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You Are What You Eat

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

Let me tell you a secret.

What you put in your body, impacts your performance.

For the most part, you and I track along on the same page but every once in a while, I may slip by you. Recently someone asked me, what in the world I’ve been talking about over the past couple of posts.

In case you haven’t figure it out, I’m addressing your performance. The reason that this topic is of paramount importance is because our performance is the basis of what we will experience. Our performance is currently being tested and we will be judged accordingly.

Who has created death and life that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the Almighty, the Oft-Forgiving (al-Mulk 67:2)

The nature of our performance also impacts our quality of life now and in the hereafter.

Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer - We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do. [al-Naḥl 16:97]

Allāh mentions the nature of not only good deeds and their positive impact on our lives, but also mentions evil deeds and their negative consequences.

“My servants! These are your deeds which I am gathering for you by which I will reward you. Whoever find good, is to praise Allāh. Whoever finds something else is to blame none but themselves.” [Muslim]

And whatever strikes you of disaster - it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much. [al-Shura 42:30]

If you are dissatisfied with something in your life or happening around the world, this is the starting point to address the problem.

While there may be dozens of other topics to address, much more sensational than this, I prefer to address the cure over continuously slapping Band-Aids everywhere hoping it will all work itself out.

What we need to do is improve our performance when it comes to good deeds. Top performance however, requires us to be in top condition.

I want to draw your attention to a very important factor which directly affects performance. Allah says,

O (you) Messengers! Eat of the tayyibat [all kinds of halal (legal) foods], and perform righteous deeds. Indeed, I, of what you do, am Knowing. [al-Mu’minun 23:51]

Ibn Kathir expounds upon this verse saying, "Allah commands His servants and Messengers, peace be upon them all, to eat lawful food and do righteous deeds, which indicates that eating what is lawful helps one to do righteous deeds."

If you eat good, you do good. If you eat bad, you tend to do bad. Essential, you are what you eat.

"You are what you eat", is a phrase that nutritionists have been repeating since the 1920’s. The idea that consumption has a direct impact on output is a concept that dates back much further. In fact, it is embedded in our tradition.

The beginner student of ḥadīth studies can attest to this fact. In the 40 ḥadīth of Imam Nawawi, ḥadīth number 10 states,

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Allah the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good. And verily Allah has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. So the Almighty has said: “O (you) Messengers! Eat of the tayyibat [all kinds of halal (legal) foods], and perform righteous deeds.” [23:51] and the Almighty has said: “O you who believe! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you.” [2:172]” Then he ﷺ mentioned [the case] of a man who, having journeyed far, is disheveled and dusty, and who spreads out his hands to the sky saying “O Lord! O Lord!,” while his food is haram (unlawful), his drink is haram, his clothing is haram, and he has been nourished with haram, so how can [his supplication] be answered? [Muslim]

The great companion Ibn Abbas further stated that, "Allah does not accept the prayer of one who is filled with the impermissible." The intent of such hadith being negation of the reward associated with prayer. So not only does the body take a beating but the spirit as well.

So, you are what you eat spiritually. By limiting your consumption to what is permissible, you will secure the hard-earned reward of your performance. If you widen your diet to include the impermissible, you will spoil the reward of your deeds.

What we eat also impact our performance in a very physical way.

It was reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Man does not fill a container worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for him to eat what will support his back. If this is not possible, then a third for food, a third for drink, and third for his breath." [al-Tirmidhi]

Ibn Jawzi, a great Muslim polymath, expounded upon the evil nature of becoming full saying that, “It causes the body to be flabby and lazy. It causes sleepiness and dullness. It clouds the mind to the point that it will impede the ability to think clearly and remember. Gluttony does away with acumen. It is the cause of horrid disease.

Moderation is to stop eating just before you have satisfied your desire, rather you should stop while you still desire to eat, the last stage of which is as the prophet mentioned ‘a third for food, a third for drink, and third to breathe.’

Eating moderately is healthy for the body, prevents illness, reduces sleep, and reduces rations.”

These symptoms are not new, in fact medical professionals have been warning us for years that overeating and eating the wrong foods is dangerous.

People who are obese (obesity is a term that means you weigh at least 20% more than what is considered a normal weight for your height), compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following:

All-causes of death (mortality), High blood pressure (Hypertension), High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia), Type 2 diabetes, Coronary heart disease, Stroke, Gallbladder disease, Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint), Sleep apnea and breathing problems, Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver), Low quality of life, Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, body pain and difficulty with physical functioning.

The food we enjoy and are blessed to have should be treated like fuel for the body. If it is abused it can have a negative impact not only on our health but also our performance.

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