God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم used to alternate between the different kinds of foods available in the area, and he did not fix his diet on any particular kind of food for any prolonged period of time. In fact, adopting a diet of one kind of food is certainly harmful to one’s digestive system. Such diet will weaken the body and can affect the stomach’s ability to absorb other kinds of food after eating a monotonous diet for an extended period. This is even true if one depends regularly on any specific kind of food, and even if it were exceptionally rich in particular nutrients.
God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم adhered to the staple diet of his surrounding community, including meat, fruits, bread, and dates, besides other supplements mentioned in this book. If a particular food was too pungent and required blanding, he usually added a second ingredient to accomplish the needed balance, such as watermelon to balance the heat of dates, and if he could not find it, or if hunger drove him to eat the one kind of food available, he usually limited his intake of food, and avoided excess. On the other hand, if he felt aversion (cibophobia) towards a particular food, or if he did not desire it, he usually declined to eat it, and he never accepted food that was forced on him. In fact, eating undesired or disagreeable food can cause queasiness, and its harm then becomes greater than its benefit. On this subject, Anas narrated that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم never criticized any food. If he liked it, he ate it, otherwise, he would not touch it. Once someone offered him a dish containing the meat of a broiled lizard, but he did not touch it. When asked whether it was unlawful, he replied: “It is not unlawful, but I am not used to eating it in my homeland, so I felt some aversion to it.” He thus gave consideration to his habits and staple food. Since Arabs did not eat lizards, he neither desired it nor forbade eating it.
God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم ate meat, and he particularly liked lamb chuck and leg. This is the part with which the Jewish woman tried to pison him at Khybar*. In another tradition, it is also narrated in the two collections of correct prophetic traditions (sahïh) that Dhabã’a, daughter of al-Zubair, once slaughtered a goat, and God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم sent her a message: “Feed us some of your goat.” She replied to his bearer: “Only the neck is left, and I shy to send it to God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم.” He replied: “Go back and tell her to send it, for the neck steers the goat, and the anterior is better than the posterior.”
In fact, animals’ neck, chuck, shoulder, and front legs have less fat, and are lighter and easier for the stomach to digest. Hence, we recognize from this prophetic guidance that good food must contain three essential components: (1) nutritional benefits and efficiency in producing needed energy; (2) lightness for the stomach; and (3) ease of digestion. However, as a general rule, eating less meat of this category is healthier than eating excess meat from any other part of the animal. God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم also liked halva** and honey. These three kinds of food, i.e., meat, honey, and dates, contain the best of nutrients and most strengthening for one’s body, and only a sufferer from other body ailments may feel some aversion to them. God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم regularly ate bread with his food, and sopped his bread with whatever was available (ïdãm)*** such as dates, melon, etcetera, though he preferred to sop it in meat sauce or in broth****.
Such are some of the practical measures God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم used to balance his food, for barley bread is cold and dry, while dates are hot and moist. Sometimes he would dip his bread in a prepared mixture of vinegar and seasoning (khall), as it used to be the custom of the dwellers of Medina. God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم ate whatever was available without giving particular preference to one kind of food over another. One time, he came home and asked his family for some food, and they presented him with bread. He asked: “Do you have anything to eat with it?” They replied: “Only vinegar.” God’s Messengercheerfully replied: “Blessed is such seasoning (ïdãm).” Some people without understanding the wisdom of this tradition do regularly eat bread sopped in vinegar. In his case, God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم blessed and ate what was put before him, and in no way made eating bread and vinegar a traditional way of eating, as some people do up to this day. The point here is in regularly eating bread with one’s meal for a better upkeep of his health.
God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم also ate the fresh seasonal fruit of the land. Fresh fruits are one of the best sources of nutrients and they eliminate the need for several kinds of medicines. Rarely did God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم refuse the fresh fruit of a land, except if they were contaminated. Fresh fruits also carry the moisture and heat of the land and the natural temperature of the season, while the body temperature helps their coction and the elimination of ejecta. This is unless one overindulge in them, thus overburdening his digestive organs, or if he spoil the digestive process by drinking water immediately after eating fruit, or eating a meal after eating fruit, or by merely eating anything else before a complete digestion. Such practice often causes colic infections (Arb. qaulanj). Hence, moderately eating fresh fruit in season is healthy, otherwise, it may cause an illness.
*Cf. Treatment of Food Poisoning.
**Halva: (Arb. Halwa) Sweets. Prepared from dates and butter and is mixed with honey. Halva can also be made from sesame butter mixed with honey and nuts.
***Ïdãm: Arb. n. Shortening; condiment; vt. To enrich.
****Cf. Dietary Planning.