Should the hadith (prophetic report) about eating black seeds be taken literally?

Short Answer


What the Prophet Said

“In it (the black seed) there is healing for every disease except death.” [Bukhari #5688, Muslim #2215]

Khalid ibn Sa‘d said: We went out, and Ghalib ibn Abjar was with us, and he fell sick. When we came to Madinah he was still sick. Ibn Abi ‘Ateeq visited him and said to us: You should use this little black seed: take five or seven of them and grind them, then mix it with olive oil and put drops in his nose, on this side, and on this side, because ‘Aishah told me that she heard the Prophet say: “This black seed is a healing for every disease except as-saam.” I said: What is as-saam? He said: Death. [Bukhari #5687]

What the Scholars Said

Ibn Hajar: “It was said that the words ‘every disease’ refers to every disease that can be treated with it because it is beneficial in the case of cold diseases (only). As for hot diseases, it is not.” “What is meant by this seed being a healing for every disease is that it should not be used on its own; rather it may be used on its own or with other ingredients. It may be used ground up or otherwise, and it may be eaten, drunk, used like snuff, applied as a poultice, and in other ways.” [Fath ul-Bari 10:144]

Al-Khattabi said: “The words ‘from every disease’ are general terms but what is meant by them is something specific, because there is no medicine made from plants that could be used to treat all diseases. Rather what is meant is that it is healing for every disease that is caused by moisture.”

Abu Bakr ibn ul-‘Arabi: “According to physicians, honey is more likely to be a remedy for every disease than the black seed. Nevertheless, there are some diseases that if a person drinks honey, it will make matters worse. If what is meant by the description of honey as something “wherein is healing for men” [an-Nahl 16:69] is that it is healing for most diseases, then it is more appropriate to say that with regard to the black seed.”

Ibn ul-Qayyim: “The words ‘healing from every disease’ are like the verse in which Allah says, “Destroying everything by the Command of its Lord” [al-Ahqaaf 46:25]. That is, it (the storm or wind) destroyed everything that could be destroyed, etc.” [Zad ul-Ma‘ad 4:297]

Al-‘Ayni: “The fact that the general meaning is what was intended is obvious, because the wording indicates that. It is also indicated by the exception in the phrase “except as-saam (death).” If the general meaning had not been intended, there would have been no need to mention the exception. The fact that an exception is made for death indicates that for all other diseases, black seed may be useful as a remedy, but that is dependent upon there being no impediment and upon the conditions being met. [‘Umdat ul-Qari 31:301]

Version 0.25

Shaykh Mustafa Umar