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Spiritual Dimensions in Healing in Islamic Medicine

 by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA



The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), is the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) principal component for research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). NCCAM and the NIH Clinical Center are developing an integrative medicine which is a combination of mainstream medical therapies (Modern Medicine) and CAM therapies for which there is high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness. NCCAM encourages Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Aromatherapy, Herbal Medicine, Unani Medicine, Acupuncture, therapeutic touch, chiropractic, prayers and other religious practices, and other “alternative” therapies. 

Recently there has been a tremendous surge in interest and publications in the field of spiritual medicine in the United States. An abundance of articles, books, and conferences in recent years have addressed the impact of spirituality on patient, physician, and health care. Modern studies indicate that Spiritual healing can help with any problem, mental, physical or emotional. 

Due to the advancement of medical technology, modern medicine plays a dominant role in the treatment for acute medical conditions. However, certain forms of alternative medicines do work for certain medical conditions, when compared to the modern or conventional medicines. Many physicians and patients all over the world believe in the spiritual dimension in healing, such as the power of prayer as an adjunct or complementary Medicine to modern or conventional medicine.

Modern medicine and models of care are looking into, not only the fundamental spiritual dimension of care, but also the significance of spiritual development of the individual towards healing. The focus of this paper is to provide an awareness of Islamic health practices, health behaviours, code of ethics and the framework of Islamic perspectives of caring and spirituality. A brief overview of the Muslim world, the historical development in caring and health and the pillars of the Islamic faith provide the context of the paper. The development of a model of care based on the Islamic perspective is suggested. 

To understand the Spiritual Dimensions in Healing in Islamic Medicine, we need to understand the articles of faith in Islam. These are: (1) Tawhid or belief in the Oneness of Allah (SWT) (2) Salat or contactual prayer (3) Siyam or Fasting during the month of Ramadan (4) Zakah or charity (5) Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca.  

Recent scientific research indicates that affirming belief in God or Allah (SWT) makes a critical contribution to our physical health. When people call upon faith, they activate neurologic pathways for self-healing. The Muslim prayer consists of contact prayer (salat), Zikr (Dhikr) or remembrance of Allah and recitation of the Qur'an. These elicit the physiologic relaxation response. Hajj and congregational Prayers serve to buffer the adverse effects of stress and anger, perhaps via psychoneuroimmunologic pathways. It is speculated that congregational prayers may trigger a multifactorial sequence of biological processes leading to better health. Studies have shown higher degrees of social connection (through family and friends or congregational prayers in the Masjid) consistently relate to decreased mortality. Zakah is altruism and in sharing the wealth, apart from the socio-economic benefits, the Muslims also garner better health. Doing good to others is also Zakah and those who volunteer their work find marked improvement in their health. Several studies have already documented the health benefits of fasting during the month of Ramadan.  

This paper addresses the role of Spiritual Dimensions in healing the Muslim patients and examines the integration of Traditional (Complementary/Alternative) Medicine and Modern (Conventional) Medicine.



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