One of the advantages of memorising the Qur’an is that while you are in the process you start to look at the meaning of what you are reciting and ask yourself questions. I kept leaving off tayyiban which means good. I had not noticed before that Allah (SWT) tells us to eat from the lawful (halal) food and good food. I started to reflect on whether or not I was eating good food as well as halal food. Was I following this ayah? Food and spirituality have a close connection and that is why we fast every Ramadhan. There is much to be said about eating too much and many ahadith say not to fill your stomach completely; leave a third for food, a third for drink and the remaining third for air (at-Tirmidhi).
Another dimension would be the kind of food we are filling it with. We should try to avoid eating things which could cause harm to our bodies or our minds. It is unfortunate that in this era many Muslims are still living on a diet of white sugar, soda, chips and candy bars. How effective will bodies built on these foods be in establishing the ummah of the future?
One night, in Ramadhan, my daughter and I were in a hurry. It was almost Maghrib, so we picked up fast food to break our fast. After eating my meal, I felt really full and lethargic. I had a cup of tea and went to taraweeh prayer. That night, I felt so restless. I shifted back and forth on my feet. It seemed the rakats were long and I was unable to follow the imam or concentrate on what he was saying. In summary, I felt miserable. I started reflecting on the ayah again – “…Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth…” It just seemed to repeat in my mind. I had eaten fried food, which isn’t good for me, and also eaten too much. It really affected my prayer. Eating fast food is not haram, but there is no denying the harmful effects it can have, especially when eaten excessively. I find my concentration to be much sharper when I have eaten a healthy, beneficial meal. Since disturbing the prayer is one of Shaytan’s favourite games, I realised that I had given him that opportunity by making poor food choices.
According to ‘Healing Body & Soul’ by Amira Ayad, “good food is whole food that has retained its original constituents.” That means fresh fruit compared to jams and jellies, and whole grain compared to white flour. She goes on to say that the nutritional benefits of natural foods are still being discovered. Suffice it to say we aren’t going to manufacture it better than Allah (SWT) made it originally, even by adding all of the vitamins and minerals we manufacture.
At the time of the Prophet (SAW), the grains known to them were mainly wheat and barley, and they ate them without processing them, of course. Incredibly enough, Allah (SWT) mentions wholegrain as being among His gifts to us:
And grain having husks and scented plants. So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny? (Ar-Rahman: 12-13)
Let’s take the case of whole barley flour. It was the preferred bread in the Prophet’s house; he also liked barley porridge. It has many beneficial qualities including lowering cholesterol and reducing the risks of obesity and diabetes. It can also help people who are feeling down.
The Prophet (SAW) and the companions often went without food, usually because they had to, but we know that Allah (SWT) arranged their condition to be optimal. A person who controls his food intake is more likely to control his behaviour because he has learnt to control himself.
Having a strong, healthy body allows me to do my ‘ibadah in the best way and increase the number of things I am able to do. I can read Qur’an and concentrate better when I’m not sick. When I feel lethargic and queasy, I struggle to focus on my prayer. I certainly wouldn’t have the strength to add sunnah prayers to my daily routine. Perhaps that is why the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “The strong believer is more loved by Allah than the weak one, and there is benefaction in both.” (Muslim)
In a hadith qudsi, Allah (SWT) states, “…My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him…” (Bukhari)
We can’t always help it when we get sick, but a strong body will resist illness better than a weak one.
In the ayah above, it also says to eat halal food and not to follow in the footsteps of Shaytan. Another component to the halal food is the source of the food itself. Are we purchasing the food we feed ourselves and our children with money that is halal? The Quraysh in the time of ignorance refused any money that wasn’t halal to be used to purchase material to rebuild the Ka’bah. Yet, some Muslims of today don’t mind building their bodies and the bodies of their family on food purchased using money tainted with interest or earned by selling things dishonestly, let alone money we take as bribes and other unlawful practices. All of these would dirty the money we use to feed our families; we would literally be feeding our children from haram sources.
The Prophet (SAW) said regarding a dishevelled and dust-covered man, “He raises his hands in the direction of the sky and says, ‘O my Lord,’ and yet his food is haram, his drink is haram and his clothing is haram. He is nourished by that which is haram so how likely is it that his supplications will be answered?” (Muslim)
Insha Allah, good, healthy, natural food purchased using halal money will lead to a better ummah whose faith will be strong. I remind myself before others that we need to make these changes in our lives and encourage others in order to please Allah (SWT).
Ann (Umameer) Stock reverted to Islam 27 years ago and lives back and forth between Cairo and Jeddah with her Egyptian husband. The Middle East has been home for over 24 years. She has seven children and eight grandchildren – Alhamdulillah.
Certified personal trainer and nutritionist, Chelsea Panzarella details how to nourish faith.