Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - (Re)Inventing the Medicine of the Prophet: The Revival of Tibb Al-nabawi in Indonesia

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor

This paper examines an ongoing revival of “Prophetic Medicine” (Tibb al-nabawi), an array of therapeutic practices modeled on the example of the Prophet Muhammad, in contemporary Indonesia. Emerging as early as the ninth century CE, writings on the “Medicine of the Prophet” draw linkages between the foundational texts of Islam (primarily Qur’an and hadith), and pressing maladies of the day. As historians of medicine have argued, “Prophetic Medicine” texts, rather than articulating a fully distinct medical “system,” were usually composed in relation to the wider field of Greco-Arabic medicine in which they were written (Perho 1995, Sheffer-Mosenssohn 2009, Stearns 2011, Ragab 2012). In contemporary Indonesia, two practices attested to in this literature have risen to particular prominence in recent years: cupping (Indonesian: bekam, Arabic: hijama), as well as Quranic healing by recitation (Indonesian/Arabic: ruqyah). Drawing on a year of ethnographic fieldwork with Islamic medicine specialists in Indonesia, I explore how these practices are being (re)situated in relation to early Islamic history and contemporary biomedical research. Furthermore, I examine how these practices are not only framed with respect to contemporary biomedical concepts and practices but also incite new lines of questions and inquiry from biomedical researchers. Finally, I explore how the revival of Prophetic Medicine in Indonesia is prompting new debates about the categories of “medicine” and “religion.”

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