Tradition and Medicine on the Wings of a Fly

Oded Zinger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study examines the pre-modern debate surrounding a strange Islamic prophetic tradition (hadīt) that commands to fully immerse a fly that has fallen into a drink, "for in one of its wings there is poison and in the other a cure". Studying different discussions of the hadith from the 3th/9th to the 9th/15th centuries reveals the variety of ways Muslim scholars negotiated the substantial tension between the competing authorities of prophetic tradition and the Greco-Islamic scientific tradition. Finally, I propose a possible explanation for the idea of a poison and cure on flies' wings in Greco-Roman medical discussions of the Spanish fly.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)89-117
Number of pages29
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.


  • Fly hadith
  • Ibn Qutayba
  • Islamic medicine
  • Spanish fly
  • al-tibb al-nabawī
  • al-Ǧāhiz
  • prophetic medicine


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