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Back to Basics | Prophetic Medicine: Holistic Healing With Hijama

by in Culture on 7th November, 2023

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of healing through exploring inner strength. Whether the journey is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, I find it inspiring to see how we can uncover our God-given potential to bring about positive change. There came a time in my life when I recognized the need to prioritise my health holistically, encompassing the mind, body and spirit. I had formed a deeper connection with my faith, and wanted it to be the anchor in all aspects of my life. My pursuit to be a better Muslim was also the driving force behind my journey in seeking wellness.

Initially I had to sift through a lot of the pop culture junk: “read this or that, eat this or that, follow this workout routine …” There’s no denying that many people find success in following those ideas. However, I was looking for something with its roots in cultivating a higher level of deen. So I turned to the source where we can find many answers: the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. As an adult, I now appreciate the inspiration and guidance that we find within the sunnah on a deeper level. 

I came across Prophetic medicine (al-tibb al-nabawi), a particular part of the sunnah that consists of remedies, treatments and therapies recommended by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, with the fundamental understanding that Allah is the ultimate Healer, Ash-Shaafi. This knowledge gave me comfort and hope.

“There is a remedy for every malady, and when the remedy is applied to the disease it is cured with the permission of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious.” [Sahih Muslim 2204]

A mind-body-spirit approach to healing is especially emphasised in Islamic tradition. These are basic elements of one’s being that influence worldview, actions and experiences. It’s crucial to nurture each aspect. 

Within the gold mine of Prophetic medicine, I learned about Hijama. The sunnah practice of Hijama involves wet-cupping therapy (WCT), during which a certified practitioner makes minor superficial incisions in the top layer of the skin and uses suction cups to draw out “bad blood” that contains toxins and buildup. If the idea of small cuts to your skin sounds scary, don’t worry — WCT has been practised for centuries around the world. And you can find comfort in the knowledge that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ regularly practised Hijama. 

“The best medical treatment you apply is cupping.” [Sunan Abi Dawud 3857]

The Arabic word Hijama means to “suction out” or “to return to a natural state.” Contrary to modern medicine, which introduces chemicals to the body, “alternative” methods like Hijama withdraw harmful substances in order to let the body heal within itself. Hijama cleanses your bloodstream of toxins and buildup and encourages fresh blood circulation, helping to restore your body to homeostasis, where all body systems are functioning stably and in balance.

According to research, Hijama is said to improve

  • Acute pain conditions, as well as chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation and other painful joint-related conditions
  • Female infertility and hormonal conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that disrupt the reproductive system
  • Mood disorders, such as depression, stress and anxiety
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Skin concerns like acne and eczema
  • Overall function of major body systems

The idea of using our body’s tools to heal resonated with me. I was inclined towards Hijama, but still wanted to know more about the process and what to expect from it.

In my quest to learn more about this Prophetic practice, I came across a few Muslim women who pursued this treatment therapy for different reasons. Fortunately, they were willing to share their experiences which helped me gain insight on the Hijama experience.  

Please note: Pseudonyms have been used to respect the privacy of these women.

What can Hijama do for the mind?

Yousra (20s) pursued Hijama therapy to help manage general stress and anxiety. Here’s what she said about her experience.

I felt super rejuvenated after getting it done. It helped with brain fog and just lightened my mood, and I feel more inclined to making better choices concerning my overall health.

Yousra isn’t alone. As women – as humans – life is a series of changes, within our personal and professional lives, within our minds and bodies. Naturally, our mental and emotional states endure some of the chaos. To help manage the stress, it’s crucial that we allow ourselves to pause, rest and recuperate every now and then.

What can Hijama do for the body?

Alia (30s) provided an understanding on how Hijama therapy can help someone cope with chronic health conditions.

My body completely changed once I entered my 30s. I suffer from chronic inflammation and polycystic ovary syndrome, which sometimes causes general fatigue and pain, especially in my shoulders and back. I started considering different types of body therapy. I didn’t know much about Hijama except for what my friends and family told me. I was hesitant but wanted to see if it would live up to the amazing reviews I heard.”

Alia and I faced the same hurdle of finding a Hijama practitioner; it can be difficult to know where to look. Ultimately, we both found our practitioner through recommendations from fellow Muslim sisters. (Note: if you find a good practitioner, make sure to recommend them to your family and friends who are interested.)

“The relief I felt after the wet cupping process was almost instant. I felt lighter and emotionally and physically renewed. I knew it had worked because I could feel the difference between my upper body (where I did Hijama) and my lower body (where I didn’t). Needless to say, I went back for another session for my lower body. Alhamdulillah, so far I’ve had only good experiences and I will definitely be incorporating this into my health routine as recommended by my practitioner!

It was comforting for Alia to know that Hijama can be used to treat the uncomfortable chronic effects of common conditions like inflammation and PCOS. For many women, the go-to treatment from their doctor is medication that isn’t always as effective as needed, or just doesn’t align with their health goals. People similar to Alia might find relief in a naturopathic treatment like Hijama. 

Furthermore, Hijama can also be used to treat conditions that affect the major body systems like the immune and respiratory systems. Maha (40s) suffered from lingering effects of COVID-19 for several weeks before she turned to Hijama for relief.

When nothing helped alleviate my post-Covid cough or the inflammation at my throat and my esophagus, Hijama helped me breathe and regain my voice.

It’s important to note that Hijama isn’t only for people who have health concerns. You can use it as preventative therapy or simply to experience the physical, mental and spiritual benefits.

What can Hijama do for the spirit?

Maha says, “It feels great. It elevates the mood, helps reduce pain by reducing inflammation, and creates a sense of vitality.” As a result, Maha has the energy and clarity of mind to build her spiritual connection with Allah.

Hijama can uplift dull energy levels, which can positively impact our worship. I personally found that Hijama reinvigorates your spirituality by improving focus, helping to create higher taqwa in worship. Try to set up a solid routine when it comes to things like salah, engaging with the Qur’an and dhikr. These acts of worship already come with their own spiritual benefits to help you in your overall Islamic wellness. Hijama can help boost its quality.

Getting ready for your first session

Maha: “You should be sure you trust your practitioner. Even though it looks intense, it’s not scary or invasive.

Hearing the experiences of these women helped me get comfortable with Hijama. Finally, to get a better idea of the Hijama process, I talked to a well-established Hijama practitioner, The Hijama Expert. Here’s her advice.

1. Always verify your practitioner’s credentials

Ask about your practitioner’s qualifications, and look for a certificate that indicates legitimate educational training and experience.

2. Build and maintain a good relationship with your practitioner

You need someone who understands all your health concerns and can really support you throughout your wellness journey.

3. Make sure to hold a consultation

Discuss any concerns with your practitioner, and they’ll let you know how Hijama can help you. A good practitioner will walk you through the process of Hijama to make sure you fully understand what it entails.

4. Treat Hijama as a supplement to other necessary measures

Don’t rely solely on Hijama to heal you. Take other factors into consideration, whether that means a lifestyle change, other therapies, or medical treatments if needed. 

My Hijama experience 

One of the easiest ways to find a legitimate practitioner is by asking around for reliable recommendations. Some cities might have clinics that offer WCT, but for me, this was hard to come by. Ultimately, a friend referred me to her practitioner.

My Hijama practitioner advised me to fast 2-3 hours before my session. Upon arrival, I was welcomed by a peaceful atmosphere that immediately put me at ease. My practitioner took the time to reassure me of her training, experience and certification. During a brief consultation, I shared any health concerns I had. After our discussion, we agreed to proceed with Hijama on my entire back, aimed at  providing general pain relief, a bodily reset and a boost in energy.

My session started with a back massage to promote blood circulation. Following that, she made small incisions across my upper, mid and lower back, and started the cupping therapy. It’s not a painful process; I’d say the only discomfort you might feel would be from the pull of the suction cups. The whole process took around 30 to 45 minutes, the effects were pretty much immediate and have lasted several weeks.

Since then, I’ve felt an undeniable change. I have noticed an increase in energy, improved sleep and enhanced focus. It’s also improved my concentration in prayer which has contributed to my spiritual growth, Alhamdulillah. I believe having this sort of reset encourages you to be more mindful regarding all aspects of wellness. It’s made me mindful of dedicating more time to my health, even if it’s as simple as going out for a walk to get some sunshine or spending more time in dhikr.

Reviving a sunnah practice

As Muslims, our faith encourages us to seek ways to heal. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is a mercy to humanity, and through his sunnah, Allah has provided us with avenues to heal, sustain ourselves and thrive. Hijama is a great way to incorporate the sunnah in our lives, as well as reset and refresh our mind, body, and spirit. 

This wellness journey is an ongoing process for me because I’m not fixated on a particular goal. My focus is more on the growth throughout, one that involves mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects. It’s important to find ways to ground and nurture ourselves in a busy world. If you try Hijama, make sure to share your experience with family and friends as it not only adds to your personal well-being, but also helps revive a beautiful sunnah practice!


References and Additional Resources

  1. Ibn al-Qayyim. 2008 (translated). The Prophetic Medicine. Egypt. Dar Al-Manarah.
  2. Dr. Rania Awaad, Danah Elsayed, Hosam Helal, “Holistic Healing: Islam’s Legacy of Mental Health,” Yaqeen, May 27, 2021, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/holistic-healing-islams-legacy-of-mental-health
  3. Najat, H. 2016. Hijama: How to Heal According to the Sunnah With the Heart Method. Netherlands.
  4. The Hijama Expert
  5. El Sayed SM, Mahmoud HS, Nabo MMH (2013) Medical and Scientific Bases of Wet Cupping Therapy (Al-Hijamah): in Light of Modern Medicine and Prophetic Medicine. Altern Integ Med 2: 122. doi:10.4172/2327-5162.1000122
Ammarah Ahmed

Ammarah Ahmed

Ammarah is a South Asian Muslim writer born in the U.S. who focuses primarily on Muslim identity. She believes in the power of the pen, and seeking and spreading knowledge. Her goal is to reclaim the narrative on Muslims through her writing to inspire peace and understanding.