By: Jamie Amina Teal
Is it correct to equate a healthy lifestyle with a halal lifestyle? Most Muslims probably rarely think of healthy life choices in this way and yet both the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (ﷺ) point in this direction.
The Muslim is not left to wonder about which ways of cleanliness, eating, or sleeping are best for him. Islam gives thorough instructions for cleaning the body throughout the day for times of prayer and before and after eating. The hadith relate instructions about how much food and drink to consume at any given meal, how often it is appropriate to eat meat, and the best way to eat while fasting. Even sleeping comes with a set of guidelines demonstrating the best positions for resting and the suggested time for a nap during the day.
In all of this, Allah Most High has made it clear that part of our Deen is not only to nurture and groom the soul, but equally to nurture and groom our bodies. To this end, it becomes important to examine the subject of exercise. For many and various reasons, it is crucial to keep the body in good working order.
For our general well-being, for improving stamina, for maintaining a healthy weight, and for strengthening the bones and muscles, participating in a regular exercise regimen is key. The various body systems all benefit from the improved flow of blood and oxygen that vigorous exercise can provide. It is important to note that this is just as important for the women as for the men. Each of us has a responsibility to maintaining ourselves.
Men necessarily bear most of the heavy physical labor of the Ummah, from building and repairing our masjids to burying the dead. Allah Most High has also commanded them to provide for their families and rewards them for being faithful in this. Whether they are actually slaughtering meat and raising crops of vegetables or working daily in an office to earn a wage that will purchase these essentials, it is in the best interest of earning this provision that a man keeps himself in good health.
The sahaba (Allah be pleased with them) used to participate in games and races, which not only strengthened the bond of brotherhood and allowed for good recreation, but also helped to keep their bodies in strong physical condition. Today we find that many of our brothers meet regularly with others from their local Islamic center or Muslim Student Association to have a game of soccer or basketball. This seems like a perfect way to continue this Sunnah in spending time with fellow Muslims and developing physical strength.
As for our women, they should not feel that they are excluded from the requirement to exercise either. Allah Most High has encouraged our women to bear children and raise them with loving care. The physical burden of completing pregnancy and childbirth is as much an athletic event as any. Both require the woman to build her strength and stamina in order to create a safe and healthy experience for the mother and her child and to sustain the woman through the years of caring for the child.
Apart from raising children, women also need to develop high levels of energy for taking care of their daily duties around the home. Many young women entering marriage have little idea of the strength they will need to complete all the tasks that are due on them each day between laundering and house cleaning and cooking. It is something they learn quickly and would do well to stay in shape for.
Last, but perhaps not least, for the married brothers and sisters among us it is wise to exercise in order to keep ourselves fit and attractive for our spouses. Inevitably with age, each of us will weaken somewhat or add on a few pounds. However, that process can be held in check to some degree with good exercise and healthy eating and sleeping routines. Our Prophet (ﷺ) used to run races with his wife Aisha (Allah be pleased with her), and this is a good example to us that husbands and wives should have fun together and encourage each other in such activities.
For men and women living busy lives, it may seem difficult to find the time to go out for a jog or join a team sport after a hectic day in the office or of chasing children around the house. However, when a person has the intention in his heart of doing something for the sake of Allah and starts with “Bismillah,” then he soon finds that it was easier than he anticipated. Feeling tired or lazy should not be an excuse for letting ourselves fall into poor health. The Prophet (ﷺ) used to make dua, “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from worry and grief, from inability and sluggishness…” (reported in Bukhari by Anas ibn Malik).
Taking care of the body that Allah Most High has given us to live in here on earth potentially gives us a longer life to earn His Most High favor with good deeds and righteous living as well as making our time here easier and more comfortable for us. May Allah Most High grant us strength and help us to maintain it.