Ahlulbayt are Never Hidden


Hazrat Ali :“The family of Mohammad – peace be upon him and his progeny – are like the stars in the sky, if a star was to no longer become apparent, another would take its place, it is as if Allah has perfected his blessing for you and showed you what you wished for.”


The sermon is clear that there is no such thing as ghaybah (occultation). This indicates that Hazrat Ali was not aware of the concept that would one day spread and be adopted by Shias all around the world.

Medicine and Health in Medieval Arabic Poetry: An Historical Review



The history of Arabic poetry has gone through two phases: a pre-Islamic phase which began around the 5th century, and an Islamic phase beginning two centuries later. A third category of poets comprises of those who lived in the 7th century and therefore composed their works during both phases (Figure 1).

Pre-Islamic suspended odes that have survived exemplify the Arabs’ mastery in composing and reciting poetry; poetry was their most celebrated literary genre. In addition to their eloquence and artistic value, these poems remain a reliable historical record of the social, political and cultural life of the time. A number of verses refer to health and illness with vivid descriptions of the available medical examination methods and treatments. After the advent of Islam, poetry reflected the new faith and its effect on the hearts as well as the minds of people, urging them to seek and enhance their knowledge. An understanding was established that was both spiritual and material. The resulting intense scientific movement entailed no conflict between the humanities and natural sciences.


This review is based on the study of the two major classic Arabic biographical encyclopedias, “Uyoon Al Anbaa Fi Tabaqaat Al Atibbaa”1 (“Essential Information on the Classes of Physicians”), authored by the 13th century scholar, Ibn Abi Usubiaa, and “Al- Shier wa Al Shoaraa” (Poetry and Poets) by the ninth century Ibn Qutaiba (828-889 CE)[2-3], in addition to several other primary medieval sources. Medically-related verses from all these sources have been collected and classified. Illustrative examples of each category have been translated and are presented here.

Figure 1: The timeline of the three periods of medieval Arabic poetry (Rabie Abdel-Halim; Created with Timeline Maker, April 2012).

Poetry by Patients Describing Their Protracted Terminal Illnesses

In addition to expressing their feelings and suffering, they also revealed their psychological state and social condition during their illness. The poetry of medieval patients also provides historical documentation about the nature of the disease and the then-available means of treatment.

As an example, the oral intake and sublingual application of the Fagonia herb (Figure 2), known in Arabic as al-Shokaa[4-6], is described in a poem composed by the seventh century octogenarian poet Amro Ibn Al Ahmer[7-11] during his protracted terminal illness. This illness involved ascites, described in some primary sources as “the yellow fluid disease”.

Before presenting the translation of his vibrant segment of Arabic poetry, it should be highlighted that unless otherwise stated, all the translations in this article are modest attempts by the author and are written in a non-professional prose style:

I drank Al Shokaa and kept chewing it under my tongue,
I brought the ends of my vessels to touch the cautery blades
So that I might live little longer; though
I see no end for my illness; unless cured by God.
So, Oh my two travel-companions,
do bring medicine or do not; it makes no difference,
Year after year you call upon doctors
to attend me; Yet they hardly avail,
And if you do manage to cut off a tributary to my illness
You are bound to leave another flowing and active.

In another part of the poem, while it is clear that he continued to try all available means of medical treatment for his incurable disease, his verses are influenced by his deep Islamic faith, expressing peace of mind, supplication and trust in the Creator, with a pleasant anticipation of the hereafter. Movingly, he exclaims:

Am I still seeking healthy vibrant youth?
How could it be for a person to long for what he will never get?
How!! And I am now ninety years old,
            How and my stature comprises a bulge… what a bulge!! ……

Thirteen centuries or more after Ibn Al Ahmer’s poetic report of the use of Al-Shokaa herb to relieve his illness[12-14], researchers are continuing to extract and evaluate its medicinal components.[15-17]

Figure 2: Fagonia glutinosa. A, fruiting shoots; B, flower; C, petal; D, ovary; E, fruit. Courtesy of: http://www.eFloras.org. Page 20, Credit: Shauket. Retrieved from here.

Patients’ Poetry in Praise of the Treating Doctor

1. According to several 10th century biographical and primary literary sources, the 7th century poet Utaiba (or Utba) ibn Mirdas Al-Tameemy (also nicknamed ibn Faswa)[18-20] was bitten by a rabid dog and contracted rabies. He was successfully treated by a doctor named Ibn Al Mohell, who therefore received from his poet-patient the reward of two verses of praise, still making history 1000 years later! The two panegyric verses also serve as a medical-history document related to rabies. Some introduction is needed to enable us to understand these two intriguing verses.

In a comment on those two verses of Utaiba, the 11th century Al-Zamakhshari stated the following in his encyclopedic lexicon Asas Al Balagha (Principles of Eloquence):

It is said that if a rabid dog bites a human being it will inoculate into him minute doggie-like particles. And if this person is successfully treated, he will pass urine containing tiny congealed particles looking like dogs”.[21]

Epistemologically, the use of the passive voice expression “it is said” in this statement indicates that the author had doubts about the validity and authenticity of the stated information. It was one way of requesting his readers not to take the quotation for granted, rather to investigate and evaluate it further themselves. However, the statement can still be considered a theoretical forerunner of the now proven virus-infection etiology of rabies. It is also interesting that the verb Alqahu in this statement, meaning ‘inoculated into him’, is still in use in contemporary Arabic; it is the root of the word liqah, meaning vaccine.

After this long introduction, let us now see what the rabid poet said 1000 years ago in praise of his treating doctor, Ibn Al-Mohell son of Qudamah son of Al-Aswad:

Had it not been the medicament of Ibnul Mohell and his regimen
I would have moaned, same as the others moan if rabid
Consequent on God’s help, he expelled the doggy particles out of me
Striped on their forefront and sides

The medicament given to the patient, as stated in the second verse, led him to pass urine containing particles in the shape of doggies and ants which consequently cured him. It is also stated in more than one source that this medicine for rabies was a specialty practiced by three generations of the same family. Their fame has also been verified by other medieval Arab poets.

2. According to the medieval medical historian Ibn Abi Usaibia, the 7th century Zainab, a lady physician of the Bani ‘Awd tribe, was very skillful in the practice of medicine, being especially experienced in therapeutics for ophthalmic diseases and injuries. She was widely famed among the Arabs. The contemporaneous patient-poet Abu Simak Al-Asady documented her reputation in the following touching verse:

Am I going to die before I visit
Zainab, the so far away Bani Awd’s doctor? [22-23]

This rendering illustrates the challenges of translating poetry. Although the easier poetry-to-prose option was taken in this study, it nevertheless often proved difficult to choose the best translation. For example, the above rendering relied primarily on translating the meaning. Yet, the following literal translation may translate better:

Oh! Death are you visiting me before I visit
Zainab; the so far away Bani ‘Awd’s doctor?

A still more strictly word-for-word translation could be as follows:

Oh terminal illness! Are you stabbing me before I visit?
Zainab; the so far away Bani ‘Awd’s doctor?

Furthermore, instead of ‘stabbing’, the words ‘penetrating’ or ‘piercing’ may be closer equivalents for the Arabic word mukhtarim. Which of this selection is the best choice? This is one of the difficulties faced in translating Arabic poetry.

Patients’ Poetry Describing the Moment of Death

Abu-Nuwas al-Hasan ibn Hani al-Hakami (756–814 CE) is considered one of the greats of classical Arabic literature. He became a master of all the contemporary genres of Arabic poetry and entered the folkloric tradition.

As documented by the 10th century Abu Ahmad al-Askary in his pioneering literary critique Kitab Al Massoon Fi Al Adab (The Safe and Sound Book on Literature), Abu Nawas said the following verses shortly prior to his death[24]:

Decay spread in me low and high,
Organ by organ, I see myself beginning to die,
Not a single hour passes by
without reducing part of me away.
In obedience to self-desires all done,
My youth fortune and strength all gone,
And, only now, when moribund,
did I remember to obey God!!
Indeed we did misbehave, totally misbehaved
Yet, Oh God grant us forgiveness, clemency and pardon

Patient Poetry: Describing an Attack of Fever

The 10th century Abu Al-Tayyeb Al-Mutanabbi is considered one of the greatest poets in the Arabic language. He wrote a poem about a fever by which he was attacked; as translated by the late historian Edward G Brown, it left him:

“…Sick of body, unable to rise up, vehemently intoxicated without wine”[25]

In addition to an amazing description, the astonishing imagery clearly depicted all the symptoms of the feverish attack from which he physically suffered. What is more, the 42 verse-long poem contained several verses vividly expressing the psychological, mental and social onslaughts of the relentless bouts. The poem is also replete with proverbial verses decorated with pearls of wisdom.

Old Age Poetry

This is a very frequent topic with many extant examples. In addition to being popular because of its richness in wisdom and life experiences, it is also significant as a theme of medical poetry reflecting the considerable geriatric suffering faced by this age group. It also genuinely touches on the philosophy of life and death.

Doctors’ Poetry and Didactic Poems

In addition to the above-mentioned themes, medieval Arabic poetry, both by doctors and by patients, also dealt with ethical, social and humanitarian aspects of medical care. The 13th century bibliographic encyclopedia of Ibn Abi Usaibia contains abundant quotations covering these aforementioned themes. In addition, other themes of doctors’ poetry such as poetic dialogues with their patients, general-purpose poetry and poetry describing their senility or illness have also been addressed.

Furthermore, with the flourishing of literary studies and revival of various natural sciences during the Golden Era of Islamic Civilisation, a new theme of Arabic poetry flourished with the appearance of a tradition of didactic poems composed by scholars for use in educating and training their students. Poems in that genre are usually composed on the Rajaz metre, a pattern of syllabic repetitions that produces a jingling sound making it particularly easy to remember. The most famed example among the numerous medieval Arabic medical didactic poems is Avicenna’s medical poem, Al Urjuzah Fi Al Tibb[*]. It consists of 1326 verses and is considered a poetic summary of Avicenna’s major textbook, “The Canon of Medicine”. Not only were numerous medical treatises rendered into verse to help students memorise basic concepts, but essays on other topics such as Qu’ranic studies, Arabic grammar, history, oceanography, navigation, astronomy and even mathematics were also turned into poetry.

Frequent supplication of Prophet (salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)


Shahr ibn Hawshab (Allah be well-pleased with him) said, “I said to Umm Salama, ‘O Mother of the believers! What was the most frequent supplication of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, when he was with you?’ She said, “His most frequent supplication was, ‘O Turner of the hearts, make my heart firm in Your deen!’” [Tirmidhi]

‏يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلبي على دينك‏

Ya muqallibal-qulubi, thabbit qalbi ‘ala deenika

What does Islam Say About Dating?


The most common questions I get from young people are, “Do Muslims date?” and, “If they don’t date, how do they decide who is the right person for them to marry?”

“Dating” as it is currently practiced in much of the world does not exist among Muslims – where a young man and woman (or boy/girl) are in one-on-one intimate relationship, spending time together alone, “getting to know each other” in a very deep way before deciding whether that’s the person they want to marry. Rather, in Islam pre-marital relationships of any kind between members of the opposite sex are forbidden.

1. Allah subhanahu wa’tala says:

Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and protect their private parts. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts.”
(Surah al-Noor: 30-31)

But Dating encourages people to deliberately look and stare and seek out the ‘one’ that you find attractive.

2. Allaah orders the Muslim women not to talk unnecessarily or in a soft manner to strange men.

“….then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery) should be moved with desire”
(Surah al-Ahzaab: 32)

Even for the Sahaabah, Allaah ordered them to screen themselves from the wives of the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam) when they need to ask them something. Who could be purer than the wives of the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam) and who could be higher in taqwa than the Sahaabah?

“And when you ask (the Prophet’s wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen, that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. (Surah al-Ahzaab: 53)

Yet, in Dating, you see young men and women who are absolutely not mahram for one another in any way whatsoever, going way beyond this prohibition. Not only are they talking to each other in a soft and flirtatious way, but they are right out expressing their ‘love’ (in reality, lust) for each other.

3. The Sunnah prohibits a man and a woman from being alone together at any time.

The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, let him not be alone with a woman who has no mahram present, for the third one present will be the Shaytaan.”
(Ahmad – saheeh by al-Albaani)

But those who celebrate Valentine’s Day purposely seek to be alone with each other and go out on dates with each other while Allaah says:

“And come not near to unlawful sex. Verily, it is a Faahishah (i.e. anything that transgresses its limits: a great sin, and an evil way that leads one to hell unless Allaah Forgives him)”
(al-Isra’: 32)

4. Islaam prohibits a man to even touch a non-mahram woman.

The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam) said: “If one of you were to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle, that would be better for him than his touching a woman who is not permissible for him.”
(al-Tabaraani – saheeh by al-Albaani)

But Dating promotes more than just touching. It promotes hugging, kissing, cuddling and much more.
May Allaah protect us.

5. Islaam teaches us that real love between a man and a woman, that is acceptable and allowed by Allah is only that between a husband and his wife.

“And of His signs is that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you might reside with them, and has put love and mercy between you. Surely, there are signs in this for those who think.
(al-Room: 21)

But DATES endorses haraam relationships between a non-mahram man and woman and encourages illicit love and un-Islaamic affiliations.

6. Islaam tells us that Hayaa’ (modesty) and bashfulness are a jewel to be treasured.

It is a purity and innocence that is a virtue, regardless for a man or a woman.
The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam) said: “Hayaa’ (modesty) is a branch of faith.” (Bukhaari)

On the other hand, THESE dates and hanging out with opposite gender advocates nothing but shamelessness and immodesty.

The choice of a marriage partner is one of the most important decisions a person will make in his or her lifetime. It should not be taken lightly, nor left to chance or hormones. It should be taken as seriously as any other major decision in life – with prayer, careful investigation, and family involvement.

The following steps should be adopted:

Make du’a (supplication) to Allah; ask Him to help you find the right person.

The family should enquire, discusse, and suggest candidates. They should consult with each other, so as to narrow down potential prospects. Usually the father or mother should approache the other family to suggest a meeting.

Couple should meet in chaperoned, group environment. ‘Umar related that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Not one of you should meet a woman alone unless she is accompanied by a relative (mahram).” (Bukhari/Muslim).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also reportedly said, “Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Satan (Shaytan) is the third among them.” (Tirmidhi).

When young people are getting to know each other, being alone together is a temptation toward wrongdoing. At all times, Muslims should follow the commands of the Qur’an (24:30-31) to, {lower their gaze and guard their modesty….} Islaam recognizes that we are human and are given to human weakness, that is why this rule provides safety-measures for our own sake.

Family should investigate candidate further – speaking with friends, family, Islamic leaders, co-workers, etc. to learn more about his or her character before making the final decision.

Couple should both pray Salaat-al-istikhaarah (The Prayer For Guidance), and thus seek Allah’s help in making the decision.

An agreement should be made to either pursue marriage or part ways. Islaam has given this freedom of choice to both young men and women – they cannot be forced into a marriage that they don’t want.

This type of focused courtship helps ensure the strength of the marriage, by drawing upon family elders’ wisdom and guidance in this important life decision. Family involvement in the choice of a marriage partner helps assure that the choice is based not on romantic notions, but rather on a careful, objective evaluation of the compatibility of the couple.

That is why these marriages often prove successful.

And Allah knows best!