Muslims and Weight Loss
by Karima Burns (MH, ND)
An English proverb points out, "Some men walk through the forest yet see no firewood." As Muslims, we should be careful of falling into this proverbial truth.
Muslims often seek outside help to lose weight, although the Qur'an and Hadith provide guidance on many ways through which we can combat being overweight. They include periodic cleansings, eating simple and whole foods and herbs, avoiding excess, drinking plenty of water, praying and seeking guidance from Allah, seeking the help of others, and being persistent and patient.
Ramadan is a time for physical cleansing as well as spiritual cleansing. A prophetic tradition (Hadith) states, "Fast the month of Ramadan so to heal your bodies from disease." If we strive to eat only pure, simple and light foods during Ramadan, we can undergo a physical as well as a spiritual cleansing. Since there is such a strong scientifically proven correlation between our spiritual, mental and physical health, to purify all systems at the same time provides the ultimate and most powerful detoxification fast that we have available today.
To eat purely means to eat the whole, unprocessed and pure foods that Allah has provided us such as whole wheat breads, grains, beans, vegetables and fresh fruits. These are perfect foods and we do not need to improve them with colors, chemicals and preservatives. The Qur'an (5:4) says, "They ask thee what is lawful to them as food. Say, 'Lawful unto you are all things good and pure.'" And (50:7), "And the earth we have spread out, and we have set firm mountains on it, and have made every kind of beautiful growth to grow on it."
The Qur'an also says (7:31),"Eat and drink, but waste not by excess for God loves not the prodigals." Prophet Muhammad (SAW) emphasized this in Hadith when he mentioned that, "The stomach is the home of disease, and abstinence the head of every remedy. So make this your custom." It is easy to eat in excess since foods once reserved for royalty are now readily available in every supermarket. However, there is a hidden cost to excess consumption that keeps them expensive. Livestock pay this hidden cost by being injected with hormones and chemicals to increase the production of meat, cheese, milk and cream. The earth pays an even higher price when we consider the amount of grain and water used to raise the excess number of cattle for meat consumption.
Eating breakfast is also an important part of weight loss as it speeds metabolism of the body. The Hadith say, "Eat your meal at dawn, for there is blessing in the meal at dawn," and, "There is blessing in three things: the early morning meal, bread and soup."
Also, we must not ignore the benefits of the many herbs that Allah has provided us. Sahih Bukhari relates that, "For every malady Allah created, He also created its cure. Whoever acquires such knowledge shall benefit from it, and one who ignores it will forgo such benefit."
Another gift that Allah has given us in the battle against excess weight is water. The Qur'an says (15:45), "The righteous will be amid gardens and fountains of clear-flowing water," and (21:30), "We made water essential for all life." Muslims wanting to lose weight would benefit by drinking ten glasses of water a day, at least one half hour before and after meals.
As well as their spiritual benefits, the five prescribed daily prayers also provide physical toning benefits to the body. And patience is often the greatest test we face when we decide to lose weight. However, the Qur'an says (2:155), "Give glad tidings to those who exercise patience when struck with adversity and say, 'Indeed, we belong to God, and to Him is our return.' Such ones receive blessings and mercy from their Lord, and such are the guided ones."
Lastly, we cannot forget the power of prayer and support from others. The Qur'an says (26:80), "... And when I sicken, then He (Allah) heals me." Abu Hurairah relates, "Allah never inflicts a disease unless he makes a cure for it." Weight gain is often caused by excess, and the weakness of one or more organs of the body. A Hadith even says, "The origin of every disease is cold. So eat when you desire and refrain when you desire." Many people have lost weight simply by warming up their bodies with herbs and warm foods, and reducing heavier, colder foods and those that clog and chill the system.
"Oh, Lord! Advance me in knowledge..." The Qur'an says, and the Prophet has stated, that we should, "Seek knowledge, even in China." Along these lines, we can also obtain wisdom from people all around the world in the subject of weight loss. Utilizing the support of programs such as Weight Watchers or information provided in magazines can be beneficial - as long as we turn to the Qur'an as our ultimate inspiration