From the esteemed labs of Universiti Malaya (UM), we can now find where the research funds are lost to: trying to prove that Islamic prayers (solat) can “boost health and cure impotency”. The study by UM’s Medical Informatics and Micromeelectromechanical Systems (MIMEMS) Labs has been going on for some time, but received national prominence with the launch of a national seminar on “Solat Science” yesterday.

Here is the official news from BERNAMA:

Prayer Positions Can Boost Health, Cure Impotency

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 (Bernama) — A scientific study on the benefits of ‘solat’ (the Muslim prayer) reveal that it not only improves spiritual well-being, but performing it correctly with the right posture could also benefit physical and mental health, including curing erectile dysfunction (ED).

Among the other benefits uncovered by a team of biomedical researchers from Universiti Malaya (UM) include reducing the heartbeat rate, alleviating back pain and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
UM’s Biomedical Engineering Department head, Prof Madya Dr Fatimah Ibrahim, said the study revealed that the actions in a prayer could help patients suffering from ED.

Quoting a previous study by researcher Marijke Van Kampen, Dr Fatimah said pelvic floor exercises could boost blood circulation and reduce ED symptoms.

“Our own trial with two ED patients saw vast improvements (in their sexual health) after a month of ‘prayer therapy’,” she told reporters after the launch of the national seminar on ‘Solat Science’ at Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan here today.

The seminar was launched by former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Dr Fatimah said movements in a prayer could also alleviate back pain, especially in pregnant women.
She said a study was conducted on patients with regular back pain and pregnant mothers from the Malay, Indian and Chinese communities.

Findings from the study showed that the ‘rukuk’ (bowing with hands resting on knees) and ‘sujud’ positions could be used as therapy as it helped relax the spinal canal and reduces the risk of pressure on the spinal nerve.

“The non-Muslim mothers only acted out the positions during the therapy sessions. They showed improvement in just a month,” she said.

In his research, UM Medical Centre Cardiology Consultant Specialist Prof Dr Wan Azman Wan Ahmad found that heartbeat rate could be reduced by 10 times a minute in the ‘sujud’ (prostration) position, where Muslims knelt with their forehead, nose, hands and knees touching the floor to face the Kaabah in Mekah.

He said that 12 ‘rakaat’ (unit for a set of actions in a prayer) equalled to 30 minutes of light exercises daily as recommended by health experts.

All of the findings from the studies conducted have been compiled and can be found in the book, ‘Solat Science’, currently available in all book stores.

First of all, let us not be overwhelmed with the spin put by the press. You can take a look on how the experiments of “Physiological measurement to asses the impact of salat (Muslim prayers) physically and spiritually” are implemented at MIMEMS’ website.

Now, let me tell you why this kind of experiments is a fallacy from the start: it involves religion.

As with these experiments, where researchers try to reconciliate their beliefs with science, there can only be one result: a resounding success. One’s mind is already set on what one wants the results to be, either consciously or not. In this case, MIMEMS obviously wants to find that prayers do boost health, cure diseases, especially ED.

When one’s mind is set, one will tend to overlook minuscule errors, discrepancies in figures, rounding up numbers and making generalisations in order to reach the intended result. Every failures and negative results will be rejected—how can science be wrong when their faith tells them it is to be true?

Just for example of how “fudgings” (allowing leeway to achieve successful result) can occur, let us take a look at the statement of “12 ‘rakaat’ equalled to 30 minutes of light exercises”.

While it is true that most experts agree 30 minutes is the minimum recommended daily exercise, those 30 minutes are of vigorous cardio activities like sports or house chores, not “light exercises”. Furthermore, why 12 rakaats? Daily, Muslims pray a total amount of 17 rakaats. Does not that look like fudging to you?

How disappointing it is that so much effort and resources are being put into exegesis, experiments to interpret religion in science! If ever Muslim scientists grumbled about their lack of acceptance and participation in the global field, they only have themselves to blame. There is no value in these sort of outputs. What benefit is there from such experiments, besides bragging rights, besides assurance that Muslims are on the “right” path?

Maybe in the case of this experiment, it’s the profit from sales of these books.