The miracle of honey as an alternative medicine

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"The miracle of honey as an alternative medicine" is a document by IslamWeb that purports to show that the Qur'an contains scientific foreknowledge when it "predicted" that honey has healing properties.

The following is a side-by-side rebuttal.


"The miracle of honey as an alternative medicine", IslamWeb[1][note 1]RationalWiki:

Honey is a sweet and viscous fluid produced by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. "The definition of honey stipulates a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance. This includes, but is not limited to, water or other sweeteners," according to the United States National Honey Board 2003 and other nations' food regulations. Honey is significantly sweeter than table sugar and has attractive chemical properties for baking. Honey has a distinctive flavor which leads some people to prefer it over sugar and other sweeteners. Liquid honey does not spoil. Because of its high sugar concentration, it kills most bacteria by crenation. Natural airborne yeasts cannot become active in it because the moisture content is too low. Natural, raw honey varies from 14% to 18% moisture content. As long as the moisture content remains under 18%, virtually no organism can successfully multiply to significant amounts in honey, though, importantly, enough bacteria survive to make honey dangerous for infants (especially Clostridium botulinum). The study of pollens and spores in raw honey (melissopalynology) can determine floral sources of honey. Because bees carry an electrostatic charge, and can attract other particles, the same techniques of melissopalynology can be used in area environmental studies of radioactive particles, dust, or particulate pollution. A main effect of bees collecting nectar to make honey is pollination, which is crucial for flowering plants.IslamWeb rambles on about how great honey is. Interestingly, none of the information that they cite is found within the Qur'an.

More than 1400 years ago Allaah and His messenger [...] told us that honey can heal a variety of medical problems. Allaah [s]ays (what means):

"And the Lord inspired the bee, saying: Take your habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they erect. Then, eat of all fruits and follow the ways of your Lord made easy (for you)'. There comes forth from their bellies a drink of varying colors wherein is healing for men. Verily in this is indeed a sign for people who think." [Quran 16:68-69]

The Prophet [...] has also told us of the healing found within honey for a variety of medical problems, including stomach ailments. It is reported by Al-Bukhaari [...] that a man came to the Prophet [...] because his brother had a stomach disorder. The Prophet [...] said: "Let him drink honey." The man returned a second time complaining that no improvement happened in his brother’s case, and again the Prophet [...] responded: "Let him drink honey." The man returned again, and said: "I have done that but to no avail." Thereupon the Prophet [...] responded: "Allaah has said the truth, but your brother's stomach has told a lie. Let him drink honey." He drank it and was cured. It is also reported that the Prophet [...] said: "Make use of the two remedies: honey and the Quran." (At-Tirmithi)
Full text of Qur'an 16:68 (Pickthall):

And thy Lord inspired the bee, saying: Choose thou habitations in the hills and in the trees and in that which they thatch; then eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of thy Lord, made smooth (for thee). There cometh forth from their bellies a drink divers of hues, wherein is healing for mankind. Lo! herein is indeed a portent for people who reflect.

This verse does suggest that honey is good for health. However, it does not mention any of the specific information cited by IslamWeb. Al Beiwadi's story[2] and various hadiths do extoll the health benefits of honey, in a nonspecific way.

This non-specificity is fatal for supposed Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge. What use is it to say that something is "good" without explaining what it is good for?

Modern medicine has only recently discovered the fact that honey is a remedy to many diseases.This is blatantly false. Knowledge of the benefits of honey predates the Qur'an by thousands of years, making it not foreknowledge at all.

Ancient Chinese medicine somewhat advocated for honey for health purposes. Shen Nang (c. 2000 BCE) first mentioned using honey for medicinal purposes.[2] A book published c. 200 BCE argues that those who often consume honey stay fit and do not have indigestion. Said book furthermore advises that honey can be used in medications, if only to bind different materials together.[2]

Ancient Indian medicine frequently used honey for health purposes. After surgery, a paste made with honey would be applied to the area of the operation.[2] Susruta (c. 1400 BCE) treated infected wounds with a paste made of honey, butter, barley, and herbs.[2] Ayurvedic medicine proscribes honey in numerous situations, involving as a burn treatment,[3] eye diseases, vomiting of blood, urinary infection, anemia, coughing, indigestion, and many more problems.[4][2] Ayurvedic medicine proscribed at least 634 remedies involving honey.[2]

Ancient Egyptians frequently used honey for health purposes. The Ebers Papyrus, dating from 1550 BCE, mentions 147 separate treatments using honey.[2] The Edwin Smith papyrus, dating to 1500 BCE, tells us to use honey as a burn treatment,[3] to prevent infections,[3] and as a way to help heal bone-deep wounds.[2] Of about 900 medicinal remedies known to the Egyptians, about 500 involved honey.[5]

Ancient Greeks ascribed healing powers to honey. Pythagoras (c. 580 BCE - c. 500 BCE) ascribed his long life to his consumption of honey.[2] Aristotle wrote that honey is a salve for sore eyes and wounds.[2] Aristoxenus, a disciple of Aristotle, wrote that those who eat honey shall be free from disease for life.[2] Hippocrates claimed that honey cleans sores and heals carbuncles.[2] At least as early as 300 BCE, ancient Greeks used a mixture of honey, bran, wine, and/or grease to treat burns.[3] Honey was believed to be the undistilled form of the drink of the gods and to possess heavenly healing powers.[5]

Traditional uses of honey have included honey mixed with lemon for sore throats. Honey coats the throat and reduces throat irritation. Research has already shown that honey blocks the growth of oral bacteria. Honey has also been used for stomach pains and problems. Modern research shows that honey is effective when used in the treatment of gastric or peptic stomach ulcers. Research has also revealed that honey is effective in the treatment of various wounds and infections because of its antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal) properties. Researchers are not absolutely sure why honey heals but they are learning new things about honey everyday. As mentioned in the beginning, honey contains a variety of sugars and minerals. Honey is also considered an antioxidant. This means it allows the blood to circulate better and provide more oxygen to areas of the body such as the brain. Honey can also be used externally to promote healing when applied to wounds, even postoperative wounds. Honey has also been effective in its use to treat burns. It has even been shown to be low in calories and useful as a sweetener for diabetics, people with heart disease or those overweight. Although there is healing in honey for a variety of medical disorders, certain precautions should be taken: 1- Children under the age of one year should not be given honey due to the possibility of infant botulism. This type of food poisoning can be deadly, however, it only seems to affect infants under one year of age. 2- If you have any known allergies to specific plants, then you should make sure the honey you are using is not produced from that plant. 3- People with allergies to bee stings should be careful when using other bee-related products such as propolis or royal jelly. However, if these precautions are followed, then honey may, Allaah willing provide healing for you.IslamWeb rambles on about how great honey is. Interestingly, none of the information that they cite is found within the Qur'an. Again.

Muslims acknowledge and accept that Allaah and His Prophet [...] know better and that our Creator Has revealed the truth. Therefore, we study the research that is available, not to confirm or deny the truth that has been revealed by Allaah and his Prophet [...] but to learn of new ways we can use honey.Muhammad certainly "revealed" the (then) 2500-year-old truth that honey helps people heal.


Summary of claim: The Qur'an accurately states that honey has medical benefits, which would have been unknowable to contemporary science.
Does this statement meet all criteria necessary for Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge?

  1. Is it correct? Yes. Honey does have medical benefits.
  2. Is it in the Qur'an? Yes. The Qur'an simplistically describes honey as having health benefits.
  3. Is it unambiguous? Yes. For a vague claim like "honey helps health", the vague Qur'an suffices.
  4. Was it outside of contemporary knowledge? No. Innumerable cultures in close contact with the Arabs used honey in innumerable medical practices for thousands of years prior to the writing of the Qur'an.
  5. Was it outside of contemporary technology? No. Understanding that somebody does better when given honey requires no technology.

Thus, this statement is not an example of Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Other sources:
  • Other responses:


  1. The article uses the phrase "sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam (may Allaah exalt his mention)" whenever they mention Muhammed. The article also apologizes for mentioning certain people. These have been replaced with "[...]".