“Your Body Has A Right Over You…”

Body has Right

Human beings are essentially made up of three basic parts: mind, soul and body. The human body not only comprises and connects the other two, it also depends on them. Taking care of the body would be incomplete without caring for the mind and the soul as well. Although the thought of caring for ourselves seems selfish in a way, it actually is not. Our own self is tied with many other lives. Allah (swt) created human beings in a way that makes it inevitable for them to be social. If you are sound and healthy, you will be able to look after your loved ones and society thereupon.

How do we know it is our religious duty to look after our body? Several references in the Quran and Ahadeeth either directly or indirectly point to this fact. The Prophet (sa) said: “Observe the fast sometimes and also leave (it) at other times. Stand up for prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, and your wife has a right over you.” (Bukhari)

Although this is related to excessive praying or fasting, it also holds well in every other aspect of life. “Your body has a right over you” speaks for itself. We already know that everything bestowed upon us is a favour of Allah (swt), and we, as trustees, will be held accountable for it. That’s the reason why we have to give the body its due rights. Being indifferent to these rights is, in essence, a sin. How can we carry out this duty?

As mentioned in the above narration, the Prophet (sa) had to direct the Sahabah not to exceed human limits in worship. It is human psychology that in order to correct our souls and also to be thankful to our Lord (swt), we tend to go for long and tiring acts of Ibadah. This is apparently a very commendable act, especially in this time of Fitnahs (trials), when a man’s strong contact with Allah (swt) is needed. The purity of intention of our Sahabah is admirable, too. However, the teachings of our Prophet (sa) show that Islam requires us to keep a healthy balance between body and soul. Islam’s beauty is in the consistency of acts, no matter how small they may be. We can discern what our practice should be in the worldly matters like our education, jobs, businesses and household chores, when our religion stresses so much on maintaining moderation in worship.

The importance of purity and cleanliness in Islam is evident. We cannot stand for our prayers, unless we have performed Ghusl or ablution. According to a well known Hadeeth, cleanliness is half of faith. A clean body ensures good health. The second revelation of the Quran comprised the first few Ayahs of Surah Al-Muddaththir: “O you (Muhammad (sa)) enveloped (in garments)! Arise and warn! And your Lord (Allah) magnify! And your garments purify! (74:1-4)

We can see that the Quran instructs Muslims to observe cleanliness. Personal hygiene includes clean teeth and use of good scents. Our Prophet Muhammad (sa) used Miswak for his teeth.

In our daily routine, we can observe that we often neglect our health in different ways. Most of us don’t follow a timetable. This eventually leads toward a stressful and unorganized lifestyle. Getting up and staying up late (especially on weekends), delayed or skipped meals, delayed prayers and mismanaged or undone chores are sure to affect our health adversely.

Similarly, most of our Pakistani cuisine includes a host of spices and reckless use of oils or ghee. The only result coming forth is more obese, less active bodies and disturbed stomachs. One of my friends suffers from stomach ulcer. The doctor recommends her simple food and no carbonated drinks. However, being a fan of spices, she would not give up on them and says: “When death is obvious, why not die after having my favourite things instead of abstaining from them?” Her theory is misleading, because such an attitude kills you numerous times before the ultimate death. Also, indulging into such injurious habits as smoking, addiction to prohibited things and preferring to go against a sincere physician’s advice can all be suicidal. The fact that committing suicide is Haram also reflects that our body and life is Allah’s (swt) trust.

Another important component of our being is our mind. We all know the impacts of our thoughts on our bodies and, hence, our performance. It is very crucial that we understand the importance of positive thinking. If we look closely at the Prophet’s (sa) model, we come to know how positive his thoughts were. He always relied upon Allah (swt) and had complete faith in good or bad fate. As Muslims, we should never lose hope, as it amounts to Kufr (disbelief). The Quran states: “So do not become weak (against your enemy), nor be sad, and you will be superior (in victory) if you are indeed (true) believers.” (Ale-Imran 3:139)

Our dear Prophet (sa) has said: “Nothing can change the Divine decree except Dua.” (Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah) If we turn to Allah (swt) in all afflictions, we are sure to get His blessings and success. We witness around us numerous examples of how positive thinking saves someone in an impossible looking situation, whereas negative thinking makes people dull and weak even in the healthiest environment.

The Prophet (sa) taught us many supplications for seeking protection for the body. This Dua should be recited thrice in the mornings and evenings: “O Allah, make me healthy in my body. O Allah, preserve for me my hearing. O Allah, preserve for me my sight. There is none worthy of worship but You.” (Abu Dawood)

Allah (swt) created man with utmost love. Our life is a precious gift. We have to realize its value and be obedient slaves of Allah (swt) Almighty. Allah (swt) tells us He created man in the best form:

“Allah, it is He Who has made for you the earth as a dwelling place and the sky as a canopy, and has given you shape and made your shapes good (looking) and has provided you with good things. That is Allah, your Lord, then blessed be Allah, the Lord of the Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).” (Ghafir 40:64)

Be thankful to Allah (swt) for His bounties by taking care of them, especially your bodies, so you may be rewarded!

The Veil

perlinshellEvery time I board an international flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, I see the very same spectacle that amazes me just about as much as it intrigues me. Muslim women, clad in the abaya taken as models of piety and chastity, continue to act as reminders of the fact that Allah (swt) loves the people of Haya. This display of piety with God is a familiar and bemusing sight for anyone travelling abroad from a heartland of Islam but it continues to disturb much of our modernized Muslims and the secular west. It begs much larger questions, such as, the role the state should play in enforcing and dictating religious law and whether ‘secularism’ championed by the West is really the best way to move forward in the modern world.

The need to spatially situate ourselves back in time before analyzing religious literature is necessary to be able to answer these questions. However, the modernists and reformists of today feel that the customs of the Hejaz of 600 CE are nothing comparable to anything in our present world. However, what they fail to realize is that although history does play a part in shaping any religion, the message of Allah (swt) is eternal and the teachings are to be followed by the entire humanity irrespective of time and place.

Arabia, before Islam, was going through what is generally agreed upon as Jahiliyah, a time of social and moral ignorance and despondence. Tribal customs prevailed and law of force was the primary law of the land. In a place where the strong dominated the weak, it should hardly be surprising that the societal setup was extremely patriarchal in nature and women were oppressed. Not only did women enjoy few or no basic rights such as those of inheritance and freedom, they could even be inherited from one generation to another, like any other commodity. Concubines, wife-lending and marriage by exchange, all practices prevalent at that time, point to the same fact that women clearly experienced a markedly inferior status in pre-Islamic Arabia. The contention here is not whether Islam came at a time when such order prevailed but rather that it was through the teachings of Islam that the society was reformed.

Many reformists feel that the problem for any male messiah or prophet born in such a society becomes easy to visualize. Despite any divine orders to ensure equality of rights between the two genders, the Prophet (sa) would constantly be surrounded by elements, his male companions, who would resist any move that would change this status quo but there is no evidence to support the claim. The Sahabah were the truest of Muslims and they totally submitted their lives for the sake of Islam. For them the message of Allah (swt) was final and they could not even think about deviating from the commandments of the Quran and Hadeeth. The effect of Muhammad’s revelations was gradual, as the society was slowly being prepared for the new teachings of Islam. Despite all the odds, the Arab society was completely revolutionalized in two to three decades.

No matter how much advancement we make in terms of science and technology, none of it excuses us from the teachings of Allah (swt). The teachings of Taqwa and Haya do not change across time

The Quran requires women to cover their entire bodies from head to toe in decent clothing.  The bosoms should be covered and the women should not show themselves off. In the modern world where people feel that there is a need for identification, I fail to see why we cannot have women in Hijab who perform all the core duties that they deem they are fit for. The Hijab is in no way a hindrance to their freedom; rather, it gives them a sense of security and dignity. However, reformists refuse to budge on the Hijab question, and demand for it to be removed from the teachings of Islam and merely be declared as optional. They use the classical line, “Islam is a personal affair between God and the believer, and nobody should have the right to enforce his or her own interpretations of religious literature upon anyone.” They feel that Hijab must remain an open and viable choice for anyone who wants to wear it. It would certainly be naïve to suggest that the stagnation of views on just the Hijab question stems in part from the sexist bigotry which seems to have permeated most Muslim societies and has become deep rooted in the vast majority of Islamic literature.

Having said all that, when I look at my surroundings and consider myself as an educated, young man belonging to a time where the youth has been caught up in the delusion of enlightened moderation and a reformed and liberal Islam, I feel proud to admit that I would like to marry a woman who not only is a practicing Muslim in terms of her actions but also in terms of her outer Sunnah i.e. wears Hijab and covers herself modestly. No matter how much advancement we make in terms of science and technology, none of it excuses us from the teachings of Allah (swt). The teachings of Taqwa and Haya do not change across time and there is no way of reforming the word of Allah (swt). Historians have known throughout time that whenever mankind has chosen to leave the word of God, they have shifted from being Ashraf al Makhlooqat to worse than animals. The choice for the Muslim woman of today might be: veil or no veil; but the Quranic stance on it remains the same. Thus what most of us might consider as conservative, is essentially not only protecting a women’s modesty, it is also a symbol of dignity and a notion of why we are the most superior form of creation. The implications of the teachings of Quran and Sunnah are beyond just the apparent aspects. They are the word of God and His Messenger (sa), and carry in them benefit for us that is beyond our intellectual capacity.