Quack Doctors, Conspiracies, and Responsible behavior

Joe Bradford

| 05/02/2012

Abu Dawud narrates through his isnad that the Prophet said, “He who practices medicine but is not known for medicine, is liable.”
(مَنْ تَطَبَّبَ، وَلَا يُعْلَمُ مِنْهُ طِبٌّ، فَهُوَ ضَامِنٌ)

This hadith outlines for us to broad legal concepts in Islamic law: negligence and willful misconduct.

Here the inverse of the Prophet’s statement “but is not known for medicine” refers to the person qualified to practice medicine. When a person is qualified to practice a profession or offer advice in an area of expertise, they are expected to maintain decorum and adhere to the professional principles and ethical behavior specific to that profession. When they neglect standards and fail to exercise what a reasonably prudent person would take into consideration while practicing their profession, they are liable for the harm and damages they cause. The inverse of this hadith would seem to indicate that the professionally qualified person is not liable, in lieu of his qualifications. This however is not the case, as the inverse of this statement agrees with the ruling in the hadith when specified by two other evidences: other texts such as “No harm or reciprocating harm,” etc. and consensus that anyone practicing medicine who engages in misconduct and/or negligent behavior is liable.

When a person offers professional advice or practices a profession he is unqualified for, the ruling mentioned expressly in this hadith applies. This person will be liable for damages and harm resulting from their misconduct and misrepresentation, however will not be held fully responsible for death and bodily harm because they would not have been able to practice without some sort of permission from the person harmed.

This hadith is an important reminder to people who profess facts to others, spin conspiracy theories based on conjecture, and make baseless claims about issues which they are wholly unqualified to pass judgment on. Even worse is when this translates into practicing “Prophetic Medicine” without having the foggiest what that means, or warning against all forms of vaccinations, or generally promoting ideas that are harmful to our health.

Let’s remember to be responsible in all that we do and say.


8 thoughts on “Quack Doctors, Conspiracies, and Responsible behavior”

  1. Ya Salaam. This is sound advice, though I do love me a good conspiracy theory.

  2. Salam ‘alaik. Having attended medical school and having studied other more traditional forms of healing, I have no faith in vaccinations as they currently exist, especially considering neither their safety nor efficacy has been demonstrated. I think you should heed your own admonishment in implying that rejecting the vaccination model is tantamount to ‘liability’ as in the hadith. What is your qualification to make your judgment on vaccination, if you believe that a certain qualification should exist prior to making a judgment or recommendation?
    And on conspiracy theories, Haq does not require the majority believing in it. Determination of Haq requires evidence and reasoning, not mass media publication or government approval.

    1. Please know that you are reading a little bit too much into my last paragraph. I did not make those assertions, but advised with care those that make blanket statements.
      I am sure that in your professional opinion, you may be correct. But your singular opinion is not binding even within your own profession, and it certainly doesn’t represent the opinion of all specialists.
      When a person misrepresents his personal professional opinion as industry standard, strong arming a patient into making an uninformed opinion, then yes they would be liable.
      Add to that the use of religious rhetoric to ingrain a siege mentality into the patient or guardian that vaccinations are “of the devil” or “made by the kuffar to destroy us” then the issue is compounded.

      I am not saying anyone *must* get vaccinations, but if they are beneficial and proven effective then they should. The Messenger of Allah advised that 7 dates if eaten in the morning protect from poison and magic. This is proof that preventative medicine, and yes vaccinations, are encouraged when effective.

      Religious truth, scientific fact, and legal facts all have established processes of discovery. None of them are based on conjecture and conspiracy, even if you think it is “Haq” yourself.

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