Islam on Health & Nutrition

Although Islam followed many years after the Palaeolithic era, the advances in farming and agriculture were not as advanced and process-driven as they are today. Firstly, processed foods didn’t exist and secondly, farming practices and animal welfare were far more gut- and animal friendly than they are today. Below, I have compiled some resources regarding health and nutrition and Islam to give you a broader understanding of how Paleo, i.e. eating natural, unprocessed, uncontaminated foods is largely in line with Islam’s approach to proper nutrition.

The Quran and the Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet ‎ﷺ) both espouse the importance of valuing one’s health and the importance of good nutrition. Islam’s holistic approach to health includes treating our bodies with respect and nourishing them with wholesome, lawful, nutritious food. A major part of living life according to our Creator’s instructions is implementing a suitable diet.

“Eat of the good things which We have provided for you.” – Quran, 2:172

Allah touches on two extremely important points in the Quran when it comes to food consumption: quantity and quality.

As to food quantity, He states:

“Eat and drink, but be not excessive.” – Quran, 7:31

As to food quality, He states:

“O people of faith, eat from the pure provisions we have given you.” – Quran, 5:88

These are two of the golden rules of food consumption.

In relation to food, whenever the Qur’an mentions the word halal, which indicates what is permissible, it mentions tayyib, which means pure, immediately after it. What is meant by permissible and pure is that the food is not simply good to eat but it is a morally sound food, its source was ethically sound. It also has the meaning in the Arabic language of “lawful”, “pure,” “esteemed.”

Until recently, the majority of food was pure at its most primary level by nature because there was very little that people could do to food to contaminate it. With the resources available today, people change the chemical structures of food, and the study of Dietary Science is a burgeoning field of increasingly serious implications concerning the health of our planet.

Furthermore, the Prophet ‎ﷺ advised against overeating:

Miqdam ibn Ma’d reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah ‎ﷺ say:

There is no vessel which the son of Adam can fill that is more evil than his stomach, for it is enough for him to take a few bites in order to straighten his back. Yet if he is overcome by appetite, then he may fill it with a third of food, a third of drink, and a third of breath.

– Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 3349

The Quran contains many verses of advice about healthy eating that relate to the interconnectedness of physical and spiritual health.  Encouragement to eat only good and pure food is often combined with warnings to remember Allah and avoid Shaitaan. Healthy eating not only satisfies hunger but also has an effect on how well we worship.

“O Mankind, eat from whatever is on Earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” – Quran, 2:168

If one becomes obsessed with food or indulges in too much unwholesome or junk food he or she may become physically weak or distracted from his primary purpose of serving Allah.  On the other hand, if one concentrated exclusively on spiritual endeavours and neglected their health and nutrition, weakness injury or illness would also result in failure to carry out obligatory worship.  The guidance found in the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad ‎ﷺ advise humankind to maintain a balance between these two extremes.

A healthy diet is balanced with a mixture of all the foods Allah has provided for His creation.  The variety satisfies all the body’s needs for carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, proteins, fats and amino acids.  Numerous verses of Quran mention the foods Allah has provided for us to nourish and maintain our bodies.  It is not an exhaustive list of dietary requirements but rather a general idea of the types of food that maintain a healthy body and prevent illness:

“He created cattle that give you warmth, benefits and food to eat.” – Quran, l6:5

“It is He who subdued the seas, from which you eat fresh fish.” – Quran, 16:l4

“It is He who sends down water from the sky with which He brings up corn, olives, dates and grapes and other fruit.” – Quran, 16:11

“In cattle too you have a worthy lesson.  We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, between the undigested food and blood: pure milk, a pleasant beverage for those who drink it.” – Quran, l6:66

“There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people.  Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought. .” – Quran, 16:69

“And it is He Who produces gardens trellised and untrellised, and date palms, and crops of different shape and taste (its fruits and its seeds) and olives, and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in taste).  Eat of their fruit when they ripen…” – Quran, 6:141

“…and from it (the earth) we produced grain for their sustenance.” – Quran, 36:33

Allah has also provided us with a list of foods that are forbidden and apart from these everything else is considered lawful:

“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead animals – cattle-beast not slaughtered, blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than God…”  – Quran, 5:3  “…and intoxicants.” – Quran 5:91-92

The Sunnah (traditions of Prophet Muhammad ‎ﷺ) praises moderation as a way of maintaining good health, as we have detailed in The Prophetic Diet section, and the Quran stresses the need to strike a balance between any extremes.

True believers need healthy bodies and minds in order to worship Allah in the correct way.  To maintain a sound mind, a pure heart and a healthy body, special attention must be paid to health.  The heart and the mind are nourished by remembrance of Allah, and worship performed in a lawful way, and the body is nourished by partaking of the good and lawful food Allah has provided.  Attention to diet and nutrition is a part of the holistic health system inherent in Islam.

As always, we welcome any feedback, comments or questions you may have below.

[Sources for this post: Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, BeHalal.org; Aisha Stacey, IslamReligion.com; Moutasem Atiya & Hasan Awan, M.D., AlMadinaInstitute.org]

4 thoughts on “Islam on Health & Nutrition

  1. Thanks so much for the post! It’s really great to see all food related verses together as direct guidance for the correct combination of foods we should be eating and not be eating. Unfortunately though, due to modern era, there is an extensive list of the things we ‘shouldn’t’ be eating e.g refined sugars, hydrogenated oils and processed grains that the Quran doesn’t mention so we think it is okay…yet they are leading to major health problems in our time. Of course processed foods weren’t even part of the diet back in the prophet’s time, that’s why palaeolithic life is the way to go.

    1. All credit belongs to the people listed in the References section. We just compiled various posts we found on this subject, around the Internet. We are in the process of moving the site to another provider, after which we can include a share link/ you will be able to copy and paste the link to the page to others.

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