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Taking medicine is recommended in Islam for the one who is sick―but it is not obligatory (wājib). So, if it is not obligated for the one who is actually sick, then taking experimental drugs for prevention of sickness for the one who is not sick in the first place is even more-so not an obligation. As for certain preventative drugs being recommended for a person as soon as they are manufactured without long term trials, then that would be questionable since a true evaluation of their benefits against risks has not been made, and may take considerable time.
Al-Imām Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullāh) said in Zād Al-Ma’ād fi Hadyi Khayril-‘Ibād (p. 83):
فَصْلٌ فِي هَدْيِهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي مُعَالَجَةِ الْمَرْضَى بِتَرْكِ إِعْطَائِهِمْ مَا يَكْرَهُونَهُ مِنَ الطَّعَامِ وَالشَّرَابِ، وَأَنَّهُمْ لَا يُكْرَهُونَ عَلَى تَنَاوُلِهِمَا
“Chapter: Concerning his (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) treating the sick by not giving them food and drink that they dislike―and that they are not to be forced to take them.” Then Ibn Al-Qayyim said:
رَوَى الترمذي فِي ” جَامِعِهِ “، وَابْنُ مَاجَهْ عَنْ عُقْبَةَ بْنِ عَامِرٍ الْجُهَنِيِّ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: لَا تُكْرِهُوا مَرْضَاكُمْ عَلَى الطَّعَامِ وَالشَّرَابِ، فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يُطْعِمُهُمْ وَيَسْقِيهِمْ
At-Tirmidhī reported in his Jāmi’ and Ibn Mājah from ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Āmir Al-Juhanī that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Do not force your sick ones to eat and drink for indeed Allah (the Mighty and Majestic) feeds them and gives them drink.” (Ibn Mājah no. 3444, and declared hasan by Shaikh Al-Albāni, see As-Sahīhah no. 727, and Al-Mishkāt, no. 4533, second edition)
Imām An-Nawawī (rahimahullāh) stated in Al-Majmū’ Sharhul-Mahadhdhab (5/118):
ويستحب أن لا يكره المريض على الدواء وغيره من الطعام
“And it is desirable that the sick person is not forced to take medication or other things such as food.” So the origin of the matter is that it is not allowed to forcibly medicate or feed a person who is sick if he refuses that. Al-Imām Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) stated: “If someone refuses treatment, there is no problem with that.” So the choice returns back to the individual himself or herself―they are given the facts and the recommended treatment, and then they make an informed choice to accept or refuse without compulsion.
So, if it is not allowed to forcibly medicate an actual sick person who is clearly displaying symptoms of sickness, then how can it be said that it is obligatory [in the Sharī’ah] to forcibly medicate (whose safety and efficacy is unproven) into people who are not sick in the first place and are actually healthy?
Al-Bukhārī (no. 5712) reported that Ā’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) stated:
قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ لَدَدْنَاهُ فِي مَرَضِهِ، فَجَعَلَ يُشِيرُ إِلَيْنَا، أَنْ لاَ تَلُدُّونِي فَقُلْنَا كَرَاهِيَةُ الْمَرِيضِ لِلدَّوَاءِ. فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ أَلَمْ أَنْهَكُمْ أَنْ تَلُدُّونِي قُلْنَا كَرَاهِيَةَ الْمَرِيضِ لِلدَّوَاءِ. فَقَالَ لاَ يَبْقَى فِي الْبَيْتِ أَحَدٌ إِلاَّ لُدَّ ـ وَأَنَا أَنْظُرُ ـ إِلاَّ الْعَبَّاسَ فَإِنَّهُ لَمْ يَشْهَدْكُمْ
We put medicine in one side of his mouth but he started waving at us not to insert the medicine into his mouth. We said, “He dislikes the medicine as a patient usually does.” But when he came to his senses he said, “Did I not forbid you to put medicine [by force] in the side of my mouth?” We replied, “We thought it was just because a patient usually dislikes medicine.” He said, “There is none who is in the house except that they will be forced to take medicine in the side of their mouth while I am watching, except Al-‘Abbās, for he had not witnessed your deed.”
Al-Hāfidh Ibn Hajr (rahimahullāh) stated from Al-Battāl: “That is because this is a crime against him, therefore retaliation is due.” And Ibn Hajr said: “It is understood from the narration that if the sick person is cognizant and aware, he cannot be forced to take something he has prohibited, nor is he prohibited from something he has ordered.” (Fathul-Bārī, 10/167)
Benefits from Ibn Bāz and Ibn ‘Uthaimeen on the topic:
Shaikh Abdul-‘Azeez Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh): “What is correct concerning medical treatment is that it is recommended and legislated. An-Nawawi (rahimahullāh) and others have cited this from the majority of the scholars―that the saying of the majority of the scholars is that it is recommended. Some of the people of knowledge stated that it is the same either way, not recommended and not disliked, rather it is halāl (permissible). And there are other scholars who stated that refusing treatment is better. It has been narrated from As-Siddeeq that when it was said to him, “A physician?” He responded: “The physician made me sick.” However, I do not know whether this is authentic from As-Siddeeq. Nevertheless, the point being: that which the majority of the scholars are upon (in this affair) is what is correct―that medical treatment is recommended with Shari’ah permissible medicines which do not contain anything impermissible. And this includes permissible remedies such as the recital of the Qur’ān, Ruqyah and treatment using cauterisation―and cauterisation in the absence of other medicine is not a problem if there is a need for that. Treatment with permissible things is fine…”
He continued later on: “So the point is that taking remedies is a legislated matter according to what is correct―that is the saying of the majority of the scholars and if someone refuses treatment, there is no problem with that. And if he thinks there is benefit in treatment and the need for it is intense, then it is more encouraged. That is because refusing treatment may cause him harm and distress, and cause his family and carers distress. So treatment (in this case) is beneficial for him and his family. That is because treatment will help him to take the means of cure, and help him upon obedience to Allah so that he can pray in the Masjid, so he can fulfil matters that will benefit the people and benefit himself. So if he becomes inactive (or useless) due to the illness then many other affairs will cease or be lost.”
Then further on, he stated: “As for those (scholars) who said: Both sides carry equal weight, whether you take treatment or refuse treatment; or those who said that it is better to leave off treatment. Then this saying is wrong and the truth is more deserving that it is followed. And the Shari’ah proofs are given precedence over the saying of any person. May Allah grant guidance to everyone.” Shaikh Ibn Bāz in (نور على الدرب ، حكم التداوي من الأمراض), Fatwa #8104.
In the case of a severely sick person, from whom it is known that by refusing food and drink or medication will lead to his death or he will harm his body, or the probability of that occurring is highly likely as attested to by trustworthy physicians, then, in this case, it is obligatory upon the sick person to take what will prevent his destruction because the Sharī’ah forbids that a person harms himself or brings about his own destruction or that of others.
As for modern western medicine and its unwavering advocates, then sufficient is the commentary of Al-Imām Ibn Uthaimeen (rahimahullāh) on the words of the author of Ar-Rawd who said: “It is disliked that a Muslim seeks treatment from a non-Muslim without necessity and that he takes medicine from him when he has not made clear its permissible components.” Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen said: “Meaning: It is disliked for you to go to a dhimmī, meaning a Jew or a Christian… to take treatment from him because he is not trustworthy. And when that is the case, then giving them authority over Muslim physicians is even more disliked because the one who is in authority has his saying―and perhaps he will direct them to do something harām or to do something that harms the Muslims. For this reason, we say: Seeking treatment from non-Muslims is not permissible except with two conditions:
Firstly, there is a need for them (i.e. the treatment and medication).
Secondly, that one is safe from their scheming because we cannot be safe from the scheming of the non-Muslims except very rarely.” (Ibn ‘Uthaimeen in Sharh Mumti’ 5/325)
So, the two matters that must be established before a Muslim should take a particular drug therapy, treatment or medicine invented and developed by the unbelievers (i.e. big pharmaceutical companies) are: firstly, efficacy (proof that they actually work), and secondly, that they are proven to be safe. And even if these matters are proven, it is still not an obligation upon a person to take the treatment if he chooses not to do so, except as stated by Ibn Bāz above: “That is because refusing treatment may cause him harm and distress, and cause his family and carers distress. So treatment (in this case) is beneficial for him and his family. That is because treatment will help him to take the means of cure, and help him upon obedience to Allah so that he can pray in the Masjid, so he can fulfil matters that will benefit the people and benefit himself.”
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