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