Alwasm [Archives:1999/17/Health]

April 26 1999

Alwasm in Arabic means “marking” and in the popular language it means rod, or it can be a knife or something of that sort which is used to make a mark on the body of a human being or cattle, or whatever. 
In the old days, alwasm or maisam was used for therapy. The rod is exposed to fire until it becomes very hot, and is then applied to a specific part of the body. Many old-timers will readily tell you that it works. It was used in combination with herbs, a large variety of leaves, some sticks and roots of trees, etc. 
Thus, the primeval man had to use to all the possible methods for the sake of remaining in good health. Alwasm or branding was one of these medical ways to keep fit and healthy. Up to this day, it is used for the treatment of many kinds of dangerous illness, such diseases are as diarrhea of small children, epilepsy, backaches, magraine, kidney diseases and other body aches. Furthermore, people believe Alwasm is actually used for curing black magic. A hot iron can rid the body of the evil forces, the Jinn. 
This branding iron should burn specific places of the body such as the head, neck, leg, abdomen, shoulder, back, feet, etc. 
I had a chance to be with some people who had gone through this kind of medication. 
S. M. who is in favor of this practice says ” one year back I always felt an acute ache beyond bearing in my knee. I was about to lose the ability to walk. Physicians failed in putting this terrible pain to an end. Eventually, they advised me to tend to the hot iron. When they put it on my leg, I was crying in pain. The pain was unbearable. But about three days later, I felt completely well. Try it when you don’t feel to well, it is really very effective.” 
On the other hand, there are a number of people who are firmly against Alwasm. Let’s see what Miss. L. S. thought of her agonizing experience with Alwasm. She says, “I am so thin and always unhealthy. Our neighbor – May God forgive her- gave my mother a secret tip on how I can regain a healthy and strong body. She told her to burn me twice by a branding iron. My poor mother hastened by mistake to put one on my face, and the second fell on my neck. As a result, my situation is getting worse. Alwasm adds new psychological anguish to me, I am deformed and at the same time suffering from an acute and unbearable pain in my neck, the burning iron affected a nerve in my neck. It is based on this personal experience that I strongly oppose such ‘therapy’.”It is worth mentioning that the people of Yemen are unfortunately going back to these old ways, in spite of the many developed medical facilities that exist. 
The reason is because alwasm is considered to be a way to regain good health quickly, easily and at low cost. 
I should conclude my article by asking why people prefer to use such a backward method? I guess the answer to this question is economics. Owing to the hard financial conditions, and living hardships which are going from bad to worse, people find themselves helpless and forced to turn to such primitive methods. Local medical practices do not exactly inspire confidence either. 
By: Haifa Yahia Qanber,