Friday 9 January 2009

How Islam helps control Obesity

Very few people know that Islam has multiple ways of making sure that people do not become obese, or for that matter even a little overweight. In fact a practicing Muslim should not be Obese unless of course due to some medical condition. I am listing some of the ways in which an Islamic lifestyle can keep us fit and healthy. I am sure to have missed some other points, please feel free to add to the list:

  1. Ramadan Fasting: This is the most well known way. Fasting helps our body in many different ways and the best way is by teaching our body discipline in eating. People restrain themself from eating or drinking from dawn till sunset. After sunset they may eat a bit more than the usual dinner, but is still less than eating two times and the junk food that we keep stuffing ourselves with. Ramadan is a month to cure all eating disorders.
  2. Voluntary Fasts: The prophet (pbuh) has suggested many times that it is a good idea to fast on Mondays and Thursdays and he used to practise that. There are also other fasts like Ashura, fast of Arafah, Shaban fasts, Muharram fasts, etc which can help control our eating habits more and prepare people for Ramadhan.
  3. Salah or Prayer: Muslims are required to pray five times everyday. During each prayer they have to perform different postures that has prompted some to refer to it as Yoga of Islam.
  4. The Morning Prayer or Fajr: The prophet (pbuh) used to encourage people to pray Fajr in Masajid (Mosque). Even otherwise, waking up for Fajr prayers installs dicipline of getting up on the same time everyday thereby improving general health. There is also a popular saying, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise".
  5. Mid-Night Prayer or Tahajjud: These are more prayers in the night which can keep your health in a good shape, physically and mentally.
  6. Congregational Prayer: The big problem with people nowadays are that they do not take enough breaks while in between working (or watching TV or playing computer games). Going to pray in Masjid (or Mosque) can break the monotonous routine of work and excercise you that can help digest food and avoid weight gain.
  7. Walking to Mosque: Praying in Mosque is highly recommended and along with that its recommended walking to mosque. The more you walk to mosque, the more rewards there are for the believers. One of the hadiths state, "The person who will receive the highest reward for Salat (prayer) is the one who comes to perform it in the mosque from the farthest distance."
  8. Eating within limits: There are a few well known hadiths where the prophet (pbuh) advices us to eat within limits. The first says, "If you did not have a paunch (belly fat), it would be better for you. He also said: Overeating does not go with good health". Another one says "Food for one is enough for two and food for two is enough for three and food for three is enough for four". The final one I recall says, "No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath." All these saying of the prophet (pbuh) clearly says that we should eat within limits and should not overeat.
  9. Dates: Dates (also known as Khajoor) have been mentioned in Quran and Hadith as a superfood. Dates was one of the main nutritional food used by the arabs in the desert and was their main source of supply of many vitamins and minerals. In Quran, Allah tells Mary (pbuh) via angel, "And shake the trunk of the palm tree towards thee – thou wilt cause ripe dates to fall upon thee". Allah is emphasising a food by name to tell us that its beneficial for us. We learn from the hadith that prophet (pbuh) said, "When any of you breaks his fasting he should eat dates cause dates are blessing, if he didn’t find dates then drink water cause water is purifying". Another hadith says, "A household that has dates doesn’t feel hunger". Nowadays people feel ashamed of eating dates. They would only eat it in Ramadan as its recommended but other times this superfood is ignored as its cheap.
  10. The Prophet's medicine:The prophet (pbuh) has recommended many natural medicines that can help us with variety of problems including obesity. One needs to study them and apply them to their daily life to reduce many problems from depression to obesity.
  11. Fitness: Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said a strong believer was better than a weak believer. He was talking in terms of faith and character but also indicating that physical strength i.e. optimum health and fitness were desirable, providing God gave us the ways and means of attaining such strength. The Prophet (pbuh) is also reported to have said, "Teach your children swimming, archery and horse-riding."
Now one may think that all Muslims must be fit and active and there should be no reason for Muslims to be Obese or for that matter over weight. Unfortunately this is not true. 70% of the womenfolk in Gulf countries are obese according to research and according to Economist, the countries with most obese population are Muslim/Arab countries. This just shows that Muslims have a long way to go to become better followers of Islam.