Embrace Prophetic Health this Ramadan
With a viral pandemic, rise in cancer and other health issues like obesity, diabetes and heart disease affecting the Muslim community, Ramadan 2020 is the best time to embrace a lifestyle more in line with the practices of our Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). By striving for healthier food choices, our immune systems are better equipped to combat viruses and other illnesses that can affect us all.
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was the best of mankind and his lifestyle is what all Muslims aspire to. We do so because following in the Prophet’s (ﷺ) footsteps in every aspect of our lives ensures spiritual fulfilment, and closeness to Allah and His beautiful messenger. But there’s a secondary motivation here for every Muslim; our bodies are a trust from Allah (swt) which we are responsible for and must take better care of.
Ramadan is the best time of year for us to start building positive new habits inspired by the prophetic tradition.
The whole Muslim community will be taking part in a more ascetic way of life for a whole month. Even though we will be living in isolation or with close family, we will still be doing this together as Muslims.
By immersing ourselves spiritually and focusing on our ibadah, we find it becomes easy to focus less on overeating or eating badly. And if we do this for a whole month, then these habits can stick with us even after Ramadan is over.
All Muslims who fast for Allah (swt) know first-hand the spiritual benefits of this practice, but fasting also has amazing physical health benefits, which are being lauded by health gurus who recommend intermittent fasting.
Fasting for 30 days in Ramadan allows our bodies to go through a miraculous process of cleansing and healing. But the science now proves that fasting shouldn’t be something we only do one month out of the year.
Fasting was a regular part of our Prophet’s (ﷺ) life. He would fast every Monday and Thursday, and he would fast on the 13th, 14th and 15th of the lunar month. But even on days when he wasn’t fasting, he and his family rarely had more than one meal a day, which presents a strong case that the Prophet (ﷺ) and his companions fasted intermittently:
It was narrated that ‘Aishah (RA): “The family of Muhammad (ﷺ) did not eat two meals in one day but one of them was dates.” (Bukhari)
Feasting calls to mind those Ramadan banquets we are doubtless all looking forward to come Iftar time. And yet the only banquets the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) enjoyed were those held at weddings. So what was a banquet fit for a prophet really like? Well, we know from the hadith about the wedding banquet that Rasulullah (ﷺ) hosted for his marriage to Safiyyah (RA) that it comprised of dates, dried yogurt, butter and a sweet dish called Hais – suggesting it was more simple than your average starter!
As Anas (RA) narrates: […] I invited the Muslims to his [the Prophet’s (ﷺ)] wedding banquet. He ordered that leather dining sheets be spread. Then dates, dried yoghurt and butter were put on those sheets. […] The Prophet consummated his marriage with Safiyya (during a journey) whereupon Hais (sweet dish) was served on a leather dining sheet. (Bukhari)
Eating clean, quality food is a fundamental part of religious practice for Muslims who observe Halal. But what kind of food did the Prophet (ﷺ) eat on a daily basis? We know from the hadith that the food which made up his regular diet consisted of the following:
- Barley Bread
- Olive oil
- Meat (on occasion and in moderation)
The list above makes a strong argument for avoiding heavily processed foods and too much meat. Yet for most of us today, it’s almost unthinkable to enjoy a main meal without a meat dish. Meanwhile, refined sugars and refined flour aren’t just a health hazard; if you consider that a single slice of white bread is 52 calories, eating two sandwhiches and a Mars bar can push us over our recommended daily calorie intake by lunchtime.
Abu Hazim (RA) narrated that he asked Sahl, “Did you use white flour during the lifetime of the Prophet ?” Sahl replied, “No.” Hazim asked, “Did you use to sift barley flour?” He said, “No, but we used to blow off the husk (of the barley).” (Bukhari)
Moderation is also key to a healthy diet and the prophetic tradition highlights this through the hadiths. For those of us who have trouble limiting ourselves, there is no better time to get used to eating less than in Ramadan, when the days of fasting cause our stomachs to shrink by sunset! In fact, many of us are familiar with the feeling of not having enough room to eat all the treats on our Iftar table. Doubtless, we are all also familiar with the regret and physical discomfort that follows.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.’ (Sahih)
So now you have the guidelines, set yourself some goals for the month of blessings, when Allah (swt) rewards us exponentially for our good deeds, and even makes it easier to perform them!
And when the holy month is over, let’s persevere in turning our new habits into a healthier lifestyle we adopt for good.
To find out more about the different health benefits of fasting, read our blog about why fasting is good for you.
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