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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES01

9811-HEALTHY LIFE-STYLE: AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE

Prof Omar H Kasule, Sr 10th November 1998

PERSONAL FAILURE AND LIFE-STYLE

Definition of personal failure: Personal failure can manifest in many ways. Persons may become addicted to bad habits and sins. They become socially incompetent or lazy about their basic responsibilities in the family and society. This failure is a cause of sadness and distress to the individual concerned, the family, and the whole society.

 

Causes of personal failure: Forgetting Allah and neglecting His commands is the start of failure. There are some cases of failure that can not be attributed to any fault of the person but to unfortunate circumstances. Allah usually helps such people when they turn to Him and ask for help.

 

Personal failure is adopting a failing lifestyle. This section describes the general principles and concepts of lifestyle. Islam defines what is haram leaving the rest halal. Humans are free to enjoy good life. Balance and equilibrium are needed. An Islamic life-style is not monolithic. There are general principles but the practical manifestations obey spatio-temporal circumstances. An Islamic life-style can not exist in isolation. Ability to deal with non-Islamic aspects is a necessity. Imperfections are human and have to be dealt with.

 

Attempt to impose a global lifestyle: There is an attempt to impose a global lifestyle that is European or American in essence. An attempt is made make food, entertainment and music uniform and according to the Euro-american paradigm.  The mass media, political, and economic tools are used in this process. The attempt to impose a global culture is not matched by an attempt to impose the same global standard of material comfort. There is an inherent injustice in the world system today. A few people in the industrialized countries consume a disproportionate ratio of the world’s resources and they impose debts on the poorer countries while exploiting their natural resources. Changing the lifestyle through imposing a global lifestyle leads to cultural domination. Cultural domination precedes and facilitates later economic and political domination.

 

Modernization: Modernization has been confused with civilization. Whatever is new on the horizon is touted as being modern to the detriment of cultures and religions that have kept human society happy for a long time. In the recent quarter of a century matters have become much worse. Modern is no longer defined as what is new but as what is ‘Euro-American’. The economic system is the most powerful agent of modernization. Economic manipulation impacts on culture and family life.

 

Assimilation: People without a strong cultural identity have developed an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the Euro-American culture and are trying to assimilate into it. Many people assimilate into the dominant culture for various reasons: physical security, emotional security, and economic opportunity. Being assimilated does not assure acceptance you may still be discriminated. People who fail to be assimilated become marginalized.

 

Urbanization: Big urban areas have many social problems that are difficult to solve. They are often centers of corruption because social controls are not possible in the anonymous atmosphere of the large city. The best set-up are small self-contained towns where almost everybody knows everybody else. People should not go out of their community to search for work. It is better to change the style of building to enable people to live as extended families but with enough privacy to assure independence in many matters and prevent oppression.

 

Animalisation: There is a tendency to reduce the human to the level of animals by arguing that the human is only matter with no spirit or higher attributes than those of animals. The human, therefore can give full expression to the drives of passion and self-gratification found in animals. It is this type of thinking that leads to a hedonistic life-style. In this lifestyle the wrong concept of freedom is propagated as doing what you want and what your base instincts push  you to do. True freedom is actually being free from being controlled by the animal emotions and passions that a human has. These base human attributes have to be controlled by a higher scale of moral and ethical values.

 

 

17.1.2 ENTERTAINMENT(tarfiih): MUSIC (ghina), THE ARTS (suwar), AND SPORTS (riyadhat)

 

Sound a gift from Allah: Allah gave humans and animals the ability to produce sound and thus be able to communicate. He also gave them the gift of hearing the sound. They hear sounds made by living and non-living things.

 

Purpose of sound: The main purpose of sound from a human point of view is communication. Even sounds from non-living things help in communication for example thunder warns of a rain storm and the crackling of flames can warm about a fire hazard.

 

Beautiful sounds: It is Allah’s gift that He made beautiful sounds in nature that please and soothe eg running water, the rustling of leaves, the winds. Many animals produce beautiful sounds that please the human ear like the singing of birds. The beautiful sounds are used in worship. Birds sang with Daud in worship. The Qur’an is read in beautiful rythmic tones (tajwid al Qur’an)

 

Good uses of sound: Music is an organized and rythmic use of sound both human and instruments. Music like any other human activity can have good and bad aspects. Good music will promote moral and beneficial behavior. It will draw people closer to Allah and make them better practising Muslims or better human beings. It will also encourage and inspire them to work to achieve noble goals. Military music for example is good because it instills courage and bravery in the fighters. Music that accompanies heavy work is inspiring and can make the workers more productive. Children songs that instill good values are good music. Rhymes that adults learn in order to remember important facts is good music. Tunes that soothe an exhausted person are good and useful.

 

Bad uses of sound: It is unfortunate that most popular music today promotes negative values. It is erotically stimulating. Its words convey sexual messages. The music does not convey any positive values and is a time-waster. It encourages mixed dancing and male-female mixing which lead to sexual promiscuity. The leading musicians are people whose behavior is the worst example to give to the youths.

 

The Prophet defined the permitted and forbidden types of music (KS 526). He gave permission to listen to the duff, a type of drum (KS527). He also defined prohibited musical instruments (KS 526). In general music is discouraged. Teaching music to servants and employing singers was forbidden (KS 526). The Prophet said that shaitan blows into the wind-pipe (mankhar) of a singer (KS 526). The Prophet used to put his fingers in his ears on hearing music (KS 526). Those who sing or cause others to sing may be committing sins (KS 526).

 

Art as self-expression: Art is like language. It is a highly esthetic form of human self-expression. It is also a form of human communication and entertainment. Through art we can communicate information, values, and feelings. Art is therefore a tool. As a tool it can be put to good use or to bad use. It is therefore futile to discuss whether art is good or bad. Art is innately good. It is the way it is used and the purposes for which it is used that can make it good or bad.

 

Types of art: The word art has a wide usage. This session discusses only fine and visual arts. Pictures, moving or still, as well as sculptures may depict inanimate things. There is no controversy about any form of art depicting abstract or inanimate things. Muslims developed abstract art to a high degree of perfection in the form of calligraphy. Fear of worshipping idols limits the depiction of living things in art.

 

There was a general discouragement of making pictures at the time of the prophet, the main reason being that people in their ignorance would worship them. This situation is true today in many parts of the world where people still worship pictures of holy persons or gods that they themselves make. The prophet cursed those who make such pictures (KS 323). He explained that those who make such pictures are sinners (KS 323) and will be punished in the hereafter (KS 323). He forbade the selling of pictures (KS323). The prophet forbade wearing clothes with pictures of animate things (KS324). He explained that angels do not enter homes that have such pictures (KS324). He destroyed all pictures and removed clothes with pictures from the apartments of his wives (KS324). The prophet did also allow a wide range of pictures for which there was no fear of being worshipped such as pictures of inanimate things (KS323). He also allowed some pictires on pillows (KS 324).

 

Sports and release of aggression: participant vs spectator: Islam encourages physical sports for the purposes of building the body’s strength to stay healthy and be able to undertake obligatory duties that range from prayer to jihad; for example archery was encouraged by the prophet (KS 172). From this point of view participation in sports is what is preferred. Just being a spectator although entertains but is less favored. Competitive sports is encouraged if it is associated with more people participating in the quest for victory. If it is done for any other purpose the it is frowned upon.

 

Sports and addiction: Two problems arise: excess and commercialization. When sports becomes the only pre-occupation of an individual to the exclusion of many other beneficial activities, it has become harmful. Many youths who are fans of various clubs and players fall into this trap. What is needed is for the individual to participate in sports for his or her bodily benefit.

 

Commercialization of sports: Sometimes sports becomes big business. The commercialization of sports undermines the very Islamic essence of participative sports. Islam wants people to be participators and not spectators.

 

Sports and gambling: Gambling is an addiction that is difficult to get out of. It is related to many other evils such as alcohol, drugs, and  crime. It is a type of personal failure. The victim loses control over his actions and his own behavior and usually ends up failing socially. Maysar and qimar are types of gambling forbidden by the Prophet (KS 96). Shatranj is considered undesirable, makrooh (KS 292).

 

17.1.3 THE ESSENTIALS OF LIFE: FOOD AND SHELTER

 

Biological functions of food: Food is defined as any product which when taken will give the body energy, help it to grow, or maintain it in the best health. Carbohydrates and fats provide energy. Proteins help the body grow. Vitamins and minerals maintain the body a healthy condition. Food is essential for life. Good food is associated with health. Little or bad food are associated with bad health and disease.

 

Social functions of food: Meals with other people help initiate or increase social intercourse. Family unity is sometimes cemented by family meals. Meals together are also a form of entertainment. Eating in a group is therefore encouraged (KS 343).

 

Over-nutrition: The malnutrition of rich societies is having too much to eat. As happens with any excess, certain foods are harmful to health if taken in excess. Over-nutrition is a problem of the rich who eat more than the body needs of certain foods. Heart disease and some cancers are due to the extravagant diet. The believer unlike the non-believer eats and drinks little (KS 345). Those who overeat on this earth will be hungry in the hereafter (KS 345). Eating whatever you desire is considered a type of waste, israaf  (KS 345).

 

Under-nutrition: Poor societies have malnutrition due to inadequate intake of nutritious foods with resultant impairment of health. Under-nutrition may be absolute lack of enough food or not taking enough of essential nutrients.

 

Islam encourages feeding others (KS 344). The food of 2 can be enough for a third person who happens to join the group (KS 344) and who should therefore not be turned away. Whoever has extra food should give it to the more needy (KS 344).

 

Addiction: Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are consumed by many people but are not food. They change or impair the mind which is the distinguishing feature of humans. With an impaired mind and loss of control a human becomes an animal. Any thing that causes clouding of the mind is called khamr (KS 219). Khamr is the key to all evils (KS 217) and leads to many evils (KS 218). The alcohol addict is like a worshipper of idols (KS 218). It is not a cure but is a disease (KS 218). A person drinking alcohol is not a believer at the time that he is drinking it (KS 218). Wide-spread drinking alcohol is an indicator of the coming of the last day (KS 219). Any form of trade in alcohol is forbidden (KS 219).

 

Food security: The Qur’an teaches that Allah provides for all living things (razzaaq). There is enough food in the world to feed everybody well. The problem is poor distribution; some places have too much whereas others have almost nothing. In many cases of starvation, there are man-made conditions like war, political instability, or inefficiency that are responsible and not absolute lack of food. The importance of food security was underlined in surat Quraish.

 

Halal and haram: Some types of foods are forbidden by Islam. Most of these are injurious to good health. The general approach is to define what is forbidden leaving all the rest halal. Local customs may forbid eating some foods. This should be accepted a local custom and not an Islamic injunction. The halal is clear and the haram is clear but in-between are doubtful things, shubuhaat (KS201). The person should avoid what is doubtful and stick with what is not doubtful (KS201).

 

Functions of the house: The house has several functions: protection from the weather, security from aggression, privacy, and child-rearing. It is also used for social interaction and entertainment.

 

Housing and life-style: The type of architecture used affects the behavior of people living in the house. Some houses have a private area for family members and a more open area for other members of the community. Some provide for separation between unrelated men and women. Some encourage ibadat by providing special places for it. In general a simple house is preferred (KS 122).

 

17.1.4 CLOTHES AND COSMESIS

Functions of clothes: Clothes fulfill the following functions: protection of the body from elements of the weather, protection of modesty and nakedness, enhancing physical appearance, identification and social intercourse.

 

Clothes and worship: Some acts of worship require special clothing. Awrat must be covered in salat even if a person is praying alone in a closed room. Men wear special clothing in hajj. The awrat must be covered all the time (KS405) outside salat.

 

Concept of awrat: Humans unlike animals must cover their nakedness for several reasons: respect for human dignity, avoid sexual stimulation. The shariat enjoins covering the awrat but gives a wide latitude on how that can be done. The awrat of a man is different from that of a woman. In front of small children the extent of coverage may be less than when one is with adults. Women may expose more of their awrat to fellow women. Awrat inside the family house when surrounded by close relatives is different from that when outside meeting unrelated members of the public. The rules of coverage of awrat may be modified for some types of occupations like physicians, nurses, divers, and soldiers.

 

Problems of dress fashions: Clothes can be misused in many  ways. Some people dress for arrogance. Some dress in a sexually provocative way. Some do not cover their nakedness either out of deliberate design or due to poverty and lack of means to dress properly.

 

Significance of hijab: Hijab has great social, religious and political significance. A woman who refuses to display her beauty is making a statement that she wants to be looked at and treated as a person with intelligence and competence to contribute to society and not a body to be admired. Hijab is also a political statement by a Muslim woman that she is asserting the cultural identity of Islam and refusing to ride the bad-wagon of a Euro-American culture that is being imposed on the world. Hijab also has economic implications. A woman who covers her awrat and does not display her beauty except inside her house is likely to spend less money on beauty products and fashionable clothing that are today a multi-billion dollar business.

 

The law has several regulations about dress. Rough clothes especially for men are encouraged (KS 463). Women especially should dress in such a way that they maintain their respect, khishmat (KS467). Dressing for arrogance like dragging garments (KS 465) is forbidden. It is also forbidden to dress for fame (KS 467)

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule November 1998