Prophet Muhammad salAllahualayhiwasallam mounted the pulpit, then wept and said, “Ask Allah for forgiveness and health, for after being granted certainty, one is given nothing better than health.” [Tirmidhi] This demonstrates the virtue of being healthy in Islam. How can you lead a better life? These are my six ‘Feed Your Life’ steps to staying healthy and having a better lifestyle.
1. Feed your soul – pray
We are commanded by Allah the Almighty, to pray five times a day. This is so important that it forms one of the five pillars of our beautiful deen. However, apart from the blessings and benefit we gain from Salaah in the Hereafter, does it have health benefits as well?
According to an article written by Dr. Zakir Naik, during Salaah when you go into sujood, extra blood flows to your brain, which is very important to keep it in a healthy state. Extra blood supply to the skin on your face helps prevent diseases such as chilblain, drains the sinuses and makes it less likely for you to get bronchitis.
When a person breathes normally only two thirds of the capacity of the lung is exhaled out and the remaining one third remains in the lung as a residual air. During sujood, the abdominal visra press against the diaphragm. The latter presses against the lower part of the lungs and the lower lobes. When you breathe during sujood, the remaining one third residual air is aired out, helping your lungs remain in a healthy state. There are less chances of having diseases of the lungs as well.
Dr. ZakirNaik says: “In salaah, we stand up and we sit down, do qayam, rukuh, sujood and when we stand up from same position, the weight is localized on the bottom of the feet and the calve muscle. The thigh muscles are activated and they increase the blood supply to the lower part of the body, which is very important. Further we do various postures like standing erect, bowing down, prostrating, the vertebra column takes various postures and there are less chances of having disease of the vertebrae, of the spine.”
Prayer releases control to something greater than oneself, which can reduce the stress of needing to be in charge. When prayer uplifts or calms, it inhibits the release of cortisol and other hormones, thus reducing the negative impact of stress on the immune system and promotes healing.
As Muslims, we do not pray with the intention of gaining these health benefits, but rather, to worship the Almighty Allah. These benefits are as like Dr. ZakirNaik suggests, mere side dishes, while worshiping and getting closer to Allah is our main dish.
“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)
It is established in the medical practice that we must have a balanced diet with all the right amounts of carbs, proteins, vitamins and minerals etc. in order to help our systems function to their optimal abilities.
“And He enforced the balance. That you exceed not the bounds; but observe the balance strictly; and fall not short thereof.”
(Surah ar Rahman 55: Verse 7–9)
We also know that eating excessively can cause numerous diseases such as diabetes, vascular diseases, stroke, heart attack etc., and that moderation is the key.
“Eat and drink, but avoid excess”.
(Surah Taha 20: Verse 81)
In a useful Hadith, our beloved Prophet salAllahualayhiwasallam gave us a guide as to how much we should consume.
The Prophet, salAllahualayhiwasallam, said, “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.” [IbnMaja]
3. Feed your mind – read/learn new things
“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.”
Challenge your brain. Mental activity not only improves your intelligence, but your brain is the center of everything in your body. If it is healthy, then you are less at risk to attract diseases.
The first word revealed in the Quran was “Iqra” which means “read”. Allah is sending us a direct message. We are encouraged to read, read,read! We should read every and anything we can get our hands on, as long as its halal.We should be learning from the cradle to the grave.
The Prophet salAllahualayhiwasallam is reported to have said:
“If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge, the inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man. The superiority of the learned man over the worshipper is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham, leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it takes a big fortune.” [Abu Dawud]
While what we deem traditionally as Islamic knowledge is at the forefront of what we should know, it is useful for us to realise that Allah is the creator of all things. So, when we are at school and are learning about plateaus and volcanoes in geography, or about protons, neutrons and electrons in chemistry, we are learning about the world in which Allah created us and we should not disregard the importance of this knowledge.
Dua for increasing knowledge:
Translation: O my Lord increase me in knowledge.
4. Feed your heart – smiling/ happiness
Research has shown that when you smile, your body releases endorphins which automatically make you happier, and in a brighter mood. This relieves stress and we all know how detrimental stress is to our health! Smiles are like high-fives to your immune system; your whole body thanks you just for smiling. The endorphins released during a smile also act as natural pain killers, so when you’re in physical, emotional or mental anguish, try smiling and see the difference it makes!
And, oh what’s that? Yep, smiling is Sunnah as well! Our beloved Prophet salAllahualayhiwasallam said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.”
So smile more, release some stress, anger and pain and get blessings while doing it!
5. Feed your relationships
The Prophet salAllahualayhiwasallam said, “The best of you is the best to his family and I am the best amongst you to my family”.
In Islam, family matters. They are the people who will be there for you no matter what happens. They love you unconditionally and we all have a duty to keep our family relations in good order. We are taught to treat our parents with respect and to treat our children with kindness while leading them on the right path of Allah. Having good relationships with our family reduces stress and confusion which ultimately ages us and makes us unhealthy. We need to be positive and mend all broken relationships in order to have a truly successful and healthy life.
6. Feed your emotions
We should embrace all of our emotional selves. Emotions are what distinguishes us as humans. We feel everything. We get hurt and we cry, we get happy and we laugh. We are such complex beings that sometimes we even cry when we laugh too much.
Contrary to popular belief, emotions are not a sign of weakness. It is actually a strength, in that it allows us to handle every and any type of situation thrown at us. We are not mere robots and we need to embrace that. Knowing ourselves allows us to embrace ourselves for who we are and to accept the way we feel. If we are in a constant battle with ourselves about how we feel, then we won’t be healthy.
Emotions are given their due place of importance in all Islamic teachings as fundamental elements of the human soul. Islam teaches moderation in everything, aiming to create equilibrium so that one is always at peace with one’s self, the universe, and Allah. It is advised to avoid extremes in negative or positive emotions, as any extremes are destructive if left uncontrolled. Additionally, we should not ignore how we feel but rather, work towards understanding why we feel this way and devising a plan for better outcomes.
In Islam, the concept of managing emotions is a pretty easy and simple one. The whole concept sums up in two easy points: looking at the people below us in worldly matters and looking at the people above us in religious matters.
This allows us to be focused and content with what we have, and to know where we are headed, rather than shy away from what we experience or feel inadequate about what we do possess.
Staying healthy can be really easy. All we need to do is stay positive and implement my six ‘Feed Your Life’ steps and we will be on our way to a more healthy lifestyle!