Essay: "Observations of the popularity and religious significance of blood-cupping (al-ḥijāma) as an Islamic medicine"

“Observations of the popularity and religious significance of blood-cupping (al-ḥijāma) as an Islamic medicine” – by Ahmed El-Wakil

The following is a blog-post in the form of a written interview with Ahmed El-Wakil, an independent researcher based in Qatar, who has written an essay on the subject of Hijama, the download link for which is given below.

Please give us a short introduction about yourself, and in particular how you ended up getting involved with studying / researching hijama?

I have been interested in alternative medicine for a long time, especially in energy medicine. I have tried a number of complementary therapies. I was first introduced to hijama when I was in Lebanon in 2005, through a sheikh who recommended it to me. The gentleman who administered hijama on me did it the traditional way using a glass cup and fire. From that point onwards, I slowly began to take a greater interest in hijama.

– What particular illnesses/ conditions have you researched with regards to treatment with hijama/ wet-cupping?
My initial interest in alternative medicine and hijama was to improve my own health. I did not research hijama for a particular illness. Islamic history has had its own dynamics when it comes to energy medicine in the form of Qur’anic healing. It was the relationship that exists between hijama and energy medicine that caught my attention the most.

– Please explain briefly how your study carried out? If applicable, how many patients took part and how long did it take?

I am not a practitioner myself but I did have the chance to speak to practitioners who literally have had exposure to thousands of cases. Although I did not experience significant benefits following my experience in Lebanon I thought I would try hijama again, but this time in Egypt. I asked for the name of a practitioner, and I was referred to Captain Hamdy Abdullah Al-Sayed. I was struck the first time he practised hijama on me. Captain Hamdy used customized glass cups and a suction pump to position the cups all over my body in a manner that is similar to acupuncture – which of course would not be possible with fire cupping. I had tried acupuncture before but the beneficial effects I felt from hijama were far more powerful. Acupuncture works on the body’s energy system – and so does hijama. I was then introduced to Ahmed Hefny and met with him a number of times. I also purchased all the books he had in his shop about hijama, including the manual that he wrote. Captain Hamdy and Ahmed Hefny know each other well. I heard many stories about the effectiveness of hijama from the both of them as well as from others. Unfortunately the stories about the benefits of hijama are mostly clinically classified as anecdotal. 

– What was the outcome/conclusion of the study? 
I sincerely believe that hijama does have therapeutic benefits. However it is essential to determine the extent to which hijama can cure disease and for what ailments it is most effective. This of course requires further research.

 – Are you planning any other hijama-related studies in the near future? 
I believe that peer-reviewed studies need to be carried out so that hijama and other compleme

ntary therapies transition from being perceived as helpful at an anecdotal level to scientifically proven therapies.
 – If you have hijama done yourself, how often do you get it done, and what for (if any specific condition) and who do you go to get it done (since it is not an easy therapy to self-administer)? 

I did it mostly for migraines. I rely on Captain Hamdy who kindly comes to our home in Cairo to do it on me! I used to have it done once a month, sometimes even twice a month in the initial stages when I felt my body needed it. Now I maybe do it once every 6 months.

– Is there anything else you would like to add?

 Hijama needs to be integrated with other research that has been done in the field of alternative medicine. The sad and recent death of author Andreas Moritz who wrote many books such as “Timeless Secrets of Health and Rejuvination” and “The Amazing Liver and Gallbladder Flush” argued that we need to detoxify the body to regain full health. Moritz wrote extensively about cleansing the major organs in the body: the colon, the liver and the kidneys. I have also recently read a book entitled “The One Minute Cure” by Madison Cavanaugh which mentions the benefits of hydrogen peroxide for detoxification and to keep the blood clean and oxygenated. Hijama seems to fit in with these alternative therapies in that it detoxifies the body and keeps the blood oxygenated. Islamic Tradition has always been open to integrating knowledge from other traditions for the benefit of humanity. The Muslim world should perhaps establish its own professional alternative medicine training centres with research facilitites that can take an objective view to traditional Islamic medicine and to determine how these can be best utilized – beyond popular charlatanism and ad-hoc anecdotal cases – to benefit our brothers and sisters in humanity who are suffering from disease.  I do hope that one day we can see a definitive practitioner’s guide and reference book on hijama, but for this to happen we need collaboration between hijama practitioners, medical doctors, educational and research establishments and to secure sources of funding. I am very impressed by brother Shuaib Suria’s online initiative at to promote hijama which I believe is an important step in the right direction. 

 – Finally where can readers obtain or purchase your above research paper from? 

The Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals (BQFJ) have done great work in launching the open-access online publishing platform. The platform represents a great opportunity to share peer-reviewed academic papers across the Internet through its various journals. Readers who are interested can read and download my paper in the Journal of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the following link : 

Observations of the popularity and religious significance of blood-cupping (al-ḥijāma) as an Islamic medicine
I finally would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff at the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS) and at BQFJ for publishing my paper, as well as others for all their kind help and support in reviewing earlier drafts.

Special thanks also go to Ahmed Hefny and in particular Captain Hamdy Abdullah Al-Sayed for being my source of inspiration and for the long conversations and debates we had together on the subject of hijama. 

Ahmed El-Wakil



Our thanks to Ahmed El-Wakil from Qatar sharing the above post. If you have any questions or want to leave some feedback for him, then please do so via a comment* below.

If you are a hijama therapist or patient and are happy to share your knowledge or experience via a guest blog-post like the one above, please send me an email to:

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