When It Started
The story behind the beginning of Tibb Health Sciences- Prof Rashid Bhikha
My journey towards Tibb has been a long and traumatic one. I have always had an open mind towards new ideas, new concepts and ultimately judging everything based on outcomes – if it works, use it. The value of a philosophy or practice is not that it an argued well using remarkable intelligence, but that it works for the person who is using it. The journey to Tibb began when my youngest daughter, Zaheera, became ill after a holiday to the Far East. She developed Jaundice. The onset of symptoms were slow, and the recovery period longer than usual. This was the beginning of 1992. The attack of jaundice was followed by an ‘infection’ of the lungs that affected her breathing. ‘She must have picked up a bug,’ the doctor said. I have since come to learn that this clichéd phrase is a fundamental part of the philosophy of western medicine – and that there are alternative interpretations of disease.
Believing in the quest for the ‘bug’ resulted in test after traumatic test. Her condition in the meantime deteriorated and within a month she had to use her diaphragm to breathe, as her lungs were severely compromised. A month later this complication resulted in an enlarged heart, requiring an angiogram. By the end of June a lung biopsy ‘confirmed’ the diagnosis of fibrosing alveolitis – the cause of the illness unknown, Treatment consisted of 50mg of prednisone (cortisone) daily and Zaheera needing oxygen twenty-four hours a day. The days that followed were as dark as the nights, watching her breathe with an oxygen mask and seeing her pretty little face swelling up from the side-effect of cortisone. Desperation drove us to investigate other healthcare givers – anybody who could help. We visited a Reflexologist, Aromatherapist, Colourtherapist, Energy healer and Spiritual healer.
What intrigued me was the ability of some of these healers to diagnose the condition without the technology of modern medicine. As a pharmacist who has always asked the question ‘What is the active ingredient?’, or ‘What is the mode of action?’, this was an eye opener. Eventually we visited a ‘Hakim’, a doctor that practiced Tibb, traditional Greco-Arabic medicine. He performed a pulse diagnosis from which he pronounced that she was suffering from a hardening of the lungs, caused by what he called a ‘Cold and Dry’ condition. He prescribed various herbs that Zaheera had difficulty in taking. He also advised Zaheera to eat hot spicy chicken soup.Continuing treatment with the Homeopath, the Hakim, the Reflexologist, an Aromatherapist, a Pulmonologist and Cardiologist, I started integrating the treatment between them. Within a year my daughter was swimming again and had recovered completely. Thank God. Whilst continuing treatment from all the different healers, we used modern medicine to monitor the progress. By doing lung function tests, X-rays and scans, we were able to measure her recovery.
During this period I reduced the cortisone level faster that the rate prescribed by the specialist. We continued the follow-up visits with the cardiologist and pulmonologist and maintained the integrated approach of the treatment programme. This experience was the catalyst to find a health system that has a better understanding of not only treatment methods, but also the ‘causes’ of illness. After years of research into the different philosophies of healthcare, including Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and many other practices of healthcare, I uncovered the hidden history of medicine. The fathers of modem medicine, Hippocrates, Galen and Ibn Sina had elaborated on an approach to health that most modern practitioners had not even heard of. Their theory and practice of medicine has come to be known as Greco-Arabic medicine. I was surprised that so many of today’s practices of medicine are offshoots from this knowledge of medicine but that our current over-reliance on philosophical teachings of Greco-Arabic medicine. I became increasingly aware of the lack of a philosophical base in conventional western medicine.
In 1994, the formulation of South Africa’s new National Health Plan highlighted the country’s need to provide effective, affordable healthcare to all our people. The plan stressed the incusing of all role players, including traditional healers and prioritized the promotion of primary health care. Tibb, or Greco-Arabic medicine, places equal stress on the treatment of illness and the maintenance of health to prevent illness. This philosophy and practice of medicine was in keeping with the requirements of the National Health plan, and indeed that of the World Health Organization’s stated objectives – to empower individual to take care of themselves. In order to find out more about Tibb I met with the late Hakim Mohamed Said of Hamdard Foundation I Pakistan. I was inspired by the humanitarian and academic activities of the organization and more particularly the strides that the foundation had made in its Medical University where both Tibb and conventional western medicine are taught alongside each other. With the academic support of Hamdard University and following in the footsteps of Hakim Mohamed Said, I founded the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb to promote the practice of this philosophy in South Africa and to provide an opportunity for healthcare professionals and lay-people alike to learn its principles.