As you might have noticed, Ibn Qayyim’s book on Prophetic Medicine is one of the oft-repeated references used on this website. In this post, I will present a short introduction to this invaluable book for English readers.
Ibn Qayyim (Muhammad b. Abu Bakr al-Dimishqi) was born in 691 AH in Damascus which was a centre of knowledge and period of great reformation and revival. Ibn Qayyim was the closest disciple of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and was even imprisoned with him during his final trial at the hands of his opponents. He was freed after Ibn Taymiyyah’s death and worked tirelessly in defending his shaykh and spreading his unpublished works. Ibn Qayyim also studied under the author of another famous work on Prophetic Medicine, al-Hafiz al-Dhahabi. Ibn Qayyim was a tremendous scholar in his right and authored numerous works, many of which are studied to this day. He died in the year 751 AH.
Many people are surprised to find out that Ibn Qayyim never wrote an independent book on Prophetic Medicine. The book which is commonly published as Tibb al-Nabawi or Prophetic Medicine (or even Medicine of the Prophet) by the author is in fact a portion of a larger book on the Prophetic Biography called Zad al-Ma’ad (Provisions of the Hereafter) which the author wrote from memory during his Hajj journey. The book in Arabic is published in several volumes and one of the finest prints is edited by the late Shaykh Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut in six volumes and is published by Al-Resalah Publishers; the section on Prophetic Medicine is found in the fourth volume and is 408 pages including the appendices. Due to its importance, dozens of publishers have printed the section on Prophetic Medicine as an independent book and thus, it has earned its famous title.
From a religious point of view, the book contains important lessons on spiritual diseases and their cures. From a medical perspective, the book is a valuable reference for Eastern holistic treatments as understood during the medieval period.
There are several translations of the book, the finest of which is the edition translated by Penelope Johnstone and printed by the Islamic Text Society under the title Medicine of the Prophet (click here to purchase); the merit of this translation is that it is academic and accurate. The book is completely in English, and would have been more valuable if the Quran and hadith were also included in their original Arabic.
Another notable edition is The Medicine of the Prophet by Darussalam which has recently been published with pictorial references for some of the medicines mentioned in the book.
Unfortunately, none of the editions in English include a critical review of the hadiths included in the book; the weak hadith have not been pointed out, however, we hope to list them over time on this website. A critical edition is much needed in the English language which would not only analyse the evidences for strength but also weigh the medieval theories on medicine with modern findings. Perhaps a reader of this article will take this task on and benefit us all!