Since food is the body’s basic fuel by which movement of the various limbs and all life functions of man are achieved, a little food us clearly necessary for the continuance of life. The Prophet ,may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “A human being does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. Enough for the son of Adam are a few morsels to keep his back straight. If it cannot be avoided, then a third for food, a third for drink, and a third for breath.” He also said, “We are a people who do not eat until we are hungry and when we do eat, do not eat our fill.”
This is the exemplary method which Islam has prescribed with admirable succinctness to obtain the best result: we should not eat until we are hungry and when we do eat, we should not eat our fill: a third for food, a third for drink, and a third for breath.
Why is Islam concerned with encouraging Muslims to eat only a little? The answer shows the greatness of Islam in fashioning the human mind and soul. More food entails an increase in the blood which flows through the body and this in turn, entails greater opportunities for Shaytan, allowing him to attack and move in his field of action, awakening the appetites from their dormant state and unleashing the desires of the lower self. This causes man to gravitate to the earth, indulging his lower appetites and nurturing his body with the material things of life. This deadens the intelligence and causes the spirit to sink to its lowest possibility. This is a clear state of loss.
That is why the natural Shari’ah prescribes curbing the appetite for food because it is the widest path to stimulating the desires of the sexual organs. That is why the Prophet [peace be upon him] instructed young men to fast when they are unable to marry. The description of the believer is linked to little food. Gluttony greed and large quantities of food are the attribute of the unbeliever as the Almighty says:
“Those who reject will have their enjoyment, eating as cattle eat, but the Fire will be their residence.” (47:12)
The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “A Muslim eats in one intestine and an unbeliever in seven intestines.” An-Nawawi explained this hadith by saying, by saying, “The seven attributes of the unbeliever are avarice, gluttony, excessive expectation, bad nature, envy and love of obesity.” Al Qurtubi said, “There are seven appetites for food: the appetite of nature, the appetite of the lower self, the appetite of the eye, the appetite of the mouth, the appetite of the ear , the appetite of the nose and the appetite of hunger. The last one is necessary by which the believer eats.”
Ibn at Tin said, “People are in three categories in respect of food. One group eats every kind of food, necessary and superfluous. This is the behaviour of the people of the Jahiliyyah. Another group eats what will allay hunger when they are hungry. Another group make themselves hungry, intending by that to curb the appetite of the self. When they eat, they eat enough to keep themselves alive.”
If you give your stomach everything it wants,
Your genitals will incur the utmost reprimand.
Listen, my Muslim brother, to the words of Allah Almighty:“You dissipated the good things you had in your worldly life and enjoyed yourself in it. Therefore today you are being paid with the punishment of humiliation.” (46:20)
This admonishes those who are engrossed in permitted good things, because whoever accustoms himself to that becomes predisposed to this world. He is not safe from being in thrall to his appetites and to sensual pleasures whenever he indulges in one of them, his lower self calls him to another. This continues until he cannot control the rebelliousness of his lower self at all and the door of worship becomes closed to him. He must not allow his lower self to become so accustomed to gluttony that it becomes difficult to correct it. The stomach is the root of all sickness.
That is why the guidance of the Prophet [peace be upon him] involved clear directions leading to balance in respect of food and urging restraint of that appetite which provides fuel for the more dangerous sexual appetite.
Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, related that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, One aspect of profligacy is eating everything you desire.”
‘Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her said, “One day the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, saw me eating twice. He said, ‘’Aisha, do you make filling your stomach your sole occupation? Eating twice a day is one aspect of profligacy, Allah does not love the profligate.’”
It is related that ‘Aisha said [May Allah be pleased with her] said, “The first disaster which occurred to this community after the Prophet died was satiety. When people fill their stomachs, their bodies become fat, their hearts weak and their appetites ingrained.”
It is related that ‘Atiyya ibn ‘Amir al Juhani said that he heard Salman say when he was forced to eat some food, “It is enough for me that the Messenger of Allah, May Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ’The people who fill themselves the most in this world will be the hungriest on the Day of Rising’”
It is related from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “On the Day of Rising, a huge tall man who ate and drank to excess will come and in Allah’s sight he will weigh no more that a gnat’s wing. If you wish, recite: ‘We will not give them any weight on the Day of Resurrection’ (18:105)
Ibn Bujayr, one of the Companions, said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, felt hungry one day. He took a stone and tied it against his stomach and then said, ‘Those who eat well and are comfortable in this world will be hungry and naked on the Day of Rising. Anyone who humbles his lower self is being generous to it.’”
Mu’adh ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, related that when the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sent him to Yemen, he said to him, “Beware of comfort. The slaves of Allah do not make themselves comfortable.”
It is related from Abu Umamah that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “There will be men of my community who consume diverse kinds of food and diverse kinds of drink, wear diverse kinds of clothing and speak in an affected way. They are the worst of my community.”
Ad Dahhak ibn Sufyan related that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to him, “Dahhak, what does your food consist of?” He said, “Meat and milk, Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Then what does it turn into?” He said, “You know what it turns into.” He said, “Allah Almighty has made what is excreted by the son of Adam a metaphor for this world.”
From these illuminating hadiths of the Prophet [peace be upon him] it should be clear to us that hunger is a river from which the angels drink and satiety is an ocean from which Shaytan drinks. Whoever guards his stomach also guards his genitals. There must first be control over the appetite of the stomach in order for there to be control over the sexual appetite. Base matter is the fuel of the Hellfire but the origin of the spirit is pure light. Islam is concerned firstly with the spirit and giving it its provision from the luminosity of the Quran and worship and righteous actions. In the case of the body, the commands of Islam make sure it is confined within the firm stockade of contentment, chastity, and purity. One righteousness man said, “Do not be led astray by the words of the Almighty, ‘Eat and drink.’ The outward meaning of the Ayat is honouring and giving enjoyment. But inwardly it is a test and trial so that He can see who is with Him and who is simply self-indulgent.”
Allah Almighty revealed to Dawud, peace be upon him: “I created the lower appetites for the weak of My creation. Beware of letting your heart become attached to any of your appetites. Anything you might suffer by heeding this warning is far easier than having the sweetness of My love stripped from your heart. O Dawud, cling to My words and take from yourself for yourself. Do not ignore them so that I veil My love from you. Deny your appetite for My sake. I allow appetites to the weak of My creation. I ask the strong to disparage their appetites. They diminish the sweetness of conversation with Me. I am not content with this world for those I love, and strip it from them. O Dawud, do not put between Me and you a drunken sage whose love will veil you from My love by his intoxication. Such people block the path for the weak among My slaves. Seek help in abandoning your appetites by devotion to fasting. O Dawud, you should prefer to oppose your lower self and deny it its appetites. If you do you will see the veils between Me and you uplifted.”
O Allah! Provide us with contentment and help us to fast and oppose our lower selves. Let us avoid gluttony, coarseness, and greediness! Make our food enough for us as you did for the Master of Creation and the Beloved of the Truth!
(Dealing with Lust and Greed according to Islam, Shaykh ‘Abd al Hamid Kishk)