In Islamic teachings, regardless of Fiqh or school of thought, we learn that our body is a gift or trust from Allah, which we must take care of. Islam takes a very holistic approach towards health, and it is believed that the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of an individual collectively, makes a healthy person. If any one of these three parts is unhealthy then the individual suffers. For example, if a person is physically unwell then their emotional state may also be affected as well as their spiritual health. Often when we are sick, we can get upset or emotional and this may in turn affect our spirituality. You can become complacent with prayers or disturb your outlook on life.
The Quran and Hadith contain ample guidance, which helps to promote good health.
“O mankind! There has come to you good advice from your Lord and a healing for that which is in your hearts.” Quran 10:57
“We send down the Quran as a healing and mercy for the believers, but it only increases the wrongdoers in loss.” Quran 17:82
The Islamic faith puts a significant emphasis on eating pure foods. “Believers! Eat of the pure things wherewith We have provided you for sustenance and give thanks to Allah if it is Him that you serve.” Quran 2:172
Islam highlights the importance of a healthy, balanced diet. A well-balanced diet comprises of protein (meats, poultry, and lentils), carbohydrates (wheat, rice, vegetables), healthy fats (olive oil, cheese, nuts, and seeds), vitamins (vegetables, seeds), minerals and fibre (fruits and vegetables). This is by no means an exhaustive list but just a few examples of which foods could provide the necessary nutrients.
“A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third of drink and one third for air.”
This can be seen from the guidance in the Quran and from the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ (pbuh). Numerous verses in the Quran mention the foods that have been made permissible to nourish and sustain the human body. Guidance on what to eat and drink is often followed by warnings of avoiding excess. It is now a well-known scientific and medical fact that overeating leads to tiredness, laziness and eventually weight gain which can cause the development of many different illnesses. Conditions like Diabetes and heart disease are often a direct result of an unhealthy lifestyle. Certain types of cancer are also directly related to what we eat or drink. An example of this is liver cancer, which, is often a direct result of a prolonged period of consuming alcohol in excess.
Maintaining a balanced diet of permissible foods and drink, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy attitude towards life is encouraged in Islam. This will not only help to keep you healthy in yourself but will also help to maintain your spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
“Every soul will taste death. And we test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.” Quran 21:35
In Islam we believe that Allah (SWT) continuously afflicts the believer with different trials and tribulations. Islam also teaches the concept of predestination. The believer must believe in predestination to be patient while dealing with any hardships and calamities that may befall him. Illness and disease such as cancer is also one of these hardships. It is important to remember that you or your loved ones being afflicted with this disease in no way mean that Allah (swt) is angry with you or is punishing you.
We learn from the Quran and the Hadith that many prophets ﷺ faced extreme hardships as a means of increasing their rank in Paradise. These hardships, although it may not feel like it at the time, often come as a blessing for the believers. Diseases such as cancer often take their toll on a person physical, mentally, and emotionally. This often helps them to re-build their connection with Allah (swt) and with their faith. The Prophet ﷺ (pbuh) said “A believer, male or female, is continuously afflicted in his wealth and in himself until he meets Allah without a sin.” (At-Tirmidhi). Furthermore, it is also important to remember that disease does not always mean death. The beloved Prophet ﷺ (pbuh) has said “There is a cure for every disease. Whenever an illness is treated with its right remedy, it will by Allah’s permission, be cured.” (Sahih Muslim).
It is crucial to remember here that the key point is “by Allah’s permission”. Here, the concept of predestination comes into play again. It is important for the believer to do his part, whether that is by keeping himself healthy, keeping himself away from sin and making sure he is following the Islamic teachings. If he becomes unwell, then it is recommended to try and treat the illness in the best way but ultimately the fate of the believer lies in the hands of Allah (swt). Life and death are in the hands of Allah (swt) and only He knows what is to become of us.
Muslims have been advised to stay away from anything, which may cause harm to the body. This includes activities like smoking, drugs, and alcohol. It has been widely reported that a high percentage of cancers are related to lifestyle choices and environmental factors. In the UK, alone the statistics show that 70% of all lung cancers are directly related to smoking (Cancer Research UK). Lung cancer is also the UK’s most common cancer and the main cause of cancer related deaths. Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause several other cancers as well as lung cancer. Cancer of the mouth, tongue and oesophagus are a few examples.
Islamic teachings also prohibit smoking. Islamic teachings prohibit anything that may cause harm to the body. There are hundreds of Fatwas (Islamic decrees) that prohibit smoking. Cigarette smoke releases over 5,000 different chemicals (at least 70 of these chemicals have been proven to be carcinogenic). These chemicals enter our lungs and blood stream and can damage our DNA. This DNA damage can then proceed to cause cancer to develop in our bodies.