Ibn Al-Qayyim on the preservation of the body, a balanced diet, Allah’s blessing of good health, avoiding disease and harmful foods. Bonus: “The Gerson Health Maintenance Guide: Real Food, Fresh Air and Moderate Exercise.”

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All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.

Let Food be your Medicine and let Medicine be your Food

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim (died 752 AH, rahimahullāh) stated: “Health is one of the most precious favours Allah has bestowed upon His servants, the most generous of gifts, the most plentiful of His bounties. Rather, even more, health is the most precious of favours without exception, so it is fitting that whoever is granted a portion of this fortune that he cherishes it, preserves it and guards it against harm. Al-Bukhāri narrated in his Saheeh from Ibn Abbās that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: ‘There are two blessings which many of the people lose, good health and free time.’” (Zād al-Ma’ād, 4/196)

He (rahimahullāh) also said: “When a person is moderate in his eating and takes only so much of it as he needs, keeping a balance of quantity and quality, the body benefits more from this than it does from a large amount of food. There are three degrees of eating:
1. Out of need;
2. In moderation;
3. In excess…” (At-Tibb An-Nabawī p.20; Medicine of the Prophet, ITS, p13.)

And he said: “The foundations of the medicine of the body are three:
i. Preservation of health.
ii. A diet that avoids those things which may cause harm.
iii. Removing harmful matter from the body.” (See At-Tibb, page 9)

Ibn Al-Qayyim also stated that illnesses “are caused by:
1. Consuming more food before the previous meal has been digested;
2. By eating in excess of the amount needed by the body;
3. By consuming food that is of little nutritional value and slow to digest;
4. And by indulging in different foods which are complex in their composition.” He further states, “When a human being fills his belly with these foods and it becomes a habit, they cause him various diseases, some of which come to an end slowly and some more swiftly. When he is moderate in his eating and takes only so much of it as he needs, keeping a balance of quantity and quality, the body benefits more from this than it does from large amounts of foods.” (The Prophetic Medicine,  At-Tibb an-Nabawiyy, p.13).

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “The human being can fill no container worse than his belly. Sufficient for the son of Adam are so many morsels of food as will keep his spine upright. But if he must eat more, then a third for his food, a third for his drink and a third for his breath.” (Imām Ahmad in Al-Musnad (4/132), At-Tirmidhī (2499), Ibn Mājah (3349), and it was authenticated by Al-Albānī in Sahīh Sunan At-Tirmidhī (1939)). Ibn al-Qayyim commented: “The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) has made it known that he found sufficient such morsels as would keep his spine upright, with which his strength would not be lowered or weakened. But if one goes beyond that, then let him eat to fill a third of his belly, and leave another third for water and a third for breath. This is most useful for body and heart. For if the belly is filled with food, it does not have enough space for a drink, and when the drink is added to it, this leaves little space for breath. Thus it is afflicted by distress and fatigue, and it bears this like one carrying a heavy burden – and this state will lead to corruption of the heart, and the limbs become too lazy to perform the obligations, and instead they move swiftly in submission to desires brought about by fullness of the belly.” (At-Tibb An-Nabawī p.21; Medicine of the Prophet, ITS, p13.)

Imām Abdur-Rahmān As-Sa’di (died 1375 AH, rahimahullāh) said: “Al-Bukhāri reports from Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said:  “Allah did not send down a disease except that He sent for it a cure.” This narration encompasses all illnesses, whether hidden or apparent. There is a medicine that combats them, either by way of prevention or by curing the sickness completely or by reducing its effect. So in this [narration] there is an encouragement to learn the cures of the body just as one learns the cures of the heart [and soul].” He then elaborated just like the great scholars before him, saying, “The foundations of medicine [or good health] are:
1. Controlling and managing one’s nourishment, so that a person does not eat unless he has the appetite for it,
2. that he completely digests the food he has previously eaten,
3. that he researches, investigates and finds the most nutritious foods – and this is in accordance with the state of lands, their people and their climate or conditions
…” (See Bahjatu Quloobil-Abrār, no. 64)

The modern lifestyle and the “Western diet” have conspired to contradict what has been mentioned above, so it is not surprising that obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other diet-related diseases have reached epidemic proportions, while at the same time those afflicted with these diseases remain “malnourished’ in the real sense of the world, deficient in essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. All of this is taking place as tens of billions of dollars every year are poured into the coffers of unscrupulous pharmaceutical drug companies―and as more and more ‘advanced’ drug therapies are touted as yet another breakthrough in modern medicine, and as surgical procedures and hospital treatments are sky-rocketing―yet the death toll from chronic diseases continues to rise and rise. As Muslims, we are obligated to seek out the best means of acquiring good health and treatments for illnesses as Imām Adh-Dhahabi (died 748 AH, rahimahullāh) stated: “After the affair of fulfilling the commands and keeping away from the forbidden matters, the most beneficial means and most successful path of nearness to Allah for a person are to maintain good health and treat his illnesses.” (At-Tibb an-Nabawiyy, p.18)

The Gerson Health Maintenance Guide―Food, Drink, Fresh Air and Moderate Exercise

Dr Max Gerson created an outline of dietary recommendations that permit enough margin for personal living habits, family feasts and holidays by allowing 25% of the food to be of one’s personal choice. The remaining 75% should be consumed for protecting the functions of the highly essential organs—liver, kidneys, brain, heart, etc., by storing reserves and avoiding an unnecessary burden on these vital organs. His dietary recommendations consist of an all-organic, primarily plant-based diet. Download and read this excellent 6-page article that explains in a straightforward manner the way you can make changes to your lifestyle today.

Further Reading and a Video on Depression and Mental Health

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  1. Jazaak Allaahu Khayrun. It gets difficult to eat healthy with so many people around us eating fast-food or food that are of little or no nutritional value. It’s a good reminder to have Tawakkul on Allaah in protecting ourselves from the unhealthy customs of the people around us.

    A reminder to also check out Abu ‘Iyaad’s website on being a healthy muslim:

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