Chances are that every year as the New Year approaches we have made New Year’s resolutions – and often broken them. One of the most common resolutions is to become healthier and fitter. If you are one of the many who has made this resolution at the turn of the calendar, then this year it is time to make your healthy lifestyle ‘resolution’ count, this year, let's get Fit for Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala).
In this series, Zainab Ismail will address different health topics to help you stay on track and truly understand how Islam promotes a complete way of life, providing a foundation and framework for all its aspects. In a time when increasing emphasis is being placed upon healthy living, we should know how to maximize our benefits from these pursuits in accordance with Islamic values.
What does it mean to be fit for Allah and what does the Sunnah tell us about fitness?
Being fit is all about the right intention. It’s determining whether we want to change for the dunya and vanity or for the sake of Allah. When centered on the right intentions, fitness is not only physical but a combination of the mental, emotional and spiritual. If you are not ‘fitness training’ in all of these areas together, then other areas become jeopardized.
Instead of wanting to change our bodies for dunya and vanity, we need to ponder on what benefits a healthier lifestyle would have spiritually and physically for us. Take salah for example; a person who has discipline and focus with their body has greater discipline in being present in anything they do, so when it’s time to pray they are able to make a greater connection. Better cardiovascular health can give you energy when prostrating or for extra ibadah such as sunnah, nafl and tahajjud prayers. The healthier and fitter you are, the more energy you will have to perform your best in all areas of your life. Remember as you begin this journey that you may fall off the wagon at times but what’s most important is to continue striving and not return to complacency.
I highly recommend making a list of intentions for why you want to live a healthier life.
The Sunnah is endless when it comes to health and fitness and following this example not only gives you the proper intentions but also the key to the healthiest you. Think about the different hadiths regarding the activities the Prophet ﷺ partook in. For example, he ﷺ used to swim, horseback ride and do archery. There are many hadiths about him ﷺ wrestling with different companions and racing with his ﷺ wife A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her). There are different hadiths about the many health benefits of prophetic foods and how they were used in different medicines. Hadiths also touch on the etiquettes of eating, such as eating with your right hand while sitting down. Portion control is addressed as well in that our meals should be a one-third food, one-third water and one-third air. So as you can see this is a very comprehensive ‘guide’ to a healthier living style and basing your intentions around this allows you to also follow the Sunnah and attain a deeper connection with Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala).
Typical pitfalls you will encounter as you transition to establish a healthier lifestyle this New Year
1. Setting unrealistic goals
Like anything else and here in the West especially, people want instant gratification. People tend to be very seduced by quick fixes, crash diets, detoxes or what a friend did—all the things that ultimately do not teach the body how to adapt and adjust to a new lifestyle.
2. Being consistent
When I became Muslim I had to become very structured with what is commanded by Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala). Once I knew something was supposed to be done, I did it. A lot of people seem to have difficulty with that transition. For instance—as I learned I had to pray five times a day, I could not be lazy about that and I had to be proactive to learn what I needed to learn to be able to pray five times a day. It is the same challenge for someone who is now changing their lifestyle. Having to learn to do things that are not necessarily commanded for them is a challenge and thus people cannot remain consistent.
3. External Factors
When a person who is trying to change their lifestyle is not the person controlling the food they are consuming or environment they are in, it may not be conducive for this new lifestyle. Try your best to identify these external factors and a plan to overcome them. For example—if you are on the road a lot for work and eat fast food—plan your stops by doing research and determining healthier options in the area you will be in. This factor is one of the most common pitfalls most people I speak to have.
Words of inspiration to be Fit For Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala)
Don’t look at anything as impossible or unachievable. Always stay positive and constantly revisit your intentions. Really try to be well rounded, be easy on yourself and don't overpush yourself. Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) does not burden us with more than what we can bear. Rely on Him (subhanahu wa ta'ala) to reach your fitness and health goals and there isn’t anyone in this dunya that will be able to stop you. If you do all this from the deepest part of your heart, with sincerity and with Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) first, everything will fall into place.
By 20 Jan 2015,