Research and development (i.e. innovation) in the field of conventional medicine has resulted in many benefits for the human race. Not many Muslims would reject the innovations of science and would happily consume the medicines from the conventional doctor.
In contrast, interestingly, research and development is more prone to being shunned in the field of spiritual medicine. Some Muslims hold beliefs that label any form of progress in the spiritual world as Bid’ah (innovation) hence casting fear into the hearts of other Muslims as they rightfully believe that Islam is complete therefore there’s no need to introduce anything new into the religion.
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. [Al-Ma’idah; 5:3]
It is true that we can’t innovate into Islam, however where is the exact line? Where can we innovate?
Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected.” [Bukhari 2697]
The vital issue to understand is that the Prophet (SAW) accepted Ruqyah words and Ruqyah techniques from pre-Islamic culture as long as there is no Shirk.
‘There is nothing wrong with Ruqyah as long as they do not involve shirk.’ [Muslim]
Jabir Bin ‘Abdillah (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger (Peace and Blessing upon Him) prohibited ruqa. Then, some people from the tribe of ‘Umr Bin Hazam came to him and said, “We have a Ruqyah that we used to use for scorpion and snake stings; but you have now prohibited using ruqa.” And they showed it to him. He (Peace and Blessing upon Him) said: ‘I do not see anything wrong in it. Anyone among you who can benefit his brother should do so.‘ [Muslim]
In the above example, it is very clear that the Ruqyah permitted is not using words from the Quran (since it is a Ruqyah from pre-Islam) and that it did not emanate from Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) Sunnah i.e. this was a practice that the Sahabah showed to the Prophet and the Prophet in turn approved it.
Due to this, it is absolutely clear that practicing new (or old) Ruqyah techniques cannot be classed under forbidden innovations into Islam as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) clearly approved Ruqyah innovations.
What is classed as forbidden innovations to Islam are debated in detail amongst the scholars, however in general, anything that goes against the core principles of Islam is forbidden e.g. if someone was to say it is an integral part of Islam to believe that Allah has a son, this is forbidden since the Islamic faith is built upon the core belief that there is only One God.
Some people class innovations in the Deen (religion) as impermissible and class innovations in the Dunya (worldly affairs) as permissible. For example they say it’s fine to ride cars instead of camels because this is a worldly affair but to introduce a new practice in prayer is forbidden. However, it is not as black and white as this.
Narrated Rifa’a bin Rafi Az Zuraqi: One day we were praying behind the Prophet. When he raised his head from bowing, he said, “Sami’a-l-lahu Liman hamida.” A man behind him said, “Rabbana walaka-l hamd hamdan Kathiran taiyiban mubarakan fihi” (O our Lord! All the praises are for You, many good and blessed praises). When the Prophet completed the prayer, he asked, “Who has said these words?” The man replied, “I.” The Prophet said, “I saw over thirty angels competing to write it first.” [Bukhari 799]
In the above example, not only did the man innovate in his prayer, but the Prophet (SAW) approved of this Bid’ah (innovation) and what’s more, the Angels even competed to write down the innovation. In fact, these innovated words are now included and accepted in prayers as standard practice across the world. So with this example, it is clear that innovations in prayer are not necessarily forbidden.
Although the Prophet approved Ruqyah innovation, it is important to understand that Muhammad’s (SAW) main mission didn’t focus on evolving the medicinal purposes of the Quran, therefore one will never find evidence in Quran or Hadith detailing this objective.
For example, as mentioned previously, the Prophet knew of the benefits of drinking camel urine, but he didn’t develop an alternative medicine for it.
Narrated Anas (RA): The climate of Medina did not suit some people, so the Prophet ordered them to follow his shepherd, i.e. his camels, and drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). So they followed the shepherd that is the camels and drank their milk and urine till their bodies became healthy. [Bukhari]
The nomads at the time of the Prophet drank the urine of camel for medicinal reasons. Believe it or not, some people in the 21st Century still champion drinking camel urine as ‘Sunnah’ and a rewardable action. Therefore, should modern science ever understand the components in the camel urine that bring about cures, those people would still favour drinking camel urine and be adamant that drinking camel urine will obtain the reward of following the Sunnah in contrast to consuming a pill which consists of the same medicinal ingredients bar the taste of urine. They believe this simply because the Prophet, fourteen hundred years ago, said they should drink the urine.
Another famous example of Muhammad (SAW) approving Ruqyah innovation is the example of one of his companions healing a scorpion sting using the spiritual elements of “Al-Hamd”, “Al-Hamdulilah” or “Fatihah-il-Kitab” [Note: these phrases are the three variations of the below Hadith which these three phrases are commonly translated as ‘Surah Al-Fatihah’].
It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri said: “The Messenger of Allah sent us, thirty horsemen, on a military campaign. We camped near some people and asked them for hospitality but they refused. Then their leader was stung by a scorpion and they said: ‘Is there anyone among you who can recite Ruqyah for a scorpion sting?’ I said: ‘Yes, I can, but I will not recite Ruqyah for him until you give us some sheep.’ They said: ‘We will give you thirty sheep.’ So we accepted them, and I recited “Al-Hamd” over him seven times. Then he recovered, and I took the sheep. Then some doubts occurred within ourselves. Then we said: ‘Let us not hasten (to make a decision concerning the sheep) until we come to the Prophet. So when we came back: ‘I told him what I had done. He said: ‘How did you know that it is a Ruqyah? Divide them up and give me a share as well.'” [Sunan ibn Majah]
Here it is clear that it was not the Prophet (SAW) that taught the Sahabah to use “Al-Fatihah” as a Ruqyah, but the Sahabah decided himself to innovate by merging pre-Islamic Ruqyah practices with the Quran, and it worked.
In summary, research and innovation (Bid’ah) in Ruqyah is something that those who are sincere in discovering accurate knowledge of the unseen must do. If innovation is not undertaken, Ruqyah will be forgotten about within a few decades as the science of contemporary medicine will become stronger in ridiculing the existence of the spiritual world and how it interacts with the physical world.
Furthermore, without sound innovation, those who practise Ruqyah will still not understand how Ruqyah actual works therefore will not be able to offer the healing of the Quran to the world properly, as Allah intended it. Without innovation of Ruqyah, the Muslims will have failed.