Is Taking Medicine Compulsory?

THE STATUS OF MEDICINE

[By Hazrat Maulana Ahmad Sadeq Desai]

QUESTION:

A friend says that it is compulsory to consume even haraam medicine to save one’s life if no halaal remedy is available. He says that it is just like saving one’s life with haraam food, even pork if no halaal food is available. If a person refuses to eat the haraam food and dies as a result of hunger, he will be sinful. The same rule applies if he dies because of abstaining from the haraam medication. Is his reasoning valid in the Shariah?

ANSWER:

His reasoning is invalid, and his analogy is fallacious. Whilst consuming the haraam food becomes incumbent, the same rule does not apply to haraam medicine. Starvation and total abstention from food are certain causes of death, just as consuming poison is a certain cause of death. For this reason hunger strikes leading to death are haraam. If there is yaqeen (certitude) that a circumstance will cause death, and if that circumstance is avoidable, then it is Waajib to avoid it even by haraam methods. Thus it is Waajib to avoid death caused by starvation even if the food is haraam.

On the other hand, if a circumstance is zanni (not absolute in certainty), that is, death in its wake is not an absolute certainty, then it is not Waajib to adopt that measure. For this reason, submitting to medical treatment is not incumbent.

The very same Fuqaha who say that it is Waajib to save one’s life with haraam food when one is on the verge of death due to starvation, say that Tadaawi bil haraam (medication with haraam substances) is not Waajib. In the vast majority of cases, people are not cured by medicine and the treatment of doctors and hakeems. The acquisition of cure from medicine is not absolute.

Almost all the cancer, heart and other diseased patients we know of have not been cured by the most expensive medicines and medical treatment. On the contrary, experience has established that their health further deteriorates in the wake of these strong, harmful, poisonous drug medicines.

Since the Shariah does not impose medical treatment/medicine as a Waajib measure even if it is halaal medicine, it should not be difficult to understand why people of Taqwa abstain from haraam kinds of medicine.

Once when Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) was extremely ill, some Sahaabah suggested that a hakeem be called. Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) said: “If I know that the cure for my sickness is to only lift my hand and place it on my head, then too I shall not do so.” He meant that he was pleased with Allah’s decree which caused him to be so sick.

There are no authorities of the Shariah who claim that saving life with even halaal medicine is Waajib, leave alone haraam medicine. The unanimous ruling is that if halaal medicine is not available, then a haraam medicine will be permissible, not waajib.

Your friend has misdirected his brains to hoist his personal opinion which is untenable in terms of the Shariah.

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