A Muslim’s Thoughts on his Diet

عَنْ عَوْنِ بْنِ أَبِي جُحَيْفَةَ ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ , قَالَ : ” آخَى النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بَيْنَ سَلْمَانَ وَأَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ ، فَزَارَ سَلْمَانُ أَبَا الدَّرْدَاءِ ، فَرَأَى أُمَّ الدَّرْدَاءِ مُتَبَذِّلَةً ، فَقَالَ لَهَا : مَا شَأْنُكِ يَا أُمَّ الدَّرْدَاءِ ؟ قَالَتْ : إِنَّ أَخَاكَ أَبَا الدَّرْدَاءِ يَقُومُ اللَّيْلَ وَيَصُومُ النَّهَارَ وَلَيْسَ لَهُ فِي شَيْءٍ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا حَاجَةٌ ، فَجَاءَ أَبُو الدَّرْدَاءِ ، فَرَحَّبَ بِهِ وَقَدَّمَ إِلَيْهِ طَعَامًا ، فَقَالَ لَهُ سَلْمَانُ : اطْعَمْ ، فَقَالَ : إِنِّي صَائِمٌ ، قَالَ : أَقْسَمْتُ عَلَيْكَ لَتُفْطِرَنَّهُ ، قَالَ : مَا آكُلُ حَتَّى تَأْكُلَ . ثُمَّ بَاتَ عِنْدَهُ ، فَلَمَّا كَانَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ أَرَادَ أَبُو الدَّرْدَاءِ أَنْ يَقُومَ فَمَنَعَهُ سَلْمَانُ ، فَقَالَ لَهُ : يَا أَبَا الدَّرْدَاءِ إِنَّ لِجَسَدِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا ، وَلِرَبِّكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا ، وَلأَهْلِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا ، فَصُمْ وَأَفْطِرْ ، وَصَلِّ وَآتِ أَهْلَكَ ، وَأَعْطِ كُلَّ ذِي حَقٍّ حَقَّهُ ، فَلَمَّا كَانَ فِي الصُّبْحِ ، قَالَ : قُمِ الآنَ إِنْ شِئْتَ ، قَالَ : فَقَامَا فَصَلَّيَا ثُمَّ رَكَعَا ، ثُمَّ خَرَجَا إِلَى الصَّلاةِ ، وَجَاءَ أَبُو الدَّرْدَاءِ لِيُخْبِرَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِالَّذِي أَمَرَهُ سَلْمَانُ ، فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” إِنَّ لِجَسَدِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا مِثْلَ الَّذِي قَالَ لَكَ سَلْمَانُ ” .

ʿAwn bin ʿAbī Juḥāyfah narrates from his father that Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ   said, “Indeed your body has a right over you…” [al-Bukhārī]

 

The first time that I can recall realising that I need to do something about my physical wellbeing, was years ago when I performed sajdah (prostration in prayer)and my belly bounced to the ground, not just my head. I could not offer a basic act of worship with the dignity it deserved. Sadly I went off course. Some factors are in my control, and some are not. A few years have now gone by wherein about two thirds of the time I was walking with crutches, leading to a vicious cycle of lack of exercise and care, which compounded existing health issues. On the 1st September 2017 I decided to grab the bull by the horns and go on a vigorous diet. Here are some thoughts I would like to share.

 

Fear Allah as best you are able to

فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ

Sūrah ʾat-Taghābūn (verse 16) instructs us, “Fear Allāh as best you are able to…”. So why do we restrict this only to purely “religious” matters? I had reached a state of zero exercise. There were times when crawling for ablution and prayer made me scream. However, I thought, what is within my capacity? I could not exercise, but I could stop stuffing myself. So I concentrated on what I am able to do and a few months later I am now able to undertake light exercise again.

But what will people say?

 

A major stumbling block for many in doing the right thing is, “But what will people say?” What Allāh says is secondary to them. Again I thought, this is not exclusively a religious phenomenon. I do not feel hunger in the early morning and am always hungry at night irrespective whether and what I ate during the day. The people say that you HAVE to stuff something down your throat in the morning even if you do not feel hunger. Further you have to be a slave to food and have SIX small meals throughout the day. Is it Sunnah to eat when not hungry? What happened to keeping a third of the belly empty? Did the first generations of Muslims formally sit down to eat at fixed times and fix these at three? I say no and my body said no. Based on my requirements, I researched a bit andI came across OMAD (One Meal A Day). I have implemented this diet for nearly four months (with maybe 5 cheat days) and thank Allāh for the overall benefits of a diet which is closer to the Sunnah than the lifestyle of gluttony we have become accustomed to. I have lost 7kg so far. I feel much better. For the first time in my life I am having deep sleep. I am praying from a standing position, not sitting on a chair. There is less strain on my poor damaged ankles and knees. All praise belongs to Allāh.

 

A Believer can control his expenditure

 

The great saint of India, ʾAshraf ʿAlī Thānwī (Allāh’s mercy be upon him) advised that when we are in financial difficulties we tend to seek ways to increase our income, whereas this is fixed and predetermined by Allāh. On the other hand, expenditure is within our hands. It is that end which we should focus on. I once joked that there is not much for me to cut down on except to stop eating. After all, I already “coast” when driving downhill to save on fuel. Now that I have gone through four months of no breakfast and lunch including no snacks, however supposedly healthy, I have seen financial benefits as well. I normally live on my credit card (without incurring interest!). When I receive my salary I immediately pay my monthly bills and there is not much left on the very day of receipt. With a bit of a lower expenditure, this was this first month in years that I had some respectable amount left. In fact I was genuinely confused, since I have become so used to allocating almost everything to third parties and am not used to having an amount left over.

 

Our Focus on the material diverts us from Allāh

 

This is a topic on its own and requires further elucidation. Certainly Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ  utilised physical means and to deny the world’s reality is not Sunnah. However, we just love to exaggerate what we like until the truth becomes a means of falsehood. So yes, Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ   taught us cleanliness, but using that as an excuse for your glamorous dressing and cosmetics is a most unjust lie when attributed to the simple  Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ  . Similarly many of the religious like to enumerate the number of Sunnah ways they eat, but never reach the issue of amount. Food has become an obsession (look at the size of the bellies of the religious) and we forget that it is a simple means which Allāh had created for our sustenance and that the actual Sustainer is Allāh. The amount we require according to Sunnah, which we do  not mention, is quite minimal. When one attends a meal at a religious gathering (Tablīgh, the spiritual reformatories or the educational institutions etc) in South Africa, then without fail one will hear someone who does not eat much being mocked, “You are a poor batsman, eat more!” How heart-breaking that a religious gathering, Sunnah is regarded as a defect, and contravention of Sunnah is a virtue.

Some people become more obese during Ramaḍān, whereas in this month spiritual energy is so much more apparent. During this blessed month I normally have a cup of green tea, a glass of water and a date in the morning. In the evening I have a date, green tea and 2 litres of water. If I feel real adventurous, I party with a few olives. I do not imply anything special about myself. I write these words in the same vein as I would I say that I inhale and exhale to survive. Food is but a means from our Sustainer, and this is readily apparent to anyone who wishes to see it during Ramaḍān.

Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ  sought out the absent and those in difficulty

 

Not so his supposed followers. Illness keeps one away from people and in the home. Meet someone after a lengthy duration and it is, “Hey, I haven’t seen you for ages!” Supposedly for some, Islām suffices with external virtues such as the length of a beard and a cut of a cloth. Sunnahs of the heart are foreign concepts.

 

Everything is black and white for this community

 

For some reason our minds have become programmed to see everything in very narrow constructs, there is just no grey area or consideration for another opinion. This attitude is not restricted to major religious and political issues of the day, but permeates to petty social interactions of our lives. An example in my life….. my left knee is still very weak. I cannot sit in the prayer posture or between prostrations without stretching out to my right. Sitting normally is extremely painful. On the other hand, I currently have the strength to stand, and do not deem praying while sitting for the entire duration to be permissible for me. As such, I need to be by the right hand side wall, or have nobody to my right, as I am forced to stretch in that direction. Try and explain this to the illustrious intellectual descendants of ʾal-Ghazzālī and ʾIbn Kathīr. No, either you are ill and I’ll get you a chair, or you are fine and can’t ask me to make space for you. The small minds of this community make it difficult to attend the Masjid, even when physically capable. How many other issues we face due to such attitudes I cannot enumerate.

 

We have been prohibited from artificial formalities

عن عمر رضي الله عنه قال: نُهِينَا عَنِ التَّكَلُّفِ. رواه البخاري.

ʿUmar (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “We have been prohibited from takalluf [artificial formalities].” [al-Bukhari]

My teacher, Muḥammad Doodat (may Allāh guard him and accept him), is famous for his tough love. One lesson I always value is when he walked by carrying his books and eager beaver student me rushed forth to shake his hands. He rebuked me that did I expect him to drop his books just because I think I am being respectful? His hands are occupied and in fact what I am doing is not Sunnah, but causing difficulty to another Muslim, who in addition, happens to be my teacher.

Somehow, my peers, who might not have received the same tough love lesson, but definitely learnt the above Ḥadīth, seem to regard my crutches as the latest fashion accessories. Who cares what difficulty and pain they put me through. They expect me drop my crutches and to shake their pious hands. If you cannot assist, then at least desist from harm. I do not regard their hand grabbing as Sunnah. Sunnah is based on thoughtfulness, not artificial social formalities.  Again, a petty example of the broader mentality issues that need to be addressed.

سليمان الكندي

Twitter: @sulayman_Kindi

 

 

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2 responses

  1. Shaykh, instead of continuous calorie restriction, try alternate day restriction. Continuous restriction for months as you are doing will lead to less and less benefit as the weeks go on, since your body will become used to it. But eating properly on one day, and very little the next day is tried and tested method that is better for losing weight in the long run. Here is one study: http://www.ergo-log.com/better-weight-loss-results-with-intermittent-low-calorie-diet.html

    1. as salaamu alaykum

      Dear Brother, Allah reward you for taking the time to respond, and increase you in the kindness and consideration you have shown.
      Indeed it seems I am reaching a “platform” as you indicated, so I shall definitely take your advice into consideration.

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