Rafed English

Eat to live not live to eat

It has been narrated that the Prophet (pbuh & his household) stated, “Son of Adam fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight, but if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.”(1)

In this saying the Prophet summarizes the ill effects of over eating, as Allah (swt) has created food, water, eating, and drinking for humans not to devote themselves to their desires and lust for food, but to gain energy and power to do their worldly and religious responsibilities. Unfortunately, many people forget the true wisdom of the creation of food and drinks which causes them to drown in gluttony and live the wicked lifestyle of "live to eat not eat to live". It is enough for Muslims to stay away from gluttony to follow the actions of their role model the Prophet (pbuh & his household) as Imam Al-Sadiq (a.s) stated, “There was nothing more loved by the Prophet of Allah than remaining hungry and fearful before Allah (swt).”
To make it clear why the Prophet loved to remain hungry, we should look at the negative effects of excessive eating and the positives of hunger. The harmful effects of over eating pervades our health and spiritual aspects, and these are some of the negative effects which are like a drop of water compared to a sea:
The Prophet (pbuh & his household) said, “I warn you of excessive eating, as it is harmful for the body, causes illness, and causes sluggishness towards worshiping.”(2)
Imam Ali (a.s) stated, “There is no intelligence with a full stomach.”(3)
He (a.s) also stated, “Excessive eating and sleeping cause the spirit to rot and bring illness.”(4)
On the other hand, we have sayings shedding the light on the positives of not filling our stomachs and being hungry.
The Prophet (pbuh & his household) said, “Strive against yourselves with hunger and thirst, as the reward (from Allah) for this is the same of those who strived in holy war, and there is nothing loved more by Allah than hunger and thirst.”(5)
He (pbuh & his household) also said, “The closest (spiritually) to Allah (swt) on the day of judgment are those of you who were the longest in hunger, thirst, and sadness (from the sins they committed).”(6)
It is vital to understand that remaining hungry does not mean taking it to the extreme, but to not eat unless you need to and to gain the energy that is needed to live out the day, and to stay away from over eating. There are many sayings which recommend specific foods for this reason, as they pick out the foods that are the best for energy and stamina.

1.     Al-Mahajjat Al-bayda' v.3 p.9
2.    Bihar Al-Anwar v.63 p338 (published by Ahya Al-Thurat) 
3.    Gurrar Al-Hikam p.770 no.95
4.    Gurrar Al-Hikam p.526 no.37
5.    Al-Mahajjat Al-bayda’ v.5 p.146
6.    Irshad Al-Quloob v.1 p.267


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