Monday, 8 June 2015

Imam al-Ghazālī on Protecting the Stomach

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
و صلى الله على سيدنا محمد و سلّم

منهاج العابدين الى جنة رب العالمين

Imam al-Ghazālī on Protecting the Stomach

Translated by Mahdi Lock[1]

Section Five: The Stomach and Its Protection

Then you must – and may Allah grant you success – protect your stomach and rectify it; it is indeed the most difficult of organs for the one who strives (mujtahid) to rectify. It is the most troublesome and the most distracting; it is the most harmful and has the most widespread effect. This is because it is the fountainhead and source; from it all the states of the other limbs come to be: strength and weakness, abstinence (ʿiffah) and willfulness (jimāḥ), and so forth.

Therefore, you must firstly safeguard it against the unlawful and the doubtful and secondly against going to excess with regards to the lawful, if your intention and desire is to worship Allah the Exalted.

As for the unlawful and the doubtful, you are obliged to look into them because of three matters:

The first is being wary of the Fire of Hell; Allah, Glorified and Exalted, has said, “Those who consume the property of orphans wrongfully consume nothing in their bellies except fire. They will roast in a Searing Blaze.” [An-Nisāʾ 4:10]

And the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {The Fire is more deserving of every piece of flesh that grows out of ill-gotten property.}[2]

The second is that the consumer of the unlawful and the doubtful is repelled and not granted the enabling success (tawfīq) to perform worship, and thus only those who are pure and purified are fit to serve Allah the Exalted.

I have said: has not Allah the Exalted prohibited those in a state of major impurity (junub) from entering His house[3] and the one in a state of minor impurity (mudith) from touching His Book? The Almighty has said, “…nor in a state of major impurity – unless you are travelling – until you have washed yourselves completely” [an-Nisāʾ 4:43] and the Exalted One has also said, “No one may touch it except the purified” [al-Wāqiʿah 56:79], and this is despite the fact that to be in either state of impurity is permissible, so what about someone who is immersed in the squalor of the unlawful and the filth of ill-gotten property and doubtful matters; when will he be summoned to the service of Allah the Almighty and His noble remembrance, Glorified is He? That will absolutely never happen.

Yayā ibn Muʿādh al-Rāzī, may Allah have mercy on him, said, ‘Obedience is stored in Allah’s storehouses; their key is supplication and the teeth of that key is the lawful. If the key doesn’t have any teeth, the door won’t be opened, and if the door to the storehouse can’t be opened, how will one arrive at the obedience that lies therein?!’

The third is that the one who consumes the unlawful and the doubtful is cut off from doing good, even if he is destined to do good…for it is rejected from him and not accepted from him. Therefore, he obtains nothing from it except toil and hardship, and the taking up of his time. He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {How many people stand in the night to pray and all they obtain from it is sleeplessness? How many people fast and all they obtain from it are hunger and thirst?}[4]
It is on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās, may Allah be pleased with both of them, that he said, ‘Allah does not accept the prayer of a person who has something unlawful inside of him.’ This is what this is.[5]
As for going to excess with the lawful, indeed it is the plague of the ordinary worshippers and the calamity of the people of ijtihād. I have reflected on the matter and I have found ten evils that are the foundations of this matter:

The firstPlenteous eating makes the heart hard and removes its light; it has been related from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, that he said, {Do not kill the heart with plenteous eating and drinking, for indeed the heart dies the same way crops do if too much water is poured on them.}

Some of the righteous have likened the stomach to a boiling cooking pot sitting under the heart, with steam rising up towards it; an abundance of steam will distress it and blacken it.

The secondPlenteous eating is a tribulation for the other limbs and organs, and it provokes them and stirs them up towards excess and corruption. Indeed, when a man is wantonly satiated, his eye desires to look at that which does not concern him, either something unlawful or to look at something excessively, the ear desires to listen to it, the tongue desires to articulate it, the private parts have desire for it and the foot walks towards it. If he’s hungry, all the limbs and organs are calm and still; they don’t crave anything nor are they enthusiastic about it. Al-Ustādh Abū Jaʿfar, may Allah have mercy on him, said, ‘Indeed the stomach is an organ; if it is hungry then all the other organs and limbs are satiated – i.e. they are still and don’t demand anything of you – and if it is satiated then all the other organs and limbs are hungry.’

In summary, a man’s actions and statements are according to his food and drink; if the unlawful goes in then the unlawful comes out and if excess goes in then excess comes out, as if food is the seed of actions, and actions are the plant that manifests out if it.

The thirdPlenteous eating decreases one’s understanding and knowledge, for indeed gluttony removes intelligence. Ad-Dāranī, may Allah have mercy on him, spoke the truth when he said, ‘Whenever you want something from this world or the Hereafter…don’t eat until you’ve finished it, for indeed eating changes the intellect.’[6]

The fourthPlenteous eating decreases one’s worship, because when a person eats a lot his body becomes heavy, he struggles to keep his eyes open and his limbs become languid. He does nothing – even if he diligently strives – but sleep like a discarded corpse. It has been said, ‘If you are paunchy, consider yourself chronically ill.’

And it has been mentioned regarding Yayā, peace be upon him, that Iblīs appeared before him and he had meat and grapes and the like hanging off him, so Yayā said to him, ‘What is this?’ He replied, ‘These are the desires with which I trap the children of Adam.’ He said, ‘Do you find anything for me in there?’ He replied, ‘No, except that you satiated yourself that one night and thus we made it too difficult for you to pray.’ Yayā, peace be upon him, then said, ‘I will certainly never satiate myself after that.’ Iblīs replied, ‘I will certainly never advise anyone after that.’

This is regarding someone who satiated himself one night in his life, so how about someone who never feels hungry for a single night in his life and then desires to engage in worship?

Sufyān, may Allah have mercy on him, said, ‘Worship is an occupation; its shops are seclusion and its tools are hunger.’

The fifthThrough plenteous eating, one loses the sweetness of worship. Abū Bakr as-Ṣiddīq, may Allah be pleased with him, said, ‘I haven’t satiated myself since I became Muslim; I find the sweetness of worshipping my Lord. And I haven’t quenched my thirst since I became Muslim, desiring to meet my Lord.’

These are the attributes of those who have had the veil lifted, and Abū Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, was someone who had the veil lifted, and the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, indicated this when he said, {Abū Bakr is not superior to you by virtue of a fast or a prayer. Rather, it is something that is established in his heart.}[7]

Ad-Dārinī said, ‘Worship is sweetest when my stomach is clinging to my back.’

The sixthThere is the danger of falling into the doubtful and the unlawful, because the lawful does not come to you except as nourishment, and we have related from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, that he said, {The lawful does not come to you except as nourishment, while the unlawful comes to you randomly and haphazardly.}

The seventhThe heart and the body are preoccupied by it. First, there is its acquisition. Secondly, its preparation. Thirdly, its consumption. Fourthly, one has to evacuate it and rid oneself of it. Fifthly, one has to become safe from it, because some harm from it may appear on the body, or rather harms and illnesses. He, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {The foundation of every disease is al-baradah – i.e. at-tukhmah[8]- and the foundation of every remedy is al-azmah}[9] i.e. hunger and diet (imyah).

It is on the authority of Mālik bin Dīnār that he would say, ‘You people; I have relieved myself so frequently that I feel shy before my Lord and my two angels. If only Allah had put my sustenance in some pebbles that I could suck on until I die.’

In summary, the seeking of this worldly life, the hoping for people and the wasting of time because of plenteous eating is not something hidden.

The eighthWhat one obtains from the affairs of the Hereafter and the severity of the pangs of death; it has been related in the reports (al-akhbār) that the severity of the pangs of death is according to the pleasures of one’s life, so whoever had more of the latter will get more of the former.

The ninth:  Less reward in the end; Allah the Exalted has said, “You dissipated the good things you had in your worldly life…” and the rest of the āyah.[10]

Thus, to the extent that you take from the pleasures of this life, your pleasures in the Hereafter will be decreased, and we can see this meaning when Allah the Exalted displayed this worldly life to our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said to him, {And I will not decrease anything from your Hereafter.}[11] He made this exclusively for him, which means that for those besides him there will be a decrease, except for those upon whom Allah bestows His favour.

It has been narrated that Khālid ibn al-Walīd hosted ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb and prepared some food for him. ʿUmar said, ‘This is for us, so what about the poor Emigrants who died and did not satiate themselves with barley bread?’ Khālid replied, ‘They have Paradise, o Commander of the Believers.’ ʿUmar then said, ‘If they have attained Paradise, and this is our portion of this worldly life, then they have clearly set themselves apart from us.’

It has also been narrated that ʿUmar, may Allah be pleased with him, felt thirsty one day, so he asked for some water. A man thus gave him a vessel of water in which some dates had been thrown in. When ʿUmar had brought it close to his mouth he found the water to be cold and sweet, so he refrained, and said, ‘Ah’. The man then said, ‘By Allah, I did not diminish it sweetness, o Commander of the Believers.’ ʿUmar, may Allah be pleased with him, replied, ‘That is what prevented me from drinking it. Woe to you! If it were not for the Hereafter, I would share with you in your way of living.’

The tenthConfinement and reckoning, and the blame and censure that occur when one leaves off etiquette by engaging in excess and following one’s desires; the lawful of this worldly life is a reckoning and its unlawful is a punishment, and its embellishment leads to destruction.

These are the ten, and just one of them would suffice for the one who looks at himself. So, mujtahid, you must be extremely cautious when it comes to nourishment so that you don’t fall into something unlawful or doubtful, thus making your punishment necessary. Then you must restrict yourself with regards to the lawful to that which enables you to worship Allah the Exalted, and then you won’t fall into some evil that will have you remain in confinement and reckoning, and with Allah the Glorified is every success.

[1] Translated from the Imam’s book Minhāj al-ʿĀbidīn ilā Jannat Rabb il-ʿĀlamīn (Jeddah: Dār al-Minhāj, 1432/2011), p.128-133
[2] Narrated by al-Ḥākim (4/127) and Ibn Ḥibbān (1723) on the authority of Jābir ibn ʿAbdillāh, may Allah be pleased with both of them, as well as at-Tirmidhī (614) on the authority of Kaʿb ibn ʿUjrah,  may Allah be pleased with him.
[3] (tn): i.e. the masjid
[4] Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah (1997), Ibn Ḥibbān (3481), al-Ḥākim (1/431) and an-Nasāʾī in al-Kubrā (3236) on the authority of Abū Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him.
[5] (tn): The Imam returns to this topic and goes into further detail in the pages that follow the coming discussion on going to excess with the lawful, and he also refers the reader to his book Kitāb al-alāl wa al-arām from his Iyāʾ ʿUlūm ad-Dīn.
[6] Narrated by Ibn ʿAsākir in Tārīkh Dimashq (34/154)
[7] Narrated by al-Ḥakīm at-Tirmidhī in Nawādir al-Uṣūl (1299) from the statement of Bakr ibn ʿAbdillāh al-Muzanī, may Allah the Exalted have mercy on him. One can also see Kashf al-Khafāʾ (2/190)
[8] (tn): i.e. indigestion, dyspepsia, illness from overeating (Hans Wehr)
[9] Imam Murtaḍā az-Zabīdī, may Allah have mercy on him, said in Ittiḥāf as-Sādat al-Muttaqīn [his commentary on Iyāʾ ʿUlūm ad-Dīn] (7:400), ‘This has been narrated by al-Khallāl from the adīth of ʿĀʾishah with the wording, {Al-Azm (hunger and diet) is medicine, and the stomach is the home of disease. Habituate a body to what it is accustomed.} As for the first part…it has been narrated by Ibn ʿAdī in al-Kāmil for Ḍuʿafāʾ ar-Rijāl (2/83) and (3/114).
[10] (tn): This is Sūrat al-Aḥqāf 46:20, the rest of which is: “…and enjoyed yourself in it. So today you are being repaid with the punishment of humiliation for being arrogant in the earth without any right and for being deviators.”
[11] The ḥadīth in which this worldly life was displayed to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has been narrated by al-Ḥākim (3/55) and ad-Dārimī in his Sunan (79) on the authority of ʿAbdullah ibn ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ, may Allah be pleased with both of them. As for the part that the author has mentioned, may Allah the Exalted have mercy on him, it’s meaning has been narrated by Abū Nuʿaym in al-Ḥilyah (2/136) mursalan [i.e. in the chain of transmission someone is missing after the level of Tābiʿ] from the statement of al-asan in his letter to ʿUmar ibn ʿAbdul ʿAzīz, may Allah the Exalted have mercy on both of them.

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