Keeping fit and healthy as advised by Islam
Part 2: Exercise regularly
By: Shaik Kadir
Islam asks Muslims to eat the right food and eat it moderately as well as to do exercises to stay healthy.
In today’s situation, eating right and moderately is not enough. We need also to exercise to keep fit and stay healthy. Exercise ought to be an integral part of our Islamic lifestyle.
These days, we see many of our Muslim brothers and sisters sittings on chairs for prayers often because of knee and leg problems. Are these ailments something to do with not exercising?
Exercise has numerous benefits. It increases muscle tone, offers flexibility, enhances endurance, strengthens the heart and fights depression. Other benefits include reduction of weight and fat and improvement of bone density and mental health.
In fact, for Muslims to fulfill the obligations of three of the five Pillars of Islam, namely, the solat, fasting and the Haj, all these require good health and fitness to perform.
If we are weak or have body ailments, we may not be able to perform our solat in the proper way but to sit on a chair. The Ramadan fasting requires good health to be able to refrain from eating and drinking for about 14 hours a day every day for a month. Good health and fitness is certainly necessary when one undertakes the Haj or Umrah as the pilgrim has to have physical strength for the many rites that need to be performed over several days, including tawaf and sa’i.
Although there is no direct instruction from the Quran or Hadith for Muslims to indulge in a regime of physical exercises, the Quran informs us numerous times to use our observation and reason in finding solutions to problems.
But we do have some indirect information on the importance of physical activities to keep the body moving. For example, even our prayers are not done keeping still. There are movements – standing, bowing, kneeling, prostrating, sitting and raising hands.
If we observe nature, we see birds don’t keep still. Even trees move – their branches and leaves stir, wave and bend in the breeze, wind, rain and storm.
We know Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was a very busy man throughout his life. Apart from his apostolic mission and performing the solat, he collected wood for fire. He cleaned his house and did other household chores. He used to walk at a fast pace.
The Hadith also informs us that our Prophet had advised Muslims of those days to teach their children archery and horse riding among other physical activities.
However, in this modern age, we have become too sedentary. We sit in the car or bus to travel for work and back. We sit to use the computer. We sit to watch television. We even lie down to use communication gadgets like hand-phones and ipads.
We need to move our bodies more vigorously. People during our Prophet’s time ate simple food without much fat and oil but today we eat rich and varied food. So, even working all day and walking at fast pace is insufficient. We need proper and regular exercises as advised by medical professionals.
Exercise experts advise us to engage ourselves in an exercise programme and exercise at least two or three times a week, each time for not less than 30 minutes. To get engaged in an exercise programme, we can use our free neighbourhood facilities, while observing our Islamic principles, hijab for instance, for any or all of the following:
- Jogging and brisk walking along the pedestrian paths and at the sports stadiums.
- Physical exercises, using the various exercise equipment provided at the neighbourhood exercise areas.
- Breathing and stretching exercises through tai-chi, qiqong and yoga conducted free of charge in the neighbourhood open areas and at sports stadiums as long as these do not go against Islamic principles.
Islam encourages us to make efforts to keep our body and the mind active and strong. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that a strong believer is better than a weak one. This advice not only refers to our faith and character but also indicates that physical strength is important. “Man can have nothing but what he strives for.” (53:39) No effort, not gain: So, we have to put effort in order to gain fitness and good health.
Our body is a gift from God. We are its trustees. Therefore, we ought to keep it healthy and in order to be able to perform our worldly and spiritual responsibilities effectively and efficiently.
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