Interview with a holistic healer (Part 1 of 2)
Written by: Khadeja
Rabiah Mali is a medical herbalist, hijama [cupping] therapist, and, above all, an amazing woman. I first met her a few months back when she was hosting a talk entitled Nature & Spirituality, during which she explained in-depth how connecting to nature can strengthen our spirituality. I was so enthralled with the content that I wanted to sit down with her for a discussion regarding taking a more holistic approach to our health and our lives in general. We settled on a park bench for what felt like a long chat between two friends; Rabiah has an amazing way of connecting with people and making them feel at ease.
*This interview was conducted with a qualified holistic healer. Please note that each individual is different, and that no one recommendation may fit everyone. If you have health concerns, please consult your doctor.
What is herbal medicine?
Herbal medicine is the use of herbs, plants, trees, and roots to heal the body and help put it back into balance. It is also the practice of examining the whole being of the person; physical, spiritual, and emotional. In some cases, we also look into the individual’s political and economic environment, as all of these can have an effect on achieving balance.
How did you get into herbal medicine?
I got into herbal medicine because I have always had this attraction to healing. When I was very young, I wanted to be a doctor, and that stayed with me until just before I was meant to apply to medical school. But it was the constant conflict between I want to heal–that’s what calling me–and knowing that the whole medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry view our health as a commodity. I had so much conflict with that. Alhamdulillah, I spoke to my teacher, and he suggested that I do prophetic medicine. An opening came up at a university where they were doing a fully certified and regulated degree for western herbal medicine, so I said Bismillah and went. This was what my heart was calling for even though my mind was set on I want to be a doctor. This is a different way of fulfilling that calling.
Do you believe that herbal medicine can be a 100% substitute for traditional Western medicines and treatments?
Herbal medicine was the original medicine before Western medicine took over, so I do believe in its potential to heal and substitute it completely and be an alternative rather than a complementary therapy as we refer to it now. But a lot of the illnesses we are facing today are due to our very western, technologically-advanced way of living, which has pulled us away from our roots. And there are certain illnesses that are more difficult for us to treat with herbs because of that. They are still treatable, but there are certain cases where we would need to use surgery a lot more than we previously would need to because of the way the illnesses are more aggressive, like they have mutated. The first step in a lot of traditions is to look at the spiritual aspect of the individual and then look at the food, and then go for the herbs. Usually, the individual is asked to fast, then given herbs. And then if there is still a development in the illness, we would go to the knife, which is the last resort. But nowadays, surgery is looked at as the first option in order to cut costs and provide a quick solution. We can use herbs and food to get rid of illness; we just don’t have the time and patience to do so.
Do you feel that because we are in this mode of instant gratification and wanting results instantly, that may be why people shy away from natural remedies that may take a bit longer?
When I was training to be an herbalist, we were encouraged to call people we were working with our clients because it created more of a business relationship. But I always prefer the word patient. Because patience is ultimately what you need; time heals. You need to be patient. We are in a mentality and also a society of just “quick, quick.” I need food– quick! Get a microwave. I need to be stimulated quickly–ok, let’s use an iPad. I need to get through to people–quick, before you know it, emails and letters aren’t quick enough to tell someone that you have had a great holiday. Everything needs to be quick. As a result, we move away from the natural speed, process, and time of what nature is and what our natural time is which leads to more and more illnesses.
When the body is in a state of disease, that is a sign for you to listen to what the body needs. But unfortunately, we don’t even have the time to stop and listen. For example, a fever: What is the fever telling me? It’s telling me that I’m in a state of disease, that my body is not happy, that it’s raising the temperature to get rid of infection. But instead, we resort to getting rid of the fever as soon as possible so that we can get back to work the next day. It’s the same with perspiring, which is considered an inconvenience and something we don’t have time to do. We have to stop ourselves from sweating because it is inconvenient. What is the process of sweating? It is to cool the body down. It’s a form of balancing out the body, and we are interfering with that.
Do you feel that we are interfering too much with nature?
I was listening to a very interesting talk and it was saying that we need to re-define the idea of nature. As a society, we have redefined nature to include the nature of computers and technology, which is in turn re-defining what it is to be natural and to be with nature. So many of us can’t be in nature without a device. We can’t just witness it; we have to witness it through a device. [But] God created the human eye, which is the best kind of lens, and it really does instill things in the memory.
What is the most interesting case you have come across when you were practicing herbal medicine, something that amazed you in terms of the power of herbs and roots?
We treated a lady who had a tumor that started in one part of her body and then lead to a tumor in the breast. She had gone to the doctor and they recommended cutting it out and starting chemotherapy, which she had experienced previously, but the cancer ended up returning. This time around, she wanted to treat it in a totally different way, in a more natural way, and she was very disciplined and determined in doing so. We treated her with a combination of different herbs and changed her diet and worked with her emotional state as well. Six months down the line she went back to her doctor and she was fine. It was amazing to witness. And she sat with her doctor completely oblivious and was asking them what do you think had happened and the doctor’s response was that these things sometimes happen; the body will absorb the tumor. They always have an answer or excuse for everything when it comes to not accepting that herbs work. She eventually explained what she had done, but they put it down to a placebo effect.
The other case was a patient with fertility difficulties. She had PCOS and endomytriosis and she was a newlywed and wanted to start trying for children straight away because she knew there might be difficulty with it. We treated her with a variety of herbs and a year and a half ago we found out she was expecting.
What is important to understand is that herbal medicine is a very active treatment when it comes to the patient’s participation. You need to be 100% honest with yourself and your herbalist in order to come up with a treatment that is going to work for you. You have to be honest. And you need to be disciplined–which can be difficult for some people–whether it means taking a certain tea or cutting something out of our diet. Consistency is the best cure, which is important in our spirituality and practices.
That reminds me of a hadith [prophetic saying] about how a small deed that is consistent will be more dear to God than a big deed that is done inconsistently.
That carries over into our spirituality and into our life because that is ultimately the test; being steadfast and patient.
Even though you have your good days and your bad and ups and downs.
Just be steadfast and patient, as God rewards those who are. Some people are blessed with having patience. But with others, it’s more of a personal stuggle. It is the ongoing battle and struggle within ourselves to be consistent.
I know that each person is different, but what active steps can we take in our lives in order to improve our wellbeing?
To view this answer, and more, you’ll need to read part 2!
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.