Cleanliness and Health of the Body and Soul

Review of Religions: September 2001 19 Islam literally means ‘Peace’ and it is the achievement of peace that represents the ultimate goal for all followers of Islam or Muslims. Islam is the only religion that provides a complete and clear guidance on how to achieve peace and harmony in our lives and this is laid down in the unchanged Arabic text of the Holy Qur’an. Amazingly, over the past 1400 years, scientific discoveries have actually made the Holy Qur’an easier to understand rather than providing contradictions. The Christian churches in the Renaissance period struggled with the concept that the earth was so small and such an insignificant part of the entire universe – while Islam and the Holy Qur’an had made this clear 1000 years before. There is no case in Islamic history where science has not enhanced the teachings in the Holy Qur’an. We should really all be able to look at our own professions and seek guidance from Islam for achieving peace and harmony within our daily routine. In my profession as a doctor I have studied how all the tissues and organs of the body work in a perfectly controlled harmony to achieve an inner sense of well-being. This hype of inner peace or health again comes under the basic goal of Islam, that is the achievement of peace…not social, economic and political in this case, but physical peace. As a doctor, I have also unfortunately witnessed much pain, suffering and death on a regular basis. Suffering is a necessary part of life on Earth. Without its presence there would be no motive force pushing man towards spiritual and scientific improvements which also lead man closer to God. However, so much of the suffering I see in the hospital seems so self-inflicted and the question arises, ‘Is there any guidance in the Holy Qur’an which would improve our health or physical peace in the light of modern scientific understanding?’ I propose to elaborate on the philosophy Islam – Cleanliness and Health of the Body and Soul By Dr. A.S.K Ghauri – UK The following is from a speech given by Dr. Saboor Ghauri on the occasion of a Hartlepool Jama’at monthly meeting on 8th July 2001. Islam – Cleanliness and Health of the Body and Soul Review of Religions: September 200120 of a few Islamic teachings regarding health matters with special reference to the eating of pork, the drinking of alcohol, dietary habits and cleanliness. Modern science, ultimately, always justifies Islamic direction or restriction, either immediately or with the passage of time to allow man to achieve greater scientific development and under- standing, even when the principle seems initially to be merely restrictive and without basis. The Holy Qur’an says: Forbidden to you is the flesh of an animal which dies of itself, the blood and the flesh of swine, and that on which is invoked the name of one other than Allah …whoso is f o rced by hunger, without being wilfully inclined to sin, then, surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Ch.5: v.4) Interestingly, the Bible says: And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth the cud – it is unclean to you; Ye shall not eat of their flesh or not touch the dead carcass. (Leviticus 11:7) Islamic philosophy proposes that eating food has two effects. The first affect is on the body, and the second affect is on the soul. Therefore, if you eat a foul animal there will be foul affects on the body and the soul. Affects on the body from eating pork include the passage of viruses such as ‘swine influenza virus’ which may cause a ‘flu-like’ illness, the passage of parasites, such as the adult tapeworm, which can lodge in the gastrointestinal tract of the human and cause malnutrition and blood loss. Pork also has an extremely high proportion of fat content – we know that the high intake of fat predisposes to high blood pressure and the gradual blocking of arteries with fatty material leading to heart attacks and strokes. Effects of pork on the soul, according to Islamic philosophy, would affect moral qualities such as chastity, modesty, humility, honesty and integrity. Many people believe ‘what you eat is what you are’ and justify themselves by highlighting the different personality traits exhibited by meat eaters and vegetarians. Meat eaters are often described as being aggressive and competitive, while vegetarians are gentler and weaker. Many psychiatric symptoms such as apathy, depression, irritability and moodiness have been linked with dietary vitamin deficiencies and excesses. Essentially, what we are beginning to understand is what Islam has taught us from the outset what we eat has a greater affect on us than merely providing mechanical building Review of Religions: September 2001 Islam – Cleanliness and Health of the Body and Soul 21 blocks for the growth of our physical body – our spiritual body/soul and personality are affected. As Islam is a complete religion – no absolute ban has been declared. The Holy Qur’an says: But whoso is forced by hunger…. God is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Ch.5:v.4) This means that occasional benefit may be derived above and beyond the need to prevent death and starvation. One example is the use of pork insulin to treat diabetics … and this has been the mainstay of treatment for the past 20 years, but is now gradually being replaced by human insulin. The pig heart valve is still commonly transplanted to human hearts where the heart valves have weakened and narrowed. So we see that Islam is not as rigid or fixed as people may think about these matters. The Holy Qur’an also mentions ‘that which dies of itself’ (Ch.5:v.4) should not be eaten. This essentially means that we should not eat animals that have died of disease or natural causes. Recently, in this country we have seen the crushed carcasses, including the spinal cords, of animals being fed on a wide scale to cows causing some to become mad or develop BSE (also known as mad cow disease) – unfortunately this has a risk of being passed on to humans often with severe or fatal consequences … and all because dead and diseased animals were crushed and included in the feed or offal of other animals. Continuing with a dietary theme; the Holy Prophet(sa) said; ‘when a person eats sparingly he fills his inside with light.’Also he described many physical benefits of fasting. We all now fully understand, in this day and age, that overeating is unhealthy…. it is so clearly unhealthy that I will not waste your time in listing the diseases related to overeating, ranging from diseases of the arteries to psychological and emotional disorders related to weight. Briefly, I will turn to cleanliness and the prevention of disease. Islam requires us to perform formal ablutions including our hands, head and feet before prayers, five times a day with running water. There is good evidence that this prevents a wide range of diseases including gum disease, skin infections and foot problems. In the past year, many hospitals have been criticised for not providing simple hand washing facilities which is thought may reduce the chance of hospital infections by more than 60%. In these great, big high- tech. modern hospitals we seem to be simply re-inventing the wheel and finding that washing with water reduces the spread of disease! Islam – Cleanliness and Health of the Body and Soul Review of Religions: September 200122 I would like to mention psychiatric illnesses. In Islam the role of family values and careful upbringing of children is emphasised. The Holy Prophet(sa) said: ‘No father can bestow on his child a gift more precious than a good upbringing.’ It is recognised nowadays that many mental health problems and bizarre personality traits extend back from a difficult, abused or neglected childhood. Their deficiencies in upbringing implant in the recesses of the child’s mind and feed the basis of abnormal behaviours in adulthood. This forms the basis of modern psychotherapy – for all its worth. With regard to alcohol, the Holy Qur’an says: They ask thee concerning wine and the games of chance. ‘Say, in both these there is great sin and also some advantages for men; but their sin and harm is greater than their advantage’. (Ch.2:v.220) One in five males admitted to medical wards in hospitals in England have an alcohol related disease. Fifty percent of head injuries seen in ‘Accident and E m e rg e n c y ’ are alcohol related. Alcohol manages to cause physical problems, social problems and psychological problems. I have seen patients with severe shakes, hallucinations, sweats and fits because of alcohol withdrawal – I have seen other patients with severe depression and yet others undergoing family counselling to keep their marriages t o g e t h e r, often because of alcohol related physical abuse by their partner…. And these are just psychological aspects of alcohol disease. Turning to physical problems, I have seen many patients admitted to surgical wards with major gastrointestinal bleeding – vomiting blood from the mouth and passing blood in their motions – disease purely related to alcohol damage. The brain, liver and pancreas are other commonly damaged organs. Islam recognises and allows that alcohol may have some benefits – and we see many homeopathic and allopathic medicines use dilute alcohol as a solvent, but on the whole its use is discouraged. Islam promotes social peace – but in alcohol, people find a small and temporary escape from reality and escape from social responsibility. If one cannot talk or eat without the assistance of alcohol, then society will soon break down. Crime figures will rise – even now most crimes are alcohol related. A famous Chinese proverb aptly quoted: ‘first the man takes the drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man’. Review of Religions: September 2001 Islam – Cleanliness and Health of the Body and Soul 23 The Holy Prophet(sa) said, ‘there is no disease for which God has not created a cure’. In this day and age we all appreciate that many drugs and medicines originate from herbs and plants…for instance, the widely used antibiotic penicillin comes from a mould-like fungus called Penicillium that grows on decaying fruit and bread; and the heart stimulating drug digoxin originates from the extract of dried leaves of the foxglove plant. In attaining physical peace and health, Islam has provided a great deal of assistance, some of which we have become aware of, some of which we are becoming aware of, and some of which we will become aware of. I hope I have provided some reasons for Islamic restrictions within the knowledge we have so far with regard to health matters – but I would like to finish by emphasising what the Promised Messiah, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) used to repeat – that man is limited in all things, including knowledge and cannot satisfy all his needs using the material means provided – he needs to supplement his efforts with prayer. I will relate one incident involving the Promised Messiah(sa) : In 1907, a young boy called Abdul Karim was sent to Qadian from his home in Hyderabad, about 1000 miles away, to pursue his religious studies. In Qadian, a mad dog suffering from rabies bit him and he was immediately rushed to the Pasteur Institute at Kasauli for treatment. He returned after a few days but began to show the unmistakable signs of rabies – that is fever, itching, spasms and frothing at the mouth with an intense fear of water. The Pasteur Institute was contacted again but the director returned a telegram saying: ‘Regret – nothing can be done for Abdul Karim’. Even nowadays, rabies is considered fatal once the symptoms have actually begun. When the Promised Messiah(as) was informed that nothing more could be done, he was deeply moved and prayed earnestly to God to cure the young man. After 24 hours, A b d u l Karim began to show signs of improvement and in a short time he recovered to full health. The telegram from the Pasteur Institute remains in the Jama’at archives as a reminder that the power of prayer should never be overlooked if we ever misguidedly begin to believe we have knowledge and control over all illness and death.