Muslim blood letting


Sonny Bill Williams tweeted the photo above to his followers.  It is him in the process of having blood sucked out of his body using a number of suction cups, as recommended by Muhammad no less.

Sunday Star Times reporter Adam Dudding decides to go try it out for himself…  

I lie face down, shirt off. Almasri cleans my back then applies the first cup, using what looks like a giant breastpump to depressurise it, then moving it about as a warm-up massage. Nice.

Warmup over, he attaches cups all over – some at “sunnah” points recommended by Muhammad, others on my specific aches.

The suction on these cups is much stronger, and there’s weird stretching sensation as the skin puckers in. By the time all 18 are on, I feel like I’m wearing the skin of a much slimmer man.

After a short wait, Almasri whips the cups off two at a time and uses a scalpel to gently cut a trio of dotted lines across each of the developing bruises – tiny, shallow slashes like the marks a condemned prisoner makes on the wall to count the days – before reattaching each cup. He does this for 10 cups, leaving the remainder “dry”. The cuts hurt about as much as dragging a metal-bristled hairbrush along your skin.

I can’t see my own back, but the photographer says “Wow!”, so I guess something’s going on. When I see the photos and video later, I see what he means.

I look weird enough before the cutting begins, my back an expanse of puckered skin and teat-like cups, like the belly of a cyborg nursing sow.

After the scalpel arrives, though, things gets properly gross. Blood wells from the cuts and pools inside the cup. When a cup is getting full Almasri removes it, mops the blood up and reapplies. The bleeding finallly stops after five or so minutes. Almasri says I’ve lost about 300ml.

Cups off. Alcohol swab. Almasri says the cuts won’t bleed onto my shirt and he’s right. The bruises and cuts should heal in a week.

I get up. I was warned I might feel light-headed or tired or energised or relaxed, but I’m none of these. I’m a bit hungry.

I inspect my back in the mirror. I look like I’ve been attacked by a vicious octopus. I feel like I’ve rolled down a hill of kikuyu grass shirtless – scratchy, tickly, mildly uncomfortable. Apart from that, I don’t feel better than before, but I don’t feel worse.

As a broad-spectrum skeptic with regard to alternative medicine I didn’t really need to submit myself to 45 minutes of bruising and abrasions to be convinced hijama has as much value as trepanning, astrology, homeopathy, prayer and other time-honoured practices, but I’ll confess that for the next day I took some kind of idiotic pride in showing off my injuries to anyone who’d look. They’re kind of cool, even if the musculature underneath isn’t as impressive as Sonny Bill’s.

Most of us have gotten past the blood letting and use of leeches some time ago.  Science and health care progresses as knowledge progressed.

Last week we saw that the Advertising Standards Authority declared acupuncture to be a medical hoax, in spite of ACC spending $26m of your tax dollars on it every year.

I can’t see any reason why ACC would not fund the 1400 year old “hijama” practice on the same basis.

Apparently sucking blood out on pre-determined spots on the body has health benefits.


– Adam Dudding, Sunday Star Times

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.