Homeopaths and Traditional Religious Healers Among the Muslims

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

According to the Pew Research Center, substantial numbers of Muslims report that they turn to traditional religious healers when they or their family members are ill. This practice is common among Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In the former region, more than half in Senegal (73%), Chad (68%), Cameroon (57%), Liberia (55%), Mali (55%) and Tanzania (53%) say they sometimes use traditional healers. In South Asia, most Afghan and Pakistani Muslims (66% and 55%, respectively) say the same.

Although a majority of Tajik Muslims (66%) also report turning to traditional religious healers, fewer in the other Central Asian nations say they sometimes seek such help for themselves or a family member.

Across the countries surveyed in Southeast Asia and the Middle East-North Africa region, fewer than half of Muslims say they ever enlist the aid of traditional religious healers. In Southeast Asia, the practice is most common in Thailand (48%), while in the Middle East and North Africa reliance on traditional healers is most prevalent among Muslims in Iraq (46%), Egypt (44%), Jordan (42%) and Tunisia (41%).

Muslims in Southern and Eastern Europe are less likely to consult traditional religious healers. About four-in-ten Albanian Muslims (38%) say they sometimes use such healers, while elsewhere in the region a quarter or fewer say they ever turn to a traditional healer.

In some countries, Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely than those who pray less often to use traditional religious healers. For example, in Jordan 47% of those who pray more than once a day have turned to traditional healers, compared with 31% of those who pray less often; in Turkey, the difference is 35% vs. 18%. Smaller but significant gaps are found in Kosovo (+16 percentage points among those who pray more than once a day), Azerbaijan (+15), Kyrgyzstan (+13), Egypt (+12) and Lebanon (+12).

The use of homeopathy is variable in the Muslim countries.

Homeopathy is becoming popular in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in Iran. The UAE Ministry of Health (MOH) recognizes and regulates the practice of homeopathy in a systematic way. Both medical doctors and lay practitioners can practise homeopathy but they all should pass MOH exams which cover both medical science and homeopathy.[93] The Ministry of Health of Iran recognizes homeopathy as a legal alternative treatment. The Iranian Homeopathic Association, formed with the permission of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health, is the reference association for providing standards of homeopathy. In Iran only medical doctors can practice homeopathy.[94]

India has a large Muslim minority with more than 200 million Muslims. India has the largest homeopathic infrastructure in the world, with low estimates at about 64,000, but going as high as 300,000 practising homeopaths. In addition, there are 180 colleges teaching courses, and 7500 government clinics and 307 hospitals which dispense homeopathic remedies.[86][87] The Ministry of AYUSH was formed on 9th November 2014 to ensure the optimal development and propagation of AYUSH systems of health care. Earlier it was known as the Department of Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy (ISM&H) which was created in March 1995 and renamed as Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) in November 2003, with focused attention for development of Education and Research in Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy.[88] In China and Japan, homeopathy appears to be almost unknown.[89][90][91]

Homeopathy is fairly common in some countries while being uncommon in others. In some countries, there are no specific legal regulations concerning the use of homeopathy, while in others, licenses or degrees in conventional medicine from accredited universities are required.

Homeopathic preparations are not effective for treating any condition.[1][2][3][4] Outside of the alternative medicine community, scientists have long considered homeopathy a sham[5] or a pseudoscience,[1][2][3][4] and the mainstream medical community regards it as quackery.[3]

If strict standards of proof for different treatment options are not enforced by law then it falls on the individuals to decide for themselves as to which treatment they will pursue.

This does open up opportunities for faith healers, homeopaths and quacks and a Pandora box for the patients.

Additional reading

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France and What it can Tell Us About Medicine, Spirituality and Homeopathy

There is no scientific case for homeopathy: the debate is over

Richard Dawkins on Medicine, Placebo and Homeopathy

Successor To Khamenei Died Because He Trusted Islamic Medicine, Son Reveals

Head of NHS voices ‘serious concerns’ about homeopathy

Is laughter the best medicine for homeopathy?

Prince Charles’ mission to save homeopathy is a boon for anti-science in an increasingly disbelieving world

Ted Talk: Homeopathy, Quackery and Fraud

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