By Amreen Pathan
Woe and behold, hay fever season is upon us.
16 million people are estimated to suffer from hay fever in the UK. I suffer from hay fever and let me tell you, it is not fun.
The grass becomes the nemesis, the tissue the saviour. Congestion isn’t just traffic related anymore, there’s the stuff of the nose, the throat and the ears. Know this: one would not wish hay fever upon their greatest foe.
Although there is no science to support the theory, homeopathic recommendations include consuming some honey every day in the run up to hay fever season. The intention behind this is to build up immunity; honey contains pollen and it is precisely this pollen that hay fever sufferers are allergic to.
Whether this is supported by science or not, honey consumption – in moderation- is greatly beneficial for the human body. This is backed by both science and Islam.
Honey in Islam
The list of foods and drinks that the Prophet ﷺ partook of is not a lengthy one. In fact, hunger and thirst was the norm and a satiated stomach most certainly atypical. Despite this, honey has been included in the list of Prophet’s ﷺ drinks.
Honey would be consumed in three ways (Motala, 2011):
- Pure honey
- Honey mixed with water
- Honey mixed with milk
Just the mere inclusion of honey in the Prophet’s ﷺ diet is indicatory of its nutritious nature.
May 20th marks World Bee Day with the intention of raising awareness about the importance of pollinators – as the UN puts it: ‘We all depend on the survival of bees.’
The Creator of this wonderful creation Himself designates space for them in the Noble Quran wherein He says:
“And your Lord revealed to the honey bee: ‘Make homes in the mountains, in the trees and in the structures they raise. Then, eat from all the fruits and go along the pathways of your Lord made easy for you. From their bellies comes out a drink of various colours in which there is cure for people.” (16:68-69)
Much can be discussed about the elegance and intelligence of bee and the grace with which Allah Almighty refers to and about the bees but the focus of this piece is the ‘drink of various colours [honey] in which there is cure for people’
Mufti Muhammad Shafi (may Allah have mercy upon him) in his renowned book Ma’ariful Qurancomments on this aspect of the verse of which the breakdown is as follows:
- Honey provides energy.
- Honey is a delicacy in terms of taste and flavour.
- Honey serves as a remedial prescription for diseases.
- Honey is beneficial for phlegmatic diseases.
- Honey is used as a binder in Greco-Arab medical traditions.
- Honey does not spoil and also helps to preserve other items, which is why eastern physicians have been using it as an alternate of alcohol.
- Honey is a laxative.
- Honey is also used to cure diarrhoea.
- Honey was used by Hadhrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) to treat abscesses.
It is important to remember that although the word شفاء (cure) is used, like all remedies and medicines from an Islamic perspective, the real potency and force of the cure comes from Allah. What might work for one person may not necessarily work for another. The following story demonstrates this:
A man came to the Prophet ﷺ and said, “My brother has some abdominal trouble.” The Prophet ﷺ said to him “Let him drink honey.” The man came for the second time and the Prophet ﷺ said to him, ‘Let him drink honey.” He came for the third time and the Prophet ﷺ said, “Let him drink honey.” He returned again and said, “I have done that ‘ The Prophet ﷺ then said, “Allah has said the truth, but your brother’s abdomen has told a lie. Let him drink honey.” So he made him drink honey and he was cured. (Sahih al-Bukhari 5684)
What this story indicates aside from the relief that honey provided is the mutually harmonious manner in which Allah Almighty deals with people based on their strength of thinking about Him and trust in Him.
A scientific perspective
If you are interested in the chemistry of Honey, then read this article. Even for a non-scientific individual like myself, the process is microscopically fascinating and intricate.
What we really want to know though is what modern science has proven about the benefits of honey (Nordqvist, n.d.):
- Honey can be used to treat burns.
- Honey prevents acid reflux.
- Honey can kill bacteria (in particular Manuka honey, which has antibacterial properties).
- Honey relieves cold and cough symptoms.
- Honey can be used for various skin ailments like dermatitis and eczema because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiviral properties.
- Honey maintains blood glucose levels.
The list seems quite exhaustive but that certainly explains why the bee is so busy!
Whatever the science though, honey is deliciously delectable and most definitely a sensible alternative to processed sugar. Enjoy it by itself or in a cup of tea or slathered on toast or mixed with milk like the Prophet (peace be upon him) consumed it.
And most importantly, look after the busy little bee!
Motala, S. A.-H. M. Y., 2011. Manifestations of Prophet Muhammad’s Beauty: The Hearts of Allah’s Saints. 2nd ed. London: Azhar Publications.
Nordqvist, J., n.d. Medical News Today. [Online]
Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264667#benefits
[Accessed 21st May 2021].