Non-specialists promoting medical remedies to combat COVID-19
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the entire world, unproven medical treatments that claim to stave off the virus are being widely circulated by non-specialists. Is this permissible?
The noble Islamic law guides us to seek trusted sources of information and commands us to seek the people of knowledge about matters of which we are ignorant. God Almighty says, “So ask those who have the knowledge if you do not know.” The people of knowledge are those who have developed specialization and expertise in a particular art or science. Commenting on this verse, the scholar al-Zagag said that it does not specify a particular group of people but refers to those who are known to have knowledge regardless of their religion. According to him, this interpretation is based on the general meaning of the words of the verse and not on its particular cause of revelation; the general interpretation of the verse’s wording takes precedence as long as there is nothing to restrict it.
It is necessary to solicit information about the various secular or religious fields of inquiry only from specialists in them. According to Imam al-Qarafi in Sharh Tanqih al-Fusul, the explicit mention of “those who have the knowledge” in the noble Quranic verse implies the prohibition of seeking out non-specialists.
The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) warned against seeking medical treatment from non-specialists i.e., other than physicians. He added that whosoever takes it upon himself to treat others while being unqualified i.e., not having the necessary medical education and training, will be accountable; professions of good intentions are not an excuse. The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Anyone who practices medicine without any prior knowledge of medicine will be held liable.” Another wording of the hadith says, “Anyone who practices medicine without any prior knowledge of medicine and kills or harms a human being will be held liable.”
Practicing medicine without having qualified scholarship is as dangerous as meddling in religious sciences while lacking the necessary knowledge, thus leading to corruption in belief and religion. Similarly, whoever intrudes upon medical sciences and upon every matter related to human safety as in medicine, pharmacy, and engineering jeopardizes human lives. The preservation of human life is among the higher objectives of Islamic law and the most important of the essentials of the five objectives of Islamic law.
Prescribing medicine or dispensing medical advice is a form of delving into matters of which we have no knowledge, a matter which God Almighty prohibits with the words, “And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart - about all those [one] will be questioned."
Moreover, the negative consequences of publishing such prescriptions by non-specialists are far greater than their claimed benefits. The good intentions of their publisher are not enough to justify the act because it involves tampering with the lives and health of people and this is directly antithetical to the objective of Islam with regard to the preservation of human life. God Almighty says, “Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” In addition to the above, it is considered propagating lies and mistruths which is prohibited by many legal evidences such as the hadith of Ibn Mas’ud (may God be pleased with him) who narrated that the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Truth leads to piety and piety leads to paradise. A man speaks the truth and persists in telling the truth until he is recorded as truthful in the records of God. Lying leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to hellfire. A person tells lies and persists in telling lies until he is recorded as a liar in the records of God."
The diagnosis of health conditions, prescription of medicine, and dispensation of medical advice are all within the province of the treating physician who is entrusted with examining the patient. No one, pharmacist or otherwise, has prescriptive authority because, even though people may have similar symptoms, the medication that may be suitable for one patient may not be for another.
Anyone of sound mind should think twice about compromising one’s health by following the advice of those who presume to know everything. It is likewise necessary to refrain from taking unproven drugs.
And God Almighty knows best.