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Al-Shāfi (The Healer)

Diseases continue to shape the lives of humanity. At this very moment, countless human beings are bedbound by illness while suffering the anguish and despair that accompanies it. The endless waiting at the doctor’s surgery or the walks taken up and down the hospital corridors are draining others. While some have started to lose track of their medications, forget appointments and muddle the numerous different names of clinics that they so frequently attend. If any of the above resonates, then such a person can finally breathe a sigh of relief, having found comfort in one of Allāh’s Majestic Names;Al-Shāfi/ The Healer

1 – The linguistic origins of this Name

The term “Shif” refers to البرء من المرض / recovery from illness. Hence, Allāh al-Shfi is He who knows of all illnesses, of all their causes and cures and also the provider of all of them; the illnesses of the body, mind and soul; illnesses of doubt, illusions, malice, jealousy and sins. There is no healing except by His and no removing of harm except by Him.

Allāh said:

وَإِنْ يَمْسَسْكَ اللَّهُ بِضُرٍّ فَلَا كَاشِفَ لَهُ إِلَّا هُوَ وَإِنْ يُرِدْكَ بِخَيْرٍ فَلَا رَادَّ لِفَضْلِهِ

“And should Allāh touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty.” [1]

Everything besides Allāh is merely a helpless means which, if Allāh permits, proves beneficial, and if He does not, can have no effect whatsoever.

2 – The usage of this name in the Qur’ān and Sunnah

This Majestic Name has not appeared explicitly in the Qur’ān; rather it was employed as a description of what Allāh does, as Prophet Ibrahim (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ

“And if I fall ill He cures me.” [2]

Though, it has appeared explicitly as a name of Allāh in the Sunnah, as identified in the ruqya of the Prophet Mohammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) who would say:

اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ النَّاسِ، مُذْهِبَ البَأسِ، اشْفِ أَنْتَ الشَّافِي، لاَ شَافِيَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ، شِفَاءً لاَ يُغَادِرُ سَقمًا

“O Allāh, Lord of people, remover of the harm, heal, you are al-Shfi (The Healer). There is no healer but you; give him a remedy which leaves no disease behind.”[3]

3 – Why do illnesses occur, and what is the wisdom behind the delay in one’s healing?

Not only is man continuously inundated with news of illness, but illness also forms a realistic part of life; a part that will manifest sooner or later. Thus, the question “why does Allāh allow illness to occur in the first place?” is frequently asked. It is a question that is commonly heard during moments of weakness, and one which, if not addressed, can cause one to wrongfully write off his belief.

The following answers will help make sense of the rawness one feels in such moments. Moreover, one may also find contentment through these words.

Allāh may afflict one with illness to erase the sins committed

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

مَا يُصِيبُ المُسْلِمَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ وَلاَ وَصَبٍ وَلاَ هَمٍّ وَلاَ حُزْنٍ وَلاَ أَذًى وَلاَ غَمٍّ حَتَّى الشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا إِلَّا كَفَّرَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَاهُ

“Never is a believer struck with a discomfort, an illness, anxiety, grief, worries or even the pricking of a thorn except that Allāh erases some of his sins.[4]

As a matter of fact, our predecessors would congratulate one another after recovering from an illness, as stated by Muslim b. Yasār, and they would say to each other,

لِيَهْنِك الطهرُ

“Congratulations on the purification.”[5]

Al-Shāfi’s healing may, therefore, take longer than one hopes. Moreover, it may also take longer to bring about an eventual and superior outcome to the one he initially aspired to.

The illness could be a means of ensuring one qualifies for a grade in paradise which is not attainable by his deeds alone.

Not only do such difficulties lighten the load of sin, but they also actively add to the account of good deeds. In one of the most profound narrations in this regard, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

يود أهل العافية يوم القيامة حين يعطى أهل البلاء الثواب لو أن جلودهم كانت قرضت في الدنيا بالمقاريض

“When those who had lived lives of ease see the reward that Allāh bestows on those who had suffered in the life of this world, they would wish that their skins had been clipped with scissors.[6]

For this reason, some of the predecessors would say,

لولا مصائب الدنيا لوردنا الآخرة مفاليس

“Were it not for calamities, we would meet Allāh penniless.”[7]

The illness could be a punishment.

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

لَمْ تَظْهَرِ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي قَوْمٍ قَطُّ حَتَّى يُعْلِنُوا بِهَا إِلاَّ فَشَا فِيهِمُ الطَّاعُونُ وَالأَوْجَاعُ الَّتِي لَمْ تَكُنْ مَضَتْ فِي أَسْلاَفِهِمُ الَّذِينَ مَضَوْا

“Whenever immorality appears among a people to such an extent that they commit it openly, plagues and diseases that were never known among the predecessors will spread among them”.[8]

Abū Lahab, an uncle and archenemy of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), died seven days after the battle of Badr with a disease termed ‘Adasa (a malignant ulcer). From the fear of transmission, his corpse was left on the ground for a few days until it stank. The corpse was then placed near a wall outside Mecca, before being covered by stones thrown from a distance. This was evidently a punishment from Allāh.

A similar fate was observed in the case of al-Aswad b. ‘Abd Yaghūth – another archenemy of Islām. He would frequently mock the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), and on catching sight of the Muslims, he would say mockingly: “Look! These are the kings of the world who shall inherit the kingdoms of Persia”. Moreover, he would also say to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), again, mockingly: “Have the skies not spoken to you today, O Muhammad?” He would later be afflicted with severe ulcers that grew from his head, causing him to die in an offensive manner.

Illnesses could be due to a man’s irresponsible lifestyle and poor choices

The major threats to global health are due to man’s adverse decisions. Designated “lifestyle diseases”, they are the result of the way a man chooses to live, work and go about his everyday life. Over the last several decades, diets have become increasingly unhealthy, the lifestyles sedentary and the usage of tobacco and alcohol rife. Collectively, these four risk factors have resulted in an ever-increasing prevalence of five lifestyle diseases; obesity, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease and cardiovascular disease.[9]

Psychological factors constitute an entirely different discussion. Given the rapid technological developments, the world has shrunk to such a degree that we are instantaneously aware of events across the globe. Currently, we absorb more news than ever before; news that is predominantly negative, disturbing and sometimes frightening. We directly witness the horrifying experiences of fellow human beings and animals in a regular and unfiltered manner. Nevertheless, we remain helpless in addressing this, which can significantly impact our health and wellbeing.[10]

The pressure is made worse by the constant demand on us from all the product-marketing information we are bombarded by daily. Additionally, we are constantly drawn into a celebrity culture fed by the media. A culture that requires us to dress in the right clothes and to own the latest gadgets. Consequently, we must be wealthy, fit, happy and beautiful. Any movement away from family, community and locality places a considerable burden on the individual to achieve this idealised template of how he or she should be, look and even feel. Once again, such expectations have a notable toll on our health and wellbeing. These are all choices that were made by man.

Man consciously chose to introduce genetically modified foods, processed meats and a polluted environment. Man has made more contributions to pollution of this planet in one day than they did in any decade before the birth of the Industrial Revolution.[11] Man is also the founder of the smoking industry, the high-sugar drinks and the fertilisers and pesticides that make their way into the foods we consume. Furthermore, through consumption of non-whole food supplements, man has led to an exponential increase in the immune system’s workload. He is also responsible for the move to a super-hygiene environment, thereby leading to immune deregulation, and more. Hence, rather than irresponsibly placing all the blame on God, man must acknowledge that he was created with the ability to make decisions and that each decision has consequences.

Illnesses are a potential means of growth

In addition to the above, there may be other reasons as to why Allāh would decree an extension in the duration of a person’s illness; for instance, to convince him that he is weak. Through a show of humbleness, such a Muslim may have articulated his weakness to others. However, the actions of such a person may indicate the opposite. They may exemplify acts of self-admiration, impermissible investments, prohibited relationships and more. All these actions describe a completely different person; one who does not deem himself as weak nor considers himself in life a traveller but a permanent resident.

Moreover, such an individual’s worldly ambitions may blind him to everything surrounding him; permissible or otherwise. Eventually, he may even forget death; despite his entire life serving as a reminder of death. Sleep is the death of wakefulness, and sunset is the death of day. Just as attaining childhood is the death of infancy, adolescence is the death of childhood and old age is the death of youth and vitality. However, such a blinded individual would have become so intoxicated by the worldly objectives that he fails to perceive these signs. Hence, Allāh blesses him with an additional sign; one that he will see and pay attention to; illness. Allāh allows its claws to dig deep into his body and extends its duration until such a person surrenders to the fact that he is weak, he has been off the mark and that Allāh deserves far more attention.

Allāh will inflict most in this world with an illness, to rectify their highly distracted hearts. Thus, when they do snap into realisation and eventually repent, al-Shāfi will remove the illness as it would have fulfilled its purpose. Consequently, illnesses could be a means for a person’s growth.

4 – The effects of this Name on the world

(a) To call upon Allāh using this name

No human being is free from injury. Sooner or later they will be inflicted with an illness; if not a physical illness, then most certainly at least a spiritual one. Each person must pinpoint the source of their pain.

Is it a physical pain keeping you up at night? Is it a psychological one that burdens you with terrible anguish and crippling anxiety? Is it an Islāmic illness of doubt, impermissible cravings, laziness, an inability to be productive or a weakness in experiencing the joy of Ibādah?

So with your weakness in mind, your pain in sight, and your unwavering certainty in al-Shāfi, use this Majestic name of His in du’ā;

“O Shāfi, you see my pains and know of my situation. Heal me.”

During times of illness, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would do just that; he would implore Allāh by saying:

اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ النَّاسِ، مُذْهِبَ البَأسِ، اشْفِ أَنْتَ الشَّافِي، لاَ شَافِيَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ، شِفَاءً لاَ يُغَادِرُ سَقمًا

“O Allāh, Lord of people, remover of the harm, heal for You are The Healer. There is no healer but You; give him a remedy which leaves no disease behind.[12]

Al-Shāfi is He who does not require a prior appointment, nor are the ailing expected to pay a fee or even to wait in a queue. Al-Shāfi is He who does not prioritise the rich over the poor or the native over the foreigner. The only condition is for you to find your heart when calling out “Ya Allāh” and then behold; you have just walked through the doors of the most magnificent hospital in existence. A place of mercy, affection, knowledge, wisdom and power, and one that is home to every antidote and cure for illnesses that are both known and unknown to man.

(b) A heart that is gathered, focused and genuinely reliant on the Sole Provider for a cure.

One should certainly take all means required for a full recovery, but they must also accept that these means are at the mercy of Allāh. All these means are awaiting His command before taking effect. Doctors today may offer prescriptions to illnesses, and surgeons may carry out some of the most complex life-saving surgeries while themselves possessing all sorts of illnesses. Accordingly, all these examples demonstrate that reliance must be focused on Allāhal-Shāfi, alone.

An Italian surgeon, Claudio Vitale, 59, completed a brain tumour operation in Naples despite suffering an angina attack during the procedure. Heroically, Vitale insisted on finishing the surgery, refusing to abandon the operation even though he needed emergency treatment before undergoing his own procedure to clear an artery.[13]

Illnesses may also claim the lives of individuals despite them having access to the latest medication. In contrast, others may recover from the very same illness without the intervention of any professional or medicine whatsoever. Therefore, the source of shifā (healing) derives from elsewhere. So why should man’s heart latch on to anything or anyone but al-ShāfiShifā (healing) is not from a Rāqi, a medical expert, prophet or even an angel. Rather, the angels themselves are witnesses to the healing process.

Angel Jibrīl once visited the Prophet Mohammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) during an illness of his and said:

يَا مُحَمَّدُ، اشْتَكَيْتَ؟ قَالَ: «نَعَمْ» قَالَ: بِسْمِ الله أرْقِيكَ، مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ يُؤْذِيكَ، مِنْ شَرِّ كُلِّ نَفْسٍ أَوْ عَيْنِ حَاسِدٍ، اللهُ يَشْفِيكَ، بِسمِ اللهِ أُرقِيكَ

“‘O Muhammad, you are ill.’ He said: ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘In the Name of Allāh I perform ruqyah for you, from everything that is harming you, from the evil of every soul or the envious eye, may Allāh heal you. In the Name of Allāh, I perform ruqya for you.’”[14]

One should note how this ruqya was performed by the greatest of angels over the greatest of prophets. Nevertheless, this stresses the point that Allāh is the healer. Moreover, it was not just the angels who exerted every effort in redirecting attention from themselves to al-Shāfi, the Prophet Mohammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) also made a habit of doing just that. Time and time again, he would refer his companions to seek shifā from Allāh.

Uthman b. Abi ‘Ãas complained to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) of a pain in his body that he was experiencing since the day he embraced Islm. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said to him:

ضَعْ يَدَكَ عَلَى الَّذِي يَألَم مِنْ جَسَدِكَ وَقُلْ: بسم اللهِ ثَلاثًا، وَقُلْ سَبْعَ مَرَّاتٍ: أعُوذُ بِعِزَّةِ الله وَقُدْرَتِهِ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا أجِدُ وَأُحَاذِرُ

“Place your hand over the area where you feel pain in your body, and say ‘Bismillah’ (in the name of Allāh) three times and seven times ‘I seek refuge with the Might of Allāh and with His Power from the evil that I find and that I fear’.” [15]

He also said:

 مَنْ عَادَ مَرِيضًا لَمْ يَحْضُرْهُ أجَلُهُ، فقالَ عِنْدَهُ سَبْعَ مَرَّاتٍ: أسْأَلُ اللهَ العَظيمَ، رَبَّ العَرْشِ العَظيمِ، أَنْ يَشْفِيَكَ، إِلاَّ عَافَاهُ اللهُ مِنْ ذَلِكَ المَرَضِ

“If anyone visits an ill person whose time (of death) has not come, and says next to him seven times: ‘I ask Allāh, the Mighty, the Lord of the mighty Throne, to cure you’, Allāh will cure him of that disease.”[16]

‘Aisha also narrated that:

أنَّ النَّبيَّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – كَانَ إِذَا اشْتَكى الإنْسَانُ الشَّيْءَ مِنْهُ، أَوْ كَانَتْ بِهِ قَرْحَةٌ أَوْ جُرْحٌ، قَالَ النَّبيُّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – بِأُصْبُعِهِ هكَذا – وَوَضَعَ سُفْيَانُ بْنُ عُيَيْنَة الرَّاوي سَبَّابَتَهُ بِالأَرْضِ ثُمَّ رَفَعَها – وقال: «بِسمِ اللهِ، تُرْبَةُ أرْضِنَا، بِرِيقَةِ بَعْضِنَا، يُشْفَى بِهِ سَقِيمُنَا، بإذْنِ رَبِّنَا»

“Whenever a person complained to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) about an ailment or suffering from a sore or a wound, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would touch the ground with his forefinger and then raise it and would recite: ‘In the Name of Allāh, the dust of our ground, mixed with the saliva of some of us would cure our patient with the permission of our Lord.’[17]

In the three examples above, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) made a conscious effort to redirect people to Allāh. He was cultivating within them hearts that are gathered, focused and truly reliant on the Sole Provider of cure. It is not surprising that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would adopt such strategies since his brothers before him used such methods. Including both prophets and messengers; with Ibrahim (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) being one of them.

Ibrahim is the name of the man whose heart had evicted from it every atom’s worth of shirk, the purity of which was praised by Allāh, saying:

إِذْ جَاءَ رَبَّهُ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

“When he came to His Lord with a sound heart.” [18]

It was this soundness of heart that enabled Ibrahim to understand this equation ever so clearly; by realising that shifā is purely from Allāh. So he said with unrelenting confidence:

وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ

“And when I fall ill He cures me.” [19]

Success is in one’s ability to allow his heart to repeat those very same words and put a full stop at the end of it. To look at the patients in the hospitals and surgeries, and to think to one’s self,

‘Every single one of them is waiting for al-Shfi to permit shif.’

(c) Unparalleled optimism

Currently, more research is emerging, linking mental and physical health, while other researchers are championing the importance of affording the patient considerable significance as a person than to his symptoms. Depressive illness can also precede a physical disease and has been associated with coronary heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis and possibly type 2 diabetes.[20]

Therefore, we not only (1) believe in a Lord who has named Himself al-Shfi but we also (2) possess highly inspiring real-life examples of healing in action. Both aspects are enormous gifts to the despondent and a means of strength for those challenged in their wellbeing. Experiencing sadness and hopelessness would only serve to add to one’s illness.

The manifestations of Allāh’s name al-Shfi displays itself millions of times a day around us and within us. Our focus, however, remains levied at isolated cases of illness that challenge our bodies’ coping mechanisms. At times, the lack of focus emanates from a deficiency in our ‘imn, a deficiency in our lifestyles or both.

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

ما أنزل الله عز وجل داء، إلا أنزل له دواء، علمه من علمه، وجهله من جهله

“There is no disease which Allāh has brought down except that He has brought down for it a cure. Some will know of it, and others will be ignorant of it.[21]

Regardless of the nature of this illness; be it physical, psychological or spiritual, the optimism that comes with knowing that the cure is not only known to Allāh and available to Allāh but prostrates to Him in submission, is a very empowering reality.

Al-Shāfi is He who cures with means, at times with the weakest of means or without any means whatsoever. Consider the examples below:

Prophet Ayyūb’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) experience with al-Shāfi

Prophet Ayyū(sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) suffered for years on end with an illness that cost him his health, livelihood, friends and the majority of his family, as relayed to us by the Prophet Mohammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):

إنَّ أيوب نبي الله لبث به بلاؤه خمسة عشرة سنة، فرفضه القريب والبعيد، إلا رجلين من إخوانه، كانا من أخصِّ إخوانه، قد كانا يغدوان إليه، ويروحان

Ayyūb remained ill for 15 years, causing him to be rejected by the close and distant ones, with the exception of two people who were his closest friends, who would visit him in the mornings and evenings.”[22]

Nevertheless, when al-Shfi permitted his healing, Allāh simply said to Him:

ارْكُضْ بِرِجْلِكَ هَذَا مُغْتَسَلٌ بَارِدٌ وَشَرَابٌ

“Strike the ground with your foot; this is a spring for a cool bath and drink.”[23]

He drank from the water, bathed in it and at once, anguish changed to relief, fatigue changed into vitality and illness changed to health. Allāh chose that the source of healing he had been awaiting for years would be beneath his very feet which he would access via the weakest of kicks. For what is the strike of an ill man?

The experience of a patient with kidney failure with al-Shāfi

A wealthy brother with kidney failure travelled with his family to Egypt in search of a transplant. His children located and agreed to a deal with a young girl who wished to sell her kidney for 100,000 Saudi Riyals.

In the morning of the operation, the patient wished to meet with the donor. Shyly and hesitantly, she walked into the room. He asked her, “Why are you selling your kidney to an old man like me?” She replied, “Due to pressing needs. My family are poor and my siblings attend university. I need to do something to help them.”

Her words fell on him like a tonne of bricks. It was as if he was slapped into wakefulness following the deepest of sleep. He said to himself, “Can it be that people are willing to sell parts of their anatomy to eat?”

At once, he called in his family. He informed them that he had cancelled the operation and that they were all returning to Saudi Arabia. He also told them that he had donated the agreed sum of 100,000 Riyals to the girl. His children resisted fiercely but eventually, after much give and take, surrendered to his wishes.

Upon his return to Saudi, he made his way to the hospital to continue his dialysis treatment. During the routine initial check-up, the doctors, who were lost for words, told him that his kidneys had returned to their normal state of affairs.[24]

Benjamin Hauser’s experience with al-Shāfi

Benjamin Hauser (1895–1984) was an American nutritionist and self-help author, who promoted the ‘natural way of eating’ during the mid-20th century. Hauser was a best-selling author, who was popular on the lecture and social circuits and was a nutritional advisor to many celebrities.

Gayelord Hauser, one of the first “health food” advocates, is considered by many to be the father of the modern nutrition movement. His personal story is compelling. As a boy, he had contracted tuberculosis in his hip, and despite the availability of the best treatments, he was considered terminal. Before the development of antibiotics in the 1930s, such an illness was almost always fatal. He underwent several operations, but all proved fruitless, and his case was declared hopeless. He was subsequently sent home to his native Switzerland to die.

There an old man, seeing the boy eating rolls and coffee, reportedly told him “If you keep on eating such dead foods, you certainly will die. Only living foods can make a living body.” Hauser started eating fresh, whole foods and consulted a naturopath, Dr Benedict Lust. Lust recommended a regimen of warm baths, clay packs and herbal remedies and within a few weeks, Hauser had made a complete recovery. Hauser’s experiences led him to embark upon studies of “food science”. He sought to become an expert and to spread a message about “the power of food.” The message of the believer is, however, about the power of al-Shfi. Praise be to Him.

The miracle of the immune system

Till this day, no scientist fully understands the details of this complex system designed by al-Shfi. Every second of every minute of every day, a battle of good and evil goes on inside the body. The immune system is the good, consisting of armies of cells designed to defend the body from illness and infection. The evil exists in the form of pathogens, viruses, bacteria and mutated cells that are programmed to harm. Al-Shfi has, therefore, created an array of defenders in the ranks of the immune system.

  1. Phagocytes.

These are the scavengers that consume inanimate cell debris, dead cells, large numbers of invading microbes and other waste. They also manufacture different enzymes and antimicrobial agents, while also functioning as communication links between other immune system cells and the brain.

  1. Helper T-Cells.

These are the chief operators of the immune system, identifying enemies and stimulating the production of other warriors of the immune system, rallying them to join battle with the invaders. They call reinforcements from the ranks of macrophages, other T-cells and B-cells and stimulate the production of plasma cells.

  1. Lymphokines.

These are hormone-like proteins employed by the immune cells for communicating with one another.

  1. Killer T-Cells.

The role of these cells is the destruction of cells harbouring viruses and microbes. They fire lethal proteins into these cells, punching holes in their membranes and causing them to rupture. They also eliminate cells that have turned cancerous.

  1. B-Cells.

Under the stimulus of helper T-cells, B-cells increase in numbers and some divide and mature into plasma cells.

  1. Plasma Cells.

These cells produce numerous antibodies that act like guided missiles as they circulate throughout the body.

  1. Antibodies.

When antibodies come across antigens they recognise and can latch onto, they first grab them, slow them down and cause them to clump together. The clumps formed become tempting morsels for the phagocytes to gobble up. Alternatively, they can digest the cells themselves with some help from complement proteins.

  1. Complement Proteins.

Once the antibodies have locked onto the surface of the microorganisms, proteins termed complement flock onto it before injecting liquid into it, causing it to burst and die.

  1. Suppressor T-Cells.

Following containment of an infection and when the immune system has won, the suppressor T-cells rise into action by using chemical signals to halt the entire range of immune responses.

  1. Memory Cells.

Both T-cells and B-cells produce memory cells. The cells circulate in the bloodstream and lymphatic system for years or even for a lifetime. Subsequent invasions of the body by the same kind of organism results in an overwhelming counter-attack by the memory cells on the organism. Accordingly, the memory cells make the body immune to that particular microorganism.

Whether we are aware of it or not, millions of operations and reactions take place in our bodies every second. This action continues even when we are asleep. To appreciate how all of the above communicates to keep us healthy would take pages of intricate dialogues, but suffice to say praise be to al-Shfi.

By keeping the above in mind, one is compelled to ask: what sort of life would we lead had this system failed to fulfil some of its functions? In such a case, there is no need to make a guess. The story of a patient cited in many related sources shows how difficult life would be in case of any defect in the defence system.

This patient, David Vetter from Texas, was placed immediately after his birth in a sterile plastic tent where nothing was allowed to penetrate. The patient was forbidden from touching any other human being. As he grew up, he was placed in a larger plastic tent. Any time he wanted to leave his tent, Vetter had to wear a specially designed outfit similar to that of an astronaut’s.

The reason Vetter could not live a regular life was due to his defence system failing to develop normally by the time he was born. Thus, his body did not possess an army to protect him from the enemies.

The boy’s doctors were well aware of what could happen if he entered normal surroundings. He would immediately catch a cold, causing diseases to develop in his throat. He would suffer from one infection after another, despite being given antibiotics and other medical treatments. Before long, medical treatment would lose its effect, resulting in the death of the boy. At best, he would be able to live only for a few months or a few years out of this safe environment. So the boy’s entire world was forever bounded by the walls of his plastic tent. He was literally living in a bubble.

After some time, the doctors and his family placed the boy in an entirely germfree room which was specially prepared in his house. However, all these efforts were in vain. The boy’s family, doctors, the staff of the hospital where he had resided previously, and pharmaceutical companies did their best to keep him alive. Although absolutely everything was tried, and the boy’s place of residence was continuously disinfected, his death could not be prevented.[25][26]

(d) An attachment to the Qur’ān

Limiting one’s understanding of shif/healing to the physical dimensions of illness is highly problematic. This is particularly true when such a person forgets that the most damaging illness to one’s life and afterlife is being distant from Allāh. Indeed, the symptoms of bodily illnesses affect the body and may lead to death. As for the illness in religion, the real symptoms show up after death.

Al-Halīmi said:

«الله – عز وجل – يشفي الصدور من الشبه والشكوك، ومن الحسد والغلول، والأبدان من الأمراض والآفات لا يقدر على ذلك غيره، ولا يدعى بهذا الاسم سواه»

Allāh heals hearts from doubts, uncertainties, jealousy and malice, and heals bodies from illnesses and defects. None can provide this except Him, and no one is to be addressed with this name (al-Shfi) except Him.”[27]

In recognition of the above, it is then that the topic of the Qur’ān becomes most relevant. Allāh has described His book as a shif/healing, serving, bodies, minds and souls;

وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“And We send down of the Qur’ān that which is healing and mercy for the believers.” [28]

And He said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُمْ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاءٌ لِمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“O mankind, there has come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the chests and guidance and mercy for the believers. [29]

Imām b. Qayyim said:

“The Qur’ān is a cure for the hearts, which involves healing it from the diseases of ignorance, darkness, malice and foolishness. These illnesses are more severe than the body-based illnesses. However, it is when a body becomes used to such illnesses that they no longer feel their pain. The pain, however, will be felt during the soul’s separation from this world. This is when anguish and sorrow will be witnessed.” [30]

So, yes, the Qur’ān’s primary focus is treating the illnesses of hearts and souls, which are the most dangerous of all. That is not to say that it falls short, as established above, concerning body-based illnesses.

Speaking about his experiences in this regard, Imm b. Qayyim said:

كان يعرض لي آلام مزعجة بحيث تكاد تقطع الحركة مني ، وذلك في أثناء الطواف وغيره فأبادر إلى قراءة الفاتحة وأمسح بها على محل الألم فكأنه حصاة تسقط ، جربت ذلك مراراً عديدة ، وكنت آخذ قدحاً من ماء زمزم فأقرأ عليه الفاتحة مراراً فأشربه فأجد به من النفع والقوة ما لم أعهد مثله في الدواء

“I used to experience incredibly severe pains which would paralyse my movement. Once this happened when I was circumambulating around the ka’bah. I immediately rushed to the recitation of al-Fātiha while wiping over the area of pain. At once, the pain would disappear as if it were a fallen pebble. I tried this repeatedly. I also used to take a container of ZamZam water and recite al-Fātiha over it before drinking it. I benefited enormously from it and felt stronger the likes of which no other medicine ever provided”[31]

Indeed, al-Ftiha and the Qur’ān, in general, are a source of effective healing, on condition that its verses emanate from a sincere and doubtless heart. As for the trial and error approach, this is similar to the analogy of a puny archer releasing an arrow from a loose stringed bow. The arrow will always miss the target.

Similarly, the stronger one’s certainty, the stronger the effects of such recitation. The illness will not resist the Qur’ān, for how could it resist the words of Allāh which, if they were revealed to a mountain, would have caused it to crumble? The only issue is that people’s certainty in such matters varies. Additionally, this is perhaps the secret why Allāh said, in commentary over the healing experienced by Prophet Ayyūb:

فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِ مِنْ ضُرٍّ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَهْلَهُ وَمِثْلَهُمْ مَعَهُمْ رَحْمَةً مِنْ عِنْدِنَا وَذِكْرَى لِلْعَابِدِينَ (84)

“So We responded to him and removed what afflicted him of adversity. And We gave him back his family and the like thereof with them as a mercy from Us and a reminder for the worshippers.”[32]

The worshippers are the true beneficiaries, and so make your illness the marker of a new relationship with al-Shāfi. A relationship of du’ā, unbreakable hope and mighty expectations. Start by building within your home a hospital and call it ‘the prayer mat’, make an appointment with prostration, make your voice of requests known to the heavens and hold onto the contact details of One; those of al-Shāfi.



[1] Al-Qur’n, 10:107

[2] Al-Qur’n , 26:80

[3] Bukhari, on the authority of Anas

[4] Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira

[5] Hilyat al-Awliyā

[6] Al-Tirmidhi, on the authority of Jābir

[7] Safwat al-Safwa

[8] Ibn Mājah, on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar

[9] https://www.eurekaselect.com/129971/chapter/lifestyle-diseases-in-the-modern-era%3A-a-major-threat-to-global-health

[10] https://www.bpc.org.uk/news/pressures-modern-living-mental-health-awareness-week

[11] https://hippocratesinst.org/learning-centre/blog/archive/our-immune-system-a-miracle-of-creation/

[12] Bukhari, on the authority of Anas

[13] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7960768.stm

[14] Muslim, on the authority of Abū Sa’īd

[15] Muslim

[16] Abū Dwūd and al-Tirmidhi

[17] Bukhari and Muslim

[18] Al-Qur’n, 37:84

[19] Al-Qur’n, 26:80

[20] https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-relationship-between-mental-and-physical-health/

[21] Ahmad, on the authority of Ibnū Mas’ūd

[22] Mustadrak al-Hkim

[23] Al-Qur’n, 38:42

[24] Lia’nnaka Allāh

[25] https://m.harunyahya.com/tr/books/989/The-Miracle-of-the-Immune-System/chapter/3764/The-Defence-System

[26] https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/bubble-boy-40-years-later-look-back-at-heartbreaking-case/

[27] Al-Bayhaq’s ‘al-Asmā wa al-Sifāt’

[28] Al-Qur’n, 17:82

[29] Al-Qur’n, 10:57

[30] MadrijusSlikīn

[31] Madrij al-Slikīn

[32] Al-Qur’n, 21:84

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