Does Islam Encourage Cupping?
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Does Islam Encourage Cupping?



Reply Date

Aug 11, 2016


As-Salamu alaykum. Many news stories and reports are highlighting the Athletes' use of cupping in Rio Olympics. Some friends told me that there are some Islamic texts that encourage this kind of treatment. Is that true? Did people practice cupping during the time of the Prophet?



Why Olympic Athletes Use Cupping

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu waRahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.

Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Healing is to be found in three things: drinking honey, the knife of the cupper, and cauterization of fire.” (Al-Bukhari)

According to a hadith narrated by Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “If there is any good in your medical treatments, it is in the knife of the cupper, drinking honey, or cauterization with fire, as appropriate to the cause of the illness, but I would not like to be cauterized.” (Al-Bukhari)

Answering your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

Islam is a natural way which caters to the welfare of humans. Unlike some religions which celebrate suffering and repression of the body, Islam is life-affirmative; the Prophet’s daily prayer included asking God for helping him keep all of his faculties healthy and functioning until death. He also prayed against crippling diseases and ailments and ordered the faithful to seek treatments and take medicines.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “God has sent down a cure for every illness.” (Al-Bukhari)

He also made use of the all of the available methods of treatments available to him. His beloved wife `A’ishah tells us that he would eagerly converse with physicians who would visit him from all over Arabia, and she would be the one preparing medications for him as per their prescriptions. Furthermore, the Prophet advised the faithful to make use of all of the useful methods of treatment which may be beneficial.

Blood cupping (hijamah) was one of the methods of treatment practiced in traditional communities in Arabia, Babylonia, Egypt and China and elsewhere.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) practiced it himself, and he experienced benefits within himself and others, and so he recommended its practice.

There are over a dozen traditions, some of them well attested, to this effect. In one of such traditions he said, “If there is any benefit in any of the treatments prevalent today, nothing is more beneficial than cupping, natural honey or cauterization.” (Al-Bukhari) He also said, “Black seed is a cure for all ailments except death.” (Al-Bukhari)

Now the question arises: Is this part of divine prescriptions or only a custom he followed? Scholarly opinion is divided on this issue:

One group insists that it is part of the normative Sunnah and that the Prophet being inspired by Allah should know better.

Another group, however, considers them as mere customs which he followed, and they have no bearing on his divine mission.

They further state that the purpose of the traditions is to stress preservation of health and using all useful methods of treatment. The Prophet (peace be upon him), as well as his companions, resorted to them as they were readily available; he would have used the modern scientific methods of treatment if they had been available to him. We can easily infer this point from `A’ishah’s statement which stresses that it was not the Prophet (peace be upon him) prescribing treatment, rather, it the physicians visiting him that he would consult, and they would be the one prescribing.  Therefore, it would be wrong on our part to refer these methods of treatments as if they were part of religion meant for all times.

In conclusion, cupping is one of the traditional methods of treatments available to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he and his companions found them to be beneficial, and so he recommended it. This does not in any way mean it is part of divine prescriptions which people should follow as if it were part and parcel of religion.

Allah Almighty knows best.

About Sheikh Ahmad Kutty

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty is a Senior Lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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