Sunnah and Science: Coming Full Circle

Vol 5 - Issue 4 Sunnah & science

Scientists and their discoveries are considered as the most reliable sources of knowledge in today’s world. Notwithstanding the fact that even they upgrade or change their findings whenever a new research reveals new facts, educated Muslims tend to focus only on them – especially in medicine, health and psychology.

Believers tend to forget that the knowledge of human beings has limitations; only Allah (swt) has knowledge that knows no boundaries. Allah (swt) chose Muhammad (sa) as the recipient of His Divine Revelation and Hikmah. Scientists can attempt all they want to acquire this knowledge via humanly-limited endeavors, but Muhammad (sa) was chosen to receive it through Wahi (revelation). His entire life was, therefore, an epitome of success in health, hygiene, mental precision and human relationships.

It is amusing to note that modern science, medicine and even fashion have come full circle in reiterating what Muhammad (sa) did fourteen centuries ago. Some of these comparisons are highlighted below.


Healing with the ‘black seed’

Kalonji, black cumin, or scientifically Nigella Sativa, is used in several modern herbal remedies, with absolutely NO side effects. It is used to treat a wide range of illnesses and disorders. Today, doctors suggest eating this seed for general good health, gastric, respiratory and mental ailments, or massaging affected skin with its oil to cure rheumatic ailments. It is said that devouring a teaspoon or 25 grams of black seeds in their original form everyday keeps all kinds of ailments at bay.

The Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Use the Black Seed, for indeed, it is a cure for all diseases except death.” (Sahih Al-Bukari 7:591)

Sleeping early and waking up before dawn

Prophet Muhammad (sa) is known to have slept very little in the night, after becoming Allah’s Messenger. He slept early, retiring after Isha, and woke up well before dawn.

Abu Barzah (rta) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) disliked sleeping before the Isha prayer and indulging in conversation after it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Modern science has revealed that the organs of the body are detoxified during the night. For ideal detoxification, a person should be done with the day’s work after 9 pm and be in deep sleep from 11 pm to 5 am. Developed nations follow this practice. This routine ensures maximum employee productivity as well.

Afternoon siesta

Narrated by Anas Bin Malik (rta): “Umme Sulaym used to spread a leather sheet for the Prophet (sa) and he used to take a midday nap at her home.” (Al-Bukhari)

Some organizations now provide ‘nap rooms’ at the workplace for enabling employees to take a siesta after lunch. Called ‘power naps’, afternoon siestas have shown to improve some memory functions of the brain, boosting the employee back to morning-fresh energy.

Personal Grooming and Hygiene

Oiling of hair

The Prophet (sa) would keep his hair generously oiled.

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Eat olive oil (Zayt) and anoint yourselves with it, for it is from a blessed tree.” (Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

Abu Hurairah (rta) also reported the Prophet (sa) as saying: “Whoever has hair should honor it.” (Abu Dawud)

Today, gels and creams are applied by young men to achieve the same oiled, sleeked-back look. Women in Asia regularly use oiling as a way of maintaining healthy, lustrous hair.


Kohl powder is made of antimony sulphide, applied in and around the eyes as an ointment and cosmetic. It has traditionally been used in Eastern countries for centuries, by both men and women. Today, even the supermodels in the West grace covers of glossies adorned with ‘Kohl pencil’, while in the East newborn babies’ eyes are laced with this substance to strengthen their vision. Eastern women also use Kohl to achieve a dark-eye look.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) endorsed its use by applying it to his eyes regularly. Abdullah Bin Abbas (rta) quotes the Prophet as saying: “Use the antimony Kohl, for it makes eyesight clearer and strengthens hair.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Al-Nisai, Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

Oral hygiene

Toothbrushes, toothpastes, mouthwash, dental floss and breath sprays are commonly used today to achieve personal oral hygiene. So important is it to have a fresh-smelling mouth and sparkling teeth that anyone with even the slightest hint of bad breath, yellowed teeth or sickly gums is considered severely lacking in personal grooming and is socially ostracized.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) once gave up something he loved – honey – vowing never to consume it again, when he was told it made his mouth produce unpleasant odor. Despite efforts, his Companions could not count the exact number of times he used Miswak in a day – he did it so frequently. It was also one of the things he did just before he died.

Ibn Umar (rta) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Make a regular practice of the Miswak, for, verily, it is healthy for the mouth and it is a pleasure for the Creator.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Human Relationships

Husband-wife foreplay

Considered taboo in most of Asia, modern educational ‘intimacy guides’ for married couples stress the importance of foreplay before husband-wife Coitus. Science has identified several ‘erogenous zones’ on a woman’s body that harbor a high density of nerve-ends sensitive to stimulus. Our Prophet Muhammad (sa) stressed this aspect of intimacy in his advice to Muslim husbands during his lifetime, as illustrated in the narration below.

Imam Al-Daylami (rta) records a narration on the authority of Anas Ibn Malik (rta) that the Messenger of Allah (sa) is reported to have said: “One of you should not fulfill one’s (sexual) need from one’s wife like an animal; rather, there should be between them foreplay of kissing and words.” (Musnad Al-Firdaws of Al-Daylami, 2/55)

Not spanking children

It is known that Prophet Muhammad (sa) was tender and kind towards children, kissing them often, playing with them and allowing them to come to mosques during prayer time. Notably, he never hit a child in his life. Abstaining from spanking is Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) Sunnah.

Aisha (rta) has narrated: “The Prophet (sa) never hit anyone with his hand; not a woman, nor a servant, except during Jihad in Allah’s cause.” (Muslim)

Strassberg and others of Vanderbilt University analyzed the school behavior of 273 kindergarten children and their parents’ discipline methods at home. Observation of school behavior indicated that children, who were spanked at home, were more aggressive towards other children.

Each of us should reflect upon whether or not we are one of those ambivalent Muslims, who follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa) only when they are reinforced by scientific discoveries, endorsed by designers, or accepted as the status quo. Are we quick to emulate his actions because we love him more than our own self, logic, intellect and reputation? Does our love for him surpass that for anything else? Or do we wait in the sidelines until it becomes socially acceptable to follow his guidelines? Honest answers to these questions will show us where we stand as Muslims.

Terrific Teaching Techniques

Vol 5 - Issue 4 Terrific teachingPicture this: seated around a single man is a crowd full of eager eyes. Some of the men appear to be from the elite society, highly educated and of polished manners; they sit shoulder to shoulder with desert-rough Bedouins, whose swords speak more eloquently than their tongues. The gathering also includes shepherds, scribes, farmers, merchants and even street urchins. Children freely hover among them – they are never shooed out of the way. Such was the informal classroom of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sa).

Our Prophet (sa) had much to teach and his knowledge, which determined the destiny of people, was not to be taken lightly. His students varied in age, background, gender and disposition. How would he address such a diverse gathering?

To begin with, the Prophet (sa) did not limit his ‘classes’ to sermons after Jumuah or a gathering under a tree – he would teach his companions whenever a suitable moment arose, whether they sat together for a meal or rode together through the desert. Accordingly, his manner of teaching varied, too. Let us look at some of the Prophet’s (sa) methods of instruction, as observed from his Sunnah.


Many important lessons have been etched in our minds through the true stories related by our Prophet (sa). Stories of strife borne by pious people of the past encourage patience. Reflecting on the good deeds of others invites us to similar actions, whereas stories about oppressors and their retribution by Allah (swt) discourage people from following their steps. Today, parents, teachers and all forms of information media can attest to the effectiveness of this method of instruction.


Once, the Prophet (sa) drew a square and then drew a line in the middle of it, letting this line extend outside the square, and then drew several small lines attached to that central line. Upon finishing this, he said: “This is the human being, and this (the square) is his lease of life, encircles him from all sides (or has encircled him), and this (line), which is outside (the square), is his hope, and these small lines are the calamities and troubles (which may befall him), and if one misses him, another will snap (i.e., overtake) him, and if the other misses him, a third will snap (i.e., overtake) him.” (Bukhari) This method of drawing in the sand was used by the Prophet (sa) for explaining abstract concepts.


Parables obviously simplify concepts and were extensively used by the Prophet (sa). For example, to encourage keeping good company, he said: “The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell, while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you would get a bad and nasty smell thereof.” (Bukhari)


At times, the Prophet (sa) would quiz his companions. This was used not only to test their knowledge and understanding of the Deen but also as a method to make them start thinking about a certain topic. Sometimes, he would begin talking about a topic by asking a question first, in order to call their attention towards it or allow them to view their understanding of a topic, before he clarified a misconception. He would even have them ponder over a riddle, from which they could benefit. Once, he said: “Amongst the trees, there is a tree, the leaves of which do not fall and is like a Muslim. Tell me the name of that tree?” Everybody started thinking about the trees of the desert areas. Ibn Umer (rta) thought of the date-palm tree but hesitated to give a reply, because he did not wish to appear more knowledgeable than his father Umer (rta) and Abu Bakr (rta), who sat with him. The others then asked: “Please, inform us what is that tree, O Allah’s Messenger?” He replied: “It is the date-palm tree.” (Bukhari)


The impact of the visuals cannot be denied. The Prophet (sa) would often indicate an object, which could easily be viewed by the people for comparing it with something, or speak of something in terms of an object, which people could easily visualize by themselves. He often compared the punishments in Hell with the Mountain of Uhud, in order to help people visualize the immensity and seriousness of the punishment. He would even use his hands to help people visualize the meaning of his words. It is narrated that “the Prophet (sa) said: ‘He, who brought up two girls properly till they grew up, he and I would come (together) (very closely) on the Day of Resurrection,’ and he interlaced his fingers (for explaining the point of nearness between him and that person).” (Muslim)

Catch Phrases

“May his nose be rubbed in dust, may his nose be rubbed in dust, may his nose be rubbed in dust,” repeated the Prophet (sa), catching the attention of the companions around him. They wondered what type of a person should be so humiliated. Burning with curiosity, they focused on the Prophet’s (sa) next words: “Who found his parents one or both approaching old age and did not enter Paradise through serving them.” (Muslim)

Repeating a phrase in this manner not only called people to attend but also stressed the importance of the discussed issue.


There are some noteworthy characteristics about the speeches delivered by the Prophet (sa). They were never long and winding but to the point, using simple language that could be easily understood by the masses. He would speak with sincerity and would pause at places, giving time for the impact of his words to sink in, and at times he would repeat a statement several times for emphasis. Rather than vent his anger at people, he often became silent, which was enough to make those around him realize his disapproval, just as his quiet smile would indicate his approval of a matter and even his pleasure.

Being a Role Model

Most importantly, the Prophet (sa) provided a role model to be followed and a physical example of everything he taught – in short, he practiced what he preached, and his actions spoke volumes.

The above techniques used by the Prophet (sa) should be kept in mind by those whose responsibility it is to teach and impart knowledge, regardless of what the subject matter may be. Just as hundreds of years ago the Prophet’s (sa) techniques proved to be effective for people of diverse backgrounds and ages, we also will be able to make a difference around us if we will adopt these methods and work with the intention to please Allah (swt), Insha’Allah!

Handy Tips for Smart Savers

Home Economics

In the Kitchen

  • Buy your groceries on a weekly basis to avoid wastage which may incur due to monthly stocks.
  • Supervise your servants to ensure they don’t waste your valuable stocks.
  • Use your meal leftovers to prepare tasty dishes.
  • Buy local food products instead of imported ones – this will support the economy too.
  • Cook food for your dinners instead of getting it catered.

Using Electrical Appliances

  • Never keep any appliance on a stand-by mode.
  • Switch to energy-saving bulbs.
  • Irons use maximum electricity in the first ten minutes – iron a maximum number of outfits in one go.
  • Use sunlight instead of dryers to dry your clothes.
  • Switch to split air conditioners for an economical electricity bill.
  • Use air conditioners with timers

Credit and Banking

  • Avoid credit cards altogether
  • Be wary of bank charges on ATM withdrawals

Shopping Cautions

  • Always shop on a full stomach to avoid purchasing unnecessary eatables
  • Make a list and shop according to that
  • Be wary of sales – only buy what you genuinely need
  • Make less trips to the market to avoid temptation
  • Whenever you think of buying something, rate it on a scale of one to ten. If the rating is below 5, consider it as a luxury and not a necessity

Compiled by Umm Isam

Is the Price Hike Controlling You?

Vol 5 - Issue 4 Is the price hike conyrlling youOfaira Ateeq Husain and Sumaira Dada spoke to some people to find out how they are managing the price hike

It may be quite hard to believe, but it is only when my mother-in-law goes for a vacation that I get a glimpse of house management. Now that she is visiting her daughter in Canada, I am looking after the house. This time around everything seems to be different because of the price hike. I cannot help but wonder how everyone else is managing. Along with a colleague, I decided to speak to a couple of people on how they are coping with the spiraling prices.

What They are Saying

Sharifa, a Quran teacher and a grandmother of three, manages the budget strictly. She records her daily expenses and trims down what she believes are unnecessary expenses. Instead of getting her clothes made by the tailor, she sews her own clothes and sometimes also those of her two daughters-in-law. Food expenses are also kept under control. The entire family eats together, and whenever possible, the food is cooked without a lot of oil. Instead of consuming high quality basmati rice, the family eats the cheaper broken rice.

Nausheen, also a Quran teacher, prioritizes while managing the household budget. Hers is education; therefore, she is willing to keep her children in good schools, despite the increase in fees. She says that the family has limited eating out to once a month. Her advice for mothers is to stop children from consuming junk food, which is not only of low nutritional value but also heavy on the pocket.

Maria, a lecturer at a business school, feels that the car pool arrangement for her school-going children has helped cut expenses. Moreover, she has been thinking of having the petrol-driven car finally converted to CNG, to save on fuel cost.

Dr. Saba, a sonologist and a mother of two, has been doing grocery shopping more carefully, refraining from impulsive buying. However, she continues to buy well-known brands for essential items as milk and cooking oil.

Zahida, a government school teacher and a mother of two, has tried to bring food expenses under control by preparing dessert twice a month. She has also cut down travelling expenses by going shopping only on the weekends and that too in the family car.

Amna, a baby sitter, is trying to cut down her travel cost by commuting on foot whenever possible.

Simplicity is Part of Faith

Instead of whining and complaining all the time, we should take this as an opportunity to follow the footsteps of the Prophet (sa) and his companions. From Aisha (rta) we know that the Prophet (sa) used to repair his shoes and mend his dresses. He used to check his own clothing and, milking the sheep and catering for himself were some of his normal jobs. (Mishkat)

The Prophet (sa) has also said: “Will you not listen? Will you not listen? Will you not listen? Verily, simplicity is a part of Iman (faith). Verily, simplicity is a part of Iman. Verily, simplicity is a part of Iman.” (Abu Dawood)

Rapidly rising prices is a phenomenon, which the authorities are duty-bound to control. Nevertheless, keeping an attitude of gratefulness despite the decrease in the number of tasty foods and less desserts to savour will, Insha’Allah, yield benefits in this world and in the Hereafter. After all, Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “And indeed We bestowed upon Luqman Al-­Hikmah (wisdom and religious understanding, etc) saying: ‘Give thanks to Allah.’ And whoever gives thanks, he gives thanks for (the good of) his ownself. And whoever is unthankful, then verily, Allah is All­-Rich (Free of all wants), Worthy of all praise.” (Luqman 31:12)

A Penny Saved is a Penny Gained

Regardless of what our salary is, we must strive to save a certain percentage of it for the rainy days. It is sad but true that even if earn more than what we need, we generally end up spending that entire extra amount, believing citing our luxuries as our needs. Remember there will never be an end to the wish list, but the bucks saved today will come in handy tomorrow.

Never Stop Sharing

When we are required to tighten our own belts, the first causality is our sense of generosity and giving. Sadaqah and Zakat always bring Barakah in our earnings – this is Allah (swt)’s promise to the Believers. We may lessen our contribution to charity in accordance with our revised budget but we must not deprive our less-privileged servants and relatives of our patronage. You will discover that the more Sadaqah you give, the more bounties of Allah (swt) will come to you from unimaginable sources.

Avoid Wastage

In general, Islam highly discourages wastage of any kind, but it is decidedly even worse to indulge in the wastage of already-scarce resources. It also results in Allah (swt)’s anger. At all times, make a conscious effort to utilize your blessings effectively and help your children realize it too.

To Be or Not To Be Ethical

Vol 5 - Issue 4   To be or not to be EthicalThis final article is by no means a conclusion on work ethics. There will still be many ethical dilemmas at work that will continue to trouble us. That in itself is a good sign. “Why?” you might ask. Because when these dilemmas stop troubling us, it means we no longer care about being ethical.

When our concern about being honest and truthful and the urge to control the waves of jealousy start to ebb, it is only the Quran and Hadeeth that bring us to our senses. Social pressures can be overwhelming at times, especially if you are living in a country which is regarded among the most corrupt in the world.

Whilst writing these articles, I have also learnt to identify the tugs of Nafs (desires) and ways to control it, Alhamdulillah. To be fair to others, to meet deadlines and to deliver good quality work seem to be contradictory goals most of the time. One is tempted to cut corners to quicken the pace of work – it is only in these very moments that the Quran and Hadeeth come to my rescue. Facts from our pious predecessors’ lives also keep us from floundering in the morass of confusion by making the right and the wrong very clear. Although we can barely reach the standards of God-consciousness (Taqwah) that they have set, their lives do tell us that you can be an ordinary human being and yet have high ethical standards.

Early Muslims and modern corporations

I am reminded of an incident from Mohammad Ibn Sirin’s (rta) life. He was a trader and a retailer, who once bought olive oil worth forty thousand Dirhams. On examination, he found a dead rat in one of the containers. He felt doubtful about the quality of oil in the entire consignment and chose to dump it, instead of risking people’s health. Consequently, he was unable to pay the forty thousand Dirhams and as a result, spent time behind bars. There were no case studies written on his level of honesty and the standards of business ethics he had set; yet, in his time, he was greatly trusted and admired, and we read about him to this day.

Ibn Sirin’s (rta) incident reminds me of the “Johnson and Johnson” “Tylenol” case. The company had aggressively marketed a brand of pain-relieving capsules (“Tylenol”), which accounted for 18% of the company’s income and had 37% percent of the market share. However, in 1982 after the death of seven people, it was found that the capsules were laced with cyanide. The company chose to recall ALL “Tylenol” bottles, facing a loss of up to $100 million (not including the damage to the brand and loss of public confidence). Nevertheless, this very decision put the company in the limelight, and it was hailed as an ethical firm. Within just six months, “Tylenol” regained its market share!

Another well-known personality from our pious predecessors is Imam Bukhari, who set such high standards of honesty that he did not even want to change his intention for greater worldly gains. Once, a group of traders offered to buy a consignment from him for a profit, which was double of what was offered to him by another trader the previous evening. He chose to forego the second offer in favour of the earlier one, because he had already intended to deal with them.

What do people say?

A young executive in his twenties, Murtaza, is of the opinion that truthfulness and success go together. According to him, if one is untruthful, word gets around which results in a bad reputation. At the same time, he believes that most people are myopic and prefer short-term gains over long term benefits. He names his father as one of the most ethical people he has come across.

The opinion voiced above reminded me once again of Muhammad Ibn Sirin (rta). Maimoon Ibn Mehran narrates that before completing a transaction, Ibn Sirin (rta) always asked his customer thrice, whether he was satisfied. He was so careful about his dealings that Maimoon exclusively purchased from him. While modern management would put this down as an excellent example of customer relationship management; it all boils down to plain honesty.

The head of research in a well-known Islamic financial services firm says that if you are unethical, you are definitely unsuccessful. He names one of his senior colleagues in the industry as ethical as well as successful. Still, he was also of the opinion that to reach the topmost level, one does have to compromise a little bit. This view was contrary to the opinion held by a chief executive of a business concern. When I asked him to name a few ethical and successful people, he immediately came up with three managing directors of local and multinational firms.

There are also people, who are ethical but have been unsuccessful monetarily. According to a female employee of an audit firm, even if people have managed to pull it off for some time using unethical practices, in the long-term they finally have to show performance, especially if they are chosen for an international assignment. Her role model is Syedah Aisha (rta), who was confident, full of energy and interacted with men within the limits set by Shariah.

Ayesha, who has worked in a part-time position, comes up with two people whom she believes to be ethical and successful. One of them is a scholar who was able to bring about positive change in a locality. Another person is a medical doctor as well as a Hakeem, who is charitable and closely follows the Sunnah. According to Ayesha, unethical people are often successful too, but their success is limited to this world only.

To be unethical is useless…

It is important not to be weighed down by what the cynics and skeptics say. Being unethical would not give us anything more than what has been destined for us. In a Hadeeth narrated by Jabir (rta), we learn that the Prophet (sa) addressed people saying that they should fear Allah (swt) and act decently in acquiring their livelihood, for no man would die until he obtains his provision, even if it involves some delay. The Prophet (sa) reiterated that people should fear Allah (swt), earn their livelihood by lawful means and stay away from the forbidden. (Ibn Majah)

Therefore, unethical dealings do not give us any more of the worldly gains that have been written for us. Such an attitude merely creates a ‘lose-lose’ situation: losing out in this world and, most definitely, losing out in the Hereafter. Now, who would want that?