Everybody on His Own

By Khalid Baig
Disturbing trends in Western societies today, as also Islam’s own prescription for social security, quite clearly state that men are responsible for the affairs outside the home and the women are responsible for taking care of the home. This division is not a relic of some dark past. It is the only basis on which a healthy society has ever been built and can be built today, writes KHALID BAIG.
My own feeling is that we’ve pushed women too far,” says Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, the 80-year-old Harvard University doctor who is frequently called ‘America’s Pediatrician,’ in a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times.

“We’ve split them in two, and we have not given them back anything to support themselves on either end.” He has witnessed what forcing the women into the workforce and the breakdown of the family have done to the American children.

“I just think our country is in deep, deep trouble,” he agonizes.

Opinion leaders of all persuasions agree. Ask America’s [former] First Lady, Hillary Clinton, who considers herself a champion of women’s and children’s causes. In her 1996 book, It Takes a Village, she offers this assessment:

“… children’s potential lost to spirit-crushing poverty, children’s health lost to unaffordable care, children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody fights, children’s futures lost in an overburdened foster-care system, children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself as we fail our children.”

This is a society in which, by her account:

“…homicide and suicide kill almost seven thousand children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves; and 135,000 children bring guns to school each day. Children in every social stratum suffer from abuse, neglect, and preventable emotional problems.”

She also approvingly quotes:

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

It is obvious that America as a nation, has bungled this thoroughly.

Welcome to the dark side of ‘Women’s Emancipation.’ Today women are free in America. Free from the protection of a home and the support of a husband who would be responsible to provide for them. They are on their own. In turn, the children have been freed from the rigidities of the traditional home, where father and mother provide for them, take care of them, and guide them.

The children are also on their own. Just in case they do not like it, the society has been experimenting with all kinds of poultry farms – day care, they call them – to take care of them. Things have gone so wrong for so long that everyone has lost all hope that the society can rectify it completely and retrace its steps. Hillary Clinton admits:

“My personal wish, that every child have an intact, dependable family, will likely remain a wish.”

So, she is just trying to build a better poultry farm with the help of the whole village. Dr. Brazelton knows that the children need the mother at home:

“I think you are giving a gift to the child when you stay home with him as long as you can.”

However, he knows that it cannot be very long, as, to stay home, “being just a mother,” is not good enough anymore. He knows the psychological crisis faced by the stay-at-home mothers, so he pleads with everyone to do as much as they can.

Now contrast this with the U.N. edict that the women in the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world, must take up all kinds of jobs outside the home; that the goal should be their total economic independence. In other words, women must be forced outside the home so they are no longer available to take care of the children within the home. They must be “liberated” from the home, so they can enjoy the same fruits of ‘emancipation’ as the women are ‘enjoying’ in the U.S.

The destruction of the family in America, or the West in general, was not planned. It just happened as a logical result of the materialistic, hedonistic, Godless civilizational values that have gripped these societies. But the U.N. decree that the rest of the world must follow the same disastrous path, is something else. It is as if a person lost an eye to horseplay, and now wants everyone else to voluntarily have an eye removed!

It is unconscionable that we should be answering such chicanery with apologetics of the kind that normally begin with, “Islam also allows women to,” as in, “Islam also allows women to work outside the home.” Yes, it does in case of necessity, but that is beside the point. The real issue is that Islam frees a wife from the burden to provide for the family. It is solely the husband’s responsibility. In return, wife’s main responsibility is to stay home and take care of the children.

The primary field of women’s endeavor is the home, sweet home. And this has to be stated without hesitation or apology. The Qur’an says: “And stay quietly in your homes.” [Al-Ahzab, 33:33]. And the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

“The wife is responsible for taking care of the home of her husband, and she will be accountable for those given in her charge.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

This is also the most rewarding job that anyone can think of. The Prophet, peace be upon him, assured the woman who stays home to take care of the children, that she would be with him in paradise. According to another hadith, during pregnancy and the entire period of nursing, the believing mother is like the soldier on active duty. If she dies, she gets the reward reserved for a martyr. Yet another hadith says to the women:

“Take care of the home. That is your Jihad.”

All of these clearly establish the basic division of labor between men and women according to Islam: men are responsible for the affairs outside the home and the women are responsible for taking care of the home. This division is not a relic of some dark past. It is the only basis on which a healthy society has ever been built and can be built today.

The nations that have tried to alter this natural arrangement long enough have nothing but grief and trouble to show for their efforts. And they seem to be groping in the dark, unable to undo the damage and get out of the quagmire.

Is there any sane reason that those who have the Light should follow them on the dark highway to disaster?

Medicine and Muslims: The Road Ahead

By Khalid Baig

(Talk delivered at the 28th Annual convention of the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa. Durban, 6 July 2008)

I am thankful to the IMA for this opportunity to share with this distinguished gathering some thoughts about medicine and where we should be going with it in the future. Although I am in that stage of life where a person’s medical knowledge increases rapidly as he hears new concerns, new tests and new names of diseases from his doctor or his reference age group, the perspective I want to share is not based solely on personal experience. It is also built on study and reflection on the history of medicine and the interplay of various forces that determined the path of this history.

I graduated from engineering college about thirty-five years ago. When I went for my MBA studies in Canada some years later, my perspective on some of the things I had learnt earlier changed. It was there, for example, that I learnt that “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away” was a marketing slogan coined by farmers in the US as the demand for apples went down during Prohibition years. It was also there that I learnt something new about Frederick Taylor. In the engineering college I had learnt that Taylor was a genius who revolutionized manufacturing through his scientific management. He was called as the father of scientific management. A great man. A benefactor of humanity who helped usher in the new era of abundant and cheap manufactured goods. Naturally, when I found his original monograph on scientific management in the library, I read it with great enthusiasm.

It was a shocking experience. In the monograph he described his experiment with a laborer whose productivity he increased, and expressed his thoughts on the subject. He asked the laborer whether he was a good man and defined a good man to be one who stood up when he was asked to stand up, sat down when he was told to sit down, lifted a load when he was asked to lift, took a step with it when he was told to do so. In other words his good man was not a man but a perfect robot. He also described his scientific management philosophy: “Now one of the very first requirements for a man who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular occupation is that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type. The man who is mentally alert and intelligent is for this very reason entirely unsuited to what would, for him, be the grinding monotony of work of this character. Therefore the workman who is best suited to handling pig iron is unable to understand the real science of doing this class of work.”1

Very scientific. In fact father of scientific — management.

I mention Taylor here for two reasons. One is that the engineering college had given me a distorted picture of the man and the discipline he founded. That applied to many other things as well. It is not that the things I learnt about thermodynamics, heat transfer, metallurgy, strength of materials, theory of machines, electrical technology, production techniques, and dozens of other subjects were wrong. It was that there were other things about the rise of the factory, its social, cultural, and economic impact on the society, the struggles between segments of the society, and the role of the factory in helping some of these warring sections and exploiting others — all of these were never discussed. We saw some of the trees but not the forest. As engineers we were only interested in mastering the technical details. And technology, we had firm belief, was perfectly neutral. No one could argue with science or technology. These other issues could be of interest to the lesser people who could not get admission in the engineering college and had to pursue a study in humanities.

Taylor did improve manufacturing efficiency. But he did it at tremendous cost to the society. He had successfully developed a method for the social control of the society and facilitated a brutal exploitation. But bright engineering graduates who would be implementing his techniques would not have any idea of what they were doing. They, themselves were the “good men” as he defined, obeying his commands without question.

This technical mindset is not limited to engineering. In medicine also subjects like biology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, etc. are very important and wonderful subjects. But there are other non-technical subjects like the interplay of economic, social and political forces that have a tremendous impact on the development and availability of therapies, which may be ignored by our focus on the technical.

Rise of Medicine in the West

The second reason I mention him is that there are parallels between the “scientific management” that he championed and the “scientific medicine” that arose at the same time. Our life was changed for good or for bad by the industrial revolution. This also applies to modern medicine. I am not sure this history of modern medicine is covered in medical schools. But it is important both for the physician and the patient to know it to understand why things are happening the way they are happening today and find an alternative. It is that perspective that I wish to share with you today.

The phenomenal rise of medical science is of recent vintage. Much of it took place in Taylor’s homeland and under the patronage of the same class of people whom he served. In the nineteenth century the US was far behind Europe in medicine. To earn respect and greater fees, an aspiring US doctor had to travel to Edinburgh to get good medical education. At the same time, different sects like homeopaths, ecclesiastics, and herbal healers had an equal claim to medical expertise. It changed in the twentieth century with the US getting an uncontested lead and allopathic medicine emerging as the preeminent authority for medical questions.

The history of this revolution is fascinating. As Richard Brown documented it in his Rockefeller Medicine Men – Medicine and Capitalism in America, this happy result was not an accident but the result of a carefully thought out and executed strategy on the part of the people with money. Between 1910 and 1930 the big philanthropic foundations, led by the Rockefeller, gave a total of $300M to medical education and research. This staggering fund gave them much say in determining the direction of these institutions.

Capitalism put allopathic medicine on steroids.

Capital Intensive Medicine

No doubt providing a healthy workforce was a goal of their campaign just as providing cheaper goods to the masses was a goal of their factories. But this was not the only goal or the only result. It also laid the foundations for the development of technological medicine and what came to be called as the medical industrial complex. It was medicine dominated by hospitals, drug companies, laboratories, doctors, insurance companies, even banks, joined together by pursuit of profit from people’s pains.

It was expensive medicine because of the very expensive machines and devices which became indispensable for doctors and hospitals as a result of these efforts. This was by design for they were looking for products and techniques that could assure nice returns on big investments. Bruce C. Vladeck, professor of Health Policy and Geriatrics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, stated the obvious when he said: “Modern medicine and medical science have really accomplished some extraordinary things, but some of them are very expensive.”2

It was no longer possible for most people to pay for the medical care when it was needed. A system of health insurance was thus necessitated so every healthy person would keep on paying for the healthcare every month so he would not be bankrupted by a sudden illness or injury. The insurance industry— that adds no medical value but adds to a significant part of the costs — thus came into being. (According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2003) administration consumed 31.0 percent of U.S. health spending).

The result has been a huge marketing success. If healthcare is a market then the more that is spent in the market, the better it is for the marketers. And the amount has been increasing greatly with no end in sight. In 2007 healthcare spending in the United States alone reached $2.3 trillion. Those $2.3 trillion are certainly going to somebody. The winners are the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, which have been some of the most profitable businesses in the US. In 2007 prescription drug sales totaled $286 billion in the US and $712 billion world wide.

If they were selling ice-cream or cosmetics, we could congratulate the entrepreneurs on their great achievement. But a sick person, a person in pain, is the farthest from the rational decision-maker that the free-market model presupposes. We are dealing with an unsuspecting, rather trusting, and vulnerable clientele that can be manipulated into buying useless and even harmful therapies. And manipulate it did, in all ways conceivable….

Drug Company Game:

In her book on the drug industry, Marcia Angell, former Editor-in-Chief, New England Journal of Medicine says: “This book will expose the real pharmaceutical industry – an industry that over the past two decades has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. …Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the U.S. Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, academic medical centers and the medical profession itself. Most of its marketing efforts are focused on influencing doctors, since they must write the prescriptions.3

Families USA, a watchdog group, documents some of the methods used by this industry: “The drug industry files bogus patents, buries its competition-generic manufacturers-in frivolous lawsuits, and even colludes with those manufacturers to keep lower-priced generics off the market. The industry also engages in fraudulent drug pricing and deceptive marketing, and it funds groups that claim to represent consumers opposed to strategies aimed at putting a lid on prescription drug prices.”4

Even the health guidelines that the whole world may assume represent sound science, may have a hidden business agenda behind them. Moynihan, a health journalist for the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet, and Cassels, a Canadian science writer, explain the simple mechanism through which sales of statins were increased worldwide. Statins are in the five top selling drug categories in the world. They reported: “Eight of the nine specialists who wrote the 2004 federal guideline on high cholesterol, which substantially increased the number of people in that category, had multiple financial ties to drug manufacturers.”5

Greed and Disease

Marcia Angell mentioned expensive drugs of dubious quality. It gets worse than that, though. The robber barons of the medical frontier demonstrated that they were not above knowingly selling harmful medicines if they could get away with it.

Iconoclastic thinker and social critic Ivan Illitch, in his famous book Medical Nemesis has described some of these horror stories. I will mention just one here. During the 1960s chloramphenicol, packaged as Chloromycetin by Parke-Davis, brought in about one-third of the company’s over-all profits. By then it had been known for several years that people who take this drug stand a certain chance of dying of aplastic anemia. Some of them would die within days. Others a year or more after its administration was stopped. Despite that through the late fifties and early sixties Parke-Davis spent large sums to promote it. Doctors in the United States prescribed chloramphenicol to almost four million people per year to treat them for acne, sore throat, the common cold, and even such trifles as infected hangnail. According to Illitch, in the United States hundreds of them died undiagnosed.

This mad rush was stopped only after the facts were brought up in a congressional hearing. Within two months after that hearing, the use of chloramphenicol in the United States dwindled. Parke-Davis was forced to insert strict warnings of hazards and cautionary statements about the use of this drug into every package. But these warnings did not extend to exports.

Oral chloramphenicol has not been manufactured in the USA since 1991. Its use even on animals that produce human food is banned. As the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns, “The potential for aplastic anemia must be considered whenever chloramphenicol is used, regardless of the route of administration.”6 But it is probably still being used in many parts of the world for conditions other than the typhoid which does not respond to safer antibiotics.

Healthcare Crisis

The cumulative result of these and other practices that resulted from the association of healing arts with and —their subservience to —capitalism is now a full blown disaster.

Today, despite the phenomenal success that resulted in the “medicalization” of not only the Western world but also big parts of the non-Western world, Western medicine is facing unexpected problems in its own home. The word used by serious analysts to describe the situation in the US is crisis. From the media to the physicians to the churches, people are talking about the healthcare crisis in the USA.
Says Marcia Angell: “We certainly are in a health care crisis. If we had set out to design the worst system that we could imagine, we couldn’t have imagined on as bad as we have… Our health care system is based on the premise that health care is a commodity like VCRs or computers and that it should be distributed according to the ability to pay in the same way that consumer goods are. … And that market ideology is what has made the health care system so dreadful, so bad at what it does.”7

This healthcare crisis has many dimensions.

Unaffordable Medicine

There are millions of people who can get no medical care because they cannot afford it. There are about 47 million uninsured and another 50 million underinsured people in the USA.
According to the National Coalition on Health Care, in a Wall Street Journal-NBC Survey almost 50 percent of the American public said the cost of health care was their number one economic concern.8 In a survey by Deloitte’s health research center, only 7 percent of Americans said they felt financially prepared for their future health care needs.9 According to David Himmelstein, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, about half of the 1.5 million families that declared bankruptcy in the US in 2001 did it because of medical causes.10

The economics of medical education assures that, left to itself, this cycle will continue. A medical student in the US is on the average $140,000 in debt upon graduation. Some have as much as $300,000 or even more. The number one goal they have is to pay back this huge debt. A doctor under those pressures cannot be expected to spend an hour with a patient talking about lifestyle improvements for which he will get no extra money rather than propose a stent insertion for which he will get a few thousand dollars.

This reminds me of the surgeon who said he did not believe in unnecessary surgery; he only operated when he really needed the money. But that surgeon lived in earlier times in the USA. Today he constantly needs money, which explains the well-known over-prescription of surgery here.

Drug Discovery Procedures

There are other factors leading to the run-away escalation of medical costs. One of them is the current drug discovery procedures, which are normally considered to be the best that science could offer. I will leave that for you to decide but I can see the economics of it. The idea that randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trials are the only way to determine the safety and efficacy of a new drug serves the capitalist enterprise just fine. It erects the barrier to entry so necessary for maintaining monopolies and oligopolies. It takes $100 million to $1 billion to discover and test a new drug. Who will be investing that kind of money to discover therapeutic benefits of a non-patentable herb that one could buy from any herbalist for a small amount of money?

This “scientific” idea resulted in throwing all the medicines that were discovered over thousands of years into the dust bin. Ibn Sina’s Cannon was used for five hundred years in Europe and for a longer period in the Muslim world. On the other hand the billion dollar R&D funds produce drugs whose side effects and problems start to show in a few years, although the drug companies have made their profits in those years and they can move on to the next drug. And the cycle continues.

No More Magic Pills

But even when we ignore the economic dimension of this problem, the therapeutic dimension is also significant.
There are problems with the quality of care. This includes errors as well as drug interactions and the ever-present and often ignored side-effects. The total number of deaths caused by hospitals and physicians in the US get the third rank after cancer and heart problems. There were 225,000 such deaths in 2006. Injuries and loss of limbs or function are in addition to this.
There are no cures for many problems.
Medicine, which seemed to promise a magic pill for every ailment the day it developed penicillin, today seems to have lost its magic tricks. For countless ailments from arthritis to common cold to cancer, to hypertension to urticaria it has no cure. Unfortunately the previously available alternate cures were thrown out with the success of penicillin. Penicillin was scientific medicine while others were the relics of the dark age of medicine.

Western Medicine in Muslim Countries

The situation in the poor countries, including all the Muslim countries is much worse.

The introduction of Western medicine was aimed at undermining Islamic values as well as the centuries old Islamic medicine. It was a “civilizing” mission. Thus we see that that much celebrated nurse Florence Nightingale considered creation of a public health department for India as part of a mission to bring higher civilization there.11

And the proposal for a medical college in Bombay in the 1830s was very clear about the goal: it was to wipe out the existing medicine there. Robert Grant wrote that the goal was: “To give to the people of western India a practical and well trained body of medical practitioners who by the skillful and conscientious exercise of the art would so recommend themselves to their countrymen as in time to take the place of hakims and vaids, who for want of adequate education must necessarily be incompetent to exercise healing art with safety and success.” It is also very instructive that the entrance exam for the first batch of students for this college in 1848 consisted solely of questions about Paradise Lost. The purpose clearly was to create an elite class of slaves who would love to ape the maser and serve his interest whole-heartedly.

To destroy Islamic medicine, colonial powers cut off its sources of funding, blocked the efforts to regulate it through registration so fake healers would crowd the market and bring a bad name to the discipline, and carefully nurtured Muslim doctors who would perceive it to be in their own interest to oppose Islamic medicine. They used the prestige of science to relegate other medical systems including Islamic medicine to the realm of folk medicine worthy of no more attention than the old wives’ tales.

And they succeeded considerably.

Differences Between Islamic Medicine and Western Medicine

Muslims had imported medical knowledge in the past. During their golden era they relied on Greek, Persian, Indian, and Syrian medicine. The hospitals in Baghdad, Aleppo, Damascus, Cairo, Marrakesh and elsewhere had recruited doctors from all these places. The hospital in Jundishapur in Persia was the source for the staff of the celebrated Baghdad hospital under Harun al-Rashid. But importing the medical expertise and medical theories then did not create the problems that we see now.

What is different now from then? This is a question in history, sociology, and power relations.

When Harun al-Rashid built the splendid hospital in Baghdad, Muslims were in charge. They imported everything on their own terms. They assimilated it into their value system.

The hospitals in Baghdad as those throughout the Muslim world were Islamic institutions. At these hospitals they had separate wards for men and women. The treatment and stay was free as was the medicine for the outpatients. They even gave a gift of money to the patient upon discharge so he would not have to immediately start working after leaving the hospital. The doors of these hospitals were open to all: rich and poor, Muslim or non-Muslim, local or foreigner. These free hospitals maintained a very high standard of care. They were clean and large. There were lecture halls, libraries, and masajid in every hospital. Food was plentiful and prepared under the physicians instructions for each patient. The rulers visited the hospital to learn first hand how they were running.

Did they have a hospital like that at Jundishapur? These defining features were not imported. These were dictated by the Islamic civilization. Whether the physicians were Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, the hospital was an Islamic institution.

In contrast when under colonial rule Western medicine started to take hold of Muslim lands beginning in the nineteenth century, Muslims were not in charge. What were transplanted were not just the techniques and medical knowledge but also the values and worldview. Muslim may have been working there but these were not Islamic institutions.

And we lost a lot in the process.

Islamic World View

The greatest and the least discussed attack was on the worldview of the Muslim physician. In Islamic medicine the physician turned to Allah to seek cure for the patient. He wrote huwa al-Shafi (He (Allah) is the healer) on every prescription and while writing that he said,
Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed You are the Knowledgeable, the Wise. [Al-Baqarah, 2:32]

The act connected both the patient and the physician to Allah, for He alone can cure.

“When I fall sick, He heals me.” Al-Shu’ra, 26:80

But these words were meaningless to a Western science that did not know God. As he was quietly indoctrinated into the secular humanistic worldview of this science, the Muslim physician dropped the use of these healing words, which used to set the tone for his entire treatment. Instead he wrote Rx, an apparently benign symbol, which is rooted in paganism. According to some accounts Rx refers to the eye of an Egyptian god Horus and it was worn as an amulet to ensure good health and ward off sickness. According to others it refers to the Greek god Jupiter. Haggard writes: “Rx is not, as is frequently supposed, an abbreviation of a Latin word meaning recipe or compound, but is an invocation to Jupiter, a prayer for his aid to make the treatment effective…”12

There is another symbol that reminds us of the pagan connections of Western medicine. It is the staff of a Greek god surrounded by one or two snakes. It is there on the logos of World Health Organization as well as leading medical associations of USA, Canada, New Zealand, and others.

Medical Symbols

Medical Symbols
In the logos of World Health Organization, American Medical Association, and World Medical
Association, the staff of the Greek god Caduceus and the snake around it are quite visible.

(Note: Images were taken from their own respective websites. They were also rescaled.)

It is certainly not that Muslim physicians hold these beliefs. But that they dropped the Islamic symbol and replaced it with a pagan symbol is in itself symbolic of the problem caused by Western medicine.

Exploitation of Fear

Islam taught us to give hope to the patient. But the capitalistic model of healthcare they imported used a marketing strategy based on exploitation of fear.
Medicine for the Rich

Islamic medicine provided free or low cost treatment for everyone without distinction. With western medicine care became a privilege to be enjoyed by the rich. And poverty became sentence to a life of sickness and misery.
Class Consciousness in Healing

In Islamic hospitals they did not have private rooms for the rich only. All facilities were equally for all. Now hospitals reflect the class structure of the society. What is more, poor become hospital’s research and teaching material.
Value of Life

In the Islamic world all human life was important. In capitalism a person’s worth is accurately calculated by the accountants.
The capitalistic model is now firmly in place in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. I have even seen ads in Pakistan promising professional training for doctors and hospital personnel by “experts” in “creative billing.”
The cost structures there now require a system of health insurance as well but the availability of such an insurance is much more limited. In case of a serious illness, injury or medical emergency, a person may lose his life savings. In most heart wrenching stories of poverty, the beginning point is a health problem with the sole breadwinner for the family, which means he cannot even provide for the food for the family leave alone for his expensive treatment.

Holistic vs Reductionist

In Islamic medicine, treatment was a holistic task aimed at restoring balance and harmony. Under Western medicine it became an engineering task aimed at fixing mechanical problems with the body.
Women’s Dignity

Islamic medicine protected women’s dignity and their right to privacy. It went away with the coming of the Western medicine. From co-education that was purposely introduced in the medical colleges from the beginning to deliberate disregard for their privacy in the hospitals all have contributed to a very sorry state.
Like all imported problems, those related to healthcare are worse in the poor countries where even the safeguards that may have been developed in the rich countries take a longer time to reach and where the counter balancing forces are generally absent.

The Road Ahead

As the undisputed leader of the world in medical science, America represents the best and the worst that modern medicine has to offer.

Famous thinker and social critic Ivan Illitch said that Western medicine was the cause of modern diseases. He talked about iatrogenesis: not just medical iatrogenesis (7% of patients suffer injuries due to doctor or medical staff error or toxic or ineffective drugs) but also social (More and more of life’s problems are seen as amenable to medical intervention. Pharmaceutical companies develop expensive treatments for non-diseases) and cultural iatrogenesis that has made it impossible for one to be born at home or die at home. Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal, commented that Illitch’s radical polemic of 1975 had by 2002 become almost mainstream.

But we do not have to accept everything he said to recognize that the healing profession is sick and it does not have the tools with which to heal itself.

The problems are philosophic, economical, and social. They arise from the worldview of Western medicine. Their solution lies in bringing the Islamic worldview to the entire practice of medicine.

We have to rid modern medicine of paganism, scientism, and capitalism. Paganism is in its symbols. Scientism is in its outlook. Capitalism is its driving mechanism. Together they have created millions for the few and misery for the millions.

Those millions —both Muslims and non-Muslims— are now looking for a way out of this misery.

Countering Paganism and Cultural Subversion

Recognition of the cultural subversion that Western medicine caused —by design—in Muslim countries should lead to a strong counter campaign. This requires bringing Islamic worldview and its symbols to our teaching and practice of medicine. We should shed the slightest link to paganism, which requires being sensitive to all its pervasive symbols in the medical establishment and replacing them with Islamic symbols with full consciousness. A Muslim doctor should be writing Huwa Al-Shafi with the full force of conviction and deep humility to Allah, Who alone can heal.
Countering Scientism

It is scientism that seeks answers and solutions from science for social, economic, or spiritual problems. We do need to work toward the demedicalization of society. Most of the health problems, say in a country like Pakistan, will go away if we provided clean air, water, sanitation, safe roads and cities, and Islamic lifestyles. Currently these are not emphasized because there is no money in it. But we need to produce physicians who have a different calling.
Overcoming Medical Sectarianism

Our physicians should rise above medical sectarianism and redefine themselves as practitioners of the healing arts instead of being just allopathic doctors. They should look at each therapy that works as a blessing of Allah. An antibiotic, when used appropriately is a blessing of Allah. So is a heart-lung machine. So is a simple herb like garlic or ginger or black seed or honey.
They should be eager to learn and teach Islamic medicine.

To some extent it is happening in the West. Frustrated patients are rushing towards what is now being called Complementary and Alternate Medicine (CAM). The therapies that were considered unscientific, and therefore bogus, are being looked at again. According to a 2002 survey in the US, 74.6% of patients had used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In response many medical schools have attempted to incorporate CAM education as elective courses. Recent studies report that 75% of U.S. medical schools offer such courses, while two hospitals (in Arizona and New York) have become centers for Integrated Medicine. The Association of American Medical Colleges now calls for physicians to be sufficiently knowledgeable about both conventional and non-conventional modes of care.

Why should we be waiting for Western universities to discover Islamic medicine before we do it? Muslim physicians need to take a lead in the movement for Integrated Medicine.

Islamic Medical Ethics

Islamic medical ethics should be a topic of ongoing discussion by physicians and ulama. South Africa is the right place to sow the seeds of this revolution because of your unique circumstances and the close association between the medical profession and Islamic scholarship. I cannot overemphasize the value of this association.
Leadership for the World: AIDS

We need to set mechanisms in place for providing leadership to the entire humanity on burning health issues of the day. There is much confusion about the AIDS industry that is selling very expensive medicine of probably dubious quality and promoting condom culture.
Aim High: The World is Waiting

It is a sorry spectacle that thousands of Muslim physicians throughout the world are unaware of the Prophetic medicine and totally disconnected from the rich heritage of Islamic medicine.
On the other hand it is heartening to see that both in its oath and its statement of objectives the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa has shown a keen awareness of these issues. But your efforts need to increase in proportion to the size of the task at hand.

Revival of any Islamic science is part of the revival of Islamic civilization and will pave the way for the revival of other sciences as well. But unlike other Islamic sciences, Islamic medicine has the distinction that despite all the efforts to wipe it out — many at the hands of Muslims themselves—it is still a living tradition, unlike physics and chemistry. Reviving it is thus easier.

There are things our physicians can do individually.
Our physicians need to recognize the great and unique opportunity that they have for doing good not only for the body but also for the soul of their patients. Doctors are in the best position to promote Islamic lifestyle, which is the best protection against the diseases brought on by our modern lifestyles. This refers to diseases of all kinds— physical, mental, and spiritual, although the last one is not always recognized. Today we are more concerned about the hardening of the arteries than we are about the hardening of the hearts. But Muslim physicians can furnish treatments for both.

And there are things they can do collectively.

We should set our sights at building hospital like the ones that were built in Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Aleppo, Marrakech etc. Then we won’t have to tell the world that we built great hospitals in the past. Even the Western doctors will be going to Karachi, Kuala Lumpur or Jeddah, or wherever to learn something about Islamic medicine because their patients will be going there anyway.


1. Frederick Taylor. Principles of Scientific Management, 1911

2. http://www.pbs.org/healthcarecrisis/Exprts_intrvw/b_vladeck.htm

3.Marcia Angell, The Truth about the Drug Companies: How they deceive us and what to do about it, Random House, 2004.

4. http://www.familiesusa.org/resources/tools-for-advocates/tips/han-newsletter-june-2002.html

5. Ray Moynihan, Alan Cassels, Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients, Nation Books, 2005

6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3055188

7. Marcia Angell, http://www.pbs.org/healthcarecrisis/Exprts_intrvw/m_angell.htm

8. http://www.nchc.org/facts/cost.shtml

9. “Even the Insured Feel Strain of Health Costs,” NY Times, 4 May 2008.

10. David U. Himmelstein, etal., Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy, 2005

11. Roy McLeod (Editor), Disease, Medicine and Empire: Perspectives on Western Medicine and the Experience of European Expansion.

12. Howard W. Haggard, Devils, Drugs, and Doctors, (1929)


The Islamic Dress Code

The Islamic Dress Code

By Khalid Baig

What would you think of a home that provided no shelter and no privacy? What would you think of a meal that provided no nourishment and no energy? It does not take much to realize that if one were in the business of selling any of these he would go bankrupt very quickly. Yet, amazingly the rules seem to be different when it comes to another basic need: clothing, especially women’s clothing. Every year fashion centers in Europe and America come up with the latest designs. And what have they designed? Another way of not covering the body; the dress equivalent of the home that provides no shelter and no privacy.

One might ask, if a person did not want to cover themselves why would they buy anything, least of all expensive fashions, to achieve that? If we think about it, we may see the tension between two forces. All human beings (except for the handful of deviants who call themselves naturalists) have an inborn sense of shame. People of all religions agree on the need to cover themselves in public. Yet we also find a force that promotes nudity. Large segments of humanity are caught between two impulses: to cover or not to cover. Our clothing designs reflect different levels of compromise between these opposing forces.

Why? What is going on?

Science cannot answer the question. It cannot trace the origins of forces that take place deep in our mind. In addition, most of the scientific establishment is still dominated by the followers of Mr. Darwin and Darwinism is a system of belief not science. Their beliefs keep them from dealing honestly with a simple fact: while all other animals have a skin that provides them protection against the elements, human beings don’t. Monkeys can live without clothing, human beings cannot.

The Qur’an answers the question. Our bodies did not develop our skin— so thin and fur free that it requires external covering for protection—because of some unexplained evolutionary accident. Our Creator designed it this way so we will always need clothing. He also put in us the sense of shame that forces us to cover ourselves. On the other hand, the first act of Satan was to cause Adam and Eve to expose themselves: “So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shameful parts became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the Garden over their bodies.” [Al-A’raf 7:22]. This is the source of the tension we see. Two opposing forces. Good and evil.

With that background we can understand the importance of clothing. “Oh Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness—that is the best.” [Al-A’raf 7:26]. The address here is to all humanity, emphasizing thereby the universal human need to cover ourselves properly. The Qur’an then warns that Satan was not finished after his first attempt: “Oh Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their raiment, to expose their shame.” [Al-A’raf 7:27].

Once we realize the nature of the dress issue, it is natural that we should turn to our Creator to seek guidance for the proper dress code. Qur’an and Sunnah have provided ample guidance on the subject which can be summarized in four essential principles.

Our dress must cover our body adequately. Again we cannot determine what is adequate coverage on our own, as any witness to the misery of those who have tried it can readily ascertain. Shar’iah, as always, takes us out of this misery by defining it for us. For men, it is the middle part of the body from navel to knee. For women, it is the entire body except hands and face. These parts must never be exposed to any other person (except in case of genuine need e.g. medical treatment). In addition, the cloth must be neither see-through nor tight fitting.
Our dress should provide adornment. It should provide for decent appearance. Our appearance should not be an eyesore for decent human beings. For men, this extends the coverage requirements to include most of the body. For women, the essential requirement is that their dress should identify them as respectable ladies who would be honored not harassed. Additionally, hijab rules aim at protecting them from the gaze of other men.
Our dress should establish our Islamic identity. At the least it should not identify us as followers of another religion. But, additionally it should positively identify us as Muslims.
The design of our dress must avoid three deadly sins: show off, arrogance, and self indulgence. These are very serious diseases of the heart in their own right that we must avoid at all times. Our garments provide an easy opportunity to nurture them. Hence the need to be extra cautious. One Hadith states “Eat what you feel like and wear what you feel like. But avoid two things: extravagance and arrogance.” [Bukhari]. At the risk of stating the obvious one should be reminded that this Hadith establishes an overriding concern that limits our choices within the realm of what is considered halal. It does not do away with the distinction between halal and haram.

As one implication of this general requirement, men are also required not to wear their lower garments below the ankle. (Many well-meaning Muslims today have been persuaded that this is a petty issue. This misgiving can be put to rest in a hurry if we just refer to the Hadith of Jabir bin Sulaym, Radi-Allahu anhu, in Abu Dawood. He asked the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam for some advice when leaving him after his very first meeting. Of the six pieces of advice given him one was: “Never let your lower garment go below the ankles because that is arrogance. And Allah does not like arrogance.” Another was “Never belittle a good deed.”)
Islam has not prescribed a particular dress style, giving us ample room to accommodate our needs, circumstances and tastes. However, these principles are for everyone and forever. Any garment that accommodates these principles will be Islamic dress. This is Islamic formula to dress for success. Eternal success.