Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Islamic Medicine Research Program (IMRP): Reflections and Proposals

The Islamic Medicine Research Program (IMRP): Reflections and Proposals - By: Dr. Adi Setia Mohamad Dom

…natural medicines made out of herbs and plants will always be the best and slowly, very slowly, Europeans and Western societies are coming back to the wisdom of using natural medicines.

1. Introduction

Islamic Medicine, at core, is like what can be called an Integrative Medical Conceptual Framework (IMCF), or an Integrative Medical Principle (IMP), allowing it to systemically identify, appropriate and incorporate into its own medical theory, therapeutic framework and clinical practice, what is proven to be experientially and empirically good in all medical systems, modern or ancient, without compromising its own vision of what it means to be human and to be healthy. An important objective of this Colloquium is to flesh out this conceptualization in further detail in a way that people in the medical profession can find to be conceptually and empirically generative and fruitful, for our re-engagement with our own 1,500 year medical tradition has to be programmatic toward making it a living civilizational reality again. This means we are not all interested in Islamic Medicine as a cultural curiousity out of a vague sense of nostalgia for a past grandeur. Rather we are interested in Islamic Medicine as, to paraphrase Fulder, “one of the most sophisticated medical systems known to man. The Islamic methods of treating the healthy to prevent sickness and of treating the sick to reestablish their health, and its extraordinary skill in the use of subtle therapeutic techniques are so precisely those needed by us at this time that they must gradually alter the way we understand and practice medicine today.”     

The Islamic Medicine Research Program (IMRP) envisioned along these lines will lead to a revival of Islamic Medicine in the present context that can provide a conceptually rich and yet practical medical alternative to modern, western medicine; in effect a parallel medical paradigm or counter medical system that engages and interacts closely with the modern system and yet remain autonomous and self-sustaining, with a great potential to critically and proactively identify, appropriate and integrate positive aspects of the modern system into its own holistic vision and practice of preserving health and overall well-being, rather than focusing on “fighting” any particular disease symptom or pathologic agent per se.

Research into Islamic Medicine is not only medical, empirical or clinical, but also philosophical, historical and cross-cultural (e.g., as in ethnomedicine and comparative medicine), for there is so much of time-tested traditional medical methods, therapies, remedies and ideas that have been lost to our collective intellectual and cultural memory due to systemic, reductionistic medical westernization, and hence, for the Islamic Medicine Research Program (IMRP) to move forward, historical and cross-cultural research is also important. This does not mean that all doctors and medical academics and professionals have to do the actual arduous textual and field research, but that all of them should be aware of such research as has been, is being and shall be done, know how to access it and render it accessible to other practitioners and to their students and patients, and to the lay public in general. But at the very least, all medical colleges, faculties or departments dedicated to the revival and enhancement of Islamic Medicine must each have a center or unit devoted to research in the philosophical, historical, indigenous and cross-cultural aspects of medicine, or at the very, very least in order to save costs and conserve intellectual and academic resources, a number of independent colleges can network together as partners to contribute to the setting up of a common research center, which in turn can be linked to similar research centers and networks in other countries.   

Islamic Medicine is basically Natural or Fitrah Medicine (al-Tibb al-Fitri) which is centred on a sophisticated philosophical, spiritual and empirical psychology of the self-body dual nature of the human being, in which the physical body is seen as serving the spiritual (or true) self, while critically drawing its medical content from the ancient medical traditions of diverse cultures, Greek, Egyptian, Indian, Persian, Arabian and Chinese, as well as adding on these accumulated medical wisdom from the medical traditions of the Prophet himself (al-Tibb al-Nabawi), sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, all within an overarching integrative conceptual framework, which is the Worldview of Islam (ru’yat al-Islam lil-wujud). As Dr. Rehan Zaidi of Sunnipath Academy puts it:

One commonality between the Eastern medical traditions and Prophetic medicine is their concept of holism, a view documented well over 1,000 years ago explaining the value of the mind-body-spirit connection—discussions modern science seriously begun to explore only in the past 20 years. There are also many other similarities the Prophet's medicine has with the Eastern medical systems, such as Chinese Medicine. Both these systems place emphasis on procedures such as cupping, herbal therapy, and dietary modification, with fundamental reliance on prevention, balance, and non-physical forces such as energy and prayer.

This colloquium (or “speaking together”=muhadathah, mukalamah) draws on this time-tested, cosmopolitan heritage and invites the relevant parties to revive it in the context of a contemporary conceptual, rational and empirical Islamic Medicine Research Program (IMRP), one major component of which is a systemic evidence-based reinvestigation of the clinical practices, remedies and therapies documented in the classical Islamic medical texts, including Tibb Nabawi texts, and another of which is a systemic critical survey of contemporary medical approaches from East & West, including indigenous ethnomedical textual and oral traditions which are found to be in accord for the most part with Islamic medical philosophy and axiology, such as naturopathy, homeopathy, kampo, ayurveda, acupuncture, chiqong, food/dietary/nutritional therapy, sleep therapy, traditional Malay and Malay-Islamc remedies and therapies, including even aspects of modern western secular allopathic and technological approaches that can be critically integrated into the Islamic Medicine conceptual and operational framework.

P/S: For the full text, can be downloaded from here.

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