Why the world needs the Islamic model of Healthcare.
By Safiyyah Sabreen Syeed

How the mercy of Islam challenges the corporate medical industry.

Published in: Health
Date: 02 / 12 / 20

59-year-old Richard James Verone, in 2011 was jailed in North Carolina state of the US on charges of larceny after allegedly robbing a bank for $1. Who robs a 'bank' for $1 you may think. Read on. As he entered the bank Verone handed a female teller a note demanding $1 claiming that he had a gun. He then sat down and waited for police to arrive, saying, "I'll be sitting right over here, on the chair, waiting for the police."

 And wait for the police, he did.

 "He's sitting on the sofa as you walk in the front door," the bank teller said in a 911 call. Police arrested Verone where he sat. He was unarmed.

 On further enquiry, it was found that his motive was to avail healthcare in prison. With a growth in his chest, two ruptured disks and no job, Verone hoped a three-year stint in prison would afford him the health care he needed. "I'm sort of a logical person and that was my logic, what I came up with," Verone told reporters. "If it is called manipulation, then out of necessity because I need medical care, then I guess I am manipulating the courts to get medical care." [1]

 Neither did his story have a happy ending nor did it shake the conscience of the people in power or policy makers. Unfortunately.

 This whole incident is indicative of the ruthless healthcare (if it can be called so) system that exists in the so called 'developed' Western nations. The US is one of the most powerful and wealthy nations in the world, yet it does not provide free healthcare to its citizens. The economic system functions in a way that only people who have jobs can avail health insurance and other tax benefits. This could be categorized as modern slavery where all what a nine hour job can provide is enough money to pay ones monthly amount towards a home loan, a car loan and insurance. Losing a job would be the greatest catastrophe in such a ruthless system. This is a  system that hands over the health and wealth of its citizens to a capitalist nexus of corporate Medical industry and Insurance companies. There are people who live in luxurious mansions having their bank accounts filled with so much wealth that could eradicate poverty in entire nations, while they feed on the illnesses and tragedies of millions of middle class people.

The mercy of Islam- State sponsored free healthcare for all.

 The Islamic Medical system that existed from the 9th till the 18th century throughout the Muslim world was the polar opposite of the Western model of Healthcare, which is a blood sucking, money making corporate enterprise. The Islamic healthcare system was primarily influenced by Islamic injunctions and Quranic ethics, especially the various sayings of the Blessed Prophet (ﷺ) regarding the virtue of caring for the patient. The Muslim philosopher Dr Osman Bakar writes,

"Islamic teachings concerning illness in all its dimensions, especially the spiritual, psychological, medical and the social have enabled traditional Muslim society to produce a healthy human ecology or sociocultural environment in which the sick and the suffering were relieved of much of the kind of psychological and economic burden which many of their modern counterparts have to painfully bear, particularly those in industrialized western societies." [2]

While we unfortunately witness some of the most despicable forms of antagonism against the Prophet (ﷺ) today, we need to know that the Islamic Medical revolution and specifically the concept of the Hospital complex as an indispensable public institution is a direct product of the mercy of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)- who is called the Mercy to the worlds (Rahmatul lil Aalameen) in the Quran. He (ﷺ) made the care for the patient mandatory for believers. 

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Every Muslim has five rights over another Muslim: to return greetings, to visit the sick, to accompany funeral processions, to accept an invitation, to respond to the sneezer [i.e., to say: (may Allah bestow His Mercy on you),' when the sneezer praises Allah." (Riyad as Sawliheen,895)

He emphasized that the alleviation of harm was the primary responsibility of the Muslim and the goal of the Shariah (Islamic Law): 

He said, “If anyone relieves a Muslim believer from one of the hardships of this worldly life, Allah will relieve him of one of the hardships of the Day of Resurrection. If anyone makes it easy for the one who is indebted to him (while finding it difficult to repay), Allah will make it easy for him in this worldly life and in the Hereafter. Allah helps His slave as long as he helps his brother.” (Muslim 2699)

Then he instilled the Muslim community with the fierce and positive attitude towards finding cures for diseases: 

 "There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment." (Bukhari 5678)

Muslim Physicians like ibn Sina, Abdul Latif Baghdadi, Ibn Hayyan, Ibn Nafis, armed with the prophetic exhortation that 'wisdom is the lost property of the believer. He takes it where ever he finds it' (Tirmidhi 2687), found religious sanction in studying Greek physicians like Galen and Hippocrates. After introducing Greek theories in the Muslim world, they built on them, incorporated Islamic ethics, experimental approach (so characteristic of Islamic Science) and original research, thus finally creating a medical system that was a projection of Islam in the medical field.

Not many people know that the modern hospital complex is an invention of the Islamic civilization. [3] What is remarkable is that it was under the instruction of the Prophet himself that the first mobile hospital was set up in Khandaq. Eventually this evolved into the great hospital complexes in Muslim metropolitan cities. These were called Bimaristans. These Islamic hospitals then inspired the construction of similar institutions in Europe.

As the famous historian of Science, George Sarton says,"We have reason to believe that when, during the crusades, Europe at last began to establish hospitals, they were inspired by the Arabs of near East....The first hospital in Paris, Les Quinze-vingt, was founded by Louis IX after his return from the crusade 1254-1260." [4]

Dr Osman Bakar elaborates,

"Islamic Medicine must be ranked amongst the most developed and the most effective medical systems the world has ever known. During the long period of its history, it initiated new medical practices and gave birth to new medical and health institutions which made possible a more systematic organization and development of preventive medicine, medical education, medical ethics, drug production, registration and distribution than ever seen before. These new practices and institutions remain to this day a part and parcel of the very organization of the modern medical system." [5]

 

Reading historical accounts 

Read the policy statement of the Bimaristan of al-Mansur Qalawun in Cairo, c. 1284 ce

 

“The hospital shall keep all patients, men and women, until they are completely recovered. All costs are to be borne by the hospital whether the people come from afar or near, whether they are residents or foreigners, strong or weak, low or high, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, blind or signed, physically or mentally ill, learned or illiterate. There are no conditions of consideration and payment; none is objected to or even indirectly hinted at for non-payment. The entire service is through the magnificence of God, the Generous One.” [6]

Read the translation of a young Frenchman’s letter from a Cordóba hospital in the 10th century:

 "You have mentioned in your previous letter that you would send me some money to make use of it in my medicines costs. I say, I don’t need it at all as treatment in this Islamic hospital is for free. Also there is something else concerning this hospital. This hospital gives a new suit and five dinars to every patient who has already got well lest he should find himself obliged to work in the period of rest and recuperation...

Dear father, every place in this hospital is extremely clean; beds and pillows are covered with fine Damascus white cloth. As to bedcovers, they are made of gentle soft plush. All the rooms in this hospital are supplied with clean water. This water is carried to the rooms through pipes that are connected to a wide water fountain; not only that, but also every room is equipped with a heating stove. As to food, chicken and vegetables are always served to the extent that some patients do not want to leave the hospital because of their love and desire of this tasty food." [7]

How could they afford such philanthropy?

For us living in the capitalist world it's quite puzzling how such a thing is possible? Hospitals require a big budget for their construction, maintenance and staff salaries. The above mentioned Qalawun Complex of Al Mansur’s Bimaristan in Cairo (in image) had a maximum capacity of around 8000, and the annual endowment alone was said to be one-million Dirhams. The design was intended to accommodate various pathologies, for both men and women; as well as a pharmacy, a library, and lecture halls. The lecture halls were used for regular meetings on the status of the hospital, lecturing residents, and staff as well.

Historically, the Islamic Civilization considered the establishment of welfare states as an integral part of their administrative policies. The first welfare state was established by the Prophet Muhammad (saw) in Medina.

The core principles of such a state is that the prosperity of the citizens is the primary goal of the state, hence important facilities like food, water, shelter, healthcare, education and defense must be provided by the state itself, putting state funds to use. The state collected taxes, but contrary to our current unjust system, taxes were to be paid on one's savings, not on one's hard earned income.

 In Islam we have savings tax which is Zakat, applicable to people who have wealth exceeding a particular limit (Nisab). In an Islamic State (not to be compared with the American funded rogue terrorist organization with the same name), this Zakat is collected officially from the rich, while the poor are exempt. Compare this with how taxes work in our day and age, where the middle class constitutes the majority of taxpayers and the big corporations can bail themselves out by loopholes in the law. 

The fact remains that after a deeper study and with an unbiased mind, one will necessarily be led to conclude that the Islamic political system, the Islamic economic system, social organizations, education system and in our present discussion, the Islamic healthcare system are way superior and just than modern institutions. 

Islam can solve the world's problems.

Now keep in mind the compassionate model of  Islamic healthcare and consider the current predicament of the pandemic. Can you believe that there are genuine concerns regarding Covid 19 being a bio weapon or having the potential of being used as one by nations. [8] And such concerns are not unfounded as the most violent nations (US, UK, France and Israel) today have bioweapon labs throughout the world and no ethics that could deter them. If it is true, imagine our plight and how the world has stooped so low that there are people who misuse medical knowledge and plan to kill millions for their worldly interests. The point isn't whether Covid 19 is a bioweapon or not. The point that I'm trying to make is that why do we have bioweapons at all? The Islamic 'Shariah' that is the chief target of Islamophobic rants, categorically bans biological warfare, since civilian populations are the chief targets in a biological war and it is 'haram' in Islam to harm civilians. The world needs the compassion of Islam!

 Malcolm X, the American human rights revolutionary, was one of the many people who recognized that the world needs Islamic ethics when he said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white, but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all together, irrespective of their color.”

 

The world definitely needs to learn from the ethics and principles of Islam. But the global powers fear the end of their hegemony in the face of  the egalitarianism of Islam, hence, the persistent Islamophobic rhetoric dominates all across the board. Undoubtedly, Islam with its core principles presents the strongest legitimate  challenge to the current oppressive world order. We need to revive the beautiful legacy of the Islamic healthcare system for the world to see the true face of Islam. 

 

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References

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va_-XLo1ECo

[2]  The Philosophy of Islamic Medicine and its Relevance to the modern world, MAAS Journal of Islamic Science, pp 39-58

[3] Tschanz David, Saudi Aramco World (Volume 68, Number 2, March/April 2017, pp. 22-27). 

[4] George Sarton, "Introduction to the History of Science, Vol. I-IV,"

[5] The Philosophy of Islamic Medicine and its Relevance to the modern world, MAAS Journal of Islamic Science, pp 39-58

[6] Tschanz David, Saudi Aramco World (Volume 68, Number 2, March/April 2017, pp. 22-27). 

[7] Ameer Gafar Al-Arshdy, The Islamic Scientific Supremacy, 1990, Beirut, Al-Resala Establishment.

[8] https://www.forbes.com/sites/coronavirusfrontlines/2020/08/21/a-defense-expert-explores-whether-the-covid-19-coronavirus-makes-a-good-bioweapon/?sh=7ca5a327ece4

 

Safiyyah Sabreen Syeed

About the author

Safiyyah Sabreen studied Mechanical Engineering and is currently pursuing her Master's in Philosophy. She is the Content Director for KNOW. Being interested in the field of Islam and Science and Islamic Eschatology, she produced a documentary on the Golden Age of Islam and directs the Second Golden Age series.

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