Why Do Saudis Spit On People?

Believe it or not this is an actual question I get asked every once in a while.

Expat nurses often ask me about some strange habits they witnessed Saudis having or odd stuff they saw patients doing. I guess being married to a Saudi gives me more insight into some things but don’t get me wrong, I’m no Saudipedia. But I do like to correct some common misconceptions whenever I can. Especially when people just interpret something completely upside down.

Many of the questions I get asked are related to Islam. For example: why do Saudi men constantly fiddle with the prayer beads? why do Saudi men chew on sticks? or why do Saudi women splash water all over the bathroom floors? Others are more cultural such as why do some female patients keep their whole head covered with a cloth while the doc examines her “down under”? Why do Saudis throw all the trash on the hospital floors? or why do Saudis cluck their tongues all the time?

I don’t have an answer to everything, although I wish I knew about the trash throwing habit.

Back to the question about the spitting on people which is one of the most common cultural oddities that nurses can face in their work. First of all, I want to point out that although it does look and sound like the person is in fact spitting on the patient, he is by no means *spitting*. What is happening is actually praying. The person is reciting Quran and kind of “blowing” the words onto the patient. If anyone knows how to explain this better, feel free to leave a comment.

handwritten quran old script riyadh

Muslims believe that reading the Quran on the sick person has healing abilities. In other words the belief is that the actual words of the Quran when recited have healing properties, hence the blowing of the words toward the patient.  Nurses will often witness this behavior with patients. I’ve known many nurses that have been ‘disgusted’ in their own words by the practice, but they never cared to find out what was going on, just assumed and labeled it as something ‘barbaric’ in their minds which is sadly very common to see here.

Well thankfully some of these confused nurses do want to find out and when they do they are so surprised. While others just like to remain ignorant and poke fun at the Saudis saying, they like to spit on people, so “animalistic”!

Admittedly, I’ve witnessed some pretty enthusiastic styles. Saliva has definitely been seen flying around, especially with Bedouin patients. But in the end, this practice is only a sincere attempt to help cure the patients!

For some other strange habits of Bedouin patients check this post: http://blueabaya.com/2010/06/bedouins-as-patients.html
Read about Saudi women who never remove their veils here: http://blueabaya.com/2011/06/eternal-veil.html

 

 

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  • bigstick1February 13, 2012 - 11:47 pm

    Honestly, isn’t this a slippery slope to faith healing which has a tendency of keeping people from seeking proper medical attention and causing death.

    You know I am absolutely not a proponent of this one, as it gives a false sense of security that could in fact result in someone’s death. Then saliva is known to carry certain diseases such as hepatitis, HIV, etc. Don’t you think this should also be a concern to the health of patients? Seriously, it is disgusting.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 14, 2012 - 12:09 am

    Bigstick-I see your point about the health concern. It would definitely be a concern when the patients immune system were compromised such as cancer patients or HIV patients.
    But nobody got HIV or Hepatitis from a few drops of flying saliva lol

    The patients in question are already under medical care so I see no harm in it.
    But of course we see cases where the family has waited WAY TOO LONG to seek medical care, meaning nothing can be done anymore.
    Sometimes they’ve searched for help from traditional healers, tried to pray or do whatever they can to avoid hospital. Then there’s people who just avoid all treatment and don’t really care whatsoever.

    Believe me I have seen all cases in Finland and other countries as well. It’s really a shame when ppl rely on all sorts of natural remedies that can even cause their death like you said.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 14, 2012 - 12:46 am

    I guess my biggest concern is that doctors are giving the impression that the Koran has some sort of healing power. Thereby fostering further beliefs in such superstitition. Thus generating a cascading event amongst those who are already proned to that way of thinking. In other words, if a doctor has belief in it then it must be so therefore I shall depend on the superstitition first before medical intervention.ReplyCancel

  • Abdullah from S ArabiaFebruary 14, 2012 - 2:25 am

    Bigstick1

    Some people benefited from this practice including myself. I do it by myself on myself. I find that as recent as last week.

    There are two words in Arabic تفل TAFLE, and نفث NAFTH, the former with saliva and the latter without. and people should do the latter which is NAFTH.

    In the Quran Sura Alisra 17-82 (And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers,). Some scholars believe it heal the heart and the soul from their illness such as hate and envy etc. However, other scholars argue that it also help in healing the physical illness.

    I think you know exorcism, but it use with demon possessed and I am not sure if it used with sick person. I know some people died in churches while they under exorcism and also children abused by the healers in churches and it is difficult to make it illegal because this will spark religious people because this practice is part and parcial of Christianity, as Jesus the christ believed to do exorcism to mary majdoline.

    Prophet Mohammed Pace be upon him did Ruqya on himself when he was feeling unwell and we imitate him. Also there is abuse among muslim similar to what happen in Churches.

    Ruqya -reading quran on sick person- is not substitute to seeking medical intervention. and People ought to go to doctor and this not against islam.

    There is one hadith has link to this subject and it is exeptional case but it is difficult to me to write and explain in english it take long time and I will but it in arabic I am sorry:

    عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: (عرضت علي الأمم، فرأيت النبي ومعه الرهط، والنبي ومعه الرجل والرجلان، والنبي وليس معه أحد، إذ رفع لي سواد عظيم فظننت أنهم أمتي، فقيل لي: هذا موسى وقومه، فنظرت فإذا سواد عظيم، فقيل لي: هذه أمتك، ومعهم سبعون ألفاً يدخلون الجنة بغير حساب ولا عذاب. ثم نهض فدخل منزله، فخاض الناس في أولئك، فقال بعضهم: فلعلهم الذين صحبوا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم. وقال بعضهم: فلعلهم الذين ولدوا في الإسلام فلم يشركوا بالله شيئاً، وذكروا أشياء، فخرج عليهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فأخبروه فقال: هم الذين لا يسترقون، ولا يكتوون، ولا يتطيرون، وعلى ربهم يتوكلون.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 14, 2012 - 3:09 am

    Abdullah:

    Could you provide me with which hadith this came from and the section. I can easily look it up in english.

    I attempted the translator and although it translated a good deal of it, it also left a lot to be desired.

    The issue of Mary Magdalene is disputed depending on which gospels you want and who you want to believe. Up until 1968 the Roman Catholic Church called her a prostitute it was later decided that she was an apostles an apostle. The Nag Hammadi find really shed light on this. Probably this is more than you wanted to know though.

    Anyway, thank you for the information.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 14, 2012 - 3:45 pm

    Abdullah-Thank you for this additional info!
    My husband’s brother is said to have been cured from cancer as a child by the family reading Quran over him..ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 15, 2012 - 9:13 pm

    hi everybody
    i want to add that we read certain versus which include prayers which indicates that the God is the most powerful and so on , there some verses are known for this purpose,so we believe in the ability of Allah not in the Quran Its-self .ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 16, 2012 - 2:33 am

    Abdullah:

    Thank you. I appreciate you looking that up.ReplyCancel

  • Sandy :)February 16, 2012 - 9:55 am

    There is the symbolic spitting over the left shoulder 3 times if one wakes from a nightmare to keep Jinn away. I don’t know if there is anything like that to maybe keep Jinn away from ill people.

    There have been various studies on the link between prayer and healing. Certainly there is a link between the mind and the body. So even if one believes in something untrue it is possible it might have an impact. Of course there is no way to “prove” any of these intangibles- and I would say they should be used to support, not replace medical care. Things like spontaneous remission in cancer can’t be medically explained -but that of course doesn’t prove divine intervention either- so people will have to believe what they like.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahFebruary 18, 2012 - 3:37 pm

    Sandy-It could be compared to the much studied placebo effect, some people on drug trials get cured even they were on the placebo just because they were convinced they were trying a new miracle medicine. So the power of the mind has been scientifically proven in that sense.ReplyCancel

  • HammadFebruary 19, 2012 - 11:35 am

    Assalam o aliakum,

    Spitting is more of a traditional belief than Islamic, its done against evil eye. Thats nothing very shocking, as its a regional old belief which has nothing to do with Islam. Islam is different than traditions and cultures of middle east.ReplyCancel

  • HammadFebruary 19, 2012 - 11:48 am

    @Laylah you being a westener married to a Saudi should have atleast realized that Islam is a religion and a way of living while arab culture is traditions formed over hundreds of years.

    I have noticed that after all the modernization the west has undergone, westeners show complete intolerance to others cultures and traditions, due to ignorance that life exists other than the Europe and USA tooReplyCancel

    • LaylahFebruary 19, 2012 - 4:53 pm

      Hammad-find your comment very ignorant and rude, but to each his own. Obnoxious attitudes like yours will not get you far in life.
      Did you not read the above comments for example?
      Maybe you need to educate yourself more to differentiate the two.ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousAugust 7, 2012 - 3:12 pm

      “westeners show complete intolerance to others cultures and traditions,”
      Ah Hammadi, Saudis being the liberals? Really? Yes, of course theres traditionalists, but look at entrance to KSA – where in the “west” is it forbidden to bring in half those items? Only place you see anything resembling muttawa in west is in Amish or Orthodox Jew communities maybe. And the “West” allows both, does KSA allow? Only place with restrictions to women would be the Vatican.

      I am sorry, but I just fail to see your point.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 19, 2012 - 6:13 pm

    Laylah:

    Evil eye along with belief in witches/magic/jinns/voodoo is a part of Islam. Hammad apparently is not too versed with the Hadith, Koran, Sunna or the biblography on Muhammad by Isn Ishaq. Either that or he is another cherry picker.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahFebruary 20, 2012 - 9:55 am

      bigstick-I’m guessing he is another ignorant cherry picker!Evil eye has nothing to do with what I wrote.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 19, 2012 - 6:18 pm

    Laylah:

    I forgot the fiqh. Don’t want to leave that one out. Reliance of the Traveller, excellent read. One can truly appreciate Islam after this tidbit of information on how Saudi bases a lot of its Sharia.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 20, 2012 - 4:41 pm

    Laylah:

    I can never get the reply button to work. Anyway, I know. I was more on topic of faith healing not one word of evil eye until Hammad’s comment. However, you know me. I just could help throwing in a jab, just part of my personality quirk.

    I get tired of the whole “westerner” doesn’t understand. The fact is we do understand a lot more than they would like us to.

    Then you know my whole view on religion, culture and tradition. They are key words to keep oppression, hatred, apartheid and political correct diatriate of political control that have no weight with me as I am politically incorrect and like it that way.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahFebruary 20, 2012 - 9:16 pm

      Bigstick-try changing your browser? Lol at your personality quirk, interestingly put!
      the “westerner doesn’t understand”- card is used when they want to either just insult you, or feel superior, or when they gots nothing else to say to the conversation. LOLReplyCancel

  • hammadFebruary 21, 2012 - 12:46 pm

    its sad the way you both reacted at my comments, what i said was that by spitting at a loved one, one thwarts evil eye. I realized that many a times westeners mock and ask questions in a way that seems amusing to them regarding others cultures and belief.

    And both of you started attacking me presonally as though for some reason I intimidated you. If you want me to keep quite by your aggression, than be it. A classic example of intolerance towards others views and imposing what you think is right.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 21, 2012 - 6:51 pm

    Hammad:

    You don’t intimidate anyone. In fact, it was you who first made the attack on westerns. So who is actually intimidated? However, I have no qualms calling out superstitution and make believe for what it is as I find it harmful to people.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 21, 2012 - 7:02 pm

    That is the single most disgusting thing you could do to a patient in a hospital setting. My SIl was critically ill in the US , her mom came to be with her and on day1 started the reading koran and spitting, I was horrified, here is an immuno-supressed patient, surgically compromised and spitting like there is no tomorrow. of course it’s her belief but it’s also many others belief that a recovery space is not to be compromised by grerms from your mouth. ugggh that was not a fun talk we had with her. I have no problem with reading the koran or zam zam water or whatever is used to give peae to the patient and cargiver, but absolutely no spitting. I guess it’s an older tradition and nowadays younger people rarely do that. still it was a shock seeing it being done.ReplyCancel

  • Abdullah from S ArabiaFebruary 21, 2012 - 10:46 pm

    Hammad Hahaha. I understand what you wrote because I am from Saudi but I don’t think others will understand you easily. You need to explain and give background and hopefully they will understand. You know we wrote in English not Arabic and for me It take half an hour to write one comment in English, so sometimes I prefer to shut up and save my time and limited myself to reading. I think what you wrote is good additional info. if were you I might leave this blog and never come again.ReplyCancel

  • blogMarch 26, 2012 - 10:25 am

    First it’s not actually spitting. After reading Quran al Karim one blew the air and the words of Allah al might are blown for health. If there are many muslim scientist researching they may have proved it that after reading the Quran al Karim the air blown to sick person can cure anyone more affectively , more better and speedy recovery then a Jews made tablet. The words of Allah al mighty has more healing power then a Jews made medicine.ReplyCancel

  • crab345May 11, 2012 - 1:07 pm

    Healing by prayers is a part of all major religions

    James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

    So is saliva Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.John 9:6

    Research says it might help in wound

    http://health.infoniac.com/saliva_helps_in_wound_healing.html

    Saliva can also lead to spread of infections .There is a need to educate the Bedouins about spitting while praying.ReplyCancel

  • Sanortey DikpeteyApril 9, 2016 - 9:33 am

    A lecturer in the University of Education, College of Languages-Ghana, West Africa. Interest in researching into Oral Literature and CultureReplyCancel

  • Sanortey DikpeteyApril 9, 2016 - 9:35 am

    Want to know the socio-lingusitc functions of saliva accross cultures.ReplyCancel

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