New Years Resolution: FOOD & FITNESS

It is probably the most common New Year’s resolution. We have likely made it ourselves, or have heard it from countless friends and family. It goes something like “This year I will lose weight and get fit.” The stampede to the gym ensues, and about three weeks later our resolution finds itself buried inside our mashed potatoes at the Cheesecake Factory. A familiar story, we all know. So how do we break the cycle? The answer involves reorienting our eating habits with that of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him and his family).

Qur’anic Perspective on Food

Allah touches on two extremely important points in the Qur’an when it comes to food consumption: quantity and quality.

As to food quantity, He states:

وَڪُلُواْ وَٱشۡرَبُواْ وَلَا تُسۡرِفُوٓاْ‌ۚ

Eat and drink, but not to excess

As to food quality, He states:

يـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُلُواْ مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَـكُمْ

O people of faith, eat from the pure provisions we have given you

These verses are the golden rules of food consumption. Both the quantity and quality of food we eat have a direct impact on our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Excessive food consumption and poor food choices can lead to obesity. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention,  a staggering 35.7 percent of U.S. adults suffer from obesity and 17 percent of adolescents aged from 2-19 are obese. Americans on average currently consume 31 percent more calories than we did forty years ago. Obesity can lead to countless health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, anxiety and depression.

So what is the solution to this growing problem? It begins with changing our approach to food.

The Messenger and Food Quantity

“The worst vessel the son (or daughter) of Adam ever fills in his (or her) stomach.  It is enough for the son of Adam to eat a few morsels that will maintain his back’s uprightness.  But if he must add more to his stomach, then let it be one third for food, one third for water, and one third for air.”

The statement is a stark warning and profound advice from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him and his family). He is not advocating starvation here, but drawing our attention to the dangers (both physical and spiritual) of overeating and how little food we really need to live.

The way most of us approach food and its consumption is fundamentally flawed. We eat for sport, not survival. When we are bored, we eat. When we see food, we eat. When we watch Food Network, we eat. It is very rare we eat when we are hungry and when we do eat we overeat.

So what is the correct way of approaching food consumption? One Prophetic answer to this is fasting.

Fasting was a regular part of the Messenger’s life. He would fast every Monday and Thursday. He would also fast the 13th, 14th and 15th of each month. Once you add them up you get eleven days, or roughly one-third of the month in which the Messenger would fast.

When the Messenger was not fasting, he was “intermittently fasting”, eating only once a day. If he ate in the morning, he would not eat again until the next morning. If he ate at night, he would not eat until the next night. He once stated, “A believer eats with one stomach while a nonbeliever eats with seven stomachs.” The profound import of this Prophetic statement points to the importance of rooting even our food consumption in faith and the Sacred. It is interesting to note that even ascetics of other religions (such as Buddhist monks) eat one meal a day. This prophetic advice of fasting and intermittent fasting has even recently been championed by some contemporary fitness gurus today.

Now we are all aware of some of the great spiritual rewards of fasting, but I want to share with you and emphasize some of the physical results of regular fasting as well. Many Muslims do not realize that when the Qur’an states that the purpose of fasting is to increase taqwa (God-Awareness), this “taqwa” attained through fasting should also manifest itself on a physical level. These physical results of fasting may have some of the following benefits :

-Reduce blood pressure

-Reduce risk of developing cancer

-Decrease oxidative stress

-Protect against degenerative brain diseases

-Increase fat burning

-Improve blood sugar control and appetite control

-Increase sense of well-being

The Messenger and Food Quality

The Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) was a careful and healthy eater. His diet was simple, but packed with nutrients. Among the food he would regularly eat:

– Dates

-Watermelon

-Barley Bread

-Yogurt

-Olive oil

-Cucumber

-Honey

-Milk

-Gourd

-Meat (on occasion)

It is important to note that the Messenger’s diet did not center on meat. It is well known in the modern context as well as through most of the world’s wisdom-traditions that excessive consumption of meat can lead to serious physical and spiritual aliments. There is currently a push in America to make every Monday “Meatless”, and this is something I think all of us should join.  The proponents of this initiative cite evidence that keeping your red meat consumption at bay can limit your cancer risk, reduce heart disease, fight diabetes and curb obesity. You can check it out for yourself here: http://www.meatlessmonday.com/why-meatless/

The Messenger and Exercise

By all accounts, the Messenger of Allah was what could be described today as a “power walker”. Abu Hurairah once said, “I did not see anyone walk faster than him, as if the earth folded for him. A few moments ago he would be here, and then there. We found it difficult to keep pace when we walked with him and he walked at his normal pace.” When another companion complained to the Messenger about being overweight, the Prophet advised him to walk fast, or in other words, power walk! The health benefits of walking are too many to numerate, but here are a few:

· Low Impact Exercise – Many of my friends complain of bad knees and joints. Walking can help improve those issues

· Build Aerobic Fitness – A strenuous walk can help build up your maximal oxygen consumption (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VO2_max)

· Burn Fat – Power walking, for 4-plus hours a week, has been proven to burn fat.

· Stress Relief and Means of Meditation (Fikr) – A brisk walk is a great time to collect your thoughts and reflect on Allah’s signs (ayaat) in the world and our life.

Our New Year Resolutions should not be to go on just another diet. Instead let us try and align our health habits to some degree to what could be called the “Prophetic Diet”! If you start to add fasting, better food choices with whole and pure foods in lesser quantity, and power walking into your weekly mix you will, God willing, see a renewed sense of spiritual and physical well-being. Better yet, you will be reviving three habits of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him and his family). So tell us, what will you do differently for the next year? We want to hear from you.

Moutasem Atiya & Hasan Awan, M.D.

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“The Quran is a Miracle for the Most Unscientific Reason”

This will take around five minutes of your time to listen to, but really make you smile. How one book can change the destiny of man.

Never judge others, for your ending may be different to their ending, and it’s the ending that holds the most weight.

Dhul-Hijjah

“There are No days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to God than these 10 days.” [Bukhaari]

“There are No days greater in the sight of God (including Ramadhaan) & in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Him than these 10 days, so during this time recite a great deal of Tahleel (“La ilaaha ill-Allaah”), Takbeer (Allaahu Akbar) and Tahmeed (Al Hamdu Lil-laah).” [Ahmad]

They say the days of Dhul Hijjah are like the nights of Ramadhaan! Both blessed.

A Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “When you see the new moon of Dhul-Hijjah, if any one of you wants to offer a sacrifice, then he should stop cutting his hair and nails until he has offered his sacrifice.” [Muslim]

A Sunnah: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fast on the first 9 days of Dhul-Hijjah and the day of ‘Ashoora’, and 3 days each month – the first Monday and 2 Thursdays of the month”. [Nasaa’i, Abu Dawood]

Fasting on the Day of ‘Arafaah. He (peace be upon him) said, “It expiates for the sins of the previous year and of the coming year.” [Muslim]

“There is no day on which Allaah frees more people from the Fire than the Day of ‘Arafaah. He comes close and expresses His pride to the angels, saying, ‘What do these people want?'” [Muslim]

Takbeer of Tashreeq:

After each Fardh Salaah Recite from Fajr of 9th Dhul Hijjah (Mon 14 Oct) until Asr of 13th (Fri 18 Oct)

“Allaahu Akbar,
Allaahu Akbar,
Laa ilaaha il-lAllaahu,
WAllaahu Akbar
Allaahu Akbar,
Wa Lil-laahil-hamd

(Allaah is the Greatest,
Allaah is the Greatest,
there is no god but Allaah; Allaah is the Greatest
and to Allaah be all praise),”

Adjust your daily routines and Make the most of these precious days. These days are gifts for us, by us doing any of these acts will not benefit God. They are of benefit to us. We should take avail of such opportunities. May God accept this from us and grant us the ability to act on the above.

The images below provides a summary of what you may wish to do:

Summary

Check list

A bit more detailed

dhul-hijjah-2

Inform others & share the reward.

Radiate Positive Energy

Looking out of the window

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.

His bed was next to the room’s only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.

They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation..

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his room mate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’

Epilogue:

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

‘Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present.’

The origin of this letter is unknown

A Helping Hand…

This story is definitely worth a read and to ponder over. A respectful and sincere nurse was out to help an elderly gentleman with Alzheimer’s disease. She was full of integrity and saw her fate change when the very person she was out to help, ended upon helping her in a way she did not ever imagine. What a profound gift.

Please do give it a read and comment.

My name is Cassie, I am 23 years old. I graduated as a qualified nurse this year and was given my first position as a home nurse.

My patient was an English gentleman in his early 80s who suffered from Alzheimer’s. In the first meeting, the patient was given his record and from it I could see that he was a convert to the religion of Islam, therefore he was a Muslim.

I knew from this that I would need to take into account some modes of treatment that may go against his faith, and therefore try to adapt my care to meet his needs. I brought in some ‘halal’ meat to cook for him and ensured that there was no pork or alcohol in the premises as I did some research which showed that these were forbidden in Islam.

My patient was in a very advanced stage of his condition so a lot of my colleagues could not understand why I was going through so much effort for him. But I understood that a person who commits to a faith deserves that commitment to be respected, even if they are not in a position to understand.

Anyway after a few weeks with my patient I began to notice some patterns of movement.

At first I thought it was some copied motions he’s seen someone doing, but I saw him repeat the movement at particular time; morning, afternoon, evening.

The movements were to raise his hands, bow and then put his head to the ground. I could not understand it. He was also repeating sentences in another language, I couldn’t figure out what language it was as his speech was slurred but I know the same verses were repeated daily.

Also there was something strange, he didn’t allow me to feed him with my left hand (I am left-handed).

Somehow I knew this linked to his religion but didn’t know how.

One of my colleagues told me about paltalk as a place for debates and discussions and as I did not know any Muslims except for my patient I thought it would be good to speak to someone live and ask questions. I went on the Islam section and entered the room ‘True Message’.

Here I asked questions regarding the repeated movements and was told that these were the actions of prayer. I did not really believe it until someone posted a link of the Islamic prayer on youtube.

I was shocked.

A man who has lost all memory of his children, of his occupation, and could barely eat and drink was able to remember not only actions of prayer but verses that were in another language.

This was nothing short of incredible and I knew that this man was devout in his faith, which made me want to learn more in order to care for him the best I could.

I came into the paltalk room as often as I could and was given a link to read the translation of the Quran and listen to it.

The chapter of the ‘Bee’ gave me chills and I repeated it several times a day.

I saved a recording of the Quran on my iPod and gave it to my patient to listen to, he was smiling and crying, and in reading the translation I could see why.

I applied what I gained from paltalk to care for my patient but gradually found myself coming to the room to find answers for myself.

I never really took the time to look at my life; I never knew my father, my mother died when I was 3, me and my brother were raised by our grandparents who died 4 years ago, so now its just the two of us.

But despite all this loss, I always thought I was happy, content.

It was only after spending time with my patient that felt like I was missing something. I was missing that sense of peace and tranquility my patient, even through suffering felt.

I wanted that sense of belonging and a part of something that he felt, even with no one around him.

I was given a list of mosques in my area by a lady on paltalk and went down to visit one. I watched the prayer and could not hold back my tears.

I felt drawn to the mosque every day and the imam and his wife would give me books and tapes and welcome any questions I had.

Every question I asked at the mosque and on paltalk was answered with such clarity and depth that could do nothing but accept them.

I have never practiced a faith but always believed that there was a God; I just did not know how to worship Him.

One evening I came on paltalk and one of the speakers on the mic addressed me. He asked me if I have any questions, I said no. He asked if I was happy with the answers I was given, I said yes.

He asked then what was stopping me accepting Islam, I could not answer.

I went to the mosque to watch the dawn prayer. The imam asked me the same question, I could not answer.

I then went to tend to my patient, I was feeding him and as I looked in his eyes I just realized, he was brought to me for a reason and the only thing stopping me from accepting was fear…. not fear in the sense of something bad, but fear of accepting something good, and thinking that I was not worthy like this man.

That afternoon I went to the mosque and asked the imam if I could say my declaration of faith, the Shahadah.: lā ilāha illà al-Lāh, Muhammadun rasūlu Al-Lāh. There is no god except Allah, Muhammad is Allah’s messenger.

He helped me through it and guided me through what I would need to do next.

I cannot explain the feeling I felt when I said it.

It was like someone woke me up from sleep and sees everything more clearly.

The feeling was overwhelming joy, clarity and most of all…. peace.

The first person I told was not my brother but my patient.

I went to him, and before I even opened my mouth he cried and smiled at me.

I broke down in front of him, I owed him so much.

I came home logged on to paltalk and repeated the shahadah for the room.

They all helped me so much and even though I had never seen a single one of them, they felt closer to me than my own brother.

I did eventually call my brother to tell him and although he wasn’t happy, he supported me and said he would be there, I couldn’t ask for any more.

After my first week as a Muslim my patient passed away in his sleep while I was caring for him. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.

He died a peaceful death and I was the only person with him.

He was like the father I never had and he was my doorway to Islam.

From the day of my Shahadah to this very day and for every day for as long as I live, I will pray that Allah shows mercy on him and grant him every good deed I perform in the tenfold.

I loved him for the sake of Allah and I pray each night to become an atoms weight of the Muslim he was.

Islam is a religion with an open door; it is there for those who want to enter it… Verily Allah is the Most Merciful, Most Kind.

* Note * Our sister Cassie passed away October 2010 Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon, after she gave da’wa to her brother, who had accepted Islam Alhamdulillah.

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