Working a deskbound job, I often sit for hours in front of my laptop. Especially with working from home, it presents a unique set of challenges especially for my health. And even with the best intentions to keep my health in check, sitting for hours without stretching and working in an ergonomically unsound position can easily sabotage those plans. On extra busy days, eating junk food and the lack of sleep doesn’t help either.
Ibn Abbas narrated that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “There are two blessings that many people are deceived into losing: health and free time.” [Bukhari]
Incorporating a healthy lifestyle in our daily lives is indeed challenging because there are many factors that affect it. But as I read this hadith, I am reminded that health is the one of the greatest and most precious gifts of Allah to His servants, and if nothing else, I should be grateful for the health He has given me and work towards habits that can support that.
A factor that can contribute to a person not maintaining good health is a lack of knowledge in the simple habits they can implement in their lives. Here are five things that I’ve learnt from Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ healthy habits:
We already know that healthy eating can have a positive impact on our lives. Studies suggest that we should regularly eat a healthy and well-balanced diet. It’s not only for weight maintenance, but to increase energy levels, improve moods, provide a heightened quality of life and assist in disease prevention.
Healthy eating includes consuming high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and water in the foods you take. Moderating food intake, in general, seems to be one of the best ways for healthy eating.
The practice of eating in moderation to prevent sickness and diseases were also emphasized by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. One interesting fact that I found is the Islamic advice of “1/3 for your food, 1/3 for your liquids and 1/3 for your breath”. This matches closely to the Japanese ‘hara hachi bu’ concept which means eat until you are only 80% full.
Narrated by Miqdam bin Madikarib,
I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: “A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.” [Ibn Majah 3349]
Eat and Drink Slowly
It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time we start eating for our brain to send out signals of fullness. A study of obesity in North America showed that overweight men and women took in fewer calories when they slowed their normal eating pace. Slow eating and drinking will help us eat less food and improve our digestion, and it is a practice Prophet Muhammad ﷺ did himself and strongly advocated.
Narrated Thumama bin `Abdullah:
Anas used to breathe twice or thrice in the vessel (while drinking) and used to say that the Prophet; used to take three breaths while drinking. [Bukhari 5631]
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults perform at least 2.5 hours of moderately intense aerobic exercise or 1.25 hours of vigorously intense exercise per week. Exercise has been shown to prevent cancer development as well; people who exercise regularly are up to 24% less likely to get certain cancers.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ strongly encouraged physical exercise. He had some favorite sports which included archery, horse and camel riding, and running.
It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said:
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although both are good.” [Ibn Majah 79]
Maintain Good Dental Hygiene
Did you know that our oral health offers clues about our overall health? Problems in our mouth can affect the rest of our body. Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in pregnancy and birth complications, and some diseases like cardiovascular disease and pneumonia.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also recommended good hygiene of teeth and gums through tooth brushing and washing the mouth with water.
Abu Hurairah narrated:
Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “If it were not that it would be difficult on my nation, then I would have ordered them to use the Siwak for each prayer.” [Tirmidhi 22]
Have you ever heard about intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting refers to regular periods with no or very limited caloric intake. It commonly consists of a daily fast for 16 hours, a 24-hour fast on alternate days, or a fast 2 days per week on non-consecutive days. During fasting, caloric consumption often ranges from zero to 25% of caloric needs. This practice has been proven to balance hormone levels, prevent oxidative stress and reduce overall inflammation.
Fasting was a regular practice of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, not just during Ramadan. He would fast every Monday and Thursday and also on the 13th, 14th and 15th of each Islamic month, which is similar to the intermittent fasting practice.
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet ﷺ used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. It was said:
“O Messenger of Allah, why do you fast on Mondays and Thursdays?” He said: “On Mondays and Thursdays Allah forgives every Muslim except two who have forsaken one another. He says: ‘Leave these two until they reconcile.’” [Ibn Majah 1740]
It’s amazing to learnt that Islam has always been promoting good healthy habits, even long before scientific research made mentions of them. The best part? We can practice these healthy habits while reaping the rewards of following the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
Written by: Hessy Trishandiani