Bringing Health and Wellness In Islam
According to 2016 Global Wellness Economy Monitor, the wellness industry grew 10.6% (from $3.36 to $3.72 trillion market) for the period of 2013 to 2015, even when the global economy shrank -3.6%. The Global Wellness Institute considered the wellness industry as one of the world’s fastest-growing, most resilient markets.
The sectors within the wellness industry includes preventive and personalized medicine and public health, complementary and alternative medicine, healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss, fitness and mind-body, workplace wellness, beauty and aging, spa industry, wellness tourism, wellness lifestyle real estates, thermal or mineral springs and so forth.
Due to the potential demand in the wellness industry, the number of wellness start-ups recorded significant investment in 2015 in the form of angel investment, crowdfunding and venture capital. The positive development has also led to the establishment of health and wellness thematic exchange traded fund through the listing of Deustshe Health and Wellness Fund on Nasdaq in 2016.
Pondering upon the wellness reports and figures, one may wonder, what is ‘wellness’ really? World Health Organization defines wellness simply as “the optimal state of health of individuals and groups.” Scholars have elaborated on the difference between health and wellness, referring health as a state of being, whereas wellness is a process of being.
A number of models have also been established to measure an individual’s wellness. Depending on the models, the wellness dimensions may comprised of physical, mental, psychological, spiritual, social, work, financial and environmental wellness.
From the various dimensions of wellness, spiritual wellness is possibly the most developed and discussed topic among scholars. The spiritual wellness aims for a universal value system by living in harmony with one’s own self, others and the universe. This value system includes the formation of a worldview that gives unity, purpose and goals to thoughts and actions.
Researches on wellness have also identified the spiritual dimension as the core and centre of wellness. In other words, an individual’s spirituality has a profound effect on his or her holistic wellness encompassing the physical, mental, psychological and other wellness dimensions.
The finding of spirituality as the core to an individual wellness is very much consistent with Islamic tradition. It was narrated from the Prophet that the state of one’s body (good or bad) depends on the state of the heart (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim). While Muslim scholars such as Ibn Sina referred the heart as the flesh of physical heart in one’s body, others like Al-Ghazzali viewed it as spiritual heart.
In Al-Ghazzali’s books, Kimiya-yi Sa’adat (The Alchemy of Happiness) and Ihya’ ul Ulumuddin (The Revival of Religious Sciences), the Islamic spiritual aspect of Sufi mysticism is emphasized and brought together with Sunni theology as a comprehensive guide to wellness practice in Islam.
Nonetheless, Ibn Sina’s book, Al-Qanun fi at-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine), which has survived as medical reference for thousand years, provides the essential requirements for a healthy heart and living. The book has been translated and still being used today particularly in the rising interest of personalized medicine.
Recent work by Prof. Gerard Bodeker at the University of Oxford shows that the wellness of Islamic societies is consistent with sustainability agenda as it provides the highest possible value in nature and able to provide a complex understanding of how the human body specifically responds to natural ingredients.
The Global Islamic Economy Indicator 2016/17 ranked Malaysia as the first out of 73 countries in the halal industry. Moving beyond halal status, there should be a shift towards ‘halalan toyyiban’ (lawful and good) through health and wellness consumption. As highlighted by Prof. Gerard Bodeker, “The nutritional, healing and beauty traditions across Islamic cultures are the last, lost, great bodies of traditional health knowledge that must and will be discovered.”
Malaysia is at advantage to promote the Islamic wellness industry considering the potential opportunity to turn the wealth of biodiversity in Malaysian forests into natural and traditional medicines. It can help to reduce dependencies on imported medicines and as an option to cost-effective health treatments.
In industrialized societies, the use of complementary medicine is associated with higher income and higher education market segment. As Malaysia is progressing towards high income nation, the wellness industry may create well-paid employment to local talents and provide another source of income from the export of halal wellness goods or Islamic wellness tourism.
In developed countries like the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as some Asian countries like Singapore, China, Korea and Vietnam, the insurance may fully or partly cover the treatment and product of traditional medicine. Hence, Islamic wellness industry can also be an avenue to grow the takaful industry by providing the coverage for services of registered Islamic wellness practitioners.
Given that well-being is in focus at national level and monitored through Malaysia Well-being Index, the wellness at an individual level should be integrated as part of a comprehensive economic well-being agenda. With its own heritage value, the wellness of Islamic tradition may also strengthen the ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’ national identity by harmonizing it with local traditional Chinese medicine and the Indian Ayurvedic heritage.