The role of food in a person's life cannot be disregarded as it is very necessary for his survival; for the nourishment of his body and mind. Eating food in the right proportion to supply essential nutrients to the body is vital for good health. Poor health is commonly caused by imbalanced nutrition, either through excess or deficiency, which in turn negatively affects the body system. Good nutrition is key to achieving optimal health.
Islam is a perfect religion that believes that optimal spiritual health is interconnected with sound physical well being. Its holistic approach to health includes treating our bodies well and nourishing them with lawful and nutritious foods. There are several verses in the Holy Qur'an promoting healthful habits and good nutrition; Allah encourages us to eat that which is pure and good, to stay away from foods that are bad and to be thankful. Allah emphasized good nutrition by instructing us to choose foods that are wholesome and avoiding those that are not. "O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and wholesome in the earth, and follow not the footsteps of the devil. Lo! He is an open enemy for you." Q2:168 Therefore as Muslims, we must understand that good nutrition goes far beyond the preservation of our physical health but also to safeguard our spiritual health. Eating shouldn't be a piece of action done just to satisfy our hunger, but like every other action, it should be perceived as an act that affects how we relate with our Creator. It is considered as an act of worship when it is done in the manner prescribed by Allah and His messenger (S.A.W).
A Muslim should eat with the intention of nourishing his body to be in the best shape to boost his other acts of worship. A Muslim needs a healthy body and a sound mind in order to worship Allah; while the mind is nourished by the remembrance of Allah, the body is nourished by lawful foods. Thus, he should strive to get all the necessary nutrients for his body to grow properly and function well and avoid substances that can harm his health. Eating foods that are adequate in terms of quality and quantity is necessary. Foods that supply essential nutrients; carbohydrates, protein, fats and oil, vitamins, minerals and water in the right proportion to enhance healthy living should been included in a Muslim's diet. Allah tells us about the natural produces which He has made available to us for healthy eating. He says : "It is He Who sends down water from the cloud, then We bring forth with it buds of all (plants), then We bring forth from it green (foliage) from which We produce rains piled up (in the ear); and of palm-tree, of the sheaths of it, come forth clusters (of dates) within reach, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, alike and unlike; behold the fruit of it when it yields the fruit and the ripening of it; most surely there are signs in this for a people who believe."Q6:99
While it is encouraged that a Muslim should enjoy the bounties of Allah, by eating variety of foods that Allah has provided, he must also be cautious not to be wasteful. When a Muslim becomes obsessed with food or eats that which affects his or her health adversely, he becomes physically weak and his manners of worship will be reduced. Also, if he decides to neglect his nutrition and leaves his body to become undernourished, he will become weakened and unproductive. The companions of the prophet chose the middle course; they never 'over did' it! They ate good foods moderately and maintained healthy lives. Many of them had strong bodies and were fit for their daily activities and acts of worship. Moderation is the key! Allah warned us against being wasteful. He said: "Eat and drink but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess" Q7:31. The prophet also encouraged us to eat moderately, he admonished: "No man fills a vessel worse than his stomach. A few mouthfuls that would suffice to keep his back upright are enough for a man. But if he must eat more, then he should fill one third (of his stomach) with food, one third with drink and leave one third for easy breathing". (Ahmad) Overeating makes a person feel heavy, induces sleep, keeps him from maximum productivity, and makes his body weak for worship. Good nutrition promotes energy, clear mental function, good physique and reduces the risks of chronic diseases. Consumption of unwholesome foods and junk foods can weaken the body and affect the soul; several nutrition-related health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, coronary heart diseases, depression and obesity have been linked with unhealthy eating habits.
The spiritual benefits of good nutrition also include humility of the heart, strength of understanding, weakening of base desires, lessening of personal opinions and anger. We must also watch out for the unlawful. Consumption of unlawful foods has negative impact on spirituality. The consequence of bad and unlawful nutrition was expressed by prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) when he said; "Allah the Almighty is good. Allah has commanded the messengers, and the Almighty has said: "O ye Messengers! Eat of the good things and do right." And Allah the Almighty has said: "O ye who believe! Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you." Then he mentioned [the case of] a man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty and who spreads out his hands to the sky [saying]: O Lord! O Lord!- while his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothing is unlawful, and he is nourished unlawfully, so how can he be answered!"-Sahih Muslim.
Conclusively, we must show gratitude to Allah Who has provided us with so many varieties of foods by making healthy food choices that will enhance our spirituality to serve Him better. "O you who believe! Eat of the good things We have provided you with, and give thanks to Allah if Him it is that you serve" Q2:172. And never forget, "Whoever takes control of his stomach gains control of all good deeds"! Hafsah Babatunde is a nutritionist, writer, poet, blogger and a social entrepreneur. She values good health and loves to share healthy tips for healthy living. With a passion for the pen, she believes ideas can be shared to make a difference and to create positive impact on many lives.