I run a clinic in which we provide private health care services including wet cupping/Hijama therapy. Primarily we provide Hijama for the treatment of medical ailments; however we do also provide treatment for Sunna/prophylactic reasons too. To maintain a high standard, all patients are seen by a qualified doctor before undergoing the treatment & we use clean clinical equipment. I wanted to know if it is permissible to charge a fee for the services we offer.
With the exception of a few, the position of the overwhelming majority of classical scholars (jumhur) – which includes the four main Schools of Islamic law – is that it is permitted to charge a fee for cupping (hijama), and the earnings of a cupper would be lawful (halal). (Al-Mawsu’a al-Fiqhiyya 18/17, Radd al-Muhtar ala ‘l-Durr al-Mukhtar 6/52, Al-Mughni 6/133, & Al-Muntaqa sharh al-Muwatta 4/425)
This view is based on the following hadiths:
1) Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) relates, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had cupping performed on him, and he paid the person who cupped him. If it had been unlawful, he would have not paid him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1997 and Sahih Muslim 1578)
2) Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik relates, “Abu Tayba cupped the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace); so he ordered that a sa’ [a specific weight] of dates be given to him, and ordered his owners to reduce his levy.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1996 and Sahih Muslim 1577)
3) Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik relates, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would be treated with cupping, and he never withheld anyone’s wages.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2160)
As such, the position of all four Schools of Islamic law is that it is permitted to charge a fee for cupping, and this includes the Hanbali School according to the more relied-upon and famous opinion within that School. There is, however, another less famous opinion that it is only permitted for a slave and not a free person. Some others said that it is not permitted neither for a slave nor a free person. This position is due to some other hadiths which indicate impermissibility; for example:
1) Sayyiduna Rafi’ ibn Khadij (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “The earnings from [selling] a dog is not pure (khabith), the wages of a prostitute is not pure (khabith), and the income of a cupper is not pure (khabith).” (Sahih Muslim 1568)
2) Ibn Muhayyisa al-Ansari relates from his father that he asked permission from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) to accept payment for cupping, but he refused him from doing so. He continued to ask and seek his permission until he (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Feed [of its earnings] your water-carrying camel and your slave.” (Sunan Tirmidhi 1277, Musnad Ahmad 5/435, Abu Dawud 3/266 and others)
In explaining the correct context of these hadiths, Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“The scholars disagreed in relation to the earnings of a cupper. The majority of them, from the early (salaf) as well as later (khalaf) ones, state that the earnings of a cupper and consuming from such earnings is not unlawful – neither for a free person nor a slave. This is the famous (mashhur) opinion of Imam Ahmad [as well]. However, his opinion as narrated in one narration from him – which is [also] the opinion of the jurists from the hadith scholars – is that it is unlawful for a free person but not a slave, and their reliance is on these [above mentioned] and similar hadiths. The majority of the scholars base their opinion on the hadith of Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that “the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was cupped, and he paid the person who cupped him. If it had been unlawful, he would not have paid him.” (Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim) They [the majority of scholars] understood the hadiths of prohibition to indicate that it is somewhat disliked (makruh tanzih), and that the hadiths encourage abstinence from lowly occupations, and encourage good manners and noble professions. Had it been unlawful [to charge a fee], the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would not have differentiated between a free person and slave, for it is [generally] impermissible for one to feed one’s slave that which is not halal.” (Al-Minhaj sharh Sahih Muslim, p: 1199)
Likewise, Imam Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him) states in his celebrated Fath al-Bari that the majority of scholars are of the opinion that the income of a cupper is lawful due to the hadith of Abdullah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) recorded by Bukhari [quoted above]; and in it, Abdullah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) refutes those who say the earnings of a cupper is unlawful [when he said, “If it had been unlawful, he would have not paid him”]. As such, although a cupper’s profession is unfitting, it is not unlawful; and thus the scholars consider the rebuke in the hadith to indicate somewhat dislike-ness (makruh tanzih). Some scholars are of the opinion that the prohibition is abrogated, some say it is only unlawful for a free person, whilst others say it is only unlawful when the job is not properly defined. (Adapted from Fath al-Bari 4/579)
The great Hanbali jurist, Imam Ibn Qudama (Allah have mercy on him), says that it is permissible to hire a cupper to treat one with cupping, and his earnings are lawful. This is the view of Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Abbas, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i and the Hanafis… However, some scholars regard the earnings of a cupper to be impermissible, because the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “The earnings of a cupper are evil (khabith)”, and he said regarding the earnings of a cupper, “Feed it to your water-carrying camel and your slave.” The proof that it is permissible and not unlawful is the hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) who said, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had cupping performed on him, and he paid the person who cupped him. If it had been unlawful, he would have not paid him.” As for the Messenger of Allah’s (Allah bless him & give him peace) statement “Feed it to your slave”, it is [actually] a proof that the cupper’s earnings are lawful, because it is not permitted for one to feed one’s slave that whose consumption is unlawful… As for terming the earnings as “evil (khabith)”, it does not necessarily mean that it is unlawful, because the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) called garlic and onion “khabith” even though they are both lawful. Rather, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) disliked it somewhat for a free person, due to the lowly nature of this profession… There is no clear text from Imam Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him) regarding the prohibition of a cupper’s earnings… (Adapted from Al-Mughni 6/133)
In conclusion, there are ‘apparently’ contradictory hadiths regarding the charging of a fee for cupping others. The overwhelming majority of classical jurists give preference to those that indicate its permissibility; and as such, they agree that it is permissible to charge a fee and that one’s income would be halal. As for the hadiths that indicate its impermissibility, they interpret them in the following ways:
1) The hadiths merely show that charging a fee is somewhat disliked and better to avoid; but nevertheless lawful.
2) They merely indicate that the profession of cupping is a lowly profession.
3) They indicate that cupping, by nature, is a voluntary chore; and thus it is best not to charge for it, especially when others are in need.
4) They are in reference to the job of a cupper which is not properly defined, in which case his earnings would be unlawful (haram) due to the uncertainty.
5) The hadiths are abrogated. This was the view of Imam al-Tahawi (Allah have mercy on him).
6) They are in reference to the practice found during the pre-Islamic days of ignorance (jahiliyya) of cupping animals and thereafter selling the blood to those who consumed it.
As such, there is no sin on you if you charge a fee for providing the service of cupping (hijama) to others, and your earnings would be lawful (halal). Moreover, since your service includes patients being seen by a qualified doctor, using clean clinical equipment and other related aspects, it will not even be disliked. It is best, however, if you charge primarily for your time, the doctor’s time and the usage of equipment; but offer the very act of cupping free, with the intention of helping others and seeking reward from Allah. But note that even charging for cupping itself is not haram or sinful.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK