Why it's essential for our physical and spiritual well-being
To live in Islam is not merely preparing for the Hereafter, but also to live a complete way of life right here in this world. Hence, the question of healthy living, which has become a much-discussed issue nowadays, is not new to Muslims.
From an Islamic perspective health is viewed as one of the greatest blessings that Allah has bestowed on mankind. It should be noted that the greatest blessing after belief is health.
Health is indeed a favour that we take for granted. We should express gratitude to Allah for bestowing us with health, and we should try our utmost to look after it. Allah has entrusted us with our bodies for a predestined period of time. He will hold us to account on how we looked after and utilised our bodies and health.
The Importance of a balanced diet
Various verses and texts within Islam promote the eating of healthy wholesome food and eating in moderation. Allah clearly states in the Quran:
"Eat of the good things which We have provided for you. (2:173) Eat of what is lawful and wholesome on the earth." (2:168)
A healthy nutritious diet must also be balanced, in order to maintain the balance that Allah has established in all things, this is addressed in the Quran when Allah says:
"And He enforced the balance. That you exceed not the bounds; but observe the balance strictly; and fall not short thereof." (55:7-9)
As we know, eating excessively causes harm to our systems. Many ailments are related to uncontrolled eating habits such as, diabetes, vascular diseases, stroke, heart attack etc. It has been said that the 'stomach is the home of ill health' and is usually responsible in some way to ill health. Islam teaches us to eat moderately:
"Eat and drink, but avoid excess." (20:81).
Over indulgence and wasting of food are further dissuaded in the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him):
'"No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Adam needs no more than a few morsels of food to keep up his strength, doing so he should consider that a third of his stomach is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing." (Ibn Maja)
Physical and spiritual well-being
At a physical level, the Qur'an and the sunnah encourage healthy eating, and at the same time forbid all substances that cause bodily harm: intoxicants, drugs, and so forth. Fruits and vegetables, dates, yoghurt, milk, natural honey, black seeds, and the like are especially emphasized for their nutritious quality and health benefits.
From a spiritual angle, controlling our diet trains us in self-control. When food is spread out in large delicious quantities and there is a temptation to gorge ourselves, we are required to control our appetites and develop a sense of moderation in eating.
With regards to moderation, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: "Muslims should be people who eat only when they are hungry." That is to say, unnecessary snacks taken in between meals should be avoided. The Prophet also said: "It is good to be always a little hungry." Thus, over-eating can be avoided.
Fasting in Ramadhan, apart from the spiritual and other self-control benefits derived from it, also has health benefits. It cleanses and relaxes the stomach and gives it a "rest from work" for about 16 hours a day for a month once a year. Other than the Ramadhan fast, Muslims are urged to undertake voluntary fasting as much as they could at any time throughout the year. Some Muslims make a point to fast every Monday and Thursday following the Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet. Fasting also enable a Muslim to lose fat and unnecessary weight.
What we should be eating
Many of us want to be fitter and healthier but have no energy for exercise at the end of a working day, or time to plan nutritious meals throughout the week. However just a moderate increase in your activity levels and a small decrease in energy taken in from food could make us healthier, happier, and more productive. Improving your diet and daily exercise is not as daunting as it sounds.
It is recommended by nutritionists that to have a healthy diet most people should be eating:
- More fruit and vegetables
- More starchy foods such as rice, bread, pasta (try to choose wholegrain varieties when you can) and potatoes
- Less fat, salt and sugar
- Some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and pulses
- It's also important to eat a variety of foods to make sure we get all the nutrients our bodies need.
Top 5 practical tips
- Start the day with a good breakfast - Eating breakfast can help curb the cravings for the wrong kinds of food and maintains a steady blood sugar level throughout the morning period.
- Never skip lunch - Skipping lunch leads to a drop in energy levels, alertness and coping ability. It can also slow metabolism which is self-defeating if you are trying to lose weight.
- Drink plenty of water - Water re-hydrates the body much better than sugary fizzy drinks. If you are dehydrated you're likely to feel tired and have a headache, which will slow you down.
- Replace chocolates with fruit or a low-fat yoghurt - This will reduce your day's calorie and fat count significantly and ensure that you are taking in more vitamins and nutrients.
- Ideally try to eat slowly and stop when you're full.