I think we all know someone who either seems to be afflicted by jinn, black magic, marital discord, a chronic physical ailment or mental health issues. The common Muslim response to all these issues is reciting Quran (usually referred to as ‘ruqya’, meaning ‘incantation’) over these struggling souls.
Often, a ‘Raqi’ is called upon to carry out the ruqya. Raqis offer many different approaches, including coming up with a ‘diagnosis’, reciting Quran, writing down prayers/invocations put into water as a drink for the ‘patient’ and one can even buy ruqya oil or water! These ‘Raqis’ are not paid for their services but interestingly, do accept ‘gifts’ (usually of money).
For a long time now, many of the ‘scholars’ claim the words of the Quran are a cure for all ailments – incorrectly, according to the Quran and going against the example of the Prophet when they claim the whole Quran can be used in this way. This practice has now become widespread but, like many other elements of Muslim lives, is not actually based upon Islam.
If like me, you have ever wondered, despite these claims, HOW exactly the words of the Holy Book can cure people, then, read on.
Many years ago, I decided to have a look at what the Quran itself contains about this concept.
In Surah Al Isra’, there is the following:
وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْءَانِ مَا هُوَ شِفَآءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلاَ يَزِيدُ الظَّـلِمِينَ إَلاَّ خَسَارًا
17:82. And We send down of the Qur’an that which is a cure and a mercy to the believers, and it increases the wrongdoers in nothing but loss.
And, in Surah Fussilat,
قُلْ هُوَ لِلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ هُدًى وَشِفَآءٌ وَالَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ فِى ءَاذَانِهِمْ وَقْرٌ وَهُوَ عَلَيْهِمْ عَمًى أُوْلَـئِكَ يُنَادَوْنَ مِن مَّكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ
41:44. Say: “It is for those who believe, a guide and a cure. And as for those who disbelieve, there is heaviness in their ears, and it is blindness for them. They are those who are called from a place far away (so they neither listen nor understand).
So, here, in both verses, Allāh states the Quran is ‘a cure’ alongside it being a guide and a mercy for those who believe. Just as in modern medicine, a cure in itself is wonderful but one needs to know which ailments it will relieve so as to administer it correctly.
If you keep looking, you find the answer in the words of our Lord in Surah Yunus, verse 57.
يَأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَآءَتْكُمْ مَّوْعِظَةٌ مَّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَشِفَآءٌ لِّمَا فِى الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (Qur’an), and a healing for that which is in your breasts, a guidance and a mercy for the believers.
A true epiphany! The Quran is a cure for what is in the breast/chest. In other words, the words of the Quran, its message is the cure for every spiritual disease of the HEART (e.g. disbelief, doubt, polytheism, hypocrisy etc). There is no mention, however, of the word ‘Ruqya’ in these verses and it is definitely NOT a cure for all physical and mental/emotional issues.
So, armed with this knowledge, an examination of the example of our Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) to explore what ‘ruqya’ actually is (as it clearly isn’t reciting any words of the Quran as if they were some ‘spell’ which can eradicate any harm!), if we can indeed use any part of the Quran in this way and when it should be done, is absolutely necessary.
Firstly, it is clear ‘ruqya’ implies ‘dua’ or invoking Allah.
In Sahih Muslim, Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Jibril (Gabriel) came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said: “O Muhammad (ﷺ)! Do you feel sick?” He (ﷺ) said, “Yes.” Jibril supplicated thus (i.e., he performed Ruqyah): “Bismillahi arqika, min kulli shay’in yu’dhika, min sharri kulli nafsin aw ‘ayni hasidi, Allahu yashfika, bismillahi arqika. [With the Name of Allah. I do ruqya for you, from all that troubles you, and from every harmful mischief and from the evil of the eyes of an envier. Allah will cure you; and with the Name of Allah, I do ruqya over you].”
Secondly, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “There is no ruqyah except in the case of the evil eye or fever.” (al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood)
As well as,
The Prophet (pbuh) instructed the use of ruqya to anyone who was under the influence of the evil eye as Aisha (RA) narrated: “The Messenger of Allaah (pbuh) commanded me, or he commanded (the people) to use ruqya to deal with the evil eye.” (Bukhari)
The wording of the hadith above makes the matter crystal clear. Ruqya is only for EVIL EYE or FEVER.
In terms of WHAT can be recited from the Quran,
Aisha (may Allaah be pleased with her) said, “When someone fell ill from the Prophet’s family he did ‘nafath’ on them (to blow three times over them reciting the two chapters of seeking refuge -Soorah al-Falaq and Soorah An-Naas). When he himself fell ill, the illness which lead to his death & I would (similarly) do ‘nafath’ on him and would wipe him with his own hands for it was more blessed than my hands.” (Muslim)
And in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Abu Said Al Khudri narrated,
Some of the companions of the Prophet (saws) came across a tribe amongst the tribes of the Arabs, and that tribe refused to take them in as guests. While they were in that state, the chief of that tribe was bitten by a snake (or stung by a scorpion). They said, (to the companions of the Prophet), “Have you got any medicine with you or anybody who can treat with Ruqya?” The Prophet’s (saws) companions said, “You refuse to entertain us, so we will not treat (your chief) unless you pay us for it.” So they agreed to pay them a flock of sheep. One of them (the Prophet’s (saws) companions) started reciting Surat-al-Fatiha and gathering his saliva and spitting it (at the snake-bite). The patient got cured and his people presented the sheep to them, but they said, “We will not take it unless we ask the Prophet (saws) (whether it is lawful).” When they asked him, he (saws) smiled and said, “How do you know that Surat-al-Fatiha is a Ruqya? Take it (flock of sheep) and assign a share for me.”
These ahadith clearly show the religion highlights Surahs An Naas, Al Falaq and Al Fatiha as the parts of the Quran used for ‘Ruqya’. Hence, it is clearly not correct to use other parts of the Quran as an attempt to cure someone (Religion must be based upon evidence as opposed to mere opinions).
Furthermore, if you take just a few minutes to look at these, you recognize that they are ‘duas’ – you are asking Allah for protection (An Naas and Al Falaq) or help and guidance (Al Fatiha).
This will be difficult for some of us to process. For so long, so many have stated the Quran heals all and it is understandably somewhat comforting to feel that you can do something productive to help one you love and care about.
However, sometimes immediate relief provides not a solution but further torment. Most importantly, one is adding something to the religion which we have all been warned against. Sadly, it can also mean that we, as a Muslim community, don’t give people the support they desperately need (e.g. counselling, medical intervention and so on).
From now on, let us not allow desperation to cure our loved ones blind us from the truth. If we open our minds and look at the actual evidence instead of listening to the voices of the clergy for a quick fix, we understand this issue and in the long term, the beauty of Islam.
In conclusion then,
- The Quran is a cure for the diseases of the heart (e.g. doubt, hypocrisy, disbelief, polytheism).
- ‘Ruqya’ is a type of ‘dua’.
- There are certain parts of the Quran (ie. An Naas and Al Falaq as well as Al Fatiha) which, due to their nature of being invocations or duas, may be recited in cases of evil eye or fever. There is no basis to use other parts of the Quran.
- Any cure or healing then, comes from the Lord only. For surely, the claim that the cure is in the actual words of the Quran is to contradict the fundamental belief that only the Lord has that power.