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OCTOBER 2000

MONTHLY    *    Vol 14-10 No:166    *   OCTOBER 2000 / RAJJAB 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

HADITH


Incurable Illness

Incurable Illness

Comentary by Adil Salahi

The Prophet then said to them: “Servants of Allah. Allah has made things easy, and no sin is attached to them, except in the case of a person that falls in sin and condemns himself to destruction. “They asked: “Messenger of Allah, should we seek medical treatment?” He said: ”Yes. Servants of Allah. Seek medical treatment because Allah has not created an illness without creating a cure for it, with the exception of one illness.” They asked which illness was that. The Prophet answered: “Old age.” They then inquired: “Messenger of Allah, what is the best quality man is given? He answered: “Good manners.”

(Related by Abu Dawood, At-Tirmizi, Ibn Majah,
Al-Bukhari in Al-Addab Al Mufrad, Ahmed and others).


THERE were many occasions in the life of the Prophet (Pbuh) when people asked him multitudes of questions. That was the case when a person who lived away from Madinah saw the Prophet for the first or second time and availed himself of the chance to seek his guidance on some matters which he felt to be important. The Prophet’s answers on such occasions, which have been well documented in the same way as other forms of Hadith, provide us with enlightenment on many aspects of our faith. They are also colourful, especially when questions covered many subjects as was the case when a number of people, a delegation from a certain tribe, a group of Bedouins travelling together, met the Prophet and each one of them asked the question which was paramount in his mind. One such important occasion was when the Prophet offered his pilgrimage. A very large number of people travelled with him. Many of them saw the Prophet for the first time on that journey. When any group of them had a chance to meet him and put their questions to him, they availed themselves of that chance. Today we are discussing a Hadith which relates a dialogue of this sort.

Ussamah ibn Shareek relates that he was sitting with the Prophet during his pilgrimage when a large number of Bedouins came and joined him from more than one direction. Other people who were present gave them a chance to put their questions to the Prophet. They asked so many questions about different matters, making sure that they were acceptable and no restrictions were imposed by Islam concerning them. The reporter of this Hadith comments that these were ordinary, permissible matters. The Prophet then said to them: “Servants of Allah. Allah has made things easy, and no sin is attached to them, except in the case of a person that falls in sin and condemns himself to destruction. “They asked: “Messenger of Allah, should we seek medical treatment?” He said: “Yes. Servants of Allah. Seek medical treatment because Allah has not created an illness without creating a cure for it, with the exception of one illness.” They asked which illness was that. The Prophet answered: “Old age.” They then inquired: “Messenger of Allah, what is the best quality man is given? He answered: “Good manners.” (Related by Abu Dawood, At-Tirmizi, Ibn Majah, Al-Bukhari in Al-Addab Al Mufrad, Ahmed and others).

The Prophet asked his followers to seek treatment for all illnesses, hinting that illness and medicine, both are Allah’s creations

The first thing to note about this Hadith is that people who were attending the Prophet kept quite when they saw the Bedouins come to speak to him. They recognized that these people did not have many chances to speak to the Prophet directly and learn from him, at first hand, some important aspects of Islamic teachings. But the questions they asked were of an ordinary, simple nature. People should be able to know these without questioning the Prophet. Hence, he himself draws their attention to something of importance and tells them of one grave sin, namely backbiting. This is a sin which people always commit. It is very easy to fall into the trap of backbiting. People tend to make fun of others when they are absent. When this happens and other people laugh, there is always the temptation to make further fun of the same person and that may lead to exaggeration, false claims and lies. That adds insult to injury. It is then a double offence which puts the person who commits it in a very difficult position. The Prophet expresses that difficulty by saying that person sends himself to perdition. That is a very wise method of teaching. The Prophet has made use of the occasion and the fact that those people ask only about simple matters which were permissible. Since his interlocutors wanted to know whether they commit any sin by doing this or that, the Prophet told them that nothing of that incurs any sin with the exception of backbiting. It goes without saying that there are other sins which are even more serious than that. But the Prophet did not want to burden those people with making a long list of sins. He merely pointed out something which takes place very frequently when people sit and chat together.

The Bedouins, however, continued with their questions and asked whether they should seek medical treatment for illnesses. Here the Prophet draws their attention to the fact that both illness and cure have been created by Allah. He has made one the cause to eradicate another. Both illness and cure work by His will, and it is His will that made the rule of cause and effect. Moreover, the Prophet’s answer serves as an encouragement to Muslim doctors to try to find a cure for every illness. This is one encouragement to conduct every possible test and undertake any research in the hope of discovering cures of illnesses which have remained so far incurable. We should not, however, wonder that people ask such a question. People of different religions sometimes think that they need not, indeed should not, take any medicine, for medicine is, in their view, a challenge to Allah’s will. This notion is alien to Islam which views illness and cure as aspects of Allah’s creation. When one abolishes the other, it can only work by Allah’s will.

The Prophet’s answer, however, makes one exception and names an illness which in incurable. Here again we note the Prophet’s unique method of teaching. He seizes the opportunity to remind his questioners of the hereafter. For the incurable illness in nothing but old age. We should not be surprised at the fact that the Prophet calls it an illness. After all, what does illness do to man if not to weaken him and sap his strength. Old age does exactly that, although it is caused by no germ or virus. When the Prophet says that old age is incurable, he means that it is a terminal illness which ends in death. When one dies, one has to face the reckoning.

If he has done well in life, he is a winner. If he has not, he is an absolute loser. The Prophet’s answer, therefore, serves as a reminder to people to do well before they are overtaken by this incurable illness which is bound to take its toll and terminate the life of its victim. If the victim of old age acts on this reminder, he can save himself of the punishment of the hereafter. If not, he is doomed.

The final question given in this Hadith asks the Prophet of the best quality given to man. That quality, according to the Prophet, is good manners. It is a quality which affects every aspect of one’s life, especially his dealings with his fellow human beings. We are not surprised at the Prophet’s answer because in another Hadith he states that the essence of faith is proper dealing with fellow human beings. That proper and good dealings with other people can only be achieved when one is endowed with good manners. Hence, we pray that Allah enables us to improve our manners all the time. 

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