What Islam teaches about a healthy lifestyle

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A healthy and happy life is no accident, in addition to healthy genes, it depends on good habits of mind and body. By following Islamic teachings one is already adopting good habits of mind and body. Take for example the beliefs how they nurture positive attitudes, worship and rituals how they train a person to take seriously social responsibilities and moral values how they help in building personal relationships. Similarly, by expressly forbidding drinking alcohol, smoking, gambling and eating pork, Islam has laid solid foundations for a healthy lifestyle, a safe and hygienic way of living. Let me give you a few more examples to make the point even clearer:

  • The cleaning of teeth, the washing of hands, face and feet, five times before prayer promotes hygiene.
  • The practice of cutting nails, trimming moustache and shaving pubic hair are also important steps towards hygiene.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged people to have a good breakfast early in the morning, to always have a light supper in the evening and discouraged overeating. He (peace be upon him) would say “Fill the stomach one-third with food, one-third with water and leave one-third empty.” The Quran, in fact, forbids overeating: “eat and drink but do not overeat” (Al-Araf: 31).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) constantly preached the message of health, he knew that healthy bodies carry healthy souls. On one occasion he (peace be upon him) said: “The example of the stomach is like a pond. There are outlets in all directions from it. If the stomach is healthy then the rest of the body will be healthy”. He (peace be upon him) also said: “The stomach is a place of diseases” meaning diseases start from here and thus emphasising the kind of food we eat and the amount we consume. The best policy he suggested was to eat little when you are really hungry.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us how we need to be careful with the food we eat. He said “Always keep covered the food” so it’s protected from airborne germs. Anyone who came in contact with lepers (a contagious disease) was told to stay a metre away from them so as to avoid catching the disease. Similarly, he (peace be upon him) taught “that people from an area of plague should not go to another area that was free of plague.” Thus laying foundations for the idea of “Quarantine”.

In addition to these preventative measures the Prophet (peace be upon him) also gave guidelines for; healthy eating, being active, doing physical exercise and maintaining psychological well-being through faith and hope.

Some healthy foods recommended and eaten by the Prophet
He (peace be upon him) was fond of oat and barley bread, Haleem was his favourite soup this was a meat gravy with pieces of bread in it. He relished eating dates and preferred a dinner table that was ‘green’ meaning it had salads. The Quran repeatedly talks about fruits that the people of Paradise will enjoy in particular grapes and pomegranate. The Quran in several places mentions the ‘blessed’ nature or beneficial nature of olives and figs. Similarly; honey is acclaimed for its healing qualities. This was another of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) favourite food. These foods are known to boost the immune system and help in maintaining health.

The Prophet liked physical activity
He (peace be upon him) rode horse, donkey and camel regularly and kept himself active. It is narrated that when the famous Makkan wrestler challenged him to wrestle with him, he (peace be upon him) took up the challenge and twice laid him on the ground. This shows he was physically fit and strong. He would race with his wife Aisha. On one occasion he won the race and on another, she won, he remarked: “we are equal now”. The Prophet (peace be upon him) loved children, sometimes he would play with them. One day he was acting like a horse on his four, whilst his toddler grandson Hussain was riding on his back. Umar came and upon seeing this strange play said what a “beautiful ride” the Prophet (peace be upon him) replied “what a beautiful rider”.

The health benefits of fasting
There’s lots of research that has been carried on ‘intermittent fasting’. Studies have shown that it can help you to lose weight, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve.

Although the primary purpose of fasting is ‘so that you may develop taqwa’, it carries health benefits as well. The obvious as mentioned above is weight loss, a whole meal and a snack or two are taken away from our daily food intake. This is equivalent to about 1000 calories per day. Mondays and Thursdays are the two days that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fast. Fasting brings about a complete physiological change, giving rest for the digestive tract and the central nervous system.

Furthermore, the spiritual benefits are immense; Abu Saeed Al Khudri, (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Anyone who fasts one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will keep him away from Hell for a distance covered in seventy years” (Bukhari).