The Strong Believer Article Ten – Healthy Bodies, Minds, and Souls – Your Health is an Amana (Trust)

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

The Strong Believer is a podcast and now a series of articles for young Muslims seeking to improve their bodies, minds, and souls. The following article is the tenth of the series and is delivered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick. This series 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 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….”

Introduction

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

May Allah guide us to that which pleases Him, forgive us for our shortcomings, and alleviate our difficulties, Amin.

Your Health is an Amana (Trust)

After faith, one of the biggest blessings from Allah is good health. After Islam and a sound mind, the biggest blessing is health. The ability to see, hear, touch, walk, and work perfectly are blessings from Allah, that we cannot thank Allah enough.

Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time” [Bukhari]

How do they deceive us, and how do we waste them? They mislead us because favors are such that you only recognize them when they’re taken away. But our health and our free time are things that we value so much, but we only really understand their value when it’s taken away.

The problem is, when our health and free time are taken away, it’s not just that it goes to a neutral state where we no longer have health or we no longer have free time, but it goes to the opposite state. So now not only are we not very healthy, but we also happen to be sick.

Similarly, we do not lose free time, but the Dunya entirely drowns us. So our health is undoubtedly going to be questioned. It is something that Allah will ask us about on the Day of Judgement. How do we know that?

Allah says: “Then, on that Day, you will definitely be questioned about ˹your worldly˺ pleasures.” [Quran 102:8]

If our health and free time are some of the biggest favors and pleasures Allah had granted us, how can we possibly expect that Allah will not ask us about this? We also know that an Amana is a trust, we are given this trust, and we will then have to “return” it to its rightful owner – Allah. We will be held responsible for how we treat it.

We could perhaps draw a comparison to the concept of Fitra. Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “No child is born except on al-Fitra (natural predisposition). Then his parents make him Jewish, Christian, or Magian.” [Bukhari]

Every child is born with this innocent and natural predisposition, and outside influences change the child. They remove this beautiful state over time. We do a similar thing with our health when we contaminate our bodies with harmful substances and bad habits.

If we lived according to our Fitra and ate to live, and not live to eat, I think about 80% of world-health issues would be solved. If we follow the system date built into the Sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), we would not need to discuss our health in this manner. But of course, we know that from overeating to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, narcotics abuse, and consuming all sorts of not only unlawful food but just completely nutrition-less food, we cause tremendous damage to our health.

First Do No Harm

The first rule we should set for ourselves to honor the Amana of health is to not harm. When doctors take the oath of Hippocrates, The Hippocratic Oath, this rule is part of it – first, not harm.

Allah says: “(…) He commands them to do good and forbids them from evil, permits for them what is lawful and forbids to them what is impure, and relieves them from their burdens and the shackles that bound them (…).” [Quran 7:157]

And Islam, first and foremost, prohibits filth, the wrong things, the evil things, the low things, the non-nutritious things, the lazy things, and the harmful things. The Sunna teaches, “do no harm and do not reciprocate harm.”

Islam does not prescribe specific types of diet such as a paleo, carb-free, high-fat, vegetarian, or vegan diet. We don’t find specifics at that level. Islam will not dictate every single dimension of every aspect of our lives because that would be burdensome. Islam gives us, for the most part, some general guidelines. And if we stick to those parameters, in sha Allah, we’ll be fine. So, first, do no harm.

Smoking

Yes, it’s a very controversial issue (especially for smokers). As long as there are bearded men and cladded women buying cigarettes and smoking cigarettes, there’s always going to be the age-old debate of whether it is unlawful or “merely” disliked.

Many studies prove that smoking causes 90% of lung cancers and 85% of other pulmonary diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, in addition to 35% of heart attacks and blockages of the coronary arteries. These are frightening statistics. I’m not a doctor, but elementary statistics show that smoking is harmful. Please don’t do it.

This discussion is about a simple conscience that believers should have and judge our actions. Now, this article is not about smoking. But we can’t look at a health journey and speak about physical wellness and good practices within nutrition and not look at the prevalent harmful practices in society. Those practices counteract having a good diet and exercise regime.

Allah says: “Spend in the cause of Allah and do not let your own hands throw you into destruction ˹by withholding˺. And do good, for Allah certainly loves the good-doers.” [Quran 2:195]

Alcohol

Allah says: “O believers! Intoxicants, gambling, idols, and drawing lots for decisions are evil of Satan’s handiwork. So shun them so you may be successful. Satan plans to stir up hostility and hatred between you with intoxicants and gambling and prevent you from remembering Allah and praying. Will you not then abstain?”[Quran 5:90-91]

The harms of drinking alcohol are very obvious to us, living in the 21st century, and they’ve always been evident. We can see the crime and the violence associated with these terrible habits.

In South Africa, places that sell alcohol and liquor were completely locked down and closed for business. The ban also applied to the sale of cigarettes. During that time, the number of road accidents plummeted to an all-time low.

The first thing you need to know about Cape Town, South Africa, is that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. And number two, it’s also one of the most dangerous places in the world. For that reason, many medical students are sent to gain experience by working in the emergency wards of public hospitals in South Africa. Be that as it may, during the lockdown period, the emergency wards of all public hospitals were dormant. There was little to no activity happening there. All the attention could be placed on the COVID patients, and rightfully so.

The doctors praised the government’s actions because they were now able to refocus their attention, expertise, energy, and time, which was needed more than ever. The very day that they reopened the sale of alcohol. A road accident occurred in which a young man, a Muslim brother, lost his life. A drunk driver caused this accident. This young man’s mother reached out to me not too long ago, explaining who she was as she needed to speak.

Follow Sacred Law

We can go through all sorts of exercises and theories and try to figure life out intellectually, but at the end of the day, follow Sacred Law, and you’ll be successful. Allah says, “abstain from it, so that you may be successful.” How many families and marriages were broken up? How many parents and their children were separated because of arguments that started with alcohol.

Islam seemingly prohibits things that people in this world will find draconic and too strict. Only to discover that by living the laws of Islam practically, we stand to benefit far more than the imagined benefits curtailed by the restrictions.

Like alcohol, the same should be said about narcotics and drugs that are prohibited by extension. If it’s an intoxicant, if it’s a narcotic, if it causes a high, then it is unlawful by analogy in Sacred Law.

Food

How can we neglect our bodies to the extent that we consume such items that are harmful to our bodies without a shadow of a doubt? How can we consume something wherein the harm within that item outweighs the benefit that we may derive from it?

If we are pushing high levels of sugar, preservatives, and simple carbohydrates into our bodies, we are potentially causing illness. Of course, Allah Most High is the One who gives illness and causes life and death. But, Allah has made these substances the usual worldly causes of disease. Smoking one cigarette will not likely cause lung cancer, but it may lead to two cigarettes. That leads to a pack of cigarettes, which leads to a pack a day, every day for 50 years.

One can of a sugary drink will not cause diabetes, and it’s not going to give us a heart attack. But one can leads to two cans a day, leads to a six-pack within three days, leads to McDonald’s and all of these other fast-food restaurants every second day or every weekend. One chocolate can lead to all kinds of luxuries that we consume daily, which leads to obesity and, subsequently, lifestyle diseases. Allah forbid.

No sane person will go and stand in the middle of a highway and say, “well, it doesn’t matter because I’m going to be fine. Allah gives life and causes death. My health and my death has been put out”.  Nobody would do that. That’s playing Russian roulette with your life.

And so is bad eating. Bad eating habits are potentially worse for our health than smoking. I’m not just saying this from my anecdotal observation. I’m saying this because I’ve heard sports and health physicians specifically mention this.

The widespread health problems that our Umma suffers from include: obesity, diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease, lung disease, and high blood pressure, and the list goes on. Most of them find their point of origin in our stomachs, and we are responsible for what we put there.

This is why the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught that no son of Adam can fill a vessel worse than filling his stomach. So, first, do no harm.

Don’t harm yourself with your food and drink. Before you place that morsel of food into your mouth before you go and purchase those groceries, before you drive to the fast-food restaurant, think, “what am I putting into this body of mine that I have to answer for, to Allah? Think about the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and honestly ask yourself if the Prophets knew the contents of the food in front of you right now, would he approve?

I pray this is of benefit.
[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.

He 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 also 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.