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Kāfūr (camphor, Arabic: کافُور) is a white crystalline substance with a strong aroma which is used in performing ghusl, embalmment and shrouding a dead body. The word "kafur" is mentioned in the Qur'an, but there are different views among exegetes about its meaning. It has an important position in Islamic hadiths, medicine, and traditional medicine and has been prescribed for some diseases.


Camphor is a white aromatic and crystalline substance with a bitter smell and taste which is obtained by boiling crumbled pieces of the stalks and stems of a special tree[1] and letting it evaporate.[2] Camphor does not only exist in the camphor tree, but it is a volatile oil which can be found in many plants and some lexicologists defined it as the blossom or the husk of the palm tree or the nodes of a grape tree.[3] Its nature is cold and dry.[4]

The word "kafur" is also mentioned in the Qur'an 76:5, "Indeed the pious will drink from a cup seasoned with kafur".Shi'a exegetes have different views about the meaning of "kafur" here. Some considered it used in its lexical meaning referring to any cold and fragrant substance or anything with a good smell.[5] Some other exegetes mentioned its extraordinary whiteness and coldness because it is a perfect example of that.[6] Some others referred to its lexical root in "k f r" meaning "to cover" and said that because it is derived from the fruit which is covered in the husk, it has been called "kafur".[7]

Religious Use

Camphor is used in preparation of a dead body for burial.

  • Ghusl of the dead: based on the fatwa of most Shi'a authorities, ghusl is performed to a dead person three times; the second time of which, water mixed with camphor is used[8] and about its amount in water, it has been said that it should not be so much that the water becomes mudaf, nor should it be too little that its mixture with water is not obvious.[9]
  • Hanut [embalmment]: according to the fatwa of Shi'a religious scholars, applying camphor on seven parts of the body used in prostration which are the forehead, palms, the two knees and the tips of the two big toes of feet is obligatory.[10]
  • Shroud: It is quoted from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that upon shrouding a dead person, on every piece of the shroud, some camphor and cardamom should be poured.[11] In hadiths, perfuming the shroud of a dead body has only been permitted using camphor;[12] because a dead person is considered as a person who has worn ihram clothes.[13]

Position in the Paradise

In the interpretation of verse 5 of Qur'an 76, some exegetes consider "kafur", the name of a spring in the paradise,[14] or a spring mixed with the smell of camphor,[15] because it is known as a fragrance beside other good smells such as musk and ginger[16] and the righteous and servants of God drink from it,[17] but it is different from the camphor in this world.[18]

In the interpretation of some topics mentioned in the Qur'an such as "do not approach this tree",[19] it is transmitted from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that the tree in this verse refers to camphor tree.[20] Also, in the interpretation of the verse 27 of Qur'an 83, "and whose seasoning is from Tasnim, * a spring where those brought near [to Allah] drink.", the spring refers to camphor or a spring with the taste of camphor, from which the righteous and the People of the Right Hand drink.[21] According to some hadiths, this spring flows from beneath a tree in the paradise the trunk of which is in the house of the Prophet (s) and its branches spread in all houses of the paradise.[22]

The Prophet (s) considered his creation in this world beside perfume and ambergris[23] and also introduced camphor as one of the levels or degrees of the paradise. In another hadith from the Prophet (s), it has been considered the soil of a tree in the paradise called Tuba,[24] or likening it to the shadow of that tree which is cool like camphor.[25] It has also been described as the mortar for building a house in the paradise.[26] Elsewhere, it has been mentioned as a fragrant smell in the houses of the paradise.[27] In another hadith, in a description of the Kawthar Pond, from which believers benefit, its nature has been likened to camphor regarding coolness.[28]

After mentioning his position in the paradise, Imam 'Ali (a) mentioned that his clothes in the paradise are from camphor.[29]

In Islamic and Traditional Medicine and Its Benefits

Besides being a good smell from the paradise, in Islamic hadiths, camphor has also been prescribed as an effective medicine for different diseases.[30] This issue has been mentioned in Tibb al-A'imma (a), Bihar al-anwar and other hadith books.[31] For example, the book attributed to Imam al-Rida (a) and also a book in which hadiths from Imam al-Sadiq (a) in medicine are collected can be mentioned.[32]

Because of its benefits in medicine, camphor has been focused by most scholars and has been mentioned in different books of medicine since the past till now, where they mentioned its benefits and recommended it for different diseases. This substance is beneficial for some diseases including diseases of hot-natured people[33] and is harmful to cold-natured people.


  1. camphor tree is large and evergreen. It is originally from China, Japan, and Taiwan and also grows in India.
  2. Mīr Ḥaydar, Maʿārif-i gīyāhī, vol. 5, p. 86.
  3. Bustānī, Farhang-i abjadī, p. 716.
  4. Mīr Ḥaydar, Maʿārif-i gīyāhī, vol. 5, p. 86.
  5. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 20, p. 124.
  6. Qummī, Tafsīr al-Qummī, vol. 2, p. 398; Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 25, p. 349.
  7. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 25, p. 349.
  8. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 3, p. 139.
  9. Ḥillī, Tadhkirat al-fuqahāʾ, vol. 1, p. 352.
  10. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 3, p. 143.
  11. Kulaynī, Guzīda-yi Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 131.
  12. Ibn Shuʿba al-Ḥarrānī, Tuḥaf al-ʿuqūl, p. 165.
  13. Ibn Shuʿba al-Ḥarrānī, Tuḥaf al-ʿuqūl, p. 175.
  14. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 10, p. 616.
  15. Qarashī, Qāmūs al-Qurʾān, vol. 6, p. 124.
  16. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 10, p. 616.
  17. Qarashī, Qāmūs al-Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 40.
  18. Sabziwārī, Irshād al-adhhān, vol. 1, p. 584.
  19. Qurʾān, 2:35
  20. Qarashī, Qāmūs al-Qurʾān, vol. 4, p. 7.
  21. Qarashī, Qāmūs al-Qurʾān, vol. 1, p. 157.
  22. Jurjānī, Jalāʾ al-adhhān, vol. 5, p. 788.
  23. Ṣaḥifat al-Imām al-Riḍā, p. 47.
  24. Kūfī, Tafsīr al-Kūfī, p. 212.
  25. Ṣadūq, Kamāl al-dīn, vol. 1, p. 266.
  26. Kūfī, Tafsīr Furāt al-Kūfī, p. 594.
  27. Kulaynī, Bihisht-i Kāfī, p. 133.
  28. Ibn Qūlawayh, Kāmil al-zīyārāt, p. 102.
  29. Kulaynī, Bihisht-i Kāfī, p. 133.
  30. Mustaghfirī, Rawish-i tandurustī dar Islām, p. 115.
  31. Mustaghfirī, Rawish-i tandurustī dar Islām, p. 115.
  32. Qazwīnī, Ṭibb al-Imām al-Ṣādiq, p. 299.
  33. Ibn Sīnā, al-Qānūn fī l-ṭibb, vol. 1, p. 477; Qazwīnī, Ṭibb al-Imām al-Ṣādiq, p. 299.

See Also


  • Bustānī, Fuʾād Afrām. Farhang-i abjadī. Second edition. Tehran: Islāmī, 1375 Sh.
  • Ḥillī, Ḥasan b. Yūsuf al-. Tadhkirat al-fuqahāʾ. Beirut: Muʾassisat Āl al-Bayt li-Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth, 1414 AH.
  • Ibn Qūlawayh, Jaʿfar b. Muḥammad. Kāmil al-zīyārāt. Najaf: Dār al-Murtaḍawīyya, 1356 Sh.
  • Ibn Shuʿba al-Ḥarrānī, Ḥasan b. ʿAlī. Tuḥaf al-ʿuqūl. Translated to Farsi by Aḥmad Jannatī. Tehran: Amīr Kabīr, 1382 Sh.
  • Ibn Sīnā, Ḥusayn b. ʿAbd Allāh. Al-Qānūn fī l-ṭibb. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1426 AH.
  • Jurjānī, Ḥusayn b. al-Ḥasan al-. Jalāʾ al-adhhān wa jalāʾ al-aḥzān. Edited by Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥaddith. Tehran: Dānishgāh-i Tehran, 1378 Sh.
  • Kūfī, Furāt b. Ibrāhīm al-. Tafsīr Furāt al-Kūfī. Edited by Muḥammad Kāẓim. Tehran: Wizārat-i Irshād-i Islāmī, 1410 AH.
  • Kulaynī, Muḥammad b. Yaʿqūb al-. Al-Kāfī. Edited by ʿAlī Akbar Ghaffārī & Muḥammad Ākhūndī. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1407 AH.
  • Kulaynī, Muḥammad b. Yaʿqūb al-. Bihisht-i Kāfī. Translated to Farsi by Ḥamīd Riḍā Āzhīr. Qom: Intishārāt-i Sarwar, 1381 Sh.
  • Kulaynī, Muḥammad b. Yaʿqūb al-. Guzīda-yi Kāfī. Translated to Farsi by Muḥammad Bāqir Bihbūdī. Tehran: Markaz-i Intishārāt-i ʿIlmī wa Farhangī, 1363 Sh.
  • Makārim Shīrāzī, Nāṣir. Tafsīr-i nimūna. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1371 Sh.
  • Mīr Ḥaydar, Ḥusayn. Maʿārif-i gīyāhī. Seventh edition. Tehran: Daftar-i Nashr-i Islamī, 1385 Sh.
  • Mustaghfirī, Jaʿfar b. Muḥammad. Rawish-i tandurustī dar Islām. Edited bu Yaʿqūb Marāghī. Qom: Muʾminīn, 1381 Sh.
  • Qarashī, ʿAlī Akbar. Qāmūs al-Qurʾān. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1412 AH.
  • Qazwīnī, Sayyid Muḥammad Kāẓim. Ṭibb al-Imām al-Ṣādiq. Qom: Qalam la-Sharq, 1426 AH.
  • Qummī, ʿAlī b. Ibrāhīm al-. Tafsīr al-Qummī. Edited by Mūsawī Jazāʾirī. Third edition. Qom: Dār al-Kitāb, 1404 AH.
  • Sabziwārī, Muḥammad. Irshād al-adhhān. Beirut: Dār al-Taʿāruf li-l-Maṭbūʿāt, 1419 AH.
  • Ṣadūq, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-. Kamāl al-dīn wa tamām al-niʿma. Translated to Farsi by Muḥammad Bāqir Kamaraī. Tehran: Islāmīyya, 1377 Sh.
  • Ṣaḥifat al-Imām al-Riḍā. Mashhad: Kungira-yi Jahānī Imām Riḍā, 1406 AH.
  • Ṭabāṭabāyī, Mūhammad Ḥusayn al-. Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Beirut: Muʾassisat al-Aʿlamī, 1390 AH.
  • Ṭabrisī, Faḍl b. al-Ḥasan al-. Majmaʿ al-bayān. Tehran: Nāṣir Khusru, 1372 Sh.