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Islam and the Preservation of Health
09/16/2015
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God, in the Qur’an, clarifies to man the principal purpose for his creation and existence: to worship his Creator. God says,

“And I have not created jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Adh-Dhariyat, 51:56)
God also says:
And (remember, when your Lord said to His angels: verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth They said: will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, – while we glorify You. He God said I know that which you do not know. (Al-Baqarah, 2:30)
God knows well that this purpose can only be fully achieved by man if and when he has the physical strength and ability to do so. Health preservation is a prerequisite for performing religious duties; that is before praying Muslim has to perform Wodou` (Ablution), before Hajj Muslim performs Ghusl (the major ritual ablution). If Muslim is sick or the performing cleaning will do harm to him, then he is pardoned not to do so. Islam encourages the shaving of head hair if there is illness in it. So when he shaves, his pores open and these vapors escape (giving him relief), and an analogy is made between this “extraction” and the removal of every harmful thing whose presence in the body harms it and causes suffering.”
“Forbidden to you (for consumption) are: dead animals (which have died in and of themselves and were not properly slaughtered), blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has been slaughtered for other than God, and that which has been killed by strangulation, or a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns, and that which has been partly eaten by a wild animal – unless you are able to slaughter it properly (before its death)…” (Al-Ma`idah, 5:3)
Indeed, Islamic teachings have provided guidance for the treatment and preservation of not just the soul but the body as well. What follows is a presentation of Islamic teachings which clearly demonstrate Islam’s strong interest and high regard for health preservation.

Nutrition

In recent years, medical research published in numerous journals has scientifically documented the vital role that essential nutrients play in achieving and maintaining good health, and in preventing or treating many serious diseases. Experts have declared that “people who eat ‘healthy’ actually look and feel better than those who don’t and their research indicates that people “with healthy eating habits can expect to live longer than those who do not have a balanced diet.” Their studies also show that “many diseases can be scientifically linked to nutrient imbalances”. These diseases include: arthritis, Parkinson’s, behavioral disorders, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic fatigue, diabetes, immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and osteoporosis, to name a few. Recent studies published in 2002 in the Journal of the American Medical Association have confirmed “the link between nutrient deficiencies and disease processes”. Thus awareness of those factors contributing to healthy eating can be deemed essential in disease prevention and a healthy eating pattern can be said to be vital to health preservation.

And He says,
“O you who believe, eat from the good (foods) which We have provided for you and be grateful to God if it is indeed Him that you worship.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:172)

And He says,
“On this day (all) good foods have been made lawful for you and the food of those who were given the scripture (i.e. their slaughtered animals) is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them…” (Al-Ma`idah, 5:5)
“O believers! Intoxicants (every form of alcoholic drink), gambling, (sacrificing on) stone alters (to false deities instead of God), and divining arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So strictly avoid them so that you may be successful.” (Al-Ma`idah, 5:90)

Blood

The consumption of blood has been prohibited by all of the three divine religions: Judaism, Christianity , and Islam. It is said that “ingested blood upon reaching the intestine , is acted upon by various bacteria normally present therein; producing poisonous antibodies like ammonia which is toxic to the liver.” God has therefore forbidden the drinking of blood and has prescribed a method of slaughtering animals in which most of the animals blood is shed and very little remains in its carcass.

Swine

“When pork is eaten it can wreak havoc on the body.” That’s what experts are saying and with good reason. Pork has more fat and cholesterol than any other meat; it is higher in calories than beef and chicken and has been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, sodium retention, heart problems and obesity. Swine flesh is difficult to digest causing great stress on the digestive system. It also contains deadly organisms like “Kara Kadoo”; a worm that is the sole cause of Dysentery and whose entrance into the human system has been proven beyond doubt to be associated with pork consumption. Likewise, “the Trichina” a worm which breeds in the flesh of pigs and causes a disease in humans (Trichinosis) which assumes enormous proportions and “a person once infected is almost certain to die a lingering death of excruciating agony.”

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption has been linked to more than 60 diseases like peptic ulceration, stomach cancer, pancreatis, cirrhosis of the liver, coronary heart disease, and depression. This, in addition to the fact that alcohol is strongly linked to accidents – especially motor vehicle accidents –, injuries, deaths, domestic conflict and violence. No wonder the Prophet of Islam referred to wine and other intoxicants as “the mother of all evil.”

In addition to the general encouragement to eat “good” food and the prohibition of foods proven to have harmful effects on the body, Islam has encouraged in many instances the consumption of foods known to have numerous health-related benefits like fruits and honey.

God says,

“And it is He (God Almighty) who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby every kind of plant. And We bring forth from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from palm trees emerge clusters of fruit hanging low and gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied. Look at these fruits when they first appear and when they ripen! Indeed in that are signs for people who believe.” (Al-An`am,6:99)

In a verse with similar wording He urges the consumption of fruits:

“And it is He who causes gardens to grow and flourish, trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops varying in kind, and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of the fruits of these trees when they bear fruit and give a due share (to the needy) on the day of the harvest…” (Al-An`am, 6:141)

God says concerning honey

“And your Lord inspired the bee: ‘Take for yourself from the mountains hives as homes and from the trees and what they construct.”
“Then eat from all fruits and follow the wa
ys of your Lord laid down for you.’ There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is a healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for people who reflect.” (An-Nahl, 16: 65-69)

Collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also give guidance to eating fruit:
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Whoever eats seven ‘ajwah dates (a type of dates found in Madinah) upon waking up will not be harmed.” Thus eating before leaving home in the morning is very important in preserving strength throughout the day.
‘Aaishah (the Prophet’s wife) said that the Prophet (PBUH)used to eat watermelon with fresh dates.

Fruits are low in calories, high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and their sugar and that of honey is fructose not sucrose. In a recent study by one physician, fructose has been shown to cause no rise in blood sugar and even lowers the high blood sugar of diabetics.

Cleanliness

Islamic teachings stress the importance of cleanliness, which is acknowledged by all to be of vital importance in health preservation and the prevention of the contracting and spread of disease. Islamic teachings related to cleanliness include:
1. Continuing Cleanliness: Muslims also must “purify” themselves before performing their prayers by washing their hands, faces, arms and feet, wiping their heads and cleaning their inner and outer ears.

2. Hands Cleanliness: The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “If one of you awakens from sleep then let him not put his hands into a vessel until he has washed them thoroughly; for he knows not where his hand has slept and what things it touched while he was sleeping.”
3. Clothing Cleanliness: Islam urges its followers to “beautify” themselves by wearing clean and attractive garments. God says,
“O children of Adam wear your most beautiful garments and adornments at every place of worship…” (Al-Araf, 7:31)

4- Body Cleanliness: Islam recommends regular bathing and in some instances requires it (i.e. after sexual intercourse and upon completion of the menstrual period).
And the Prophet of Islam said,

“Indeed, God is beautiful and He loves beauty and that you beautify yourselves.”
5. Food and Drink Cleanliness: Prophet (PBUH) instructed: “Close your water skins tightly and mention the name of God (over them), and cover your vessels (food containers) and mention the name of God (over them).” Obviously, one wisdom behind this is to prevent dust, dirt, insects and other vermin which carry germs and bacteria from contaminating food and drink and resulting in the contraction of illnesses.

6. Residence Cleanliness: Islam has called upon Muslims to keep their homes, streets and all areas of the city clean. Islam prohibits littering, keeping large amounts of trash in homes or allowing large amounts of trash to mount and fester in the streets without collection and proper disposal. Islam also commands a Muslim, should he find any debris or refuse in the road to remove it.

Another prophetic saying instructs: “Removing something harmful from the road is a form of charity.”
7. Cleanliness of Water Sources: Islam has also assigned great importance to the purification of water sources; rivers, lakes, ponds, and wells. Islam has strictly prohibited throwing trash and other impurities in water sources leading to their pollution. Urination and defecation in o ear water sources, a practice which leads to the spread of diseases like cholera, typhoid and polio, is also forbidden by Islam.
Regarding water purity, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Let not one of you urinate in standing

water

Good Dental Hygiene
Clean teeth and mouth play an important role in keeping us healthy. For this reason, particular stress has been made by the Prophet of Islam on dental hygiene. The Prophet (PBUH)brushed his teeth frequently; when entering the house before greeting his wives, upon waking from sleep, before prayer and whenever the taste in his mouth changed.

He felt so strongly about the cleanliness of tongue, teeth and gums and fresh breath that he said: “Were it not a hardship upon my nation, I would require them to use miswak (a twig of a tree used for tooth brushing) before every prayer (i.e. at least five times a day).”

Exercise

Islam encourages physical fitness and exercise. The Prophet (PBUH) used to walk at a fast pace and would even “race” his wife. ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam, wrote to the people of As-Sham (present-day Syria): “Teach your children swimming, archery and horseback riding.” All indications show that Islam encourages its followers to get and stay in shape and to use exercise to promote good health.

Medical Treatment

Islam is definitely in favor of medical treatment of diseases. Some Bedouins came to the Prophet (PBUH)and asked: “Shall we treat ourselves if and when afflicted by illness, O Messenger of God?” Whereupon he said may peace and blessings be upon him: “Yes, indeed, O servants of God take medicine and treat your illnesses for God has not created an illness except that he has created its cure.”

The scholars of Islam have pointed out that the fundamentals of medicine are three: health preservation, extracting harmful matters from the body, protecting oneself from harmful things (preventive medicine), and the Qur’an has referred to and provided practical examples of all of these.

Health Preservation

God orders all the believers to fast then says,

“…but whoever among you is ill or on a journey then( let him fast) an equal number of days (upon recovery or after returning from his trip)…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:184)
The scholars explain: “God permitted the ailing one to break his fast excusing him (from fasting) because of his illness, and the traveler seeking the preservation of his health and his strength so that they are not depleted or adversely affected by fasting. For, all of his moving about necessitates a loss of nutrients and his going without food and drink prevent the replenishment of essential nutrients (proteins, vitamins, minerals etc.) so his strength (and ability to ward of illness) will decline and deteriorate. For this reason, God allowed the traveler to break fast in order to preserve his good health and protect it from that which could weaken it.”

Preventive Medicine

God orders the believers at the time of prayer to perform ablution, washing their hands, faces, arms and feet and wiping their heads and if they are in a state of sexual impurity he orders them to bathe before their devotions. Then He says,

“…And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you returns from relieving himself or you have touched a women (i.e. had sexual intercourse)and find no water then let him seek clean soil and wipe his face and hands with it (a symbolic form of purification known as at-tayammum)…” (AN-Nisa`4:43)

In this last example lies the answer to the question: “What is Islam’s position on immunizations?” Islam clearly allows and encourages them as a form of preventive medicine and agrees with the adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Obesity

Obesity is “a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy.” Obesity is associated with many diseases, particularly heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties during sleep, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. , Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide, with increasing prevalence in adults and children, and authorities view it as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.
Since obesity is most commonly caused by “overeating”, Islam calls to moderation in eating.

God says,
“…And eat and drink but commit not excess, indeed God loves not those who are excessive.” (Al-Araf, 7:31 )
Conclusion
Islam is a very comprehensive faith which has provided guidance in all aspects of life. It is also a religion which has preceded modern medicine in clarifying to man what he should and shouldn’t do in order to stay healthy. What is even more astonishing is that Islamic teachings have done so with amazing accuracy. However, this is no surprise to Muslims who know the reason for this “amazing accuracy”: the author of these teachings is none other than God the

Creator of man:

“Should not He who created (everything) know(everything hidden and apparent)? And He is the Most Kind and Compassionate (prescribing what is best for His creation) All-Aware (of what is good for them and what is bad).” (Al-Mulk) 67:14

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