The Greatest Gift – The Human Body
Diet plays a very important role in the daily life of a believer. There are many verses in the Noble Qur’ân which draw man’s attention towards his self and which invite him to carefully study his body and soul and the nature of their mutual relationship. By doing so, one will firstly find in it strong evidence of the existence of Allah and that Allah has not created mankind and all other beings of this world without any purpose as mentioned in the Noble Qur’ân:
“Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose.” (3:191)
The Importance of Healthiness
It is therefore necessary to ensure that the physical body is kept healthy so that the soul and spirit may also remain healthy thus in turn aiding the believer in the service of both his spiritual and material attainment. Diet therefore, plays an important role for this purpose. For this reason Islam has prohibited certain foods due to their ill effects and permitted all other pure, good and clean food products. Allah Ta’ala says in the Noble Qur’ân:
“O’ Believers! Eat of the good and pure (lawful) that We have provided you with and be grateful to Allah, if you truly worship Him.” (2:172)
Muslims in general are advised to eat good and pure things and not to indulge in impure, bad and harmful things thus following their open enemy Shaitaan:
“O People! Eat of what is lawful and good on the Earth and do not follow the footsteps of Shaitaan, for he is your open enemy.” (2:168)
In the verses previously mentioned the general principle with regard to permissible foods has been stated. The Noble Qur’ân further goes on to specify the types of food prohibited in the following verse:
“He (Allah) has only forbidden you (from eating) dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that (animal) over which the name of other than Allah has been invoked.” (2:173, 16:115)
The four items that have been mentioned in the above verse are absolutely forbidden in Islam for reasons best known to Allah. However, through research, some of them such as carrion, blood and swine flesh have proved to be injurious to human health. Whilst swine flesh is harmful to moral health and food over which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked is harmful to spiritual health.
Other prohibited items have also been mentioned in different chapters of the Holy Qur’ân. In Surah al-Ma’idah the following have also been mentioned along with the four previously mentioned. There are those animals which have been killed by strangling, or a violent blow, a headlong fall, being gored to death and those which have been partially eaten by a wild animal and not slaughtered before death, also those which have been sacrificed on the name of idols.
Alcohol and Islam
Alcohol is also prohibited in Islam, as its harms have been proven greater than its benefit. This has also been stated by Allah in the Noble Qur’ân in Surah al-Baqarah. Other physical, moral, social and spiritual evils of intoxicants have been mentioned in many verses of the Holy Qur’ân and blessed traditions of the Holy Prophet . Many of these ill effects can also be easily noticed in our societies.
A Balanced Diet – Prescribed in the Qur’ân
The Qur’ân has not restricted itself in merely mentioning the permissible and impermissible foods but goes to the extent of giving useful tips regarding a balanced diet, a diet which contains most if not all the useful ingredients required for the growth, strengthening and repairing of the human body. These ingredients include animal protein, fat, calcium, iron, salts, etc. The most balanced diets consist of meat, fish, fresh milk, cheese and fruit. Both direct and indirect references have been made regarding the aforementioned.
The reference regarding the importance of meat protein in the human diet is given in the following verse:
“And the cattle, He has created them for you, in them there is warmth (clothing) and numerous benefits, and of them you eat.” (16:5)
In this verse special reference has been given to the importance of eating despite having said, “…numerous benefits…”. Reference regarding other types of meat has also been given such as the meat of fowls in the following verse:
“And the flesh of fowls that they desire.” (56:21)
Fish has always been considered as a food of very high protein and is very important for human consumption. Allah says:
“And from them both (fresh and salt water) you eat fresh tender meat (fish).”(35:12)
The usefulness of fresh milk is stressed in these words:
“And verily in the cattle there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, from between excretion and blood, pure milk, palatable to the drinkers.” (16:66)
The benefits of fruits as good nourishment can be understood from this verse:
“And from the fruits of date palms and grapes, you desire strong drink and a goodly provision.” (16:67)
Similarly there are verses which cover the whole range of fruits, salads, and vegetables which also play an important role in a nutritious, balanced diet:
“It is He who sends down rain from the sky, and with it We bring forth vegetation of all kinds, and out of it We bring forth thick clustered grain. And out of the date palm and its spate come clusters of dates hanging low and near, and gardens of grapes, olives and pomegranates each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety and taste). Look at their fruits when then begin to bear, and the ripeness thereof.” (6:99)
Islam, being a complete religion, also teaches and advises the believer as to what the best method of eating is. The believers are advised to be moderate in every aspect of life. Direct reference has been made in the Noble Qur’ân regarding moderation in eating and drinking.
“And eat and drink, but waste not in extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste in extravagance.” (7:31)
Moderation – The Teachings of the Prophet
The Best of Teachers and the Mercy of the Worlds is reported to have clarified the meaning and limit of moderation in a tradition in which he is reported to have said that one’s worst weakness is one’s belly. If you must eat make sure you fill one third of your stomach with food, one third with water and leave one third for air i.e. leave it empty.
In another narration, the reason for moderation has been clearly stated. The Prophet is reported to have said:
“The stomach is the tank of the body and the veins go down to it. When the stomach is healthy the veins come back in a healthy condition, but when it is in a bad condition, they return diseased.”
In short, believers are advised to always take care of their stomachs and refrain from foods and practices that might pollute the stomach with various diseases. In order to do so the Prophet is reported to have advised believers to always stop eating before their stomachs are completely full i.e. stop eating when the urge to eat more is still present.
Conclusion – The Etiquette’s of Eating and Drinking
Islam teaches us many other etiquette’s of eating and drinking. The Prophet made a point of developing remarkably clean and healthy eating habits among his followers. He asked the companions to wash their hands before and after, to start eating with the praise of Allah, to eat using the right hand, not to eat until they really felt hungry, not to eat and drink excessively. Finally, by praising and thanking Allah for the food and drink, for making it easy to swallow and for producing an exit for it.
From all that has been mentioned, the importance of healthy eating, a balanced diet and hygiene can be understood in the light of the Qur’ân and Sunnah. Islam has stressed on the importance of these things right from the start unlike health authorities etc., which have just recently begun to stress its importance. This could be counted as just another gem that manifests the perfection of Islam.