The Positive Sides of Fever

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Sometimes, both ephemeral fevers and traumatic fevers produce biological benefits no common cure can effect. In fact, some bacteria cause disease while other micro bacterial organisms and enzymes cause fermentation that helps to break down complex molecules to organic compounds. Such fermentation is necessary to form proteins in the body. A one-day fever and a putrefactive fever can thus help the body develop the needed bacteria and enzymes that will be difficult to mature otherwise. In fact, fever is often effective for thick humors, it helps in the treatment of paralysis, and it dissolves colic by expediting the opening of channels regular medicine cannot reach. Other advantages such fevers produce include benefits for patients suffering from ophthalmia and trachoma, clonic spasms and tonic spasms, among others. In certain cases, learned physicians and experienced hakïms consider the breaking of fever a good sign for recovery when the bacteria-causing fermentation is met with the ‘right medicine’. Hence, fever sometimes provides the right climate for the medicine to be more effective, and for the diseases to be readily expelled from one’s body.

The prophetic saying: “…Cool it down with water,” also may apply to a cure for ephemeral fevers through bathing the patient in cold water, or by giving him a drink of iced water, and the patient will require no further treatment. Such case represents an acute condition that will gradually subside and cool down through contact with such cold substance, and requires no biological developments in the body. Galen recognized the benefits of using cold water to overcome ephemeral fevers in his comments: “When a fat young person with a healthy skin suffers from ephemeral fever caused by extremely hot weather with no obvious colic inflammation or infections, he can cool down his fever by bathing or swimming in cold water. In fact, we regularly endorse such practice for hot climates.” The same sanctions were made by hakim al-Rãzi in treating fever when the patient is still physically strong, and under the same conditions described by Galen.

In his tradition (hadith), God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم also described fever as “…a scorching torridity from the boiling of hell-fire.” This description perhaps has two meanings: (1) one is a biological necessity, whereby, God Almighty created and ordained its symptoms to manifest in the human body to offset causes and effects as required; and (2) the second meaning is allegorical and represent a thin slice which is vented from the venoms of hell-fire, so that God’s dependents (‘ibãd) may recognize it and consider heeding the Messenger’s warnings. In that sense, the prophetic saying is intended to awaken human consciousness to the reality of the intensity of punishment in hell-fire. Hence, this discomfort will contrast with the gratification, comfort, pleasure and joy that are the prize of paradise. Such pleasant taste, God Almighty created and ordained its effects in the human life in this world to encourage His creation to contemplate the glad tidings brought by His Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم for those who believe, and He decreed their symptoms to manifest in the human body to offset necessary causes and effects as required. Hence, the Prophetic saying: “…cool it down with water,” also means freeze its effects. The Arab poet al-Hamassi once said:

When I feel the fire of love burning inside my heart
I solicit the company of good people to cool it.
Let us presume that I was successful
in outwardly cooling it with water,
Then, what will extinguish
the boiling vents of my internal blazes?

Just as God Almighty provided cold water to quench one’s thirst, water in this world also will cool the boiling venoms of hell-fire. Anas, God be pleased with him, narrated that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “If you feel feverish, take a shower with cold water for three nights at dawn.” When God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم himself experienced rising of his body temperature, he used to ask for a bottle of cold water and pour it over his head, or he took ritual ablution (Arb. ghusul) with it.

Imam Ibn Majã reported that Abu Huraira, God be pleased with him, narrated a tradition wherein fever was mentioned before God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم, and a man cursed it. God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم replied: “Do not curse it, for it expels sin from one’s body in the same manner fire cleanses the dross of iron.” This is most true, since fever is followed by abstinence from food, fasting, subscribing to nutritious diet and taking in the “right medicine,” all of which area  cure that helps in flushing out impurities from one’s body and in calibrating body functions, balancing them, and purifying its substance. As for fever’s role in washing one’s heart from its filth and impurities, or curing certain heart and vascular diseases or tumors, this matter we leave to heart specialists to recognize, for certainly, God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم spoke the truth. Nevertheless when it comes to certain heart diseases that become hopeless, nothing can cure them. Still fever can indeed cure specific illnesses of the heart and body, and reviling it is certainly an act of ignorance and transgression.

Following the prophetic saying, the blessed companion Abu Huraira once said: “I love no illness better than fever, for it reaches each and every particle of my body, and therefore, all the Magnificent allots each one of them its share of blessings.”

Once, during a feverish chill I suffered, I recalled the verses of a poet who said:

The blotter of sins visited me, then it bade me farewell,
Cursed be it as a visitor and as an aggressor.
When it decided to leave me alone it said:
“What do you want?”
I replied: “Leave me for good, O transgressor!”

When I thought about this impiety in blaspheming what God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم forbade to curse, I said to myself: “It would have been better for the poet to say:”

The blotter of sin visited me for its own pleasure,
I welcome it as a visitor and as an aggressor.
When it decided to leave me alone it said:
“What do you want?”
I replied: “Do not leave me alone,
O blotter of the sins of a transgressor!”

in fact,  such attitude would have been more advantageous for him. As for me, my fever quickly dashed out.

In another prophetic tradition, although I am not sure of its correct canonical references, it is related that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “Suffering one day of fever blots out the sins of one full year.” This prophetic tradition has two possible interpretations: (1) that the human body has three hundred and sixty joints, and suffering from one day’s fever will blot out the sins of one day for each joint. (2) The second possible interpretation is that the effects of ‘a one day fever’ in one’s body may last for one full year. This likely interpretation is arrived at by using the deductive method (Arb. Qiyas), and from recalling the saying of God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم: “Drinking an intoxicant (khamr) will invalidate one’s prayers for forty days, and they will not be accepted.” This means that the chemical aftereffect of inebriation in one’s body will enfeeble his central nervous system for at least forty days — God knows best.

Imam al-Tirmidhi narrated in his compilation of prophetic sayings (jãmi‘) a tradition reported by Rafi’ bin Khadïj, that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “Whosoever among you is struck with fever, which is a slice of hell-fire, let him extinguish it with cold water. Let him seek a river, stand in it facing the currents after dawn and before sunrise, and pray: ‘In the name of Allah. Lord, restore the health of Thy servant, and confirm the truth which is spoken by Thy Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم.’ He must immerse himself in it thrice while repeating the same prayer, and do so for three consecutive mornings. If still needed, he may do so for five mornings, or even apply such remedy for a total of seven mornings, for such fever will not last beyond seven days by God’s leave.”

This practice is particularly healthy during summer’s heat, and is exceptionally beneficial in hot climates, such as that of the Arabian peninsula, for example. Water at that hour is cooler because it remained shielded from the sun rays for an entire night. Also, at that early morning hour, one’s body is more fit after resting, and because of the fresh air and quietude, at such opportune time, one’s physical fitness together with the “right medicine,” which is the cold water in this case, will counter the ephemeral fever, or even the Hectic fever when it is not accompanied by any swelling, internal inflammation, or other biologically hostile symptoms, and such fever sill subside by God’s leave.

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