Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
1. Is it best to eat well and worship more or to eat less and worship less?
2. How do we reconcile the Islamic view on eating, drinking and sleeping less with modern-day recommendations to get all of the necessary minerals and vitamins which requires us to eat way more than the recommended one third for food, one third for drink and one third for air? They also say that not getting enough sleep is dangerous for the health? They recommend around 8 hours.
3. The righteous say that such habits is bad for the spiritual heart but how is it good for the spiritual heart to feel tired, unsatisfied and having mineral and vitamin deficiencies?
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. I pray you’re well.
The answer to your questions are simple insha’Allah; Seek the way of moderation.
Allah Most High tells us, ‘We have made you a justly balanced community’ [2:143], and the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Verily, your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, and your wife has a right over you.’ [al Bukhari]
The practical application of moderation in eating and sleeping is to eat/sleep as much as you need to fulfil your obligations, perform voluntary worship, and carry out your daily activities.
It is better to eat/sleep sufficiently and be productive and feel well in mind and body, than eat frugally and unable to function or be depressed. People will differ according to their needs, so assess what you need to eat drink, and sleep, and act accordingly.
Furthermore, what you eat is also very important. A blend of protein, good fats, plenty of vegetables, and some carbohydrates usually work for most people.
Having said the above, spiritual training does often consist and benefit from hunger and some tiredness. However, in the same way we cannot expect a non-runner to breeze through the New York Marathon, we should not diminish our food intake suddenly and expect to be able to function as usual. The soul and body are the same in that they both require training and conditioning.
The way to reduce one’s food intake therefore, is to very gradually reduce the amount of food one eats, very slowly and over a long period of time. For example, you may lessen your portions slightly every 1-2 months. For many people, eating ‘a third’ is difficult, so one must build up to this very slowly to achieve it without harm. The same principle applies to sleep, one reduces it very slowly over a long period of time, such as 10 minutes every week.
One can also experiment with going for ‘long’ periods of time without food (e.g. 6-12 hours), such as trying intermittent fasting, or fasting the sunna days of Mondays and Thursdays. Getting accustomed to an empty stomach and feeling hunger pangs for some part of the day is good for both the body and soul and strengthens them.
However, in all these, one should always make sure one can function, be productive throughout the day, and take care that they feel well emotionally. If not, then they should adjust their food/fast/sleep accordingly so that no harm is done. Allah loves His servants and does not like that they harm themselves.
And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.