Top health and fitness tips from Prophet Muhammad

by Ustaz Muhammad Fakhrur Radzi Mohd Noor 2020-11-01 • 20 min read
Ustaz Fakhrur graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Syariah Law from Al-Azhar University, Cairo. He has lost a whopping 40 kg in a few years, inspiring many people with his sheer determination and perseverance.
2020-11-01 • 20 min read

Food, fitness and faith

About two years ago, I was 40kg heavier. This not only affected my health in its physical sense but holistically, my emotion, mental and spiritual health was not at its optimal level either. Definitely, each of these different aspects of health would affect one another.

Our most beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. took care of his health in its entirety. It is impossible to cover each various aspect of health in-depth in this short writing. Listed here are some brief recommendations to develop and improve our health holistically based on relevant studies and researches relatable to the guidance provided by our religion and Rasulullah s.a.w. You may wish to also click on the embedded links throughout this article to read up on the references provided.

These are the four aspects of health that will be covered. You will also find its brief summary at the end:
1.    Developing a Healthier Mind
2.    Developing a Healthier Emotion
3.    Developing a Healthier Body
4.    Developing a Healthier Soul

1) Developing a Healthier Mind

In a recent study by Institute of Mental Health (IMH), 1 in 7 people in Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. Chances are, you may personally or know someone who is experiencing this. Hence, we must not take this issue lightly. 

Protecting the wellbeing of our mind is part of the main objectives of our religion. Keeping our mind healthy includes practices and acts of continuous growth such as learning and reading. In fact, the very first verse of the Quran revealed to Rasulullah s.a.w. is an instruction to read.

اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ

Read in the name of your Lord Who created.”

(Surah Al-‘Alaq, 96:1)

But taking care of the mind goes beyond just reading and learning. Looking back at the life of Rasulullah s.a.w, he ensured his mental well being even before prophethood. He used to seclude himself alone in the Cave of Hira’, meditating, thinking, contemplating, reviewing, seeking tranquillity and solace, and avoiding the distractions of his time. 

Today, distractions can unknowingly be too overwhelming for some. In the book ‘5AM Club’, the author discusses the idea of tranquillity, being a new luxury today, which is often much more attainable very early in the morning while most people are still asleep. As we know, this is also the time when Rasulullah s.a.w. would perform his night-vigil (Tahajjud) prayers, focusing his mind only towards his Creator. We can strive to do the same.

To slightly go deeper into this, did you manage to listen to the podcast by our Sohibus Samaha Mufti on the significance of silence? I find it extremely relevant and insightful. Mufti briefly shared several stories of the prophet’s companions and some hadiths regarding silence. Among them, Rasulullah s.a.w. mentioned:

وَمَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللهِ وَاليَومِ الآخِرِ ، فَلْيَقُلْ خَيْراً أَوْ لِيَصْمُتْ

and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, must speak good or remain silent

(Sahih Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Interestingly, according to Pew Research Center, meditation practice, where silence is its essence, is now common across many religious groups in the United States. Additionally, their National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that American’s use of meditation in the past 12 months has tripled between 2012 and 2017. There are many other studies on the benefits of meditation or mindfulness worth exploring. As Muslims, we should at least start practising our own version of meditation, being khusyu’ or focused in our five daily prayers, as shown by Rasulullah s.a.w. It should provide us similar if not better benefits. 

Mindfulness includes taking a break when necessary, using the proper method of deep breathing, relaxation and others. To find out more, numerous resources by SG United and the Health Promotion Board that can be very handy. Let’s maximize these resources together. And if you need to reach out for professional help, consider Club Heal or other helplines listed by our Gov.sg website.

2) Developing a Healthier Emotion

You cannot control your natural emotions but you can consciously shape and choose how you want to feel. When your loved one has passed on, or you lose your job or have to go through a painful divorce experience, naturally emotions like disappointment, sadness or regret will develop. 

How do we deal with these emotions? 

One way is to intentionally acknowledge it. Example: “These are negative emotions I am having right now due to these specific circumstances that I am currently going through. This is understandable. This will soon pass; I will now strive and choose to be and feel more positive.” 

On many occasions, Rasulullah s.a.w. showed us how he mindfully and consciously dealt with undesirable situations. Remember the time when he s.a.w. was mocked, ridiculed and chased away at Taif? Or when he was badly hurt in the battle of Uhud? Or when he lost his son Ibrahim at a very young age?

At moments like these, many of us would easily react to the overwhelming emotions that come with it. But Rasulullah s.a.w. always chose to remain calm, lean on Allah s.w.t. and make positive supplications and actions in return. Train yourself to choose how best to respond purposefully; it will take time and practice but it will be worthwhile.

Similarly, taking care of our relationship will also contribute to a more positive emotion. In the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies on happiness, close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keeps people happy throughout their lives. Similar teachings were highlighted by the prophet s.a.w. over a thousand years ago:

مَنْ سَرَّهُ أَنْ يُبْسَطَ لَهُ فِي رِزْقِهِ، وَأَنْ يُنْسَأَ لَهُ فِي أَثَرِهِ، فَلْيَصِلْ رَحِمَهُ

"Whoever desires an expansion in his sustenance and age should keep good relations with his kin."

(Sahih Bukhari)

Another way to develop a healthier emotion is practising daily gratitude as emphasised in our religion. Express appreciation for others even for their slightest assistance. Every day, find something to be thankful for. If that is not easy, try to think of the past week or even year. Focus on the feeling that you have experienced such as the joy or connections with someone you truly love, a goal that you have accomplished, positive traits that you managed to portray or a beautiful place you visited. It can be anything. 

There should really be plenty to be grateful for as Allah s.w.t. mentioned the in Quran:

وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا

And if you would count the graces of Allah, never could you be able to count them.”

(Surah An-Nahl, 16:18)

Also, embrace the Prophet s.a.w’s teachings to surround yourself with good positive people much more than those who may be toxic. Your close peers will affect you. This applies both physically and especially so on your social media. Protect your emotions - you can mute or unfollow accounts to improve your mental and emotional health. 

Rasulullah s.a.w. reminded us:

مَثَلُ الْجَلِيسِ الصَّالِحِ وَالْجَلِيسِ السَّوْءِ كَمَثَلِ صَاحِبِ الْمِسْكِ، وَكِيرِ الْحَدَّادِ، لاَ يَعْدَمُكَ مِنْ صَاحِبِ الْمِسْكِ إِمَّا تَشْتَرِيهِ، أَوْ تَجِدُ رِيحَهُ، وَكِيرُ الْحَدَّادِ يُحْرِقُ بَدَنَكَ أَوْ ثَوْبَكَ أَوْ تَجِدُ مِنْهُ رِيحًا خَبِيثَةً

"The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith's bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof.”

(Sahih Bukhari)

3) Developing a Healthier Body

I personally felt that improving my physical health helped me to enhance other areas of my well-being in my life. Alhamdulillah achieving a weight loss of 40kg and getting rid of obesity provided me with much more energy, confidence and many other positive outcomes. Hence, it allows me to develop other better habits and improve my mind, emotion and spiritual health overall.

Our body belongs to Allah s.w.t. It is one of His finest creations and it is our duty to take good care it:

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ

We have certainly created man in the best of stature

(Surah At-Tin, 95:4)

On top of this, there are various teachings of Rasulullah s.a.w. that emphasises the importance of taking care of our body and health:

اَلْمُؤْمِنُ اَلْقَوِيُّ خَيْرٌ وَأَحَبُّ إِلَى اَللَّهِ مِنْ اَلْمُؤْمِنِ اَلضَّعِيفِ

A believer who is strong (and healthy) is better and dearer to Allah than the weak believer.

(Sahih Muslim)

نِعْمَتَانِ مَغْبُونٌ فِيهِمَا كَثِيرٌ مِنَ النَّاسِ، الصِّحَّةُ وَالْفَرَاغُ

There are two blessings in which many people incur loss: health and free time.”
(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Exercising to stay healthy is part of our religion. Rasulullah s.a.w. led a very active lifestyle every day -  interacting with people, delivering God’s messages and dealing with his community’s issues as a respectful leader. It is recorded in the book Ash-Shama'il Al-Muhammadiyah by Imam At-Tirmizi that the noble features of the Prophet s.a.w. indicate that his physique was excellent:

سَوَاءُ الْبَطْنِ وَالصَّدْرِ، عَرِيضُ الصَّدْر

His chest and stomach were in line, but his chest was broad and wide.

Health experts like the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommend 10,000 daily steps and 150 minutes of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA). 

Rasulullah s.a.w. eats healthily in moderation and usually shares his food with others. He does not overeat or consume huge portions of food:

مَا مَلأَ آدَمِيٌّ وِعَاءً شَرًّا مِنْ بَطْنٍ حَسْبُ الآدَمِيِّ لُقَيْمَاتٌ يُقِمْنَ صُلْبَهُ فَإِنْ غَلَبَتِ الآدَمِيَّ نَفْسُهُ فَثُلُثٌ لِلطَّعَامِ وَثُلُثٌ لِلشَّرَابِ وَثُلُثٌ لِلنَّفَسِ

A human does not fill a vessel that is more harmful 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

(Sunan Ibn Majah)

مَا شَبِعَ آلُ مُحَمَّدٍ صلى الله عليه وسلم مِنْ طَعَامٍ ثَلاَثَةَ أَيَّامٍ حَتَّى قُبِضَ

The family of Muhammad did not eat their fill for three successive days till he died.”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

طَعَامُ الْوَاحِدِ يَكْفِي الاِثْنَيْنِ وَطَعَامُ الاِثْنَيْنِ يَكْفِي الأَرْبَعَةَ

Food for one suffices two and food for two suffices for four.”

(Sahih Muslim)

Additionally, Allah s.w.t. commands us in the Quran to eat lawful and good food (حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا) in at least four different verses. It is important that you know what you are putting into your mouth, and that can only be achieved if you have a good understanding of basic nutrition. We should consciously consume food for the good nutrition it provides instead of merely for the taste. 

Be extremely cautious of foods with excessive sugar or those that are ultra-processed with chemicals that we are unfamiliar with. Always read product labels before making any purchases. Read up how these ingredients will affect us not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

In Singapore, over 400,000 residents who are 18 years and above had diabetes in 2014, and if nothing is done, the number is estimated to grow to 1,000,000 in 2050. Thankfully, Alhamdulillah as a nation, we have launched a war on diabetes campaign. For anyone diagnosed with diabetes or obesity, there is a useful comprehensive pocket guide compiled by the Health Promotion Board to be utilised.

Try to practise other sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w. like taking power naps (qoilulah) or fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and other sunnah fasts, as these will contribute to our good health in general. Read up on intermittent fasting. Diligently protect your physical health. Lastly, do not forget to have a good restful sleep. Otherwise, it will not be easy for us to attain optimum health.

Read these duas before sleeping.

4) Developing Healthier Soul

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.”

(Surah Adh-Dhariyat, 51:56)

Ultimately, we are here in this world to strive to always improve our connection with our Creator. This is clearly evident in the daily lives of Rasulullah s.a.w. from his worship and total reliance on God to the way he dealt with the people around Him. Everything was for the Almighty. In return, Allah s.w.t. always showered him with love, care and protection for him s.a.w. 

We too should strive the same. Obey Allah s.w.t.’s commands and avoid His prohibitions. Deepen our relationship with the One by continuously communicating and seeking His guidance. There is a list of daily dua or supplications for you to practise made easily available and accessible at Muslim.Sg website and app. Hopefully, we too will always be loved, cared and protected by Him.

Upgrading our religious understanding too would be critical in order to improve our spiritual connection with Him. We should continuously attend religious classes offered by mosques, the Adult Islamic Learning (ADIL) programme or by any other registered Islamic Education Centres and Providers (IECPs)

Check out these free online Islamic classes.

Not forgetting our children too. The aLIVE programmes are available for them to start building up their religious foundation and knowledge.

إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً

"I (God) will create a vicegerent on Earth."

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:30)

Finally, this verse reminds us that it is embedded deep in our soul as vicegerents of Earth, to want to serve for the goodness of the world and humanity. Ask yourself how would you want to grow and how would you want to serve and help others during this short span of life?

Not only contributing to Muslims in need but also the whole humanity at large. By answering these two questions and to diligently act upon it afterwards, surely it will make our life to be more fulfilled and purposeful. Because we are following the footsteps of Rasulullah s.a.w., and he was sent as a blessing not only for Muslims but a blessing for all. Sollu ála nabi!

In summary (TL;DR), these are some of the practices that you can develop to get healthier:

  1. Mind: continuous growth, learning and reading, avoid distractions to attain tranquillity, practice deep breathing, khusyu’ and mindfulness, reach out if you require professional help, etc.
  2. Emotion: consciously train yourself to choose positivity, take care of your relationships, practice daily gratitude, express appreciation, surround yourself with positive people, etc.
  3. Body: exercise and workout, know what you eat, understand basic nutrition, avoid excessive sugar and ultra-processed food, have a good sleep and rest, practice power naps and regular fasting, etc.
  4. Soul: deepen your connection with the Almighty, obey His commands, perform night prayers, daily supplications, continuously attend credible Islamic Education programmes, serve others, etc.

I hope this is beneficial for you! Feel free to connect with me on my Instagram account @mfrbmn or my Facebook page Md Fakhrur Radzi Md Noor.

Enjoy your journey to get healthier, holistically! :)

Wallahu’alam. Wassalam.

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