ḤIJÂMA, OR “WET-cupping” is an emphasized sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ which few Muslims practice today.
Authentic aḥâdîth on ḥijâma abound. Here are some of them:
ʿAbdullâh ibn ʿAbbâs narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said:
Healing is in three things: in cupping, in ingesting honey, and in cauterizing with fire. I, however, advise my Ummah to shun cauterizing with fire. (Bukhâri – 5681, Ibn Mâjah – 3491, and Aḥmed)
Abû Hurairah reported that the Messenger ﷺ said:
If there was something excellent to be used as a remedy, then it is cupping (ḥijâma) (Abû Dâwûd, Ibn Mâjah, Aḥmed, and Al-Ḥâkim)
ʿAbdullâh ibn ʿAbbâs reported that the Messenger ﷺ said
I did not pass by an angel from the angels on the Night Journey (Al-Isrâ’ wa Al-Miʿrâj) except that they all said to me: “Order your nation to cupping (ḥijâma), O Muhammad.” (Tirmidhi and Al-Ḥâkim. Rated ṣaḥiḥ by Al-Albâni in his Ṣaḥiḥ Al-Targhîb, 3/352)
Certain trends brought dry-cupping into vogue from Asia a few years ago, with celebrities touting tell-tale circular marks from the procedure on their backs. However, dry cupping does not even come close to having the remarkable benefits of wet-cupping. Both types of cupping involve the use of a vacuum, or absence of air that creates suction, inside of a transparent cup that is then placed on certain points of the body.
Types of Cupping: Dry & Wet
Left there for several minutes, the flesh inside of the cup becomes mildly swollen and reddish in color as blood is sucked to the surface just beneath the skin. In dry-cupping the suction is released from the cups and the procedure is complete. In theory this practice releases toxins and “old blood” (such as blood that was left over from injuries, bruises or swollen body parts from infection) and makes it easier for the body to eliminate them through human waste. However, these substances are still left to travel the bloodstream and must be filtered by the organs before being released.
In wet cupping after the cups are removed from the initial suction, hair-fine incisions are made in the flesh and the cup is replaced and a vacuum created again. Toxins and “old blood” are released from the incisions directly into the cup. After several minutes the blood is disposed of and the area is cleaned and the procedure is complete. In this way toxins and harmful substances are released immediately which is ultimately best for the internal organs and safer for women like breastfeeding mothers as toxins can be released into breast milk.
Technique & Practitioners
Those of us who have grown up in the West have heard stories of the pseudo-science of “blood-letting.” Whether done with an incision by a barber or using leeches, this technique in Western medicine lacks the wisdom of the sunnah, in that it does not apply the same method or include the knowledge of prime areas of the body for cupping for various ailments. My initial reaction to ḥijâma was one of hesitation, however after some convincing from my friends who recommended it so highly, I attended a friend’s cupping appointment then underwent my own. Since them I have, alḥamdulillah, had it done about six times.
I am very blessed in that our local women’s ḥajjâma has learned from her own husband, whose family has passed down this sunnah in the family for centuries, with the older generation teaching the younger. Various techniques have been experimented with and knowledge gleaned from so many generations of experience who have seen so many different patients and issues. Perhaps the most interesting technique I had heard was that of the “fire cup,” a certain procedure done to increase virility. Where I live people call for this treatment and come from hours away to have it done.
Concerns: Pain & Blood Loss
My initial fear with ḥijâma was the loss of blood, however, it is amazing to see that the body only releases the toxic blood and then completely stops, in spite of the vacuum still being present. In areas of infection or injury as much as two cups will be filled. The same can be said in areas of the body that are used for hormone imbalance or on the crown of the head for siḥr (witchcraft) or ʿayn (the evil eye); the cups become filled with dark, coagulated blood. However, the same person will have several other cups applied to his body and the incisions there may only release a few drops of blood or none at all. This shows the importance of applying the cup and not simply creating an incision in the skin like with blood-letting, and a good ḥajjâm always sterilizes instruments.
Ḥijâma is also surprisingly painless unless one is suffering from siḥr or ʿayn, and even then the pain is tolerable. Just like any other disease, siḥr and ʿayn leave behind a physical contaminant in the body that needs to be released. When the Prophet ﷺ was afflicted with siḥr, we all are familiar with the ḥadîth that he recited the âyât of Sûrat Al-Falaq for ruqya. However, many of us don’t know that Ibn Al Qayyim mentioned in his work Zâd Al-Maʿâd that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was cupped on the top of his head when he was afflicted with siḥr (witchcraft) and that it is of the best of cures for this ailment if it is performed correctly.
Overall if the ḥajjâm is experienced and good at what he does, these cuts are very painless and feel like nothing more than a fingernail scratch on the skin. I personally have seen children have ḥijâma performed on them for a variety of reasons and they handle it remarkably well. Online I have seen images of cuts that look like gashes in the skin, and from my understanding this is not correct. Perhaps some people who are not as skilled, or who want to impress their patients, cut deeply into the skin to release more blood. In this way they will make their patient believe that the ḥijâma was very thorough or that they have problems because of the amount of blood released. Only a very fine cut is needed and the body will release as needed.
Hijâma & Human Ailments
Many people who have never had ḥijâma done before will have dark marks left from the cups, almost like bruises. But once a person has had it done multiple times the body is not so sensitive. What is interesting is to note the type of blood that is released as well as the type of mark that is left behind from the cup. An experienced ḥajjâm can understand what ailments a person may have by examining these things. In some cases a person may have dark, gelatinous blood released from one area, and in others a thin, foamy blood released from another area. Depending on the person’s complaints, a lot can be understood from this, such as the presence of infection, hormonal imbalances, vitamin deficiency, blood pressure issues, blood circulation issues, siḥr or ʿayn, and so on. Also if someone has fertility issues, the result of the ḥijâma can help indicate whether it is caused by physical problems or something like ḥasad or siḥr.
In cases of siḥr or ʿayn, strange marks are often left behind on the cups that resemble symbols or shapes which are often very bizarre to see. In cases of possession or the attachment of a jinn to a person, the pain that a person feels is a shared pain from the jinn (thus one of the most effective treatments for these issues is ḥijâma) as the jinn dislike feeling it. One should exercise caution however because in some cases the jinn can cause vomiting or temporary paralysis as a result.
Ḥijâma is most emphasized for those who live in hot climates, according to scholars who have written on the subject. The Prophet ﷺ said:
Do not allow your blood to boil such that it kills you. (Muslim)
When the body becomes ill it develops a fever, or, at the site of an injury there is a feeling of heat. This process benefits the body but then the leftover, damaged blood needs to be released. It is interesting to see the coagulation of the blood in such cases which ultimately will be released to circulate again if not removed. Heat from climate will have a similar effect on the body though it is more like a low simmer that is harmful over time.
Along the same vein, no pun intended, ḥijâma can also benefit those with problems of a hot temper. Allah created certain human beings that are quicker to anger than others, just as he created some that are more susceptible to stress and anxiety. Ḥijâma can alleviate these issues and restore a natural balance if done on a regular basis. Also for women who suffer from severe PMS or heavy menstrual bleeding, ḥijâma can alleviate this problems and restore normalcy to the body, both mentally and physically.
Inshâ’Allah in the next installment of this series we will talk more about the various points on the body used during ḥijâma and their benefit. The final installment will be an interview with an experienced ḥajjâm.
Originally posted 2015-08-10 03:00:33.