Treatment with the Quran: Medicine or superstition?
Ahmed Dawood (author), Amal Al-Yarisi (photographer)
Quranic healers say that they have successfully treated people who were possessed by jinn. Muammar Sherian, one of these healers, whose clinic is on Ta’iz Street in Sana’a, says that a few months ago a woman from Ba’adan, in Ibb governorate, came to his clinic. “She was possessed by a jinn,” asserts Sherian, “and when I started reciting the Quran, I could talk to the spirit. It was speaking in the Sana’a, Dhamar and even Syrian dialects, along with English.”
Further, he said, “While talking to the jinn, he told me that he was a Muslim and that he had memorized the whole Quran. So I asked him to recite some chapters, and he did. I asked him if he was really a Muslim, why would he harm a human of the same religion? He replied that he was not harming her, but protecting her from infidel jinn!”
Spread of Quran treatment centers
During the past ten years, these centers have grown considerably in many governorates. Most of the faith healers say they treat only bewitched, cursed, possessed and epileptic persons. But some claim that they can heal other diseases including uncontrollable anger, excessively long menstruation, abnormal body temperature, and nighttime anxiety.
Sherian says that he treats cases of black magic, the evil eye, possession and epilepsy. “For other cases,” he explains, “I refer them to medical specialists.”
As for fees, he says that he receives the amount of YR 1,000 for each session and that most of the people who visit his clinic are possessed by jinn. “We easily recognize the possessed,” explains Sherian. “When we start reciting the Quran to them, they begin shaking and, sometimes, their fingers and toes curl. This does not happen with people who are not possessed.”
In order to expel jinn from human bodies, healers employee various methods; some believe that the only means to banish spirits is by reciting the Quran alone, whereas others inflict brutal beatings on their patients. “As for me,” says Sherian, “I neither beat patients, have sessions with women alone, nor ask about the name of the patient’s mother as some healers do. I simply recite the Quran.”
Sheikh Aref Al-Shamiri, a well-known Quran therapist, says that the Holy Quran is a medication, while the beating practiced by some healers is a gross violation of standard treatment methods. “I believe,” he said, “that such a therapist must have adequate juristic knowledge, be highly pious and devout, be recommended by prominent scholars and, most importantly, he should aim to call people to Allah instead of working solely for financial gain.” \
According to Al-Shamiri, beside the Quran, the therapist may use other means of treatment such as administering black seeds, or Zamzam water, and cupping, but these should be used only as auxiliaries, while the Quran should be the essential means of treatment. “Before assuming this job, the therapist must be familiar with Islamic jurisprudence in order to read the Quran to his patients according to the methods dictated by sharia. Also, he should be dedicated to benefitting his patients whether or not they pay him.”
Faith healers vs. Sorcerers
Sherian thinks that quacks have many tricks they employ in healing sessions. “They insert a rosary into the patient’s mouth, pretending to rid their illness, and telling them they are under a spell, being bewitched, or have epilepsy. Real Quran therapists do not tell the patient what he/she is suffering from right away.”
He adds that we can recognize a charlatan when he asks the patient to give his/her mother’s name and hands them charms that contain numbers, letters, squares and unintelligible words, in addition to the names of genies such as Shamharir, Hamshoush and so on. “Such charms may also have chapters from the Holy Quran whose verses are intentionally written in a scattered and incomplete manner with some letters not dotted or not in their normal direction. They sometimes add symbols and drawings of snakes and scorpions.”
Other signs of fraudulent practices include spitting into water and other materials used in the treatment, knotting strings or ropes, using incense to summon devils in addition to convincing patients that they hear queer sounds like wings fluttering, mumbling, and knocking.
“Charlatans also ask to be left alone with women patients, request their patients not to touch water for a period up to 40 days, bury things in the ground, sprinkle liquids, put decayed eggs on door thresholds or inside the house, and the patient may be given some paper to burn and use the smoke as incense,” Sherian stated.
Piety and devotedness
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Hashedi, member of Iman University’s fatwa panel, says that there is no problem with treatment by the Quran and that ruqia (treatment by recitation of the Quran) is allowed by Sharia, that it was done by the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), and that it is consistent with the Holy Quran, where Allah says: “… And we send down from the Quran that which is healing and a mercy to those who believe [in Islamic Monotheism and act on it] and it gives polytheists and wrong-doers nothing but loss.” [50:82]
“The word [healing] explains Al-Hashedi, “is a general word for curing illnesses. Ruqia is meant for curing irremediable diseases like bewitching, evil eye, epilepsy and other diseases.”
As for opening Quran treatment centers, the sheikh says, “This is not common in Muslim history and contemporary scholars differ in opinion: some believe this to be an unprecedented novelty, while others think that modern times require the availability of such clinics or facilities.”
Nevertheless, Al-Hashedi disapproves of certain practices by some therapists such as sitting alone with women patients or touching them, because touching the patient is not a condition for the treatment, he says.
Dr. Yusof Al-Qaradawi affirms that sheikhs and doctors who try to heal everything with the Quran contradict what was practiced during the Prophet’s time. “The Messenger used the Quran for treatment, but he also used cautery and ordered his companions to use it when necessary.”
The ruqia, according to Dr. Al-Qardawi, is a supplication that goes: “O, Allah, God of people, cure us and you are the curer, there is no cure but yours, a cure that does not leave behind any ailment.”
For the patient to treat himself, one puts his hands on the area that needs treatment and says ‘I seek refuge in Allah and His Power from the evil of what I find and I fear’ or one says to the person he wishes to treat, ‘I ask Almighty God, lord of the mighty throne, to heal you.’
He adds that patients should do the above while consulting specialized medical doctors and taking the medicines prescribed by them.
“The patients may treat themselves or treat others by reciting parts of the Quran like Ayat Al-Kursi and Al-Nas, Al-Falaq and Al-Fateha chapters. The treated person can benefit spiritually and physically by having their immunity strengthened against diseases. But settling for this as the sole method of treatment and using traditional medicines for treating the kidney, for example, is not a treatment.”
Dr. Abdullah Abdul Wahab Al-Shara’abi, a consultant psychiatrist, says that some patients suffer from psychological or mental disorders and when they visit centers that offer treatment by means of the Quran, the therapists recite the Quran to them straightway, thinking that the patient has a jinn, although that person may be suffering from a psychological disorder.
“Reciting the Quran,” Dr. Al-Shara’abi says, “gives the patient spiritual tranquility and stability, which is known in psychology as [cognitive behavioral therapy’] the result is that patients feel better. But the opposite could happen: many patients treated with the Quran in such centers suffer from worsening disorders due to the belief that they have genies within their bodies, so they are constantly in a state of fear and worry.”