Islam approaches the issue of good health in a wholistic manner which is very striking in every regard!
One of the important instructions that a Believer deducts from the Life and Teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) is to cherish health and truly realise its value as a blessing from Allah Almighty. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), clearly said that “There are two blessings whose true value many people do not appreciate : health and free time”. Thus one must realise that the true way to thank Allah for the gift of health would be to preserve it in accordance with His Divine instruction as portrayed through His Last and Final Messenger, Muhammed (Peace be upon him). Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, “If you give thanks, I will give you more; but if you are thankless, lo! My punishment is dire.”(Qur’aan Ch 14 : v7).
Abu Bakr (the Companion of the Prophet) said, “I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying “Ask Allah Almighty for perfect faith and sound health, no one ever gets anything, after sound faith, better than sound health”.” .
Cleanliness — the first step to good health
The first of many ways to maintain overall health is through personal bodily hygiene and cleanliness. Islam’s attitude towards cleanliness is unmatched by any other faith because cleanliness in Islam is an act of worship that draws people closer to Allah. Moreover, it is a religious obligation. Our attention is drawn to a very important point, namely that all books of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) start with a chapter entitled taharah (purification). This is the first branch of jurisprudence that Muslim men and women start to study and indeed it lays down a well-known rule for Muslims: No Muslim can observe the compulsory daily prayer if he or she is not purified from “Al Hadath Al Asghar” (minor impurity) by ‘wudhu’ (partial ablution – washing the parts of the body more susceptible to dirt, such as the face, the nostrils, the mouth, the hands, the head, the ears, and the feet), as well as “Al Hadath Al Akbar” (major impurity) by ‘ghusl’ (complete ablution — full bathing of the body).
In addition to the cleanliness of the body as a pre-condition for Allah’s acceptance of prayers, the surroundings have to be equally clean.
The clothes, the ground, and the prayer rug have all to be clean. The Holy Qur’an states, “For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean” (Ch 2 : v222).
The Prophetic teachings emphatically support this verse as The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “purification is half of faith.”
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was very keen to emphasise personal hygiene and bathing as recorded in countless of his teachings and sayings. He was especially concerned with oral hygiene – (the hygiene of the mouth and teeth). He was reported saying, “The siwak (a small piece of root from a particular tree used for cleansing teeth) is a means of cleansing the mouth and pleasing the Almighty”
Activity and exercise
Interestingly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) always encouraged Muslims to work, to be energetic, and to start their day early, etc; all of which are conditions for a healthy body. He said “O Allah, make the early morning hours blessed for my nation.” He used to entrench the notion that a good practicing Muslim should get up from sleep energetic and in good spirits.
He emphatically warned his Companions against laziness and obesity. Moreover, he used to seek refuge in Allah from incapacity and indolence.
The blessed Messenger also stressed the importance of exercise for children and adults. He urged parents to teach their children sports, especially archery, swimming, and horseback riding. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also permitted tournaments in wrestling, spear play, and foot racing. All with the intention of encouraging fitness and good health.
Wearing out the physical energies
The practice of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) is clear with regard to wearing out one’s body. Continuous work, starvation, and staying up late are all shunned in Islam. Even overdoing acts of worship is considered a body abuse. The Prophet disapproved of the attitude of some Companions when one of them wanted to pray all night and never lie down, the other wanted to fast continuously, and the third wanted to refrain from marriage; all in the name of worshipping Allah. The Prophet immediately said, “I am the most God-fearing of you. Yet, I observe prayer and I sleep, I fast and also take a break, and I engage in marriage to women. He who turns away from my practice is not from my people”. Hence, worship cannot be achieved by going to any extreme in denying the basic bodily needs.
In light of all the above, one clearly understand the Prophetic statement “The strong believer is better in the eyes of Allah than the weak believer”. Strength here could be taken as strength in faith and character as well as strength in body and soul.
We need to recognise the bounties of the Almighty upon us and be grateful to Him for all these bounties.
In practice, the expression of this gratefulness will be through maintaining sound practices towards ensuring firm faith and good health.
We need healthy bodies and souls in order to truly worship our Creator and fulfill His commands with regard to striving on earth for the betterment of humanity at large.
For further information on Islam or a free copy of the Holy Qur’aan, please contact:
Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe, Council of Islamic ScholarsPublications Department
P.O. Box W93, Waterfalls, Harare
Tel: 04-614078 / 614004, Fax : 04-614003