God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم usually woke up at dawn upon hearing the cockcrowing of the rooster. He then praised God Almighty, glorified Him, and exclaimed His holy Name. He then called for His help and mercy. God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم then would leave his bed and brush his teeth with a Miswãk, take his ablution and stand up for prayers, praising God’s work, imploring Him, seeking His help, and fearing His punishment. Hence, what better medicine can one find to preserve a healthy heart, body, soul, and strength in this world and in the hereafter?
Physical Fitness and Activities
As for God’s Messenger’s tradition regarding physical exercises or sports, a keen observer of his daily routine will recognize the best of guidance in this field. In this section, God willing, we will discuss some of the benefits of such necessary activities, for his traditions abound with the subtlety, superiority and finesse, only the life of such an exalted and most perfect of human beings can demonstrate.
The human body requires food and drink, however, not all such matters are digestible, and they do not all become part of the human body. Instead, precipitates of unconverted nutrients may settle as sediments, and since the body cannot dispose of them naturally, with time, their accumulation can cause various illnesses. Initially, such cumulations may manifest as localized congestions before they affect the blood and are transported through the blood stream to accessible parts of the body. Though initially one’s condition may manifest in the form of bowel problems, with time, any greater buildup of such sediments becomes more dangerous and manifests as localized illnesses that may spread in the body at a later stage. Hence comes the importance of studying the pathology of a disease and the history of its development.
Initially, and due to acknowledging physical malaise and bowel problems, if one accustoms himself to strong purgatives, this may cause grater complications. In fact, most of such drugs are toxic and can interfere with, and eliminate both the good and the bad. Addiction to such drugs can further complicate one’s condition because they are hot and interactive, and they can weaken body’s natural defense system, create irregular heartbeat, affect the kidney, and develop various disorders and deficiencies. Hence, appropriate regular physical exercise is necessary to refresh the organs, ease the flow of flood and nutrients, enhance digestion, and prevent such accumulations.
Furthermore, natural and methodical control of movements and muscular actions lightens the spirit, refreshes the mind, rejuvenates bodily organs, improve one’s health, strengthens muscular tonicity, prevents callousness of the joints, strengthens the tendons and ligaments, lessens the possibility of somatic indispositions, and abates most humoral illnesses. This also depends on the level of physical exercises, their balance, moderation, or intensity. The duration and time of such routines also plays an important role in determining their benefits, and all such factors can be of great benefit when combined with other facets of maintaining good health and the epitome of preventive medicine contained in this book. In fact, adhering to the minimum necessary measures and guidelines in this physical fitness program is a must. Such routines must not be carried out on a full stomach, and the food must be completely digested first. This basic level of mild routines is one which refreshes the body, renews its energies, bring a glow to one’s face, and quickens the vitality and liveness, while strenuous routines that generate excess sweat are considered immoderate.
In general, routines dedicated to any particular limb strengthen it just like dedicating one’s thoughts to a particular subject strengthen one’s memory. Hence, each part of the body requires specific routines. The lungs require reading exercises, and their levels begin from reading silently and advance gradually in intensity and loudness. Hearing exercises require careful responsive attention by stimulating the auditory nerves in the ears, and it develops to the point where sound either increases in volume or decreases by distance or by the intensity of its wavelength. Speaking exercises helps oral command; and besides helping recognition by physical and mental vision, eye exercises enhance one’s vision, strengthen the ocular muscles, and in some cases can help correct nearsightedness and farsightedness. In contrast, to hiking, normal walking exercises at a moderate pace, riding on a horseback, archery, and distance running, besides similar sports, are most healthy for the entire body. Adopting such programs of physical exercises even can cure chronic illnesses such as anemia, infectious diseases, ulcer, and colic, among others.
As for the psychoethical exercises (Arb. riyãdatu-n nufüs), they constitute the training of the mind, enriching the intellect, balancing the conduct, raising the level of ethical standards, and embracing moral excellence, besides other regimes in specific personal fields. These are taught at an early stage of one’s life, and include exercises for patience, contentment, gratitude, cheerfulness, joy, love, sharing, courage, benefaction, recognition of good deeds, forbearance, and courtesy, etc. Thus, with perseverance and consistency, and with gradual upgrading of such tutelage, one can become physically, morally, and spiritually strong, and such ethical exercises will manifest and add new strengths. Such are some of the healthy muscles of one’s spirit and soul ,and God willing, they will help in one’s spiritual rising to higher realms, and in the receiving of the divine forgiveness and blessings. Overactivity even in this field, and lacking the proper supervision and devotion of a concerned and learned parent, or the dedication of a qualified teacher also may lay a heavy burden on the person’s intellect, where impasse may be detrimental to one’s spiritual growth, and only a qualified guidance can break through such impasse. Such training must keep advancing until it develops real character, positive traits, and blessed faculties and talents.
When the reader contemplates the aforementioned exercises, which are demonstrated in the personal example and pursuit of God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم, God willing, he will recognize the excellence, uniqueness, and integrity of such virtuous exercises in health preservation, in preventing common diseases, and in benefiting one’s livelihood and interests in this world and in the hereafter. Furthermore, the reader will surely recognize the benefits of performing the daily five-times prayer (salät), and its role in the preservation of a healthy faith, certitude, and determination. The prayers of the second half of the night known as tahajjud also provide immense health benefits and refresh one’s mind, body, heart, and soul, as they ensure one’s continuing happiness in this world, and his infinite joy in the hereafter.
It is reported in the two collections of prophetic traditions* that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “When you go to bed, Satan comes from behind and ties three knots over your vertex. Over each knot he recites an evil spell, saying: ‘Sleep a long and slumberous night!’ When you wake up, if you commence by invoking God’s Name, the first knot will breakup; if you leave your bed to take an ablution, the second knot will breakup; and when you stand up in prayers, the third knot will breakup. Upon breaking up Satan’s spell, one will feel energetic and in good spirits, otherwise, he will feel exhaustion and malice.”
In fact, all the religious functions of prayers, fasting, and pilgrimage among others, share complete physical, ethical, and spiritual benefits, and together they constitute the bare minimum exercises needed for the preservation of one’s health and fitness. They also include common sports, daily functions such as visiting the sick, serving one’s community, walking in a funeral procession, walking to the mosque, bathing, hiking, equitation, and joining study circles among others. In essence, when any of such exercises is dedicated to God’s pleasure, it conquers evil and brings benefits in this world and in the hereafter. Such are the basic benefits one can realize in pursuing the traditions of God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم, imbibing his qualities, and by understanding that his example is the best for one’s guidance and success.
*Bukhäri and Muslim.