The Wisdom of Prophet Medicine: Honey
By Dr. John Andrew Morrow
February 9, 2015
In Surah al-Nahl, or “The Bee,” Almighty Allah alludes to bees and honey in the following verse: “there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a sign for those of thought” (16:69). The Qur’an also mentions honey directly on another occasion (47:15), describing rivers of honey in heaven.
The Prophet also told his followers: “There are two cures for you: honey and the Qur’an.” [vi] An Arabic writer, Ibn Majili, quotes the words of the Prophet: “Honey is a medicine for the body and the Qur’an is a medicine for the soul. Benefit yourselves from the use of the Qur’an and honey.” According to a tradition related by Ibn Ma‘sud, “You have two cures: the Qur’an and honey. The Qur’an is a cure for the soul, and honey is a cure for every illness.” [vii] The Prophet also said that “He who eats three radawat of honey per month will be protected from serious illness (‘azimah al-bala’, literally, catastrophe). [viii]
It is related in Bukhari and Muslim that a person came to the Messenger of Allah and told him that his brother’s bowels were loose. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger said: “Give him honey.” So he gave him that and then came and said: “I gave him honey but it has only made him worse.” He said this three times; and then he came the fourth time, and the Messenger of Allah said: “Allah has spoken the truth and your brother’s bowels are in the wrong.” So he made him drink (honey) and he was recovered. [ix] In another tradition, Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri complained to the Prophet that his son had a stomach ache. The Prophet told him to “Give him honey.” [x] The Prophet explained to him the importance of drinking honey because it was a cure from God. [xi] In another tradition, the Prophet explains that “Pain in the waist comes from the veins of the kidneys. Whosoever suffers from this ailment must treat himself with honey and hot, boiling, water.” [xii]
According to ‘A’ishah, the Prophet was very fond of honey. [xiii] He used to drink a beverage made of milk, honey, and raisins. [xiv] Every morning, he would consume a glass of water sweetened with honey. [xv] He also said that honey should not be refused: “Do not refuse honey when it is offered.” [xvi]
According to Imam ‘Ali ibn Abu Ṭalib, “When one of you suffers from pain, ask your wife for two or three dirhams to buy honey, mix it with rain water, and drink it. It will do you much good as it is a healing and blessed water.” [xvii] According to Imam ‘Ali al-Riḍa, “He who wants to prevent the cold during winter should eat three mouthfuls of beeswax (shahd). [xviii]
Issues in Identification. It is the consensus that ‘asal is the Arabic term for honey. Although not an herb, honey is an herbal by-product which is often used as an adjuvant.
Properties and Uses. Honey is a sweet and viscous fluid produced by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. Due to its high sugar content, it kills bacteria by plasmolysis. In fact, its single greatest medicinal property is its antibacterial activity which has been widely studied. [xix]
[i] Chaghhayni M. Tibb al-nabbi. Trans. C Elgood. Osiris 1962; 14: 188; Chisti SHM. The Sufi Book of Healing. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International: 59.
[ii] Chaghhayni M. Tibb al-nabbi. Trans. C Elgood. Osiris 1962; 14:189.
[iii] Chaghhayni M. Tibb al-nabbi. Trans. C Elgood. Osiris 1962;14:198.
[iv] Bukhari M. Sahih al-Bukhari. al-Riyyad: Bayt al-Afkar al-Dawliyyah li al-Nashr, 1998; Muslim. Jami‘ al-sahih. al-Riyyad: Bayt al-Afkar al-Dawliyyah li al-Nashr, 1998.
[v] Ibn Habib A. Mujtasar fi al-tibb / Compendio de medicina. Ed. C Álvarez de Morales and F Girón Irueste. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992:72.
[vi] Ibn Majah M. Sunan. Trans. MT Ansari. Lahore: Kazi Publications, 1994; Hakim al-Nisaburi M. al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-sahihayn. N.p.: n.p., n.d.
[vii] Ibn Habib A. Mujtasar fi al-tibb / Compendio de medicina. Ed. C Álvarez de Morales and F Girón Irueste. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992:73.
[viii] Ibn Majah M. Sunan. Trans. MT Ansari. Lahore: Kazi Publications, 1994.
[ix] Bukhari M. Sahih al-Bukhari. al-Riyyad: Bayt al-Afkar al-Dawliyyah li al-Nashr, 1998.
[x] Ibn Habib A. Mujtasar fi al-tibb / Compendio de medicina. Ed. C Álvarez de Morales and F Girón Irueste. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992:72.
[xi] Ibn Habib A. Mujtasar fi al-tibb / Compendio de medicina. Ed. C Álvarez de Morales and F Girón Irueste. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992:73.
[xii] Ibn Habib A. Mujtasar fi al-tibb / Compendio de medicina. Ed. C Álvarez de Morales and F Girón Irueste. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992:56.
[xiii] Bukhari M. Sahih al-Bukhari. al-Riyyad: Bayt al-Afkar al-Dawliyyah li al-Nashr, 1998.
[xiv] Muslim. Jami‘ al-sahih. al-Riyyad: Bayt al-Afkar al-Dawliyyah li al-Nashr, 1998.
[xv] Dhahabi S. al-Tibb al-nabawi. Bayrut: Dar al-Nafa’is lil Tiba‘ah wa al-nashr wa al-Tawzi‘, 2004.
[xvi] Chaghhayni M. Tibb al-nabbi. Trans. C Elgood. Osiris 1962;14:189.
[xvii] Ibn Habib A. Mujtasar fi al-tibb / Compendio de medicina. Ed. C Álvarez de Morales and F Girón Irueste. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992:73.
[xviii] Rida ‘A al-. Risalah fi al-tibb al-nabawi. Ed. MA Bar. Bayrut: Dar al-Manahil, 1991:170.
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Dr. John Andrew Morrow is a Full Professor at Ivy Tech. In addition to receiving his PhD from the University of Toronto, he has completed the full cycle of traditional Islamic seminary studies both independently and at the hands of a series of Sunni, Shi’i and Sufi scholars. He has published a number of articles and several books, including The Encyclopedia of Islamic Herbal Medicine, Islamic Images and Ideas: Essays on Sacred Symbolism, and The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. Aside from his academic duties, Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) is the Director of the Covenants Foundation, an organization dedicated to disseminating traditional, civilizational, Islam; promoting Islamic unity; protecting persecuted Christians; and improving relations between Muslims and members of other faiths. He regularly travels the world to promote peace and justice. For more information about Dr. Morrow and his work, visit johnandrewmorrow.com.