As-Suyutis Books on Prophetic Medicine

As-Suyutis Books on Prophetic Medicine

suyutiAny avid Islamic book reader or collector will be aware that for a long time now, approximately 20 years, a book by the title As-Suyutis Medicine of the Prophet has been available in the bookshops. According to my copy, the books publisher, Ta-Ha Publisher (London), mentions the book was printed in 1994 and then a further four times since then. I am not aware of another reprint after 2004 but would love to know if anyone has a copy post-2004 in the comments section.

When I first bought this book, I didnt even question the content because it was enough for me that a famous scholar the likes of Imam as-Suyuti had written something on the subject. It also did not surprise me as he was a prolific author and has books in almost every field of Islamic science. Soon after, however, I began to question the translation when I read the well known hadith recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim about the virtue of black seed translated as Coriander (!) seeds are for you, because they are a cure for all diseases except cancer and that is a fatal disease. (p. 49) Cancer? The original Arabic word translated here is as-Sam, which the Prophet explained himself as death. I then found even more mistranslations, typos and oddities that spurred me on to hunt down the Arabic original so I could compare it to its English rendition.

According to Ta-Ha Publishers, the book is a translation of Tibb an-Nabbi {sic.} by Imam as-Suyuti which was originally prepared by Cyril Elgood, a British historian and physician, and later revised by their editor Ahmad Thomson. Elgood describes the original Arabic text in his useful article The Medicine of the Prophet, and mentions that as-Suyuti composed two works on Prophetic Medicine, one containing the sayings and practices of Mohamed on Medicine in general and a second work entitled Sexual Relations as ordained by the Prophet (p.150) Elgood then goes on to say that he had prepared a translation of the general book mentioned above in English. I then stumbled upon an Arabic manuscript entitled Fahrasat Muallafati which contains an index of Imam as-Suyutis authored books. A copy of the manuscript is transcribed online by Dr. Samir ad-Durubi, who classes the text, which he compiled based on several manuscript copies available to him, as authentic. As-Suyuti mentions two books on the subject of medicine, at-Tibb an-Nabawi, which he describes as short, and al-Manhaj as-Sawwi wa lManhal ar-Rawwi fit-Tibb an-Nabawi. To date, I have been able to find a copy of al-Manhaj as-Sawwi, which was published by Maktabah al-Jil and al-Kutub ath-Thiqafiyyah in 1406 AH. It is approximately 300 pages excluding the lengthy editors introduction and is clearly not the book Elgood translated and this is clear to anyone who reviews the content of both books.

After a long search, I was unable to find any book authored by Imam as-Suyuti by the title Tibb an-Nabbi or at-Tibb an-Nabawi for that matter. What I did find however, was that a book by this title, at-Tibb an-Nabawi, was authored by al-Hafiz adh-Dhahabi and surprisingly, it appears to correspond to Ta-Has Medicine of the Prophet almost word-for-word! After some review, it appears to me then, that the book has either been incorrectly attributed to Imam as-Suyuti (and his book on prophetic medicine is extant) or Imam as-Suyuti transcribed most of al-Hafiz adh-Dhahabis book and counted it as one of his own books. Dr. Bashar Awwad Maruf mentions in his biography of al-Hafiz adh-Dhahabi that he authored a book on prophetic medicine, and that it has been published many times and even attributed to others. What strengthens the case that the book is certainly adh-Dhahabis is the fact that he reports a hadith from his teacher al-Hafiz Jamal ad-Din al-Mizzi with an isnad leading back to the Prophet! In Ta-Has edition (p.127), Elgood translates the entire isnad but renders al-Mizzis nisba as al-Mazani and thus one would easily overlook that adh-Dhahabi reports from his teacher who died no less than 107 years before as-Suyuti was even born!

The fact that a few passages have not been translated may be due to Imam as-Suyuti himself excluding them from his copy either intentionally or unintentionally, or, and this seems more apparent to me, Elgood attempted to summarise certain passages from the book. Allah knows best! I hope to share this information with both Elgood and Ta-Ha Publishers but we felt that the readers on should know first: As-Suyutis Medicine of the Prophet should actually be Adh-Dhahabis!

suyuti2Although there is allot of benefits contained in the book, there is however a multitude of weak and even fabricated narrations which neither Elgood or Ta-Ha Publishers have taken any effort to discern for the unsuspecting reader. I have provided an example in my article The Power of the Egg (coming soon) so please refer to it.

As a side note, I should mention here that during my research, I also found a short book entitled al-Maqamah at-Tufahiyyah by Imam as-Suyuti wherein he mentioned the Islamic evidences and medical benefits of seven fruits. This treatise is contained within a larger book entitled Maqamat as-Suyuti and was published by Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah.

Furthermore, a book entitled ar-Rahmah fit-Tibb wa l-Hikmah is also in circulation and I have found an overwhelming amount of researchers discount the book and absolve as-Suyuti from writing it as it contains pages upon pages of instructions on how to conduct futile magical spells and polytheistic talismans. As-Suyuti himself did not mention this among his works, and nor has anyone from the scholars attributed it to him so one should be cautious of it!

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