“Everything good that happens to you (O Man) is from God, everything bad that happens to you is from your own actions”. (Koran 4:79)
Central to Islamic belief is that tampering with the natural order of things leads to unnatural outcomes. The famous Scottish Canadian pathologist William Boyd also defined disease as a natural state gone wrong. Indeed for religions historically so much in conflict, on issues of health and diet at least there is near unanimity between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the noted exception being intoxicants (alcohol, etc.,) which are strictly forbidden in the Koran for fear of loss of inhibition, aggression and lack of sexual restraint. Foremost among shared beliefs is that lack of spiritual stability is the root of most mental and physical problems. This central idea is mirrored in other world religions discussed in E section. Islam is unusual in that it goes a step further and attributes all poor health to lack of belief in “the one true god”.
The Koran was verbally revealed over 23 years between 610-632 AD and in some aspects of healthcare it anticipated advances in Western healthcare by nearly 1,300 years. For instance, there are three health aspects of Salat, the ritual of daily prayer. Wudu is the washing five times a day before prayer of all the exposed areas of the body, hand, feet, face, mouth, nostrils, as a health preventative measure. Brushing teeth (Miswak) and flossing (Khilal) is also advised before prayers. And for complete cleanliness bathing is advises, there was nothing comparable to this in Western hygiene until the hungarian obstetrician and “saviour of Mothers” ignaz semmelweis and British nurse “lady with the lamp” florence nightingale revolutionalised medical care in the mid 19th century.
Recitation of the Koran is the second aspect of salat. The letter Alif is said to resound “unto the echoes” to the heart and the letter ya unto the pineal gland in the brain. Since the 1960s meditative chanting has been increasingly accepted in Western medicine and culture as having a beneficial effect on the mind and body. The third part of salat are the movements in prayer. unlike Christianity Islamic prayer is not physically static. Muslims must pray five times a day and while the physical choreography is mild, rhythmic and uniform, it involves all muscles and joints. The caloric output is designed to energize as well as balance the body. Worldwide most enlightened governments today appeal to their citizens to do at least half an hour a day of mild aerobic exercise to maintain basic health. Moreover, the Koran advises Muslims to teach their children swimming, archery and horse riding. It is said Mohammed used to walk at a fast PACE, even race with his wife, Aisha. Most importantly, he used to work with his hands whether at home, in the kitchen, or with his companions collecting wood for fire, etc. Clearly his example does not suggest a sedentary lifestyle is acceptable or desirable.
Fasting (Sawm) is prescribed as a way of training the mind and body in self-restraint. The fast not only gives rest to the stomach, but also stabilizes...