The Strong Believer Article One – Healthy Bodies, Minds, and Souls

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Article One of Twelve in SeekersGuidance Scholar Shaykh Irshaad Sedick’s “The Strong Believer” Series: Introductions

The Strong Believer is a podcast (and now, a series of articles) for young Muslims seeking to improve their bodies, minds, and souls. This podcast series by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick is intended to assist Muslims aged 20 and up who want to live healthy, strong, active, and wholesome lives without compromising their faith.

Our goal is to encourage and guide Muslims with fitness and nutrition advice while also fulfilling their Islamic duties. We are motivated by the words of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) who said: “The Strong Believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is goodness in them both…”

Who is a Strong Believer?

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْقَوِيُّ خَيْرٌ وَأَحَبُّ إِلَى اللَّهِ مِنْ الْمُؤْمِنِ الضَّعِيفِ وَفِي كُلٍّ خَيْرٌ احْرِصْ عَلَى مَا يَنْفَعُكَ وَاسْتَعِنْ بِاللَّهِ وَلَا تَعْجَزْ وَإِنْ أَصَابَكَ شَيْءٌ فَلَا تَقُلْ لَوْ أَنِّي فَعَلْتُ كَانَ كَذَا وَكَذَا وَلَكِنْ قُلْ قَدَرُ اللَّهِ وَمَا شَاءَ فَعَلَ فَإِنَّ لَوْ تَفْتَحُ عَمَلَ الشَّيْطَانِ. [مسلم]

Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, but there is goodness in both of them. Be eager for what benefits you, seek help from Allah, and do not be frustrated and give up. If something afflicts you, then do not say: If only I had done something else. Rather say: Allah has decreed what he wills. Verily, the phrase ‘if only’ opens the way for the work of Satan.” [Muslim]

“It opens the way for the work of Satan” means he casts into the heart opposition to the divine decree and Satan tempts him with it. [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Strength in Faith, Physique, or Both?

In the above beautiful Prophetic narration, we learn that we should strive to become ‘strong believers,’ but to what type of strength did the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) refer? Should all believers strive for physical strength, or does the instruction only refer to the strength of faith?

Imam al-Nawawi (may Allah have Mercy on him) said:

“The intended meaning of strength here is a firm will and a desire to work for the Hereafter. A strong believer is bolder and sterner against the enemy in battle, quicker to go out (to fight) and seek it out. They are firmer in the way they enjoin good and forbid evil and steadfast in their patience with the harms they face throughout all of that. They are also more assertive in the way they carry out challenging tasks for Allah’s Sake. A strong believer is more inclined to pray, fast, remember Allah (dhikr), and perform the rest of the acts of worship.  They are more active in seeking after these affairs, and they keep a closer watch over their performance in servitude to Allah.”

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya (may Allah have Mercy on him) referred to this hadith when discussing the prayer of a sick person standing up, saying:

“As for the prayer of those who cannot correctly perform it, their prayer is acceptable in any way that they can complete it, according to their abilities, as they have been ordered within these circumstances. The one who is capable of correctly performing his prayers is sounder and more virtuous.  The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is goodness in both.’”

Ibn Taymiyya understood that physical strength and ability are qualities found within a strong believer.

Ibn Taymiyya’s student, Ibn al-Qayyim, understood that courage is another quality of the believer’s strength, showing that character is another critical dimension of a believer’s strength.

The “strong believer” hadith encourages physical, spiritual, and character strength, as Islam is the Religion of strength, honor, and prestige. The Muslims are always to be possessors of strength.

Allah (the Glorified and Exalted) says: “And prepare for them all the might you can gather, including riding beasts, to threaten Allah’s and your enemies with.” [Quran 8:60]

Allah says: “And to Allah belongs all Honor, and to His Messenger, and the Muslims.” [Quran 63:8]

And Allah says: “And you will be the superior ones if you are indeed believers.” [Quran 3:139]

Believers should, therefore, strive to have strength in faith, action, and body because this brings forth goodness for Muslims in this life and the next. Physical strength will enable a believer to perform longer cycles of prayer, fast, perform Hajj, and fight Shaytan and the lower-self (nafs).

True believers who follow the example of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) live healthy lifestyles by looking after their bodies with physical exercise and wholesome nutrition.

The criterion for a strong believer to be more beloved in the sight of Allah is that he carries out high-quality worship. If he is physically strong but weak in worship, then a physically weak believer who is strong in worship will be more beloved in the sight of Allah, and Allah knows best.

How do we become strong believers? We will explore this question in this series of articles.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others. He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid (ar-Rashideen), Mowbray, Cape Town. Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town. He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.