Ramadan – Feed Your Body and Soul

It’s true. Ramadan is not about dieting and losing weight. It’s about humility, dependence on our Lord; it’s about gratitude for His providence and guidance. It’s about every move, every word, every decision, being made with awareness of the One Who has power over all things. The One Who gave us life, guided us and Who provides every morsel of sustenance. It’s about purifying our hearts.

The Prophet Muhammad said:

“Allah does not look at your figures, nor at your attire but He looks at your hearts and deeds.” (Muslim)

While Ramadan is a chance for us to reorient ourselves and reaffirm our purpose; while we are reading the Quran, perfecting our prayers, striving to be kinder and more patient — should we also be thinking about our bodies or not?

A Journey without a Vehicle?

Yes, we are trying to achieve paradise. We know that being healthy does not guarantee an extended lifespan. We know that when it’s our time, it’s our time.

Although God doesn’t look at our physical bodies for judgment, and we can’t automatically extend our lives by getting in shape — ignoring the importance of them, is a mistake.

Yes, our bodies will disintegrate one day – but these are the vehicles Allah has provided for us to traverse our life on Earth from birth to death.

When you go on a road trip, what do you do first? You get your car in shape. You change the oil, check the tires, fuel it up. If you had a choice, would you fly in an airplane that hadn’t been properly maintained for mechanical integrity? Would you sail on a ship littered with holes? The answer is unanimous. No, none of us would do that.

So how can we possibly try to justify treating our bodies like disposable trash, when we know that we will not be given a new one in this lifetime? This body will be the one and only medium to take you through this life, the result of which will determine your future life – eternity, in either the best of homes, or the worst.

Health is Valued in Islam

The Prophet Muhammad himself affirmed the importance of good health. He said:

“Ask Allah for forgiveness and health, for after being granted certainty, one is given nothing better than health.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Where would you be without certainty? It is due to certainty that we get up at dawn to praise and thank the One who gave us life. Certainty is the basis of our faith, the foundation upon which our religion rests. Yet, according to our prophet, Health is the next greatest blessing.

Prophet Muhammad cautioned against wasting our health or taking it for granted when he said:

“There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time.” (Al-Bukhari)

This can be seen in two ways:

  1. That we use our health to do more good and avoid laziness while we have good health
  2. That we don’t waste the good health we’ve been given by destroying it by eating poorly and leading sedentary, gluttonous or otherwise unhealthy lives.

Ramadan - Feed Your Body and Soul - About IslamCaring for Our Bodies is Worship

 Your body is not really yours. It is on loan to you from Allah. Imagine you were to borrow your mother’s car. Would you return it filthy, banged up and empty? Or would you be sure to drive carefully, and return it clean and with a full gas tank?

Our bodies are a trust, an amanah, from the Lord of the worlds. How we care for them is a matter of fulfilling that trust.

We gorge ourselves on junk foods, over eat, drink artificial neon colored liquids, feed our children cookies and candy as if their lives depend on it – While all of these behaviors are actually harming the vessel that will carry us on our journey.

In addition to striving to better ourselves spiritually this Ramadan, let’s also resolve to better care for this amanah – the body. This blessed month during which Allah has facilitated self-improvement is a great time to start.

You are What You Eat

Allah said:

{O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good} (2:168)

Our bodies are literally made of what we put into them. Think about food as the building blocks for all of our cells. If our nutrition is incomplete, our bodies cannot make and replace cells as efficiently or effectively. If we are eating junk, we will essentially be made of junk – or whatever useful bits can be scavenged from the junk we eat.

Avoid Harm

As a general principle, harm is to be removed. The prophet Muhammad said:

“There must be neither harm nor the imposition of harm.” (Al-Bayhaqi)

Therefore, harmful foods and substances are forbidden. Aside from the clear prohibitions found in the texts, like pork and intoxicants, many foods today are proven to be harmful.

Processed foods, hydrogenated oils, and the excessive sugar found in many edible items causes a slew of ailments, from obesity and diabetes to cancer. It’s time to recognize that what we are eating may be harming us.

Eating Right is Easy

There’s no need to go to extremes or to make things harder on yourself. Eating a healthy diet is simple! It just takes moderation and a bit of determination.

The Quran highlights some foods that are wholesome and lawful: Meats such as cattle, fowl and fish, milk, honey, corn, olives, dates, grapes, pomegranates and other fruits, as well as grains. (Some examples in the Quran: 16:67, l6:5, 16:11, 36:33) What do these things have in common? They are natural, whole foods.

All this means is that when you go food shopping, avoid the aisles of packaged processed “foods” and try to get the bulk of your nutrition from real food found in the produce section.

Avoid Excess

 We’ve been given exceptionally simple guidelines on how to eat. God said:

{Eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.} (Al-A’raf 7: 31)

Excess in Kind

The plethora of sweets and snacks that are eaten today are essentially excessive – our bodies don’t need Cheetos or Doritos or chocolate chip cookies. Even when they contain basic ingredients like wheat flour, eggs and butter, they also contain extreme levels of sugar, or artificial flavors that disturb our ability to value the taste of real food.

It may not be practical – or necessary – to eliminate all desserts and packaged snacks, but deliberately taking the approach of moderation and avoiding excess can do wonders for your over-all wellbeing.

Excess in Quantity

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“The child of Adam fills no vessel worse than his stomach. Sufficient for humankind are a few morsels to keep his back straight. If he must eat more, then a third should be for his food, a third for his drink, and a third left for air.” (At-Tirmidhi)

We are assured that little food is required to stay healthy. This concept is further confirmed by the prophet’s statement:

“The food of one person suffices for two, the food of two persons suffices for four persons…” (Muslim)

By controlling quantity and nutritional value, we can avoid harming ourselves and fall in line with what is encouraged by and more pleasing to our Lord.

Get on up

Lack of physical activity has been shown to contribute to many unfavorable health conditions such as cancers, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular diseases, decrease in skeletal muscle mass, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. *

People who are active on the other hand, are less likely to develop coronary heart disease and less likely to be overweight or obese.

Not surprisingly, the Prophet encouraged physical activity saying:

“Any action without the remembrance of God is either a diversion or heedlessness excepting four acts: Walking from target to target [during archery practice], training a horse, playing with one’s family, and learning to swim.” (At-Tabarani)

No Time Like the Present

No matter how old you are, or what condition you find yourself in, the best time is now, in this blessed month to make a change.

Taking care of your body is part of Islam. While you are striving to be a better Muslim, don’t forget the vessel in which you perform your prayer, that feels the discomfort of fasting, and just about everything else you do in life.

May Allah guide all of us to improve holistically this Ramadan, to value our bodies and show gratitude to Allah by caring for them well.

May He accept your deeds and guide us to the best in this world and the best of the next. Ameen.

_______________

*John Hopkins Medicine

About Danielle LoDuca
Danielle LoDuca is a third generation American artist and author. Drawing inspiration from personal life experiences, her writings highlight the familiarity of Islam in a climate that increasingly portrays the Islamic faith as strange. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute and has pursued postgraduate studies in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Foundation for Knowledge and Development. LoDuca’s work has been featured in media publications in the US and abroad and she is currently working on a book that offers a thought-provoking American Muslim perspective, in contrast to the negative narratives regarding Islam and Muslims prevalent in the media today