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31.07.2018 | Original Paper

Spiritual and Religious Healing Practices: Some Reflections from Saudi National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Riyadh

Journal of Religion and Health
Naseem Akhtar Qureshi, Asim Abdelmoneim Khalil, Saud Mohammad Alsanad


Traditional practices constituting spiritual and religious (S/R) healing are an important component of the holistic healthcare model and are used in health, well-being, and treating a variety of diseases around the world. The main focus of this review is to summarize the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) studies that especially target S/R healing practices in Saudi Arabia (SA) and discuss the results in light of relevant international literature. From year 2013–2017, electronic searches of PubMed, OvidSP, Google Scholar, and two publishing housing Web sites ( and Dove Medical were made using key words and Boolean operators and retrieved thousands of published papers from peer-reviewed journals. Two independent reviewers decided to include a total of 108 articles: 48 from SA and 60 from other international literature. The sociodemographic variables of the participants varied in local studies and were comparable with international data. The frequency and types of religious and spiritual practices reported in local and international zones varied in accordance with religious belief, gender, age, education, and prevalent chronic diseases. Most of professionals and practitioners showed fairly good knowledge and positive attitude toward spiritual and religious practices used in diverse clinical and non-clinical situations across the world. Furthermore, it was observed that in the international scenario, S/R researches using specific religious screening tools have been conducted on different aspects of clinical application including self-care, social cohesion, negative impact, and child development, whereas regional studies targeting varied participants mainly focused on the epidemiological trends of S/R therapies in Saudi Arabia. CAM practitioners and public tend to show great interest in prescribed and self-use of religious and spiritual therapies across the world because of multiple dynamic forces, including positive effects on health, sense of well-being and disease control, cost-effectiveness, easy access to services, and improvement in quality of life. Further studies are needed to assess the effectiveness of different types of religious and spiritual therapies and practices used in specific diseases, their role in promotion of health and well-being, and prevention of diseases nationwide and across the world. Besides integration of S/R into mainstream treatment modalities, medical education curriculum, continuous medical education, and training programs are needed for bridging the knowledge, attitude, and practice gaps concerning CAM in targeted population groups such as medical professionals, CAM practitioners, medical students, public and traditional healers, not only in SA but also around the world.

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