A recent Egyptian TV program showed how Islamic Sharia law’s many prescriptions do not merely clash with modern-day concepts like free speech and religious freedom, but even with medicine and science.
On September 16, popular TV persona Wael El-Ibrashi hosted Dr. Zaghlul al-Naggar, a prominent Islamic thinker and Chairman of Egypt’s Committee of Scientific Notions in the Quran, on the topic of medical science and Islam. Inevitably the idea of drinking camel urine as a form of therapy—first proposed in the 7th century by Muslim prophet Muhammad—came up.
Not only did Dr. Naggar promote this practice, but he made the staggering announcement that right now in Egypt a medical center in Marsa Matrouh actually specializes in treating people with camel urine, all in accord with the prophet’s advice.
Other Egyptian thinkers joined the show via satellite, including Khaled Montaser (who earlier exposed the Islamic world’s “inferiority complex“). At one point, while delineating how science and medicine work, Montaser reminded that urine is where all the body’s toxins are carried out, asking “so, shall we drink it for health?” Naggar simply responded with arrogance: “I am older than you and more learned than you: you are not going to teach me; I will teach generations of people like you.”
Staunch secularist Sayyid al-Qemany—whose strong support for rationalistic thinking and the separation of religion and state caused Egypt’s Islamic establishment to pronounce him an apostate infidel—also joined the show via phone, deploring the very idea that drinking camel urine could heal people.
Referring to Naggar’s announcement that there is a clinic specializing in treating people with camel urine as a “catastrophe” that only indicates how far Egypt has sunk, Qemany called on Egyptian health officials to verify if such a medical center truly exists, saying this is a serious issue involving the health of Egypt’s citizenry.
Naggar tried to defend the “salutary benefits” of camel urine by arguing that European pharmacies produce a medicine that contains female urine (possibly a reference to HCG). Qemany replied that such medicines are not based on drinking crude urine but are synthetic, exclaiming, “does this mean I should go drink my wife’s urine?!”
An exasperated Qemany concluded by offering a compromise. He suggested that Nagger, whose PhD is in geology, should lead an expedition to Mecca and Medina and somehow try to extrapolate the urine of Muslim prophet Muhammad, and use that to heal people instead of camel urine, sarcastically adding, “surely the urine of the prophet—peace and blessings upon him—is better than camel urine?”
Dr. Naggar simply shook his head, saying such talk was inappropriate.
In fact, both ideas—drinking camel urine and drinking Muhammad’s urine—are traced to the prophet’s own words, and, accordingly, are aspects of “Sharia-medicine.” In a canonical tradition, Muhammad once told some men who were sick “to drink the milk and urine of camels, and they recovered and grew fat,” that is, they were healed (more information on this practice can be found in a modern-day fatwa in the English language aptly titled “The Benefits of Drinking Camel Urine.”)
Likewise, Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, once wrote that drinking Muhammad’s urine was considered “a great blessing.
All of this sheds light on the totalitarian nature of Sharia law, which treats, not just the Quran, but canonical hadiths, or traditions and sayings of Muhammad—which is where both urine-drinking ideas appear—as sacred and not to be questioned. Saudi Arabia’s highest Islamic authority until he died in 1999, Sheikh Bin Baz, held that the earth was flat and that all scientific evidence otherwise was a “Western conspiracy,” simply because Quran 18:86 claims the sun sets in a pool of mud, suggesting that the earth is flat.
The greater lesson for non-Muslims is that, if Islam’s most prominent thinkers—the many ulema, muftis, sheikhs, and “Islamic thinkers” like Naggar himself—tenaciously cling to Islam’s teachings even when they defy objective science (not to mention grossly defame Islam), surely they must cling to those other ironclad teachings that deal with “subjective” matters, from freedom of religion and freedom of speech, to hostility, jihad, and subjugation for the infidel.
At one point in the debate, Qemany made this connection when he likened the mentality that would give sick people camel urine to drink, to the mentality that attacked U.S. embassies and killed people. In both cases, blind obedience and/or fanaticism is at work—and all to Muhammad’s words, which advocated drinking camel urine for health no less than they banned mockery of the prophet.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.