I. The Arabian Camel
“Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made?” (Qur’?n, 88:17)
The ability of Arabian camels to withstand water deprivation as well as help humans in harsh arid climates is truly remarkable and stems from several factors. They do not overheat, can withstand water loss, and store fats in the hump for use in times of food and water deprivation. In times of dehydration, the water seems to be lost from tissues, but not blood. For this reason there is no circulatory distress and the animals can sustain a loss of up to 25% of their body weight – up to 200 kilos! – without dehydration (Humans lose water from blood and tissue and will die of sluggish circulation at a loss of 12% of their body water). Camels can also re-hydrate very quickly.
Camel meat is healthier than beef. A single camel, when slaughtered, feeds ninety to an hundred people. A Bedouin out of water can survive for weeks by slitting the lower lip of his camel and sharing its cud then, later, slaughtering it and drinking the water stored in its four-tiered stomach. In addition to their famed benefits in desert survival, they are highly resistant to many deadly viral diseases and their antibodies could be used for new drugs. Their immune systems are so robust that they remain free from many of the viral diseases that affect other mammals such as foot-and-mouth and rinderpest.
II. Had?th of Milk
A lactating camel can produce 4 to twelve kilos of milk a day for 9 to eighteen months. Camel milk is so rich in potassium – which helps retain water in the tissues – that the desert Bedouin who drinks it needs only 2 to 4 liters a day, as opposed to twelve liters of water a day to survive. Camel milk also contains lactose – a diuretic, – protein, iron, and more fat, water, phosphorus, calcium, and Vitamin C than cow’s milk in addition to the diuretic and liver-strengthening properties of the wild herbs preferred by camels such as rosemary (ikl?l), thyme (sa`tar), wormwood (shayh), and southernwood (qays?m). It also stays fresh much longer than cow’s milk. In times of drought the camel continues to lactate long after goats, sheep, and cows have stopped.
The Prophet Muhammad – upon him and his House blessings and peace – alluded to the above facts when he stressed the merit of milk over any other food and said, as narrated from Ibn `Abb?s – All?h be well-pleased with both of them – by al-Tirmidh?, Ab? D?w?d, Ibn M?jah, and Ahmad:
the one All?h feeds milk, let him say: “O All?h, bless us with it and give more!” For I know of nothing that suffices better food drink.
III. Camel Urine in Arab Medicine
The medicinal properties of the Arabian camel were known to Arab physicians. In his magisterial Canon – “a medical bible for a longer time than any other work”
Ibn Sayyid al-N?s specifies, “notably desert camels feeding on wormwood and southernwood.”
Thus, Arabian camel urine was a standard prescription in Arabic medicine and remains a staple of Bedouin natural remedies to this day both as diuretic, snuff and delousing hair wash.
One of the great Arab physicians was the Antiochene D?w?d ibn `Umar al-Ant?k? (d. 1008) who knew Greek as well as Arabic, worked in Cairo and Damascus, and died in Makka. He produced a number of Arabic treatises, the most famous being his two-volume Tadhkirat Ul?l-Alb?b wal-J?mi` lil-`Ajab al-`Uj?b or “Memorandum Book for Those Endowed with Hearts and the Encyclopedia of Wonders” – still available in print – in which he says:
Urine differs according to its animal origin but it all tends to heat and dryness provided it does not come from an animal devoid of bile such as the camel. In the latter case, its dryness is minimal because it is devoid of salinity since nothing breaks down salinity, with water, other than the bile. All urine types dispel the effects of disease, cure the eye and the ear, chronic cough, difficulty in respiration, the spleen, and uterine pains, especially aged and/or congealed. The most effective types are human urine then the camel’s.
A camel needs eight times more salt than ovines and bovines – 1kg weekly – and the low salinity of its urine is due to the fact that it produces ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) and aldosterone, a hormone that facilitates reabsorption of urine water from the urinary tracts into blood, reducing the quantity of urine. The liver has few excess amino-acids to degrade into urea and uric acid – highly toxic substances – because of the camel’s vegetarian regimen. At the same time, aldosterone helps retain sodium at the level of the kidneys, which keeps water in the body. All this produces such a concentrated urine that the volume excreted can be reduced from 20 to 5 liters.
IV. Use of Animal Urine in Modern Medicine
Use of animal urine is endorsed in mainstream modern medicine. Pregnant mare urine is the source of conjugated equine estrogens and has been marketed for over fifty years as the pharmaceutical brand Premarin, “an estrogen treatment for menopausal and premenopausal women” especially postpartum – one of the most prescribed drugs in the United States.
V. Had?th of Stomach Putrescence
The Prophet Muhammad (P) indicated the medicinal properties of camel urine for gastro-intestinal disorders 1,400 years ago when he said, as narrated from Ibn `Abb?s(R) by Ahmad, al-Tah?w? in Sharh Ma`?n? al-Ath?r, and al-Tabar?n? in al-Mu`jam al-Kab?r – a firmly established narration according to al-Shawk?n? in Nayl al-Awt?r:
there is, in the urine of camels and their milk, a cure for those with putrescent stomachs (al-dharibati but?nuhum)
As for the narrations “The stomach is the central basin of the body and the veins are connected to it…” and “The stomach is the house of disease” they are both forgeries cf. al-`Uqayl?, Du`af?’ (1:51), al-Suy?t?, Tadr?b (1:287), al-Q?r?, Masn?`, etc.
The Damascene and Cairene physician `Izz al-D?n Ab? Ish?q Ibr?h?m ibn Muhammad al-Suwayd?
VI. Had?th of the `Uraniyy?n Nomads
This Prophetic prescription is reiterated in the famous had?th of the `Urayna Bedouins as narrated from Anas – All?h be well-pleased with him – in its main variant wordings by al-Bukh?r?, Muslim, al-Nas?’?, al-Tirmidh?, Ibn M?jah, and Ahmad:
[B = Bukh?r?; M = Muslim; T = Tirmidh?; N = Nas?’?, IM = Ibn M?jah, A = Ahmad, all in the `Alamiyya numbering]
“Some people from `Urayna found Madina noxious (ijtawaw) so the Prophet (upon him peace) allowed them to go to the camels of s.adaqa and drink from their milk and urine.” B 1405 Shu`ba from Qatada from Anas; T 67 and 1965 H.amm?d ibn Salama from H.umayd, Qat?da, and Th?bit, from Anas; N 3961 `Abd All?h al-`Umar? and others from Humayd from Anas.
“Some people [var. Some people or men] from `Ukl and `Urayna had come to Mad?na to see the Prophet (upon him peace) and pronounced Isl?m. They said, “Prophet of All?h, we were people of udders; we were not people of plantation [i.e. nomads, not farmers].” They found Madina insalubrious (istawkham?), so the Prophet (upon him peace) ordered that they be given some three to ten-year old milch camels (dhawd) with a camelherd and that they set out with them to drink [i.e. keep a regimen] of their milk and urine.” B 3871 and 5286; N 303 Sa`?d ibn Ab? `Ur?ba from Qatada from Anas; N 3965 Shu`ba from Qatada from Anas.
“A group from `Ukl came to the Prophet (upon him peace) and stayed in the Suffa. They found Mad?na noxious so they said, “Messenger of All?h, we need milk!” He said, “I have none to give you except if you catch up with the camels of the Messenger of All?h.” They went to them and drank from their milk and urine until they were cured and regained their weight.” B 6306 Ayy?b from Ab? Qil?ba from Anas.
“A group of eight from `Ukl came to the Messenger of All?h (upon him peace) and pledged their oath of Isl?m. Then they found the land insalubrious, they became emfeebled and complained of this to the Messenger of All?h (upon him peace). He said, “Will you not go out with our herdsman and his camels, to drink some of their milk and urine?” They said yes and did so. Then they got better.” B 6390; N 3958 Ab? Raj?’ from Ab? Qil?ba from Anas.
“Bedouin Arabs from `Urayna came to the Prophet (upon him peace) and accepted Isl?m then found Mad?na noxious to the point they became jaundiced and their bellies became swollen. The Messenger of All?h (upon him peace) sent them out to some of his milch-camels that had just given birth (liq?h)
“A group from `Ukl and `Urayna pronounced Isl?m then came to the Messenger of All?h (upon him peace) and told him they were people of udders not people of plantation. They complained of the fever of Madina. The Messenger of All?h (upon him peace) ordered that they be given some three to ten-year old milch camels (dhawd) and ordered them to exit al-Mad?na and drink from their milk and urine. They set out to the vicinity of al-Harra.” A 12207 Ma`mar from Qat?da from Anas.
“A group from `Urayna came to the Messenger of All?h (upon him peace) and said, “We found al-Mad?na noxious, our bellies have swollen and our limbs have thinned!” The Messenger of All?h ( ordered them to join up with the camelherd and drink from the camel’s milk and urine. They did, until their bellies and complexions improved.” A 13572 Hamm?m from Qat?da from Anas.
All the above wordings are narrated solely from Anas ibn M?lik by at least eight trustworthy T?bi`?n with close agreement in both content and wording, give or take certain peripheral additional details, in the 70 chains of the six cited compilations alone.
VII. The Pre-Hijra Pestilence in Mad?na
Yathrib was insalubrious and known for its endemic fever, the humm? of Yathrib. Al-Bukh?r? narrated that `A’isha said: “We came to al-Mad?na when it was the most plague-infested land of All?h. [The valley of] Buth?n was covered with stagnant water.” Dr. Ghiy?th Hasan al-Ahmad avers that the disease referred to in the humm? had?ths is malaria-type marsh fever and chills (humm? al-bard?’).
Will I ever sleep again in the valley fragrant with idhkhir and jal?l? Will I ever drink again from the spring of Majanna? Will I ever see again Sh?ma and Taf?l? O All?h, curse [those] who expelled us from our lands to the land of plague!
Then the Prophet(P) pronounced his famous supplication:
O All?h, make al-Mad?na as beloved to us as Makka, and even more beloved! O All?h, bless us in our s?` and our mudd, make it wholesome for us, and take away its fever to al-Juhfa!
`A’isha said: “We came to al-Mad?na when it was the most plague-infested land of Allah. Buthan was covered with stagnant water.”
Al Bukh?r?, Muslim, and al-Nas?’? narrate that another time, a desert Arab caught the fever of Mad?na then came to the Prophet(P) saying, “Rescind my pledge!” But the Prophet(P) refused on two successive occasions. Then the man left Mad?na and the Prophet(P) said: “Al-Mad?na is like a forge. It expels its impurities while its good becomes burnished.” He also said: “I was ordered to a town that devours the other towns. They call it Corrupt – Yathrib – but it is The City – al-Mad?na. It expels [the wrong] people the way a forge expels impurities from iron” (narrated from Ab? Hurayra by al-Bukh?r? and Muslim).
This fever is the immediate reason the Mad?nans on pilgrimage were ordered to practice ramal or vigorous circumambulation, despite their fatigue, as a deterrent showoff to any enemy Meccans that would prey on them due to their ailment, as narrated from Ibn `Abb?s by al-Bukh?r? and Muslim.
VIII. Malaria, Typhus, Dropsy, or Hepatitis?
Dr. Mahm?d N?zim al-Nusaym? saw the diseases caused by the fever of Mad?na as one of two types: either fever caused by gastrointestinal infections such as typhoid and other types of salmonella; or malaria-type marsh fever and chills (humm? al-barda’). The former causes a swelling of the stomach and intestines while the latter causes a swelling in the pancreas and liver. These diseases are carried by insects such as mosquitoes, which fester in stagnant-water and vegetation-rich environments.
Two Syrian contemporaries, the savant Shams al-D?n Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751) in al-Tibb al-Nabaw? (“Medicine of the Prophet”) and the eye specialist and antimonist of Safad al-Kahh?l `Al? ibn `Abd al-Kar?m ibn Tarkh?n (d. 759) in al-Ahk?m al-Nabawiyya f?l-Sin?`at al-Tibbiyya (“The Prophetic Prescriptions in Medical Science”) both believed that the disease diagnosed in the had?th of the `Uraniyy?n was a form of dropsy.
According to our teacher Dr. S?mir al-Nass, the likeliest diagnosis of the symptoms and background described in the had?th of the `Uraniyy?n is that the patients suffered from viral hepatitis (= literally “swelling”), a highly infectious inflammation of the liver that causes jaundice, bloating of the abdomen due to accumulation of fluid, and fever. Among its treatments are diuretics and low-fat diets.
IX. Synopsis of the `Uraniyy?n Had?th
The picture that emerges from the collated variants of the `Urayna had?th is as follows: A group of eight poor desert nomads came to Mad?na, announced their Isl?m, and stayed at the Suffa or Shelter along with the destitute among the Companions. During their stay they contracted hepatitis, possibly complicated by typhoid or malaria resulting in jaundice, weight loss, and distended stomachs. They craved milk and mentioned the fact that they were “people of udders,” not farmers. The Prophet(P) sent them out of Mad?na on a regimen of radical low-sodium diuretics
X. But Is Not Urine Filthy (najis)?
Im?m al-Tirmidh? said, after narrating the `Urayna had?th, that the majority of the authorities do not consider the urine of edible animals filthy. Ibn Qud?ma reiterates this ruling in the Mughn? and cites, among those that consider it pure, al-Zuhr?, Yahy? al-Ans?r?, `At?’, al-Nakha`?, al-Thawr?, M?lik, and Ahmad. This is also the position of Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shayb?n? as stated by al-Tah?w? in Sharh Ma`?n? al-Ath?r and al-Sarakhs? in al-Mabs?t. `Abd al-Razz?q in his Musannaf and al-Tah?w? narrate the same from Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, Ibr?h?m al-Nakha`?, and `At?’, some adding that camel urine is also sniffed for medicine as well as cow urine and sheep urine. Al-Bukh?r? narrated:
Y?nus ibn Yaz?d asked Ibn Shih?b al-Zuhr?: “Can we make ablution with or drink the urine of camels?” He said: “The Muslims of old would use it as medicine and saw nothing wrong with it.”
Im?m al-Sh?fi`? considered the Prophetic prescription of camel urine a life-and-death exception that has the same status as the dispensation for eating carrion meat in case of extreme necessity (and any filthy substance for medication other than intoxicants).
XI. The Colostrum Hypothesis
Shaykh Muhammad al-`Ak?l?, the Syrian-American translator of Ibn al-Qayyim’s al-Tibb al-Nabaw? under the title Medicine of the Prophet(P), informed this writer that he considered the mention of the term “their urine” (abw?lih?) in all the above had?ths a copyist’s mistaken rewording of the word “their colostrum” (alb?’ih?) in view of two factors: the word alb?’ih? is so rare as to remain incomprehensible and therefore implausible to most copyists; second, alb?’ih? looks so much like alb?nih?, “their milk,” as to suggest diplology. The well-intentioned copyist then supplied the closest possible term in his or her mind – abw?lih? (colostrum even beats milk as a vitamin and antibody- packed diuretic and is produced by the parturient camel for four to five days). Yet the hypothesis does not stand to scrutiny in light of the profusion of the transmission chains and written manuscripts unanimous on the abw?lih? wording and the fact that camel urine had a history of medicinal use among desert Arabs with which all the early scholars seemed familiar. And All?h knows best.
XII. Conclusion of the `Uraniyy?n Had?th
As for the conclusion of the had?th of the `Uraniyy?n in which the nomads commited apostasy, killed the camelherd after blinding and maiming him, stole the camels, were caught, blinded, maimed, and left to die of thirst, their execution was a literal retaliation according to Mosaic Law “before the penal laws were revealed” as narrated from Ibn S?r?n by al-Bukh?r?, Ab? D?w?d, al-Tirmidh?, and Ahmad. And All?h knows best.
XIII. Would-be Objectors to the `Uraniyy?n Had?th
As for those that would object to the had?ths of camel urine, they usually share one or more of the following attributes:
- Ignorance of the Arabic language. They are unable to read the Qur’?n and had?th in the original Arabic, much less discuss them.
- Ignorance of Arabic history, ethnography, and literature. They do not know the culture of the people among whom circulated the texts that they purport to discuss.
- Ignorance of Arabic medicine. The have no idea that the medical works of the Islamic world “are the foundation upon which our modern Western medicine is built” (Elizabeth Fee, Chief Librarian, History of Medicine Division, United States National Library of Medicine)
Cf. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/arabic/arabichome.html. They are unable to assess the currency of certain medical practices in pre-Islamic and Islamic civilization and in the Arabo-Perso-Turkic literatures on anatomy, embryology, ophthalmology, botany, nutrition, etc. and could not fathom, for example, that non-intrusive diagnosis and treatment for the majority of non-terminal diseases be far superior in a place such as pre-1990s Kabul than in the U.S.A. and Europe.
- Inability to approach the issues scientifically and reliance on emotion and prejudice. They consider it rational to ask: “Have you filled a prescription for animal urine lately?” (an appropriate answer to such a question could be: Your mother most probably did after giving birth and did or will again around menopause, in the form of “Premarin” equine urine estrogens).
- Ignorance of Islamic Law. They have no idea of the legal rulings on either filth or medication in Isl?m, nor the methods by which those rulings were extracted.
- Non-Arabic and/or non-Muslim background. Their knowledge of Islam and Arabic culture is mostly bookish, through the prism of orientalism whose mistakes they slavishly reduplicate, mostly in the language of modernism and agnosticism even if they identify themselves as Muslim.
And only God knows best.