Usama Awan, Radiologist, USA
In this article, we explore the intricate connection between the physical and spiritual realms, as illuminated by medical science and the Holy Quran. Focusing on how diseases like Wilson’s disease, haemochromatosis, and other physical ailments manifest in the hands and feet, we delve into the broader implications of what our limbs can reveal about our overall health. Drawing upon the Holy Quran and Hadith, we extend the conversation to consider how our physical actions leave a lasting imprint not just on our bodies but possibly on our souls.
Manifestations of physical diseases
1. Wilson’s disease
Wilson’s disease is a genetic disorder resulting in impaired copper excretion. Patients develop unique “Kayser-Fleischer rings,” which are due to copper deposition in the cornea. The excess copper also deposits into various other organs, including the liver, with many patients ultimately requiring a liver transplant.
A similar yet entirely distinct disease is called haemochromatosis, which is due to excess iron deposition in the liver, pancreas, and even the skin. Patients develop pancreatic dysfunction and, subsequently, diabetes. Additionally, iron deposition in the skin results in a bronze colour. Informally, this disease is referred to as “Bronze Diabetes”, owing to the two manifestations of the disease just discussed.
Observe the picture below of a healthy leg versus the legs of a patient with haemochromatosis. Even a layman can easily distinguish the characteristic bronze colour.
As is clear from the aforementioned examples, different diseases, including nutritional imbalances, manifest in sometimes bizarre ways, such as rashes, psychiatric ailments, and even striking mobility issues.
3. Other physical ailments and their manifestations
In medical studies, one learns about a tremendous number of diseases with manifestations in the hand. A few examples are as follows:
Raynaud phenomenon: indicative of possible underlying autoimmune disorders such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Sjogren’s disease
Splinter hemorrhages: indicative of endocarditis (infection of the heart valves)
Herpetic Whitlow: Due to an infection of Herpes Simplex Virus 1
Gottron’s Papules: Dermatomyositis
Clubbing: indicating cyanosis and possible underlying severe heart or lung issues.
As far as the feet (or أرجل) are concerned, there are various gait (walking pattern) abnormalities that are sometimes characteristic or “pathognomonic” for particular diseases. Some of these include the Hemiplegic gait, Parkinsonian gait, Cerebellar gait, Myopathic gait, and Neuropathic gait. (All of these are nicely demonstrated in this Stanford lecture: https://stanfordmedicine25.stanford.edu/the25/gait.html)
It is clear, therefore, that the effects of physical ailments sometimes manifest in the hands and feet. Meaning that the limbs serve as a sign of the disease to which the rest of the body is succumbing.
Spiritual testimony of limbs in Islamic texts
But what is the link to the spiritual realm? How will our hands and feet talk or bear testimony on the Day of Judgement?
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
اَلۡيَوۡمَ نَخۡتِمُ عَلٰۤي اَفۡوَاہِہِمۡ وَتُکَلِّمُنَاۤ اَيۡدِيۡہِمۡ وَتَشۡہَدُ اَرۡجُلُہُمۡ بِمَا کَانُوۡا يَکۡسِبُوۡنَ
“This day We shall put a seal on their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will bear witness to what they had earned.” (Surah Ya Sin, Ch.36: V.66)
Here, Allah informs us that on the Day of Judgement, our hands will speak and our feet will bear witness to our actions. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira – who was a renowned physician – wrote in the commentary of this verse:
“In studying medicine, it becomes evident that some diseases are only diagnosed by observing [a patient’s] hands. Others are diagnosed by having [the patient] walk away from you. This is the reality of this world. In the hereafter, everything will become apparent.” (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan, under commentary of 36:66)
The reality is that every action we take with our body – whether good or evil – leaves an everlasting impression. The Promised Messiahas has eloquently explained this concept in The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam:
“The Quran sets forth the principle that every human action leaves its hidden impress upon its author and attracts an appropriate Divine reaction which preserves the evil or the virtue of that action. Its impress is inscribed on the heart and face and eyes and ears and hands and feet of its performer. This is the hidden record which will become manifest in the Hereafter.” (p. 140)
The actions of the physical world therefore become permanently recorded on our bodies and limbs. Our limbs will be made to talk in the next life and bear witness to our actions.
Here, the reader may also be reminded of another verse of the Quran where Allah depicts a scene of the afterlife:
وَقَالُوۡا لِجُلُوۡدِہِمۡ لِمَ شَہِدۡتُّمۡ عَلَيۡنَا ؕ قَالُوۡۤا اَنۡطَقَنَا اللّٰہُ الَّذِيۡۤ اَنۡطَقَ کُلَّ شَيۡءٍ
“And they will say to their skins: ‘Why do you bear witness against us?’ They will say: ‘Allah has made us to speak as He has made everything [else] to speak.” (Surah Ha Mim as-Sajdah, Ch.41: V.22)
As is already apparent from the discussion, our hands, feet, eyes, and skin are already bearing witness. They are already talking to the outside world and saying, “Look at me, I’m diseased.” Many times, these outward manifestations are only the tip of the iceberg and harbour a much grimmer reality about the patient’s health. It is not difficult to imagine, as Khalifatul Masih Ira described, that in the next life, Allah can make each portion of our body speak.
On the same token, good deeds will also become manifest on the Day of Judgement. In a famous narration from Muwatta Imam Malik – the oldest Hadith collection – the companions asked the Holy Prophetsa how he would recognise his brothers who were yet to be born. The Prophetsa testifies that their wudu will bear testament to their being part of his ummah. The Prophetsa uses an analogy to explain:
“Does not a man who has horses with white legs and white blazes on their foreheads recognise them as his own among totally black horses?” They [companions] said, “Of course, Messengersa of Allah.” He continued, “They will come on the Day of Judgement with white marks on their foreheads, hands, and feet from wudu, and I will precede them to the Hawd.” (Muwatta Imam Malik, Book 2, Hadith 29)
Similarly, Allah describes believers as having marks of prostration on their faces:
سِيۡمَاہُمۡ فِيۡ وُجُوۡہِہِمۡ مِّنۡ اَثَرِ السُّجُوۡدِ
“Their mark is upon their faces, being the traces of prostrations.” (Surah al-Fath, Ch.48: V.30)
In summary, medicine clearly demonstrates to us the parallels between the physical and spiritual realms. If our hands and feet can already tell us so much in this life, would it be so far-fetched to believe that the actions of this life will be recorded and manifested in the hereafter? Allah will not need us to speak about our actions; rather, our hands and feet will speak for themselves.