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Ramadani War On Obesity

The airwaves are buzzing with talk of a war on terror. Surely this is a war that can neither be waged nor won. There is no defined enemy, but the label ‘terrorist’ seems to be one size fits all.

The terrorist is whoever the caller decides to drag into his net. This is why it cannot be waged according to any understanding of the rules of engagement. Criminals are for the courts.

Also such a war cannot be won because terror is under the control of the ones calling for war. It isn’t a war that will take away their terrors because these are their own feelings.

They need instead a rational analysis of probabilities. The hidden sniper may well get you, but not before you kill yourself with your own chosen drugs or your lethal highways or by your own stomachs.

Global Hunger

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I’ll tell you what we need; a war on obesity and the first target is me. Whichever way I look at it, if I check my body mass index and find I am outside the range for my height and build, I must have been taking in more calories than I can use.

So, thank Allah for Ramadan and the battle with the nafs. It is true that fasting is challenging, but in Scotland where suhoor ends at 5.30 am and iftar comes at 4.00 pm the struggle really begins at iftar time. How much of the available food will you eat? How much unnecessary food will you eat? How much of someone else’s share will you eat?

Reports of famine filter in all the time but it is Ramadan when they really make an impact. My own stomach was growling a little bit because I missed suhoor but I was shamed into forgetting all about my own pathetic excuse for hunger when the Muslims began to talk about their plight.

One mother was desperate to find she was too hungry to breastfeed her baby. Another mother declared that she had not a scrap in the house to feed her children. A young boy solemnly said he was ready to die. Their crops had failed apparently but we had also failed them.

Write to the government, send charity, inform others. It seemed inadequate for such an urgent case and I knew there were other urgent cases in the developing countries. It haunted me for several days whether that woman in Somalia finally found food for her family or was she and others like her left to starve?

Allah Doesn’t Love Wasters

Food waste

Food is over-produced and left to rot.

We know the food is there. We see it disappearing down our plugholes daily, the leftover rice that sticks to the pan, that is left on the plate. It ends up in black sacks. Restaurants with food left over at the end of the night don’t distribute that food.

They dump it out the back. Shops with food that has passed its sell-by-date by even one day jettison the food.

Food is over-produced and left to rot.

Here in Britain healthy cattle were wantonly destroyed because of ‘Foot and Mouth’ disease, a disease which is perfectly harmless to humans and which can be controlled in animals with vaccines.

Mass hysteria broke out as the government assured us they were doing all they could to control this ‘lethal’ disease. Meanwhile, they sent vets roaming about the country spreading foot and mouth from farm to farm, a disease that could seemingly be spread just by talking about it.

Mass burials and burning of healthy cattle and stock close to infected farms ensured further spread. We were told it could spread through the air and by walkers’ wellies but not, it seemed, by the movements of wild animals. And Allah does not love the wasters.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once saw a man with a stomach too large for his frame and said that his weight would look better on someone else. When I read diet stories of women who lost large amounts of weight they marvel at the fact that they were carrying round the equivalent of the weight of their two children. Imagine never being able to put your children down day in, day out. What we need according to this advice of the prophet (SAW) is a redistribution of fat.

Redistribute That Fat!

It is unfair to always point a finger at the US in matters of obesity because others are following close behind including in our Muslim lands but the Americans provide us with a blatant warning of what is in store for those who eat too much of the wrong types of food.

These are people whose girth doesn’t allow them to sit in an ordinary size passenger seat or move comfortably around an ordinary sized room. People who have to be winched out of their homes by crane when they die in order to be buried. Such people work their way through tons of food, none of it satisfying or nutritious, desperately trying to fill the void within.

A friend of mine was travelling in a poor part of Alabama and was surprised to find that you could get a fizzy soda and a bag, (yes a bag) of donuts for about a dollar but to get home-cooked whole food she had a long search and had to pay over the odds.

Why is it that we can never get tap water milk or fresh juice when we take the children out for a meal but there are fizzy drinks in abundance? One hesitates to call them drinks. They neither quench the thirst nor nourish the body.

You can pay 40p for a pint of fizzy and £1.40 for a small glass of pure juice. Nearly every child’s menu offers a free fizzy drink. Obviously they can’t give the stuff away.

We are created in a beautiful balance and the trick is that you only need so much food to stay healthy. If we tip that balance our lives become burdensome. We are recommended by the prophet (SAW) to eat enough food to keep our backs straight. Anyone who has fasted even for the longest day and savoured that first date of iftar will testify to the fact that the edge is taken off the hunger straight away.

Subhanallah! How do we know that Allah will accept our fast because of what we eat after that? A section of the ummah don’t get enough to eat to stay healthy and another section of the ummah have come to a point when they expect meat with every meal even though the first Muslims took meat as a special food.


Famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.

We are also taking in too much salt, sugar and fat.

An excessive intake of salt and sugar sets off a cavernous hunger that will never be filled.

We know this and yet it is a struggle to resist the cakes and biscuits and fatty delicacies even after we feel full. Humans were created weak.

That’s why we need a war on obesity. We need a helping hand from the powers that be.

I certainly want some of my share of the world’s grain and other foods to reach my sister in famine-hit regions.

I know there is non GM food that can be sent to the hungry people of the world today. This redistribution of fat needs to be seriously implemented.

How about a rationing programme? People who go over their comfortable weight, (making allowances for pregnant and breastfeeding women of course) would only be allowed to buy so much of certain kinds of food. There would be strict rules on how shops could display food and on the food processing industry.

Or there could be compulsory health farms like open prisons where someone supervises your diet. Any restaurant cooking too much food and failing to distribute it would be fined. Ditto food shops! Wasted food does not go away. It comes back to haunt us and the packaging we throw away doesn’t go away.

It will pollute our water and soil in years to come. We need to take away all subsidies to farmers and food producers to remove their incentive to overproduce.

Set in place the principle that everyone has to get the bulk of their food from local organic sources before they look further field. Yes, I am living in cloud-cuckoo land and utopia all rolled into one. I want a war on obesity. We take up that challenge and the war on terror will look after itself.

About Sarah Louise Baker
Sarah Louise Baker is a Muslim British novelist who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. She embraced Islam while working in Japan in 1990. Her novel, From Utah to Eternity, on Islamic conversion, was based partly on personal experience. She just finished a book about everyday experiences of wearing the hijab (the Islamic headscarf). You can reach her at [email protected]