How to Approach Medical Ahadith



Some people have stumbled upon medical ahadith which doesn’t make sense to a modern, science-minded audience.

I will discuss how we can approach these reports from the words of Shaykh al-Saduq and al-Tusi.


What is Shaykh al-Saduq’s thoughts on medical ahadith?

Shaykh al-Saduq states his beliefs regarding ahadith discussing medicine in his book al-I’tiqadat, page 115. 

His statement indicates that these reports are time-specific, location-specific, or specific to certain circumstances. One cannot generalize these the applicability of these ahadith to all situations:

Our belief in ahadith on the subject of medicine is based on a number of perspectives, including:

(1) What was said based on the air of Makkah and Madinah, thus it is not permissible to use it in all other airs (of other lands).

(2) What al-‘Alim (as, meaning Imam al-Kadhim) informed of - in the known style of letters (i.e, concise information) - and this information did not go beyond the subject of discussion (i.e, the letter is sent to someone in particular regarding a specific situation). 

(3) What the Mukhalifeen have falsely attributed in the books in order to make the image of the sect ugly in the eyes of the people. (i.e, the Mukhalifeen falsely claim Shi’i books contain a specific medical advice).

(4) A report which has been overlooked by its transmitter. 

(5) A report where the narrator memorized some of the hadith and forgot some.

(6) What was narrated about honey that it is a cure for every disease is true, and its meaning is that it is a cure for every cold disease.

(7) And what was narrated about the person who has had hemorrhoids using cold water (3), then that is if it is hemerrhoids from heat.

(8) And what was narrated about the healing of eggplant, it is at the time datepalm season for one who eats datepalms, and not at other times.”

44) (باب الاعتقاد في الأخبار الواردة في الطبقال الشيخ أبو جعفر - رضي الله عنه -: اعتقادنا في الأخبار الواردة في الطب أنها علىوجوه:

منهاما قيل على هواء مكة والمدينة، فلا يجوز استعماله في سائر الأهوية.

ومنهاما أخبر به العالم - عليه السلام - على ما عرف من طبع الرسائل ولم يتعد موضعه، إذ كان أعرف بطبعه منه.

ومنهاما دلسه المخالفون في الكتب لتقبيح صورة المذهب عند الناس.

ومنهاما وقع فيه سهو من ناقله (1).

ومنهاما حفظ بعضه ونسي بعضه.

وما روي في العسل أنه شفاء من كل داء (2) فهو صحيح، ومعناه أنه شفاء من كل داء بارد.

وما روي في الاستنجاء بالماء البارد لصاحب البواسير (3) فإن ذلك إذا كان

بواسيره من حرارة.

وما روي في الباذنجان من الشفاء (1) فإنه في وقت إدراك الرطب لمن يأكل الرطب، دون غيره من سائر الأوقات (2).

Can we use common sense to dismiss these ahadith? 

Dismissing a hadith manifests itself in two facets: 

(1) Rejecting it as fabricated.

(2) Viewing it as inapplicable.

  • Regarding #1, I quote one of my previous blog posts regarding the statement of Shaykh al-Tusi on this matter: 

Al-‘Iddah fi Usul al-Fiqh by Shaykh al-Tusi, page 374-375) 

“It has been narrated from them [i.e, Imams] that they said: 

‘If you two reports are brought to you, present them upon the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet. The report conforming to them [i.e, Quran & Sunnah] take upon it, and the report does not conform to them - compare it with our [established] narrations (and until then desist from it).’

Because of this, we have desisted from this report [i.e, we desist if a report contradicts Quran & sunnah]. 

And this desistence does not necessitate that we establish its falsehood in itself, because this [apparent contradiction to Quran & sunnah] does not prevent the report from being authentic in itself. And it has a perspective of ta’wil (interpretation) we are not aware of. 

Or that the report was uttered for a reason that was hidden from us - or was specific for a certain person only. Or that it was uttered due to taqiyya, and similar perspective. 

Thus, we cannot conclude it is fabricated. Rather, we must simply desist from taking upon the report - as clarified previously.”

وأيضا فقد روى {3} عنهم عليهم السلام انهم قالوا: (إذا جائكم عنا حديثان فاعرضوهما على كتاب الله وسنة رسوله صلى الله عليه وآلهوسلم فان وافقهما فخذوا به، وما لم يوافقهما فردوه الينا {1} فلأجل ذلك رددنا هذا الخبر، ولا يجب على هذا أن نقطع على بطلانه في نفسهلأنه لا يمتنع أن يكون الخبر في نفسه صحيحا وله وجه من التأويل لا نقف عليه، أو خرج على سبب خفى علينا الحال فيه أو تناول شخصابعينه، أو خرج مخرج التقية وغير ذلك من الوجوه، فلا يمكننا أن نقطع على كذبه، وانما يجب الامتناع من العمل به حسب ما قدمناه.

  • Regarding #2, if we do not reject a hadith as fabricated - we mustn’t rush to dismiss its applicability either. That has its own principles, which the Qudama’ have clarified on. 

Shaykh al-Tusi clarifies, in Kitab al-Mabsut (as quoted by Allama Majlisiالكتب/1511_بحار-الأنوار-العلامة-المجلسي-ج-٨%D9%A0/الصفحة_56):

If reports differ, we must apply what conforms to the Quran. We say: if it is possible for us to join between the dhahir of the Quran and the incompatible ahadith - this is more cogent than dismissing them as inapplicable”.

وإذا اختلفت الاخبار يجب العمل بما يوافق القرآن، قلنا إذا أمكننا الجمع بين ظاهر القرآن والاخبار المتنافية ظاهرا فهو أولى من طرح بعضالأخبار 

Thus, if there is a report that doesn’t appear to make sense - we have to compare it with Quran and sunnah (as taught to us by the Imams), than rush to dismiss it as lacking applicability. If there is a possibility of the hadith being in line with the Quran, then we mustn’t rush to dismiss its applicability. 


  • Can we use common sense to dismiss a hadith’s applicability?

Shaykh al-Tusi says, in Al-‘Iddah fi Usul al-Fiqh by Shaykh al-Tusi, page 9: 

As for qiyas and ijtihad, to us - they are not evidence. In fact, it is forbidden to rely on them

وأما القياس والاجتهاد (1) فعندنا انهما ليسا بدليلين، بل محظور استعمالهما

You cannot use your personal thinking (ijtihad) to determine whether a hadith is inapplicable or fabricated. This is not a form of evidence. 

The usage of aql in deriving religious conclusions is based on Quran and sunnah, not common sense. 

Meaning - if for example a hadith tells you a medical advice that doesn’t make logical sense to you, don’t rush to reject it if it doesn’t contradict Quran and sunnah. 

Contemplate Shaykh al-Saduq’s words and realize there may be more to it. 

May Allah bless you all