The Danger of Ignorant People Delving into Medical Issues (Ibn-ul-Qayyim)

Physicians and medical responsibility

It is related by Aboo Daawood, al-Nisaa’ee and Ibn Maajah, from hadeeth of ‘Amr ibn Shu‘ayb, from his father, from his grandfather: The Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu‘alaihiwasallam said:

من تطبّب ولم يعلم منه طب قبل ذلك فهو ضامن

“If anyone carries out medical treatment, yet previously he was not known as a medical man, then he takes the responsibility.”[1]

This hadeeth is concerned with three points, one linguistic, one legal and one medical.

The words of the Prophet sallallaahu‘alaihiwasallam were: “Whoever practises medicine (tatabbaba)”, he did not say “whoever is a physician (tabba)”. The expression of the fifth form (tafa‘ala) indicates some constraint in the action, and entering into it with difficulty, and that the one so described is not originally one of its practitioners. Similarly, we find the expressions: to attempt clemency (tahallama), to show courage (tashajja‘a), to adopt patience (tasabbara) and others of this kind. Thus, ‘to force oneself’ (takallafa) is formed upon this pattern. The poet said: ‘And Qays of ‘Aylaan, and whoever sought to be a Qays (taqayyasa).

The legal (shar‘ee) aspect is that this hadeeth establishes the liability of the ignorant practitioner. For if he assumes the knowledge and practice of medicine, without formerly having any acquaintance with it, by his ignorance he risks causing harm to the lives of people; he practises irresponsibly what he does not know and, thus, deceives the sick person. Therefore he must be held responsible. This is the consensus among all scholars.

Al-Khattaabee said: I do not know of any disagreement regarding the fact that when a person carrying out treatment transgresses the limits of his knowledge and expertise and causes harm to the patient he should be held responsible. One who lays claim to knowledge or practice which he does not have is an impostor. When injury is brought about by his action, he is responsible for the blood-money, and he has no right to retaliation (qawad); for he has no authority without the sick person’s permission. The consequences of the practitioner’s felony – according to the opinion of most jurists – falls upon his clan (‘aaqila).

My own comment:[2] there are five categories:

[2]: The second example is that of an ignorant practitioner who treats a person and injures him. In this case if the person thus injured knew that he was ignorant, that is to say, without knowledge of his profession, yet permitted him to treat him, the practitioner is not held responsible. This kind is not opposed by the obvious sense of the hadeeth. For the context and purport of the words show that he deceived the sick person, and made him think he was a physician, while he was not. If the sick person thinks him to be a physician and permits him to treat him on the basis of his knowledge, the physician is responsible for any injury he commits. Similarly, if he prescribes him some medicine to take, and the patient thinks that he has prescribed it because of his knowledge and skill, yet is injured thereby, he is responsible for that. The hadeeth here is clear and obvious.




[1] An-Nasaa’ee (4830, 4831), Saheeh Ibn Maajah (2791), Aboo Daawood (4586) – Hasan (Sh Al-Albaanee).

[2] i.e. Ibn-ul-Qayyim’s comment


[From AtTibb-un-Nabawee by Ibn-ul-Qayyim, translated by P. Johnstone, pp101-106, with additional takhreej of the ahadeeth]

Seek out the Best Physician (Ibn-ul-Qayyim)

The Profession and Responsibilities of Anyone Who Carries Out Medical Treatment

Guidance for choosing the best physician

Maalik mentions in his Muwatta’, from Zayd ibn Aslam: A man, in the time of the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu‘alaihiwasallam, was wounded, and the blood became congested. The man summoned two men from Banoo Anmaar, who examined him. He declared then that the Messenger of Allaah asked these two:

أيكما أطبّ ؟

“Which of you is the more skilled as a physician?”

To which they asked: ‘Is there then some value in medicine, O Messenger of Allaah?’ He replied:

أنزل الدواء الذي أنزل الأدواء

“The One Who sent down illness also sent down medicine.”[1]

This hadeeth shows that it is necessary, concerning every science and craft, to seek the help of the person most skilful in it; the most skilful person will be the one most likely to find the best solution. Thus the person seeking to obtain a legal pronouncement (fatwaa) has the obligation to seek assistance concerning what has been revealed about it from the most learned of all the learned people, for the most learned is closer to the correct answer than the less learned. Likewise, if anyone is not sure of the true direction of the qiblah, he will follow the most learned person he can find, for this is the way Allaah created His servants. Thus too, one who travels by land or sea will find tranquillity for his soul and confidence only in the most skilful and best informed of any two guides, and to this one he will betake himself and on him he will rely. In this the sharee‘ah, human nature and reason are all agreed.

The saying of the Prophet sallallaahu‘alaihiwasallam: “The One Who sent down illness sent down medicine”, is a phrase of his that occurs, in very similar forms in many hadeeth. These include the following: narrative of ‘Amr ibn Deenaar from Hilaal ibn Yasaaf, who said: The Messenger of Allaah arrived to visit a sick person, and he said:

“Send for a physician.”

Someone asked: ‘Do you indeed mean that, O Messenger of Allaah?’ He replied:

“Yes, for Allaah the Glorious One never sent down illness without sending down medicine for it.”[2]

And in the two books of Saheeh from hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah (marfoo‘):

“Allaah sent down no illness without sending down healing for it.”

We have already mentioned this hadeeth, and others.




[1] Kitaabul-`Ayn (12):Baab (5): Ta`aalujul-Mareed. The verifier Dr.Fu.aad `Abdul-Baaqee said: ‘ Mursal with all narrators (i.e. there is a break in the chain at the level of the Companion). However its witnesses are many, authentic, and confirmed – such as the hadeeth  of al-Bukhaaree [no.5678] from Aboo Hurairah: from the Prophet ((صلى الله عليه و سلم that he said: “Allaah has not sent down a disease except that He has sent down a cure for it”…; and the hadeeth of Muslim [no.2204] from Jaabir, marfoo`an: “For every disease there is a remedy. So if the remedy encounters the ailment, then he is cured, by the permission of Allaah- the Mighty and Majestic”.’

[2] Reported by Ibnus-Sunnee, and by Aboo Nu`aym in ‘atTibb’, and  it is ‘da`eef’, because of its being ‘mursal’, since Hilaal ibn Yasaaf was a Taabi’ee.


[From AtTibb-un-Nabawee by Ibn-ul-Qayyim, translated by P. Johnstone, pp101-106, with additional takhreej of the ahadeeth]