Assalamu alaikum (Peace be with you)
My dear sisters and brothers in Islam and in humanity, I greet you and wish you much joy and peace on this most beautiful celebration of the festival of ‘fitr’, or of breaking the fast. It has been a month of illumination and bonding, patience and self-descipline, a much needed bootcamp of the soul, heart and importantly, stomach.
We Muslims unfortunately neglect the importance of the stomach and all that goes in to it. If you think about it, other than your lungs that take in air every few seconds (without stopping since you popped out of Mum’s uterus to till you die- isn’t that amazing? Subhahanallah!) the system that has most interaction with the outside world is your GI (gastro-intestinal) system. And the GI system has to contend with a lot more variety than your lungs do (at least as far as we know to-date). So be easy on this precious blessing that is the GI system on the day of Eid. Don’t make the month of training be of no or little consequence by gluttonous feasting. Remember, moderation in all things. In abstinence and in celebration. It is the way of our beloved teacher, the best example and beautiful guide, Muhammed (may Allah bless him and elevate him!). The middle way.
So this reminder is first to myself and then to you. The prophet (peace and blessings of God be on him) said on eating, the very famous and sound hadith (narration, or record of his words, ‘sound’ here means it has been rigourously authenticated as true, as there are many hadith and not all of them are authentic…not knowing which narrations are sound vs. which are not, has lead to much disarray among the Muslims, but I digress) below;
On the authority of Al-Miqdaam ibn Maadiy-Karib who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: “No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.”
Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa’I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih.
I found these useful comments by early physicians and scholars of the Muslim world on the hadith ;-
1. Ibn Masaweh, a Muslim doctor, said after reading this hadith: “If the people only used these words, they would avoid all diseases and maladies and the clinics and pharmacies would be idle.”
2. Another doctor, Al-Harith ibn Kalada said: That which has killed mankind is the introduction of food on top of food before it has been digested.
3. As for spiritual benefits: humbleness of heart, strength of understanding, lessening of lower desires, lessening of personal opinions and anger, while overeating induces the opposites of all of those. Al-Hassan Al-Basri said: “O, son of Adam, eat with one third of your stomach and drink with one third and leave one third of your stomach to breathe so that you may think.”
4. Ibn Umar: A man said to Ibn Umar: Shouldn’t I bring you some jawarish? Ibn Umar said: What is that? He said: Something which aids in digesting your food after you eat. Ibn Umar said: I have not eaten to being full for four months. That is not because I am not able to do so, but I was with a group of people who were hungry more than they were full.
5. Not reaching your goals: Muhammad ibn Wasi said: Whoever eats little will understand and make others understand and will be clear and humble. Overeating weighs a person down and keeps him from much of what he wants [to accomplish].”
6. Al-Hassan Al-Basri: The test of Adam, peace be upon him, was food and it is your test until Qiyama. And, it used to be said: Whoever takes control of his stomach gets control of all good deeds. And: Wisdom does not reside in a full stomach. One day, Al-Hassan offered some food to his companion who said: I have eaten until I am no longer able to eat. To which Al-Hassan said: Subhaana Allah! Does a Muslim eat until he is no longer able to eat?
[these notes are taken from a well known scholarly text by a great scholar, Imam Rajab al-Hanbali (d 1393). The book is called ‘Jami’al Uloom al’Hikam’, a commentary on the famous forty hadith by Imam Nawawi. Copied with thanks from Br. Saleem Morgan’s website]
And indeed, Imam Ghazali (one of the best known of the Muslim scholars and a great luminary who lived in Persia about 900 years ago) in a commentary of the Quran, famously said to paraphrase in my own words (and I intend no disrespect or frivoulty by this, only ease of making this post, please look this up for a more accurate rendering) that indeed one of the reasons mankind fell, was his excessive love of food! 🙂 Though I smile, I do take this seriously as a practitioner of prophetic medicine (the teeny bit I know) and a scientist, as well as a person trying to be a Muslim. Indeed we have moved so far from the mark of our early scholars that we laugh at serious matters. Allah protect me and us!
This reading of the story of Adam and Eve (may Allah bless them both) and their eating of the apple (this story is given in the Quran, but differs in detail quite a bit from the better known biblical version…however the eating of the apple remains, though the Quran calls both Adam and Eve tempted and not just the one, this story appears in several places in the Quran, the second chapter in particular has detail if you are interested in reading it) is quite profoud if you come to think of it.
We neglect the influence the GI tract has on us and shorten the long lives God would give us by our own folly. So celebrate in joyful light, eat moderately and be thankful for your tummy! Don’t over-stress it after treating it so well in the month of fasting.
We Muslims have lost a lot of the education, guidance, wisdom and character our predecessors had. No wonder the Muslim Nation suffers so. We have a long way to climb back up again. I would humbly submit that a first step is controlling the stomach. Verily, it will only help and not hinder, the controling of the heart. As the Quran says in the words of our father Abraham (God elevate and bless him) ‘And indeed the only ones saved that day are those who bring a sound heart ‘…
And do not disgrace me on the Day they are [all] resurrected –Sahih International Interpretation
The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children
Sahih International Interpretation
But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.”Quran (26: 87-89)
Peace to all of you.