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November 26, 2020

Be Healthy, Be Safe

As one of my colleagues says, what use is all the wealth if one is not well enough to enjoy it? Indeed, there is a saying that health is wealth.

Nowadays our government in the UK have also endorsed the importance of good health, and recommended the eating of five fruits a day, plenty of vegetables, lots of water, taking regular exercise even if this means walking every day; eating a balanced diet consisting of low sugar and fat, in other words a healthy lifestyle!

by Motiur Rahman

Sounds like the prayer of Adam alaihi wa sallam rabbana atina fi-ddunya (for those of you who are not familiar with the Qur’an and Arabic it means ‘O Lord gives us the good of this world and the next life) which I suppose is an universal human desire – to be fit and healthy and enjoy the life to the max. How the more important it is to pray the five salah, durud, tilawat, fasting and charity!

I can recall from al-Ghazali’s (rahmatullahi alaihi) Ihya Uloom-id-Deen that once a man complained to a Sheikh that he was poor and needy. So the Sheikh asked him if he would rather lose the function of an eye so a certain sum of money to which replied in the negative. Then he further asked if he exchange one of his limbs for a large sum of money to which he refused. It was concluded from this conversation that being in good health meant that he was wealthy and for this he ought to be grateful to God.

The world and its habitat is material without a doubt, I do not think anyone will disagree with me on this, (apart from the idealistic philosophers who think the world is a mental construct and does not exist for real, even then, from the experiential point of view it is real because of our subjective experience of the world,) nonetheless we cannot fully experience it without good physical health and the proper functioning of our bodily organs. For example, if the eyes cannot perceive a given colour then although the colour is in existence we would never know about this, or a fragrance might exist that the human nose cannot sense. This is demonstrated by the ability of dogs that can sniff out the scent of humans or drugs which we cannot do. Another example is the sonar pitches picked up by other animals that human cannot. These examples would have been harder to convince for earlier nations but now we are in a better position in our present scientific environment to understand these facts.

Another point to be noted is that when our bodily members are not functioning properly i.e. when we are ill sweet things taste bitter, in cold weather we feel hot and vice versa; there might not be enough strength to move around or pick up objects, our behaviour might be affected or changed – in other words the world becomes different for us as our experiences testify to them. The hadith of the Rasul sallallahu alaihi wa sallam that the judge should not make judgements while angry can be extended to other things as well, e.g. the effects of medication, illnesses, tiredness, partiality, biases, and even the need to go to the toilet and so on!

The wise among the different nations quite independently over the period of human history have explained that the mind or the soul is a tabla rasa, that is, an empty slate without marks, and through our experiences that we encounter in the world we build up a view of the world and find meaning to life, belief and values. It is stated in the Qur’an that those who are blind in this world will be blind in the Hereafter too. Some commentators have explained this as meaning that those who do not perceive the spiritual truths in this life would also not perceive the spiritual truths (therefore the benefits) in the next life. Also, in the hadith it is mentioned that the world the marketplace or the sowing fields of the akhirah.

Therefore, it is abundantly clear that good health and wellbeing is a necessary requirement for the success of the next life. In Islam it is unanimously agreed that Muslims cannot take any substance that alters one’s mental states e.g. drugs or alcohol, for they affect our sensory perceptions and emotional judgements unless this is for a greater good, that is, medicinal purposes as cures for destructive ailments. And in all societies people have generally agreed on these principles.

We do not need to preach the importance of good physical health to people, although we may need to encourage people to make the effort and adopt a healthy lifestyle, however when it comes emotional health (I am using the word emotional because of the principle that only talk to the people in the language they understand, in the past this would be usually referred to by the terminology ‘spiritual’, while the word ‘mental’ is pregnant with negative connotation) it becomes a taboo subject – no one wants to know about it!

Nothing will avail except for those with a sound heart. Bearing in the mind the hadith that one will be raised on the Day of Judgment in the same state one died in. To clarify the matter, the Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam said that if two men were fighting and one managed to kill the other then both of them will go to hell. When the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) asked why should both be sent to hell when only one was the killer, he (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) replied they both had the intention of killing each other. The popular saying no rest for the wicked seems to be applicable in this life and the next. For those who want to achieve peace in the next life should strive to achieve peace in this life.

Islam is peace. It literally means peace. Human beings have one universal aim and that is happiness. And what does happiness consist of? For the eyes it is to see beautiful objects, for the nose it is to smell pleasant fragrances, for the ears it is to listen to beautiful sounds and so on and so on. These physical happiness we share in common with all the animals of the higher order in animal kingdom. For humans our happiness lies in things beyond these otherwise we would have been content with this much and so civilization, art, culture, customs, science would not have arisen. For us, there are the higher values of the heart; such as love, beauty, perfection, purity, justice, humility and patience. When our immediate physical needs conflict with our higher human needs then we fall into an unhappy state. These needs are real and they both need to be satiated in an orderly and moderate manner; in societies all over the world and times we see this being met through the convention of the family. Families are cornerstone of societies; through them arise convention, custom and culture. And these convention and culture are necessary modes of human expressions. The need to belong, the need to possess wealth, the need to dispense justice, show mercy, love and be loved belongs to the higher human faculties. And these are what makes the higher faculties (the mind or the heart, what ever you prefer to call it) happy. To neglect these over a prolonged period of time is a cause for unhappiness. In the short run being greedy, selfish, arrogant, proud, haughty, and malicious and the like may be desired by one who is immature – this is in line with other species of higher animals – but once he comes of age his happiness lies in purity, humility, patience and justice – giving him peace of mind or a sound heart.

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