The Islamic sense of Health & Wellness:

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Author’s note:

This is a very important article, written by Isteshhad Shata, concerning the importance of Islamic wellness, on both the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical levels. It is my hope that you all benefit from the significant advice given.

Allah tells us, clearly, within His noble book:

“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.”(Quran 3:110)

As I ride the car to school, do the groceries, return books to the library, etc, I witness a reality which my eyes obstinately refuse to believe. I witness the supreme determination of our society’s elderly…The old man runs and runs, only stopping after reaching his desired goal. I think to myself, “MashaAllah!! This man truly understands the potent benefits of exercising. To him, age shall never be an impediment, and doing what’s right continues to be his ardent motivation.”. I close my eyes to contemplate the status of our Ummah; now, regarding this manner, I can only express my cumbersome grief, viewing our Muslims with pot bellies, excess body fat, and lack of energy is quite disturbing. I think about the foods our Ummah eats, and a gloomy frown assumes the place of my initial, pleasant, smile I had, after seeing the old man running.

Thinking back to that Ayah, I ask myself, “Can we (as Muslims) truly be the ‘best-nation’, that Allah speaks of?”. Unfortunately, the answer, stubbornly, manifests itself as a big fat “NO”. If we lack the basic health and physical fitness required to achieve maximum success (even mentally and emotionally), then, when will we ever consider ourselves to be of those who are “the best”? True believers need healthy souls, minds, and bodies, in order to worship their Lord in the correct way. To maintain a pure-heart, a sound-mind, and a healthy-body, special attention must be paid to wellness. The heart and the mind are nourished by the remembrance of Allah, and the body is nourished by partaking of the Halal & healthy food Allah has provided on Earth, for us. We must start revamping our diets NOW…and also make space for some form of physical-activities to show gratitude to Allah, for this ideal Human-Body that He alone has given each of us, the body which each of us are responsible to Him for protecting & cultivating, and will be held accountable for. Allah mentions, “And they will say to their flesh: ‘Why have you testified against us?’ They (their own flesh) will say: ‘We were made to speak by Allah, Who has made everything speak; He created you the first time, and to Him you are returned.” (Quran 41:21)

The teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) urged us to cherish good health and realize its rightful place as one of Allah’s countless bounties:

“And your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks, I will give you more; but if you are thankless, lo! My punishment is dire.'” (Quran 14:7)

Surely, by neglecting our health we show no gratitude to Allah, Most-High.
Choosing wholesome food and avoiding the insalubrious is essential to good health. Allah says:

“Eat of the good things which We have provided for you.” (Quran 2:173) “Eat of what is lawful and wholesome on the earth.” (Quran 2:168)

The Quran, itself, contains many verses of advice regarding healthy eating that relate to the interconnectedness of physical and spiritual health. Encouragement to eat only good and pure food is often combined with warnings to remember Allah and avoid Satan. Healthy eating not only satisfies hunger but also effects how well we worship.

“O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is lawful and good] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” (Quran 2:168)

If one becomes obsessed with food or indulges in too much unwholesome or junk food he is bound to become physically weak and distracted from his primary purpose of serving Allah. Similarly, if one concentrates exclusively on spiritual endeavors and neglects his health and nutrition, weakness, injury, or illness would also result in failure to carry out obligatory worship. The guidance found in the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad advise humankind to maintain a balance between these two extremes.

A healthy-diet is balanced with a mixture of all the foods Allah has provided for His creation. The variety satisfies all the body’s needs for carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, proteins, fats and amino-acids. Numerous verses of Quran mention the foods Allah has provided for us to nourish and maintain our bodies. It is not an exhaustive list of dietary requirements but rather a general idea of the types of food that maintain a healthy body and prevent illnesses.

“He created cattle that give you warmth, benefits and food to eat.” (Quran l6:5)

“It is He who subdued the seas, from which you eat fresh fish.” (Quran 16:l4)

“It is He who sends down water from the sky with which He brings up corn, olives, dates and grapes and other fruit.” (Quran 16:11)

“In cattle too you have a worthy lesson. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, between the undigested food and blood: pure milk, a pleasant beverage for those who drink it.” (Quran l6:66)

“There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought. .” (Quran 16:69)
“…and from it (the earth) we produced grain for their sustenance.” (Quran 36:33)

While sweets and junk food are not forbidden they must be eaten sparingly as part of a balanced diet, designed to maintain optimum health. Many of the most common chronic illnesses today derive from unhealthy eating habits. Coronary Heart-Disease, Hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity and Depression have all been linked to inadequate-diets. The traditions of Prophet Muhammad praise moderation as a way of maintaining good health and the Qur’an stresses the need to strike a balance between any extremes. Taking a closer look at exercising, it is appropriate to mention a hadith by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “A strong believer was better than a weak believer.” He was talking in terms of faith and character but also indicating that physical strength i.e. optimum health and fitness were desirable, provided that God gave us the means of attaining such strength.

A narration recorded by Imam al-Bukhari states: “The Prophet passed by some people from the tribe of Aslam while they were competing in archery (in the market). He said to them, ‘Commit yourselves to Archery, Children of Ishmael! Your father was a skilled Archer. Shoot and I am with so and so.’ One of the two teams therein stopped shooting. The Prophet asked, ‘Why did you stop shooting?’ They answered, ‘How could we shoot while you are with them (the other team)? He then said, ‘Shoot and I am with you all.”. In another narration, Prophet Muhammad’s beloved wife Aisha mentioned their love of games and sports. She said, “I raced with the Prophet and I beat him. Later when I put on some weight, we raced again and he won. Then he said, ‘this cancels that(referring to the previous race).’” Moreover, a highly-respected Islamic-Scholar, ibn-ul-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, stated that movement helped the body get rid of waste food more efficiently and strengthened the body’s immune system. He also stated that each bodily organ has its own sport (or movement) that suited it and that horse riding, archery, wrestling and racing, were sports that benefitted the whole body.

If we even only observe/reflect upon our daily performance of the obligatory 5-Prayers, we would find that prayer itself is a form of exercise; its prescribed movements involve all the muscles and joints of the body, and our concentration in prayer relieves mental stress. This is Complete and Divine Perfection of our religion…Allahu-Akbar!!

I end, by accentuating the sanguinity and sincere hope that are bustling inside me. I can already feel the warmth of the light at the end of the tunnel, a truly ineffable feeling. I ask Allah to benefit whoever reads this, and to help you and me to implement this decisive way of life to the best of our abilities…Amen

Isteshhad Shata/2013

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