بِسْم الله الرحمن الرحيم
All praise is due to Allah Who revealed to us guidance for our entire life and chose for us Islam. May the best benedictions and peace be upon the best of creation, the model for humanity in every affair, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. To proceed:
In his obituary for his friend, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about many aspects of his life of which the believers can look at and take reminders. Certainly we will mention some of these in future posts. For the topic of this post, however, we shall mention his saying, “‘They take pride,’ he said, ‘in making their dinner cost much; I make my pride in making my dinner cost little.’ When asked at a table what dish he preferred, he answered, ‘The nearest.'”
Perhaps it is the case that, like many, you set some aspirations and intentions for the coming year. Perhaps you called them resolutions or perhaps you simply made intentions as to what you wanted the coming Gregorian year to look like and mean for you. There is even a good chance that part of that intention is to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. The objective of this article is to assist in that.
To begin, we must say that diets do not work! So many people follow trend diets, and they seem to never be in short supply. Perhaps in the short term one will experience “results” but over time, often the weight is regained and multiplied.The better way to lose weight and keep it off is to actually live a healthy way of life. As believers, it is from our fundamental beliefs that the best lifestyle is our Islam and the best example of at is found in the life of Allah’s messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).
When it comes to eating manners, there are certain things every Muslim should know, such as beginning with the name of Allah, eating with the right hand and, like Thoreau, eating that which is nearest to us. When it comes to the actual types of foods the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ate, we could discuss the fact that he rarely ate meat (or cooked food at all), that his bread was coarse and made of whole grains, or that his diet consisted mostly of dates, barley and water. We could mention, also, that he used to balance his food qualities such that he ate dry, hot dates with wet, cool cucumbers or watermelon or that his favorite foods were a type of squash and thareed (a dish of lamb with bread laid over it and then covered in a broth). However, an important point to be made here is that diets are healthy – not just because of what is eaten but where they are eaten. There is a geographical reality to diets that plays a part in the overall harmony of our health and so the aim isn’t to eat the same exact foods as Allah’s messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) – though these foods do tend to be universally healthy and good – but rather the foods that are natural and easily acquired in a geographical locale. Indeed, the more local a food, the better it tends to be for those living in that region. We could also mention that the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised the believers to fast every Monday and Thursday or at least three days a month and the benefits of fasting in this way have been heavily researched and written on. Still, the aim of this isn’t to speak on food types, mannerism or even fasting, but rather, our eating lifestyle. The prophetic diet, as I will call it, is not just a trend but it is the sunnah. As such, we shouldn’t just make intentions and resolutions to lose weight or live healthier lifestyles but also to follow his footsteps (peace and blessings be upon him) and to do this as an act of worship, an evidence of our love for Allah and our desire to have that love reciprocated and our sins forgiven. So then, what is this prophetic diet?
If a person wishes to follow the lose weight, live a healthy lifestyle and adhere to the prophetic sunnah then there are four basic steps to be taken. The first step is to not eat unless one is actually hungry. Do not give in to your nafs (lower-self) and eat just because you can. Wait until you actually feel hungry. The second step is that when you eat, find someone to eat with. Don’t eat alone but share your meal (or snack) with someone else, preferably someone who is upright in their character and behavior. The third step is to sit when you eat. It is good to sit upon the earth as opposed to on a chair, but there is no harm in sitting in a chair to eat. What should be avoided, however, is reclining, eating while laying down, or while standing (let alone while walking). The fourth and final step is that one does not eat until they feel full. This is more than “portion control”! The prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would only eat a few morsels to keep his back upright. The scholars have mentioned that a morsel meant that amount of food that would fit in one’s palm and so in this way, two or three palms of food should suffice. (One way many measure a healthy meal is a thumb size portion of fat, a palm size portion of protein and a fist size portion of carbohydrates.) still, what did the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advise those unable to control themselves in this regard? He advised that they eat one third of their stomach (not belly!!!) worth of food, fill one third with water (not soda), and leave the final third for air. This is the prophetic diet, the sunnah of taking in meals.
If these sunnan are adopted in our lives so that we manifest the prophetic example, we will certainly see our weight issues becoming balanced and healthy. If we do it with the right foods we will also find a vibrancy return to our lives. If we do it with pure intentions, we will also see spiritual growth.
And ultimately, every success is with Allah alone.