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What is Hijama?

Al-Hajama in Arabic, also known as wet cupping therapy or bloodletting in western cultures, it is an ancient therapy widely used in folk medicine around the world (Bloodletting in the western world, and wet cupping therapy in the Eastern world) and is still used by modern practitioners among many communities and specially Muslims.

Al-Hijama is a very common non-conventional alternative therapy in the Arabic societies that has been used as treatment of a wide range of conditions.


In here will provide you with a basic understanding of what al-hijama is, and what it can offer as therapeutic method from the Sunnah in the Muslims folk medicine; which is also known as dry and wet cupping therapy.

Also to benefit from explication of different theories of the mechanism of action of cupping therapy, in order to elucidate the mechanism of Al-Hijama as a treatment from the Sunnah.


This section is a basic introduction to the development and practice of Al-Hijama, right through from its origins to modern day use and application. Therefore much religious knowledge is being presented as academic knowledge. In the UK and Europe, there is lack of regulation or a governing body regarding the practice of Al-Hijama at any level, so people treat patients on their own accord. May we revive the Sunnah of our beloved prophet (PBUH) and benefit from its therapeutic effects, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself had Al-Hijama performed for him many times and encouraged others to do so too. The Messenger (PBUH) said, "Whoever revives a Sunnah from my Sunnah and the people practise it, she/he will have the same reward of those who practise it without their reward diminishing…" [Sunan ibn Maajah (209)].


Al-Hijama (wet cupping) therapy : 


Al-Hijama is the name in Arab traditional medicine for wet cupping, in some societies and cultures it is also known as bloodletting. Al-Hijama is now widely used all over the world, the Arabic word Hijama الحجامة)) comes from the word “al-hajm”, which means “sucking’’, the Arabic word “al-hajm” means ‘’to reduce in size’’ i.e. to return the body back to its natural state.


Al-Hijama (cupping) is a method of treatment in which a cup is placed on various points of the body and reflex zones, these zones are usually on the back, abdomen,head or legs. A negative pressure is created by a special pump; the negative pressure can be also created by introducing heat in the form of an ignited material.

The cups create minor bruising and cause local congestion lead to trigger the immune system. Then the cups are removed and small superficial incisions using a sterile surgical blade are made. The cups are re-placed and a negative pressure (vacuum) is created again. The negative pressure pulls out the diseased (spoiled) blood out of the body that in turn poured into the cups and then the diseased blood is disposed.


Bloodletting or Al-Hijama is the removal of blood from the body; it has been practiced in some societies and cultures. At various times, bloodletting was considered a part of the medical treatment for nearly every ailment known to man. It was also performed as punishment or as a form of worship to a Superior Power. It still retains therapeutic value today, although only for an extremely limited range of conditions. In early attempts to extract blood from the body, the skin was penetrated in various places with a sharp instrument made of stone, wood, metal, bristle, or any other rigid material. When it was recognized that a vein visible on the surface of the skin as a blue-green stripe contained blood, the vein was incised directly. To facilitate “breathing a vein” and to provide greater safety, more refined and sharper instruments were devised.


Al-Hijama as a remedy from the Sunnah :


The greatest challenge of Islamic Medicine is not in its practice, therapeutics or application but in adaptation to modern day needs. The main source of all inspirational knowledge in Islam is ‘The Holy Qur'an’. This book is considered by Muslims or followers of Islam to be the word of ALLAH, revealed by ALLAH to the Prophet of Islam: Muhammad(PBUH). A secondary source of a Muslims’ inspiration is the ‘Hadith or Sunnah’, which are the recorded and authenticated sayings and traditions of the Prophet of Islam: Muhammad (PBUH). Yet the Qur'an is the guiding spirit that every Muslim has to follow, including the physicians in treating their patient and the patients in handling their illness. However, very early in the Islamic era, the Hadith literature had accumulated a number of sayings and traditions of the Prophet under a collection called the ‘Prophetic Medicine’ or( Tibb Nabawi ).Tibb Nabawi refers to words and actions of the Prophet (PBUH) with a bearing on disease, treatment of disease and care of patients. In addition to Hadiths of the prophet(PBUH) on medical matters, medical treatment practiced by others, medical treatments practiced by the prophet(PBUH) on himself and others, medical treatments observed by the prophet(PBUH) with no objections, medical procedures that the prophet(PBUH) heard or knew about and did not prohibit, or medical practices that were so common. The prophet's medical teachings were specific for place, population, and time. Al-Hijama therapy is the most popular prophetic medicine, the practice of AlHijama is fairly unregulated field, and has been used by lay people as in family environments of a traditional culture but training is always highly recommended.


Al-Hijama in the Sunnah and Shariaa :


The great prophet of Islam Muhammad (PBUH) had used Al-Hijama on his honourable head for migraine. Muhammad (PBUH) also used Al-Hijama on his honourable hip joint, back of the neck, lateral sides of the neck and between shoulders. It is mentioned in that recorded by Al-Bukhari (5263) and Muslim (2952), saying "The hijama is the best of your remedies". Jaabir ibn Abdullah reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said, "Indeed in cupping (Al-Hijama) there is a cure." [Saheeh Muslim (5706)]. Abdullah ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said, "Healing is in three things: in the incision of the cupper (Al-Hijama), in drinking honey, and in cauterizing with fire, but I forbid my Ummah (nation) from cauterization (branding with fire)." [Saheeh al-Bukhaaree (5681), Saheeh Sunan ibn Maajah (3491) Also the angels recommended to the Prophet that he recommend hijama to his ummah(nation).

Abdullah ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “I did not pass by an angel from the angels on the night journey except that they all said to me: Upon you is cupping (Al-Hijama), O Muhammad.” [Saheeh Sunan ibn Majah] In the narration reported by Abdullah ibn Mas'ud ''the angels said, "Oh Muhammad, order your Ummah (nation) with hijama (cupping) ." [Saheeh Sunan Tirmidhee (3479)].


History of Al-Hijama : 


The practice of Al-Hijama or cupping has been a part of Middle-Eastern cultural practice for thousands of years with citations dating back to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC). In the western world, the first to embrace cupping therapy were the Ancient Egyptians, and the oldest recorded medical textbook, Ebers Papyrus, written in approximately 1550 BC in Egypt mentions cupping (Curtis, 2005). Cupping Therapy can be divided into two broad categories: Dry Cupping and Wet Cupping. Dry Cupping Therapy tends to be practiced more commonly in the Far-East while. Wet Cupping is favoured in the Middle East, Muslims and Eastern Europe. The devices man has employed to remove blood from the body fall into two major categories;

1.     Those instruments used for general bloodletting, i.e.; the opening of an artery, or more commonly a vein.

2.     Those instruments used in local bloodletting.


Early Cupping Instruments and techniques :

Cupping was first suggested by the ancient practice of sucking blood from poisoned wounds. In any case, the earliest cupping instruments were hollowed horns or gourds with a small hole at the top by which the cupper could suck out the blood from scarification previously made by a knife. The Arabs called these small vessels “pumpkins” to indicate that they were frequently applied to a part of the body in which the organs contained air or that they were vessels had to be evacuated before they could be applied. The use of cattle horns for cupping purposes seems to have been prevalent in all periods up to the present. When Prosper Alpinus visited Egypt in the sixteenth century, he found the Egyptians using horns that were provided with a small valve of sheepskin to be maintained in place by the cupper’s tongue and serving to prevent the intake of air once the cup was exhausted. In Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, hollow animal horns were fashioned to provide an effective cupping device. In North America, the natives made their cupping implements by slicing off the point of a buffalo horn. They would then place the base of the horn on the body and suck the air out through the opening at the tip. When a vacuum was achieved, a wad of dried grass would be immediately thrust into the opening by the nimble workings of the tongue. Another technique used to withdraw disease was by sucking through a bone tube.



Al-Hijama (cupping) in the modern times :

 During the 20th century, specially-designed glass cups generally replaced the less reliable bamboo and pottery cups. Bamboo tends to weaken over time, especially when combined with steam used to create 'wet energy'. Ceramic cups tend to break easily, especially during treatments. Glass cups provide a sturdy material and a smoother surface for the gliding form of cupping. An even more recent innovation in the world of cupping; instead of creating a vacuum through heat, modern cupping sets use glass or plastic cups equipped with one-way valves. As the cups are placed on the patient, a hand-held pump draws out the air through the valves. The clarity of the glass allows the cupping practitioner to gauge the intensity of the suction and evaluate the energy level of the patient. Cupping is most often used to alleviate symptoms of systemic diseases and conditions. In addition, some patients seek treatment of neuromuscular, muscular and/or skeletal alignments. Since the cupping process draws up skin and some subcutaneous muscle layers, cupping is often used to enhance a previous acupuncture treatment.


Some of the benefits of AL-Hijama: 

  • Removes dead blood cells from the cardiovascular system.
  • Purifies blood and increase red and white blood cells
  • Clears veins, arteries and capillaries.
  • Clears blockages or stagnated circulation
  • Promotes smooth circulation of blood: decrease in blood carbon dioxide level and increase in blood oxygen level and allow blood to circulate more actively
  • Strengthens the immune system: Blood circulate more smoothly thus old waste products get disposed more effectively, immune system is strengthened and resistance against disease enhances. 
  • Promotes cell activities: cleansed blood circulates throughout the body, allowing cells to become more active and hormone secretions to increase. This slows aging process in many parts of the body.
  • Allows the release of local toxins
  • Stimulates the lymphatic system
  • Balances vital energy.