hope they are a sign of Allaah being pleased with us, and so we thank Him and use the blessings in ways He is pleased with. We are also fearful that perhaps He is not pleased with us, but rather this is istidraaj, being given things as a further proof against us of ingratitude, and that we are not passing our test. Similar to calamities, we fear they are punishment, yet we hope they are purification and signs of Allaah favoring us, like He favored His Prophets, by putting them through trials to bring out the best in them. No one knows for sure of which type these matters are, so we combine between fear and hope in our worship of Allaah. And Allaah knows best.

      For a person who arrogantly assumes that any blessing is a proof that Allaah wants good for him, we say: How many people are destroyed by their blessings? Why do so many affluent people of worldly prosperity fail to worship Allaah and keep their duty to Him? Are you contemplating the cases of the disbelievers around us who enjoy their abundant provisions in this life? Is Allaah pleased with them?! Indeed, worldly prosperity is a trial for people, worse than trials of poverty and suffering in many cases! We ask Allaah for guidance and safety.

      ِAnd if the “good” that Allaah has guided a person towards is authentic religious knowledge and sincere practice, then for sure this is a good sign for a person, yet does he think that today’s guidance will surely land him in his grave after a life of accepted worship? What guarantee does he have?! Perhaps he will be from those who behave with the deeds of the people of Paradise, only to go astray near the ends of their lives and be sealed off with deeds of the people of Hell! A pious Muslim is grateful and aware of Allaah’s Blessings, yet not arrogant or over-confident. We must combine between fear and hope, and Allaah knows best. May Allaah save us from the evils of our own selves and guide us!

      • Assalaamu Aleykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh dear brother!

        Can you please refute an ignorant american man who converted to islam and had a YOUTUBE channel promoting Islam and then appostated and now runs a same channel… [warning against Islam]

        [Message truncated by admin]

        • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. That trick is an old one and has already been exposed in the Quran (3:71-72)

          يا أَهْلَ الْكِتابِ لِمَ تَلْبِسُونَ الْحَقَّ بِالْباطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ * وَقالَتْ طائِفَةٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتابِ آمِنُوا بِالَّذِي أُنْزِلَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَجْهَ النَّهارِ وَاكْفُرُوا آخِرَهُ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

          Which means: “O people of the Book! Why do you cover up the Truth with falsehood and hide the Truth when you have knowledge? And a group of the people of the Book said: (Pretend to) believe in what was sent down to the believers for part of the day, then disbelieve later in the day, in hopes that they (the believers) would turn back (from Islam).”

          Ancient propaganda techniques repackaged for YouTube, that’s all it is.

  2. Asalamualaikum Brother Moosa. Where does aspirin, ibuprofen or Dayquil to relief pain or common cold symptoms fit into this when you actually do feel relief by the Permission of Allah Ta’ala. Are they a type of placebo effect?

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. To kiss the mus-haf in general, occasionally, without a ritual attached to it is permissible. Some of the Salaf used to kiss the mus-haf. However, to make that part of one’s routine, as mentioned in the question, is adding a religious practice to the Religion, by definition: bid’ah (innovation). And Allaah knows best. Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have Mercy on him) spoke on the issue here, saying its not a problem if it is out of love and honor for the Quran occasionally (without routine): https://www.binbaz.org.sa/fatawa/2065, and he reminds us here that while kissing the mus-haf occasionally may be allowed, the real love and respect for the Quran is found in implementing it, not kissing it: https://www.binbaz.org.sa/noor/2410

  3. Asalaamu alaikum warahmatullahi Wabaraktu, I have a question I am hoping you can answer inshaa’Allah

    Is dropshipping permissible to do to start an online business? Here is a brief description of what dropshipping is:

    You have an online store with a catalog of product pictures imported from a wholesaler’s site. Say, smartwatches. A customer likes and pays for one at $28.95 [shipping inclusive]. You get a sales notification and proceed promptly to the manufacturer’s or wholesaler’s site and make a purchase of the same wristwatch at $9.95 [ including shipping and processing fees- the small fee the supplier charges you for this service], filling in the customer’s shipping information instead of yours.

    The supplier processes and ships the item to the customer with the packaging and invoice bearing your store logo and mailing address. He also provides you with the tracking details that you can forward to the customer. He, the customer, gets his order and is satisfied. You pocket the $19 difference for your effort.

    The wholesaler is aware you are selling their products for a higher price to make a profit and they help you by putting your store name on the package? This helps those that can’t afford to buy inventory to start a business. Please let me know if this is permissible?

    Jezakallah Kheyr

    • It is not clear to me whether you are a representative of the supplier or just an independent merchant. If you are a representative of the supplier, then you can sell their (permissible) inventory on their behalf and make a profit. If you are independent, then this resembles selling what you do not have, which was forbidden by the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace), and Allaah knows best.

      • I think I
        would be an independent merchant because I would have my own website with my own brand. But I would also be partnered with the supplier, because the supplier will work with me by putting my brand on each product and also ship it out to the customer on my behalf. Is this considered independent or a representative of the supplier?

        What if I decide to order inventory from a supplier and they ship it out to the customer for me? It would eliminate the extra step of shipping it to me and the customer will receive their order promptly. Would this count as selling what you don’t have? Also can you refer me to a book in English that outlines the rulings of business transactions?

        JezakAllah kheyr

        • I can’t speak any more specifically on this issue, except to say: If the person works for you, as your employee, partner, or representative, and his inventory is actually yours before you sell those things, then you may sell those things, as you are the owner of them. However, if that supplier is a third party, and his inventory is his property and not yours at the time of your sale, then you may not sell his supplies until after you purchase them from him first. Based on what you have described, this second case seems more like your situation. He does not seem like a business partner, employee, or representative. He seems to be a supplier who provides convenient services for his products once you purchase them from him. And Allaah knows best.

  4. Also plus signs are derived from the greek cross. Are they only allowed to use out of necessity and coercion? Ibn uthaymeen said its ok but he thought it wasnt deliberately a cross but that it just so happened to be. Albani said it wasnt allowed and also jews dont use plus and division signs, they got they own symbols. The sunnah is to destroy crosses. Its one thing if you leave them but how about going out of your way to draw one?

    • Its not the case that any two lines that cross each other are forbidden as a religious symbol, rather the two lines that cross each other in the context of that being a religious symbol (as the well known Christian crucifix) is what is required to be removed when possible. Ghuluw (going overboard religiously) would lead us not only into avoiding the plus sign, but also the letter t, and any other letter, number, or structure where any two lines cross one another. Also, as Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen pointed out: According to such extremes, a man would not even be allowed to extend his arms out, as his body would form a cross shape! Ghuluw takes a man from apparent religiosity into ridiculous insanity! May Allaah save us! And Allaah knows best.

      Here is a warning from this kind of ghuluw from Shaykh Sulaymaan ar-Ruhaylee: http://www.bakkah.net/en/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/SR-warns-against-ghuluw-in-identifying-crucifixes.mp3

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