Muslims...Get in Shape!!!

By Mikail Adil




The GREATEST problem in the Muslim community...

                                                                           very hard to determine, and probably not even the subject of this article; the subject of this article is however as significant as it is overlooked; so much so that were it featured in the title, you might not have begun reading. However now that you have, please humour me by reading on.


This article discusses health and fitness; particularly the health of Muslims living in developed countries. Sure this issue has much competition to be elevated to the lofty ranks as even 'one of the Muslim community's greatest problems.' But let me make my case; kicking off with some facts from the Health Survey of England: 

  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups (who represent the majority of British Muslims) are more likely to report 'poor' health then average Britons.
  • Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are up to six times more likely to have diabetes then the general population.
  • South Asian communities do not eat enough fruit and vegetables.
  • Pakistani and Bangladeshis are up to twice as likely to smoke as other Britons.

It doesn't improve globally. The United Arab Emirates for instance. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than HALF of the kids there are obese. Dr Mariam Al Matroushi, (Director of Health Legislation and School Health Programmes) reported that 71 percent(!!!) of the Emirati adult population is obese, while according to WHO forecasts, the number of obese Emirati women is set to rise to 81 percent by 2015. I could go on. Suffice to say that it's a sad state of affairs when the significant portion of the Muslims who are 'on a diet' are doing so courtesy of the Israeli government.


This disregard for health which is prevalent in the Muslim community isn't just mildly disconcerting. It's an unmitigated disgrace; indicative of the depraved apathy that we have allowed ourselves to become afflicted with. What examples do our children have? Obese parents overwhelmingly statistically likely to have obese children. Hardly a revelation. What does poor health represent? Greed, indifference, ill discipline. What about the length and quality of life? The amount of good works which we can perform in a lifetime? What about the image for our community? Granted, self inflicted bad health is prevalent in the developed world such that Muslims hardly stand out as being especially bad culprits but imagine; just imagine if almost every Muslim was a bastion of health and fitness and longevity. What would that do for our community? How would people see us then?


Let's consider some stereotypes about Muslims...okay not those ones..but good ones. They do exist. Ask a few people about some good things they associate with Muslims and at some point you'll hear good manners, respect elders, polite, nice food perhaps. And some people do associate Islam with health, and rightfully so; because of the prohibition for Muslims to drink alcohol for instance.


But what would it say for our lifestyle and by implication our faith if we were all strong, fit, healthy and energetic? It doesn't take a professor of Psychology to deduce that good health and appearance makes people good ambassadors for their community; and more so if the faith of that community enjoins on its followers to be strong and healthy. What if people joked 'why do you eat so healthy? You Muslim or something? What's with the running? Didn't know you'd converted to Islam.' Suffice to say I can think of much worse caricatures.


One thing we excel at is proudly stating the Islam has something to say about just about everything. What we don't do enough of is demonstrating that Islam has something to say about everything. So from an Islamic point of view how would someone approach health and fitness? Let's look at some verses from the Qur'an and traditions from the Prophet Muhammad recorded in the Hadith which either directly or implicitly emphasise the importance of health:

  • "Take advantage of good health before illnesses afflict you" (Hadith)
  • "Ask God for forgiveness and health, for after being granted certainty, one is given nothing better than health" (Hadith)
  • ''No one will be allowed to move from his position on the Day of Judgement until he has been asked how he spent his life, how he used his knowledge, how he earnt and spent his money and in what pursuits he used his health" (Hadith)
  • "Eat of the good things which We have provided for you." (Qur'an 2:173) 
  • "Eat of what is lawful and wholesome on the earth." (Qur'an 2:168)
  • "And He enforced the balance. That you exceed not the bounds; but observe the balance strictly; and fall not short thereof." (Qur'an 55:7–9)
  • "Eat and drink, but avoid excess." (Qur'an 20:81)
  • "No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Adam needs no more than a few morsels of food to keep up his strength, doing so he should consider that a third of his stomach is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing" (Hadith)
  • The Prophet's wife Aisha said: "I raced with the Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) and beat him in the race. Later, when I had put on some weight, we raced again and he won. (Hadith)


It's also worth remembering that the Prophet Muhammad and his companions were exceptionally fit; going into battle with full armour when they were well into their forties and fifties and fighting under the merciless sun. How many middle aged Pakistani men with their pot bellies and twig arms could even run a few hundred metres let alone with over 30lbs of armour? Any? It saddens me that so many parents are so diffused and lacking energy that they have to say 'Papa tired. Abu has to have a nap' when they come back from work and their little kids want to play because they're so full of energy (for now). On a related note there's a great little talk here by a brilliant young spokesperson about laziness and how to conquer it. Check it out!


Okay. So I've ranted and raved about the state we're in. But what can we do about it? Work out and eat well. But you knew that already. We all do. Why aren't we doing it? Perhaps we haven't appreciated its importance, perhaps we think we're too busy with work, some of us feel we don't really know how to exercise, or we've tried but didn't see any difference so we stopped. I hope that I have helped remind everyone what we should already know. And perhaps, just perhaps some readers will think maybe it is worth having a look into, for their sake, for their family's sake and for the sake of their community.


I've given some guidelines here with some tips about how to get healthy and fit. I've devoted one section to diet, another to general exercise pointers and one aimed specifically at the ladies, not because ladies need to exercise differently. Generally speaking the rules are the same. But, and I'm sorry to say it but girls, a lot of you are ridden with loads of weird misconceptions about health and exercise such that it deserved an extra section. (Steady on...we ladies are not all that bad Laughing - Admin)


Dietary Guidelines


Generic Exercise Guidelines


For Ladies