The Strong Believer Article Seven– Healthy Bodies, Minds, and Souls
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
Article Seven of Twelve in SeekersGuidance Scholar Shaykh Irshaad Sedick’s “The Strong Believer” Series: Prophetic Guidelines on Nutrition – Halal and Tayyib
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…”
In the previous article, we learned that nutrition is undoubtedly an essential element in Islam. We learned that nutrition features prominently in the Quran and Sunna and should therefore also have a significant space in the life of a believer.
Islam teaches us that the food we consume should be lawful and healthy, that we should not overindulge, that we should have a healthy balanced diet (not extreme imbalances wherein we deprive ourselves of an entire food group), and that there is a correlation between what we eat and the state of our souls.
In this article, we will further explore a few of the nutritional habits of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) to get a better understanding of how we can live healthier and more vital lives as strong believers.
Prophetic Nutritional Habits
1.) Say Bismillah (in the Name of God) – Eat with Your Right, and Eat What Is Nearest to You
We derive the above three Prophetic eating habits from the Hadith of ‘Umar Ibn Abi Salama (may Allah be pleased with him). “I was a boy under the care of Allah’s Messenger (may Allah bless him and give him peace) and my hand used to go around the dish while I was eating. So, Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said to me:
“.يَا غُلَامُ سَمِّ اللَّهَ، وَكُلْ بِيَمِينِكَ، وَكُلْ مِمَّا يَلِيكَ”
“Oh boy! Mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat what is nearer to you in the dish.” Since then, I have applied those instructions when eating.” [Bukhari; Muslim]
The above narration attests to the humility which accompanied every aspect of the Prophetic model, and eating habits were no different. Remembering God before eating inspires gratitude for the food and acknowledgment that our sustenance comes from Allah.
Imbibing the above profound yet straightforward habits will aid in conscious eating based on noble objectives instead of mindless consumption governed by nothing but the nafs (lower animalistic self). When one eats while being present and relaxed, we feel more satisfied quicker, and we help our digestive system.
Conscious eating will facilitate less eating and, therefore, better weight management. There are many unseen benefits to these acts as well, but we may benefit regardless of whether we understand the benefits or not.
2.) Eat on the Floor
It is narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “I eat just as the slave eats, and I sit just as the slave sits.” [Abu Ya’la, Sunan]
(Picture) The most accurate representations of the Prophetic method of sitting and eating on the floor.
As one can observe in the illustration, sitting on the floor in the Prophetic eating style compresses the abdomen, which facilitates quicker satisfaction and less consumption. Eating in the Prophetic style, therefore, may also assist in weight management and improved health.
3.) Eat with Three Fingers
Ka’b Ibn Malik states: “The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) used to eat with three fingers and lick his hand before he wiped it.” [Muslim]
The Prophetic style of eating included eating with one’s hand, specifically, the above three fingers of one’s right hand. Other than the consistent humility of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), there are several physical benefits to eating in this manner.
It is cumbersome to hold an average morsel-sized amount of food in only the above three fingers. One inevitably resorts to taking less than average-sized morsels at a time, which once again facilitates quicker satisfaction with less food.
When we eat quickly, we don’t allow our bodies to communicate that it has had enough food, and we then proceed to overeat. When we eat as described in the Prophetic model, we are compelled to eat slower, and our bodies have ample time to communicate that it has been well-satiated. That then facilitates, once again, better weight management and improved health.
There are other benefits as well. One can feel the temperature of the food and know whether it is too hot or at the ideal temperature to digest comfortably.
What we covered in this short article explored merely some observable benefits in the practice of the Prophetic model. If we were to examine any of his (may Allah bless him and give him peace) lifestyle habits, to determine the benefits of them, we would write many volumes and then add to it every few years as we learn more.
Therefore, it would be wiser of us as believers not to wait for lessons on the benefits of following the Sunna to start following it. We should instead practice on the knowledge of the Sunna we have and believe that it has the best benefits whether we perceive them or not. And continue to learn so that we have more upon which to practice.
Unfortunately, believers often follow the Sunna selectively. We can obsess about each detail to conform to the Sunna in acts of worship, but how can we discard it in our lifestyles and the daily practice of health and soul-impacting habits?
[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 has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.