Physical Wellness: Preliminaries

This is the first in a series of articles on physical wellness based on Abu Zayd al-Balkhi’s work. The full seminar can be accessed here: Physical Wellness Workshop: Balkhi’s The Health of Bodies and Souls

One of the great works of Islam on physical health is Abu Zaid al-Balkhi’s Wellness of Bodies and Hearts.

This work is reasonably early. It is from the 3rd century of Islam. It is over a thousand years old. Within it, you see a distillation between the knowledge of revelation and the benefits of human knowledge and wisdom. 

There are many sources of inspiration in this work from the Greek, Indian, Persian and wisdom traditions, all in service of actualizing the aims of what has come in revelation from Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).


When looking at the topic of physical wellness, there are a couple of principles that we need to make ourselves aware of. 

Firstly, we need to appreciate what life is. A believer understands that it is a gift from Allah. That gift entails gratitude and gratitude entails directing things towards what is good. 

Secondly, our bodies are a trust. We are morally responsible beings with devotional responsibilities. We have also been given the responsibility to take care of what Allah has given us. From what Allah has given us and entrusted us with is our own selves. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) makes clear, “Truly your body has rights over you.”

Life is also an opportunity. In safekeeping our bodies, we strive to attain eternal good. We are brought into this life with a purpose and that purpose is only fulfilled by our taking care of our bodies. These bodies are our conduit towards the pursuit of good and goodness.

We should do our best to take care of our bodies. 

Prophetic Guidance

Two of the key prophetic teachings regarding this reality are the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), “Truly your body has rights over you,” and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) exemplified that and he said,  “give all who have a right their due right.”

That is the prophetic key. This is something that we should take with seriousness. 

The Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “The best of people are those whose lives are long and whose actions are good” 

This gives us a perspective that we have a duty, responsibility and an opportunity to take care of our health. it is not just a mundane matter but there is a moral imperative in this. 

Religious Rulings

Our health takes certain religious rulings. It is obligatory to take care of our health in a manner that ensures that we do not directly harm our lives or our bodies. Directly harming ourselves is sinful. One would be liable to the displeasure of Allah if one did so.  

Direct harm would be if one actually causes oneself bodily harm but also if one directly does something that harms one. There is wisdom behind the prohibition of the likes of alcohol, drugs, and things that are clearly harmful. 

Furthermore, things can become obligatory. There is a certain amount of eating that you must have: that which enables you to pray, earn a living etc. That basic amount is obligatory. Most people take care of that and much more. 

We also have a certain taking care of your health that is recommended. You are rewarded if you take care of your health in this manner for the sake of Allah. This is taking care of your health in a manner that facilitates for you to seek the good. 

If you take care of your health in a manner that facilitates for you to seek the good you can direct yourself towards doing more religious good deeds. You can do more good in life. You can be of more service to others and to be of more benefit.

Furthermore, there is a certain amount of disregard of health that can be disliked. This is if you indirectly weaken or harm your health. Many people, by overeating for example, by sloth, or by neglecting one’s health can fall into the disliked. 

Sometimes, certain acts, the scholars tell us, are sinful. Eating excessively is sinful. Other bodily neglect can also be sinful.  

Abu Zaid al-Balkhi’s Work

Abu Zaid, Ahmad ibn Sahl al-Balkhi was born in the year 235 AH and he died in the year 322 AH. This corresponds to 849 to 943 of the common era calendar.

He was a noted scholar, doctor and intellectual. The author is noted because he is quite early yet his work has amazing insights about physical health, mental health and emotional health.

Many a scholar and researcher has paid emphasis to his work. As well as being an early work, it is an embodiment of the holistic nature of true consequential beneficial knowledge. 

One observes in this work that physical health, religious health, spiritual health and emotional/mental health are interconnected. There is a rightful balance that is sought which if not upheld, any kind of imbalance would impair the full pursuit of benefit.