The Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said,
“If there is any good in your medical treatments, it is in hijamah” (al-Bukhari).
So what exactly is hijamah, and what does its practice entail? More importantly, why is it not used more today, particularly if it comes so well endorsed?
The Arabic word, ‘hijamah’, is derived from the root ‘hajm’ – which means ‘sucking’. Known in English as ‘cupping’, it is an ancient medical treatment that allows the removal of inflamed, toxic or stagnant blood. The process involves applying cups over very small incisions on various points of the body and removing the air inside the cups to form a vacuum. This suction then gently draws the harmful blood out from the areas that have been pricked or scratched.
Think of hijamah as an oil change – it detoxifies and rids the body of the old, heavy, dirty blood where it has gathered and is impacting the efficiency and productivity of the body. As the bad blood is removed, your body produces fresh blood to replace it and thus your service is complete!
The body feels fresh, revitalised and at optimum health.
Other reported benefits are that hijamah:
Jabir ibn Abdullah (radi Allah Tala ‘Anhu) reported that the Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was treated with hijamah on his hip for a pain in that area (Abu Dawud). It is also reported that the Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was cupped on his head for a headache on one side of his head whilst he was in ihram (al-Bukhari).
So, hijamah can be performed wherever the body feels pain. Prophetic traditions demonstrate that one can cup the head, the foot, the neck and even under the chin! Ibn al-Qayyim said, “Cupping under the chin is beneficial for pain in the teeth, face and throat, if it is performed in its proper time. It purifies the head and the jaws.”
Abdullah ibn Abbas (radi Allah Tala ‘Anhu) reported that a Jewish woman gave poisoned meat to the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) so he sent her a message saying, “What caused you to do that?” She you of it and if you are not then I would save the people from you!” When the Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) felt pain from it, he performed cupping. (Ahmad).
Whilst hijamah cups are placed on specific areas for specific problems, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam), there are certain points on the body that should be cupped even if the individual is well – as a preventative medicine. The Sunnah suggests that hijamah should be done at the back of the neck and between the two shoulder blades as this brings oxygen into the brain and helps the body to repair itself. These are also the places where toxins accumulate. Moreover, this strengthens the lymphatic system and is also known to be very effective for treating migraines and high blood pressure. According to prophetic traditions, up to 70 ailments are cured from one point at the base of the neck alone!
Abu Hurayrah (radi Allah Tala ‘Anhu) reported that the Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever performs hijamah on the 17th, 19th or 21st day (of the Islamic lunar month) then it is a cure for every disease”. Also, it is reported that the Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “… So cup yourselves with the blessing of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) on Thursday. Keep away from cupping on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to be safe. Perform cupping on Monday and Tuesday for it is the day that Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) saved Ayub (ʿalayhi s-salām) from a trial. He was inflicted with the trial on Wednesday. You will not find leprosy except (by being cupped) on Wednesday or Wednesday night.” (Ibn Majah)
This demonstrates that there are recommended dates, days and times to perform hijamah – especially where they coincide. If one is not able to be cupped on the 17th, 19th or 21st, then any Monday, Tuesday or Thursday of the month is acceptable. On the other hand, it is not recommended for a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Wednesday, except in necessity. If there is an emergency, it is permissible to do it at any time.
Jabir ibn Abdullah (radi Allah Tala ‘Anhu) reported that Umm Salamah, may Allah be pleased with her, asked permission from the Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) to be treated with hijamah. So the Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) ordered Abu Tibah to cup her. Jabir ibn Abdullah (radi Allah Tala ‘Anhu) said, “I think he said that Abu Tibah is her brother through breastfeeding or a young boy who didn’t reach puberty.” (Muslim)
After becoming aware of this practice, I wanted to experience it for myself. Through a quick search online, I found both male and female practitioners based across the UK, including Leeds, Cardiff, London and Leicester – all intent on reviving this lost Sunnah. I visited a remote hijamah clinic in Leicester, at first slightly apprehensive. I was told to fast for 3 hours beforehand. My nerves were soon eased with the expertise, respect and sheer professionalism of the practitioners, so I knew I was in good hands. First, a full case history was taken as part of the initial consultation; this allowed the doctor to get a picture of my current health status. This was followed by a basic physical examination, including blood pressure, temperature and heart rate, to ensure I was able to undergo the therapy.
I lay face down on a masseuse couch, and four small, special cups were placed on my back. For the next 6 minutes, a hand operated pump then created suction in the cups on the skin – this vacuum would ensure that the blood in that area would be pulled to the skin’s surface. The cups were removed and slight scratches were made on the affected area with a fine, surgical blade. The cups were then re-applied to create suction, this time collecting a thick, dark jelly-like substance – impure blood. To think that this was clogging up my system certainly makes me shudder.
Once the blood stopped flowing, the cup and blood were safely disposed of. The treated area was then sterilised. I was left with red bruise marks where the cups had been, but these disappeared within 2-3 days.
In today’s pill-popping society, our reliance on modern medicine as the cure to all one’s illnesses has never been greater, with the celebrity endorsement of medical products becoming big business. There is no doubt that many of these procedures are life-saving, however, sometimes the benefits gained in one part of the body’s system are overturned by terrible side-effects in another. Also, as the recent experience of anti-biotics is showing, the fighting of diseases through powerful chemicals, can result in ‘superbugs. Developing with resistance to these same methods of treatment. On the other hand, the practice and awareness of hijamah as an Islamic practice is gathering pace and has been acknowledged as a valid form of alternative medicine, recognised by the British Cupping Society. Now, there are even educational institutions offering practical courses in the art of hijamah.
Apart from its physical effects, as a sunnah of the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam), hijamah is a blessed cure for the one who has faith in it – especially when one views it as a remedy from the start, and not as a last resort. With that in mind, surely such a non-invasive, and non-chemical therapy endorsed used by the Best of Creation (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam), should be amongst the forefront of our thoughts when illness strikes.
A lifelong learner, avid reader and passionate writer, I am the founder of KNOW and a serial entrepreneur.
I am a huge believer in personal development and am also the co-founder of Muslim CEO.