One sunnah step at a time (via Aquila Style)

Gems of wisdom passed down by our beloved Prophet, chosen by Afia R Fitriati.

(Image: Fotolia)
(Image: Fotolia)

If Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were born in this era, he could well adopt a new age title: life coach, holistic healer or wellness guru. After all, even though he lived in the sixth and seventh centuries, his life practices – known as the sunnah – remain a relevant guide to a healthy physical, mental and spiritual life.

Diet fads come and go, but the following principles, as exemplified and embodied by the Messenger of God (pbuh) himself, may live on as wellness philosophies for any generation.

Appreciation of food and drink boosts overall health

A number of hadith explain the Prophet’s (pbuh) etiquette of eating: he started with a “bismillah” (“in the name of God”), shared the food even if there was only a little of it, did not utter a complaint about the food and was appreciative of every morsel. Hadith about the etiquette of drinking are equally elaborate. Even if plain water was all he had, the Messenger of God (pbuh) advised his followers to avoid drinking directly from the container or blowing into it (presumably to maintain its cleanliness for others), breathe between gulps and praise God at the end.i

More than just a prescriptive set of procedures, these guidelines as put forth in the sunnah teach us to appreciate our food and drink as blessings from the Beneficent. In a hadith qudsi attributed to the Prophet (pbuh), God reportedly says:

“O My slaves, all of you are hungry except the one whom I feed, so ask food from Me, I will feed you.”ii

Through realising and remembering that our daily sustenance arrives at our table only by God’s grace, we will approach our food with humility and gratitude. As it turns out, there are great health benefits linked to gratitude; a number of studies suggest that grateful people have better health and immune systems overall.iii

A healthy heart is the foundation of wellbeing

Yet gratitude is not the only psychological trait that appears to benefit our health. Many studies have suggested that a positive mental attitudeiv also has a direct effect on our overall wellbeing.

Centuries before modern science discovered this connection between mental and bodily health, our Prophet (pbuh) reportedly said, “Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh, which, if it be whole, all the body is whole, and which, if it is diseased, all of [the body] is diseased. Truly, it is the heart.”v

So while we watch our calorie intake, exercise or juice our way to health, let us also remember that the root of our wellbeing lies in our humble heart.

Moderation as a rule of thumb

Every year sees health food trends come and go. Last year, green tea was a “miracle” food; today it is chia seeds. Accordingly, over time, I watch my family members jumping on and off various dieting bandwagons – from the Dr Phil diet to food combining.

With so much information available out there, it can indeed be confusing to decide which health regimen to follow. So when information overload strikes, let us remember what the Qur’an says about this topic:

“Eat from the good things with which We have provided you and do not transgress therein, lest My anger should descend upon you. And he upon whom My anger descends has certainly fallen” (20:81).

In more practical terms, the Prophet (pbuh) advised us to avoid overeating and eat only enough morsels to keep ourselves going.vi

In other words, while we can try new initiatives for the sake of our health, moderation is recommended. So whether we are trying to shed weight on a steady diet of carrot juice or simply trying to stay well by practising pilates, let us remember not to go overboard. After all, too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

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Sources:

i Narrated by Umar bin Abu Salamah, in Riyad as-Salihin, available here

ii Narrated by Abu Dharr, in Riyad as-Salihin, available here

iii See for example, studies linking gratitude and health cited here and here

iv Charles Carver et al., ‘How coping mediates the effect of optimism on distress: A study of women with early stage breast cancer.’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2), Aug 1993, 375-390.

v Narrated by an-Nu’man ibn Basheer, in 40 Hadith Nawawi, available here

vi Narrated by Miqdad bin Ma’dikarib, in Riyad as-Salihin, available here

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Written by Afia R. Fitriati

Taken from Aquila Style

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