The Forgotten Olympic Sized Sunnah of Hijama (Cupping)

A pink yoga mat is laid out on the hard wood floor. In a crisp white coat Lani*, the hijama practitioner, takes the Made in Korea cupping set that I had pre-ordered online.

We go over the medical and liability forms covering diet, lifestyle, areas of pain, and medical history and hygiene. Lani* was trained by Hijama Nation; she took the friends and family version of the course. This 6 month online course culminated in a trip to their London headquarters where she presented her final paper.

The room is tranquil with the whispers of both patient and practitioner as we make dhikr and recite verses of healing. This is an act of worship.

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Lani puts her hands on my back, praying for healing. “You have poor blood circulation, I will first do a dry cupping massage,” she says as she rubs olive oil on my back. I have had severe lower back ache and a pinched nerve. My first visit to Lani was 3 years ago. I rave about hijama because it is a forgotten Sunnah and have seen the results way before the Olympic craze —glad that it is getting the attention it deserves and hope some of the naysayers may actually give a try because, hey, Micheal Phelps does it.

The hadith that moves many to practice this sunnah is that every group of angels that the Prophet Muhammad passed on the night of the Isra said to tell the Ummah to do Hijama.” (Ibn Majah 3477) Muslims over centuries have always believed that it is their basic right and duty to practice Hijama. It is a forgotten sunnah and needs to be revived.


Muslims over centuries have always believed that it is their basic right and duty to practice Hijama. It is a forgotten sunnah and needs to be revived.

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“Hijama” literally means “sucking” or bring something to its normal state. Hijama is the Islamic term used for what is known as “wet cupping”. This form of medicine has been practiced for centuries by many cultures, but Muslim physicians in the Golden Ages researched and refined it into a system.

Cupping is performed in several steps. The most common site for cupping is on the upper back between the shoulder blades, away from veins and arteries; though it can also be performed in other areas. Since I suffer from irregular menstruation, backache and elevated heartbeat, Lani* decides to cup me on the eight sunnah points on my back.

After 3 minutes, she takes the cup off, sanitizing the area, makes small incisions in the skin with a sterile disposable diabetic lancet, and places plastic disposable cup over my skin; repeating the procedure a few times. “People get scared of a razor, so I use this,” she says showing me a prick disguised in a pen. It is noted in al-Bukhari and Muslim that healing is “in the incision of a cupper.”

A sunnah hijama treatment involves the release of stagnant, subcutaneous blood from the point(s) being treated. Blood starts gathering in the cup and coagulates.

Muhib Rahman had hijama therapy done for chronic back pain. He had tried physical therapy and medication but the pain was reoccurring. He leads a physical lifestyle as the founder and trainer at Aqabah Karate, in College Park, MD. “Seventy percent of my pain went away; I don’t know if it was psychological but I felt better,” says Rahman. The effect was not immediate; Rahman says it took a few days to feel relief.

Hesitant about Hijama at first, especially concerned about the training of the person doing the therapy as there are many quacks, he finally received therapy when he was referred to a man who had done hijama on several people in his local community. “I would do it again, but the brother has moved out of state” says Rahman. His wife also had cupping done after childbirth.

Saba Syed’s (Umm Reem’s) move from the East Coast to the Middle East enabled her to get hijama treatment for her carpal tunnel. Her sister, who resides in Saudi Arabia had migraine headaches and had exhausted all medical options. When her sister started getting hijama on her head and stopped needing medication, Saba knew that she had to get it done. “The sister did hijama on some specific areas on my arm and shoulder and just after 2 sessions I was able to actually feel my fingers and the pain went away,” says Saba.

Practitioners say that the benefits of Hijama are many, among them detoxification of blood, stimulation of new blood formation, relieves Inflammation ad congestion. “As we age, we suffer from increased accumulation of toxins, stemming from poor diet and lifestyle, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals in our fruits, vegetables and meat, environmental pollutants and chemicals,” writes Dr. Sohail Qureishi on his Facebook page. He runs a hijama clinic overseas.

Finding a practitioner is one of the hurdles that many people who want to get hijama therapy done face. Most do not advertise or set up clinics as they do not have the necessary state licenses. There is a dire need for a self-regulating agency for hijama ractitioners similar to those that govern the Jewish ritual circumcision practitioners (mohelims). There are other barriers to entry —blood disposal services are very pricey and many Muslims doctors, who can practice it, don’t endorse the therapy due to lack of scientific research.

This is why many practioners only practice it on friends and family. Lani* is a friend of a friend of a friend. She wants to make the sunnah easy on people. She doesn’t charge any money or take any compensation. Although people are urged to follow the sunnah of not charging a set fee, patients are also urged to pay the therapist for their time. Some people take Lani* gifts of local honey & fruits, others present gift cards.

She books her appointments according to the lunar calendar, as each patient is given a time of day that is most beneficial for their treatment.

According to the e-book published by Hijama Nation, “the reason behind practicing Hijama at certain times was that it depends on the gravitational pull and the levels of fluid/water inside the human body at certain times of the month. Just as the moon effects the tide of the ocean, it effects the human body. Therefore, cupping should be performed on odd days of the lunar calendar when the forces of the moons assist in removing the dead blood cells.”

According to hadith, the best time to perform hijama is during the third week of the lunar month. The Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “Whoever performs cupping (hijama) on the 17th, 19th or 21st day (of the Islamic month) then it is a cure for every disease.” [Saheeh Abu Dawud].

People who get treatment expecting overnight miracles will be disappointed as hijama is considered a preventative therapy. “If a person in their twenties get treatment every 6 months, they can prevent the onset of diabetes, heart disease etc,” says Qureishi.

Hijama is spiritual healing, a spiritual process more than a physical process, and qualified therapists suggest finding a practitioner who understands the difference. Practioners also use hijama to remove or significantly reduce the impact of possession and black magic, based on the sunnah of the Prophet. It is recommended in the area beneath the neck and in between the shoulders (al-kahil) and the two areas on the neck just beneath the ears (al-ahda’ayn).

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James M. McConnell, is the author of the book Hijama versus Cupping. He believes that hijama should not be practiced without ijaaza as it is ancient religious healing and the healer should be vetted for moral and spiritual mettle. He received his ijaaza in Syria and has been providing Hijama services for free for thousands of people in Virginia. He also gives lessons.

Dr. Zahra Ahmad of the Dar us Salam Clinic does not practice Hijama but says that she does want to learn about it as is it a confirmed Prophetic Tradition. “I just cannot wrap my head around the science, but will make an effort to understand it.”

The Journal of Contemporary Islamic Studies says the future of hijama lies in scientifically grounded studies to elevate it from a folk remedy to a valid therapy.

I know hijama has been a God-sent for my back pain and I hope all the doctors I know get trained in this ancient form of healing.

More hadith on Hijama:

Anas ibn Maalik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger r said, “Indeed the best of remedies you have is cupping (hijama)…” [Saheeh al-Bukhari (5371)].

Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “If there was something excellent to be used as a remedy then it is cupping (hijama).” [Saheeh Sunan abi Dawud (3857), Saheeh Sunan ibn Maajah (3476)].

Anas ibn Maalik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger r said, “When the weather becomes extremely hot, seek aid in cupping (hijama). Do not allow your blood to rage (boil) such that it kills you.” [Reported by Hakim in his ‘Mustadrak’ and he authenticated it and Imam ad-Dhahabi agreed (4/212)].

Jaabir ibn Abdullah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Indeed in cupping (hijama) there is a cure.” [Saheeh Muslim (5706)].

Feature image:hijamalondon.com

17 / View Comments

17 responses to “The Forgotten Olympic Sized Sunnah of Hijama (Cupping)”

  1. Amer says:

    Due to a lack of studies on Hijama in the West it is not very popular, however there seems to be a bunch of published studies in China from what I’ve gathered (in Mandarin though) as it’s pretty popular over there.

    I think it has less to do with the points you pointed out.. bad blood/toxins and the lunar cycle affecting our blood cycle… and more to do with the blessings on the 17th, 19th, and 21…

    But it really is interesting, we gotta ask the Chinese to share their insights on the matter lol.

  2. I have been getting cupped on and off for 3-4 years in Karachi where this has seen a revival and more people being trained and more using the service. Results are great. I was getting general points done only and my lower back but this year planning to address some more serious issues.

    Last month I took advantage of a bald head post umrah and got points on my head done and my sinuses and chest immediately felt clear despite suffering from mild bronchitis at that time.

    I plan to work more actively with practicioner from next month to improve symptoms of mild carpal tunnel and asthmaic tendencies in-shaa-Allah.

  3. Binte Yousuf says:

    It was just yesterday that I was crying over my sicknesses having tried every form of oral medicine. This comes as a cool breeze and a wonderful reminder! Indeed, Fazakkir Inna Fa’atiz Zikra :) May Allah bless you immensely. I also did some research today and found this useful link – http://www.ummah.co/cupping-therapy-hijama-remedies-from-the-sunnah/

    I have a query which is of urgency. I am not sure if this is the right platform but right now, this is where I can ask. I understand that he Sunnah dates are 17th,19th and 21st of lunar months. And also, Monday, tuesday and thursday are the only days of week when Hijama is beneficial. What if the Sunnah dates (17,19,21) fall on the days of week other than mon,tues and thurs? What should be given the preference. Any answer to this with reference is appreciated.

    • S_ says:

      Preference should be given to (17, 19, 21) of the lunar month. One of these three will indeed fall in Sunnah days as well and it does.

      “Whoever performs Hijama cupping in the 17th, 19th and 21st day (of the Islamic Lunar month), then it is a cure for every disease”. [Saheeh Sunan ibn Maajah (3861)].

      Ibn-Sina explained the prevailing thought at that time on the best timing to perform Hijama: “Some authorities advise against the procedure at the beginning of the lunar month, because the humours are not yet on the move or not in a state of agitation; also against performing it at the end of the (lunar) month, because at that period (of the cycle) the humors are less plentiful. The proper time according to them is the middle of the month (when the humors are in a state of agitation) and during the time when the moonlight is increasing (when the humors are on the increase also). During that period the brain is increasing in size within the skull, and the river-water is rising in tidal rivers”.

      Simply only bad/toxic blood will be removed during this time.

    • Yasser Zia says:

      As salaam alaikum. In our clinic we follow the opinion of Imam Ahmed as reported in Ibn Al-Qayums book “Tibb An-Nabawi” where he said that Hijamah at any time is beneficial.

      You have to be careful not to try to interpret the hadith yourself as some of them conflict with each other.

      See this link for more details:

      http://hijamahworks.com/uploads/3/4/3/1/34311700/4246549_orig.png

  4. Arshad says:

    Mashallah, sister has written a very good article, I really liked it.

    Though, on a lighter note, which lunar calendar should be followed for 17, 19 & 21 days ?

  5. Bahjeh Rizeq says:

    Assalaamualaikum,

    It’s a great thing to see a beautiful holistic and prophetic therapy being revived all over thr world. I’ve been practicing hijaama in USA (northern VA to be exact) for a little over a year now Alhamdulillah and had the pleasure of serving a wide array of people for their health needs, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

    You can visit my website and social media accounts
    I am also certified and licensed by Hijaama Nation as well as the Pastoral Medical Association.

    http://www.hijaamahealing.com
    Facebook.com/hijaamahealing
    Instagram.com/hijaamahealing

  6. Khalid says:

    I got hijaamah done in Pakistan recently. الحمد لله it cured my hypertension problem.

  7. Omer says:

    The act of perfoming Hijama is a Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad صل الله عليه و سلم and it is extensivly reported in a wide collection of authentic ahadith.
    Hijama was a common practice of the Prophet Muhammad صل الله عليه و سلم and his companions for the treatment of a range of ailments as well as a form of body maininance and health promotion.

  8. Yasser says:

    BarakAllah feek for the research and summary!

    Anyone in a healthcare related profession should seriously consider learning Hijamah. If not for practical use, at least to understand it’s role in health management. Some of the leading online courses are:
    – simply hijama
    – the optimum cure
    – hijama nation
    – ICAHT
    – DIY Dry Cupping (disclosure: I created this course)

    We have been in practice over 5 years and Alhumdulillah have affected the lives of over 1000 people. May Allah accept and grant you shiffa, Ameen.

  9. MA says:

    There is no scientific evidence for cupping as a medical treatment. Your evidence is largely anecdotal. I would like to see more evidence on that hadith. Seems made up. It could be that the Prophet did use cupping but because it was a medical treatment back then. Science has moved on. So should you.

  10. shaks says:

    As-Salaam-Alaikum wrwb,
    Can hijama be performed on a new born baby and specially on a baby with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

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