Although not directly connected with SDG 3, the grim news about SDG 2, on which we recently concluded the discussion, is that as per last week’s UN report, about 2.4 billion people or one-third of the world’s population did not have regular access to food during 2022. Out of them, 783 million or 10% of the world’s population went hungry.
Worst of all, 148 million children suffered from stunted growth that will always keep them in the slow lane for the rest of their lives with frequent diseases. Hence, the world has lost about 2% of the workforce for all practical purposes. As for the SDG 2030 deadline, the report stated that 600 million people will still be suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2030, thereby making it unlikely to achieve the zero hunger goal.
The latest news from the zero hunger front once again brings forward the importance of addressing the issue through an imaginative approach and my suggestion to revive the application of Ushr in the agrarian Islamic countries provides one of the possible and fast-track solutions. I hope the authorities at the Islamic Organization for Food Security may investigate its viability, especially since Ushr is mandatory food charity in Islam and its implementation should not create any unrest among Muslim growers.
Returning to SDG 3, Allah said in the Holy Quran in Chapter 95 titled ‘Teen’ or ‘Fig’: “We have indeed created the human being in the best of molds and forms.”
It is a blessing bestowed by Allah on us that He created us with the best of physique, coupled with perfect health and the finest faculties. However, we are also responsible for preserving and maintaining the blessing. I wonder had we been doing that, the healthcare business would not be so thriving today.
Most human beings take health for granted and indulge in activities and habits which are unhealthy and directly or indirectly harmful. Like wealth, for which we shall be accountable on the Day of Judgment, there will also be questions asked about health and how we dealt with it.
Prophet Muhammad said that indeed, your body has a right over you. It means fulfilling the body’s right is taking the necessary care and measures to protect it since Muslims believe that worshipping Allah is the core purpose of our existence on earth, and the worshipping cannot be performed in the true sense unless a person is healthy.
The late Dr Muhammad Haytham Al Khayyat, a senior policy advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), wrote a landmark paper on Fiqh of health in 1997 titled ‘The Right Path to Health – The Health Education through Religion’ which was published by WHO. He interestingly wrote that we find Fiqh of worship, Fiqh of commercial transactions, Fiqh of marriage and Fiqh of prosecution but no chapter is found in the Islamic writings on Fiqh of health. He therefore took it upon himself to gather the gems on the Fiqh of health from the Quran, Sunnah and the research done by various scholars.
The late Dr Muhammad Haytham did a great job and I shall be quoting him as and when needed in this series on SDG 3. By the way, Fiqh is the knowledge of practical Islamic rulings primarily based on the Quran and Sunnah and the research-based deductions by the scholars of all ages when faced with a new issue.
We are discussing health and well-being and we will not do justice if we do not mention the legendary Islamic physician (also regarded as the prince of physicians) Ibn Sina or Abu Ali Sina who is known to the western world as Avicenna. He was born in Bukhara (now Uzbekistan) in 980 AD and started studying medical science at age 13. He was still a teenager when he turned into a well-established physician with a reputation all over Bukhara and abroad.
At the age of 45, Ibn Sina wrote the most acclaimed book ‘Canon of Medicine’ which later formed the basis of research and progression in medical science and was taught in many universities until 18th century AD.
Apart from being a physician par excellence, Ibn Sina was also an authority on philosophy, astronomy, chemistry, geography, geology, psychology, Islamic theology, logic, mathematics, physics and poetry.
The convergence of so many attributes make Ibn Sina an extraordinary human being in the true sense of the word. The fragrance of his reputation of being the father of healthcare during the golden era of Islam can still be whiffed. Scores of modern medical colleges and hospitals have been named after him.
Ibn Sina’s book ‘Canon of Medicine’, comprised of five volumes, was regarded as the therapeutic authority for many centuries, establishing the standards for medicine in the Islamic world as well as in medieval Europe. The book, an explanation of his personal work on Arabic and Greek medicines, was used as the standard textbook up to the 18th century in European institutions.
Ibn Sina’s other work, the ‘Book of Healing’, has nothing to do with medicine but its subject matter is on science and philosophy with the aim to heal the soul. The book talks about logic, natural sciences, mathematics and metaphysics.
I thought it would be interesting to bring readers’ attention to the substantial contribution made by the Islamic stalwarts from the golden era before proceeding further on the subject of SDG 3.
The purpose of this educative series and the article is not to hurt any religious or commercial sentiments either consciously or even unwittingly.
Next week: Discussion on SDG 3 to continue.