The Sunnah of the Holy Prophet(sa) and the Science behind it

The physical, mental and social benefits of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet(sa).

Upon looking at the Muslim Ummah, the sunnah of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", i.e. the actions which the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" performed, are regarded very highly and given a lofty status within Islam. So much so that there are even denominations within Islam which only follow the sunnah and give it preference over the Holy Qur’an, the Word of God. Despite this being wrong, it gives an insight into how sunnah is perceived by different sects of Islam.

Many people follow the sunnah of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" in order to seek blessings; after all, they are actions of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" who have been placed over all prophets of the world. The Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and, him being a representative of God, would follow the teaching of the Holy Qur’an profusely. For this very reason, the sunnah plays a key role into understanding the full teachings of Islam and provides the world with a healthier understanding of the Holy Qur’an.

It is not very common that we see or hear about the physical, mental and social benefits of following the sunnah. However, the actual fact is that following the sunnah of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" is not just an act of attaining blessings, rather, these actions contain many scientific benefits which scientists discovered hundreds of years after the demise of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him".

Despite all the scientific advancements that humankind has made, we still know very little about our bodies. We may have found out some benefits of following the sunnah of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", however over time, scientists may make more breakthroughs in research resulting in understanding these benefits to an enhanced degree.

Wudhu

One of the fundamental components of Islam is Salat. Every Muslim is obliged to pray 5 times a day in regards to this Allah the Almighty says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلَاةِ فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُوا بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ

“O ye who believe! When you stand up for Prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to elbow, and pass your wet hands over your heads, and wash your feet to the ankle.”

Chapter 5 verse 7

This command from Allah is referring to the routine of ablution prior to offering prayer. Although performing ablution mentally prepares one to offer salat before Allah the Almighty, there is more to it than just washing various parts of your body.

When performing ablution, water runs down our arms and wrists. This not only cleans this part of the body, in fact, when passing cool water on these body parts, the blood in the arms and wrist is cooled down. When this cool blood recirculates arounds the body, it cools down the body as a whole. This consequently, causes the body to feel more active and be more ‘awake’ than normal, allowing one to offer salat more attentively.

Wudhu also involves passing the back of your hands on the back of your neck, and this action cools the body down. One reason for why the back of the hand is used as an alternative to the palm of the hand may be because palms are significantly warmer than the back side of our hands, due to the palm having a thicker layer in comparison to the reverse side. In addition to this, the back of the neck is the zone which the brain uses to detect and regulate the body temperature: The Brain-stem. Therefore, when passing cool water on the back of the neck, this triggers the body’s cooling response.

Other parts of the body which trigger a cooling response, apart from the neck, are: the wrist, inner elbow, inner thigh, top side of the feet, inside the ankle and the palm of the hand. The majority of which happen to be the body parts cleansed during wudhu. One can only imagine how beneficial this may have been in the hot climates of Arabia during the time of the Holy Prophet  saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him".

Hence, performing wudhu has a handful of reasons: it clears one’s mind and sets their intention to the worship of Allah the Almighty, it washes away dirt and impurities so that one is physically clean when bowing before his Creator and refreshes the body so that when one is performing salat, one is wakeful and attentive. All of which are necessary to be able to fulfil the rights of Allah:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

“And I have not created the jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.”

Chapter 51 verse 57

Drinking water while standing

We see that in the modern world, every individual seems to be in some sort of hurry. In this case, trying to quench your thirst seems much simpler to be accomplished by quickly drinking some water on the go or while standing.

In regards to this, Muslims look upon the sunnah of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" and see that he preferred to drink water while sitting and in respect of this Hazrat Anas raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them" relates that:

النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَّهُ نَھَى أَنْ يَشْرَبَ الرَّجُلُ قَائِمًا

“The Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, forbade that a person should drink while standing.”

Note, this does not mean that the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" never drank water while standing, as there are also narrations that the Holy Prophet  saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" drank ZamZam water in a standing position, rather, it was favoured to sit on the occasion of drinking. From the narration, we gather that there must be some benefit for our bodies if we decide to drink water whilst sitting:

1. Arthritis

Standing and drinking water causes a disruption in the bodily fluids. This eventually leads to an excessive accumulation of body fluids in the joints of the body. If not addressed, this can trigger arthritis.

2. Stomach

The intake of water while standing allows the water to flow down the throat and body quickly. This enters the stomach in a hurried manner and splashes onto the stomach wall. Like all impacts, the harder the collision, the more damage is caused. Similarly, when water splashes onto the stomach wall, it damages it in the process. This can then effect the digestive system. 

3. Nerves

Upon drinking water standing, the body is forced to resist it, in doing so, the outcome is nerve tension. On the other hand, sitting down allows the body to relax its senses and control the fluid which is entering the body calmly.

4. Kidneys

Because standing and drinking water allows water to enter the body rapidly, this does not allow the kidney to properly filter the fluid. Consequently, impurities are left behind in the kidneys and the bladder. Thus, eventually causing kidney failure.

5. Heartburn

Before water splashing on the stomach wall, most of the impact is taken by the oesophagus. This disturbs the joint between the oesophagus and the stomach and as a consequence, stomach acid flows backwards allowing reflux. Acid reflux is also caused by obesity, smoking and unbalanced diets and result in health problems including heartburn.

Eating

One task which is essential to live is consuming food and consuming the right food. General etiquettes of eating are within the teachings of Islam, i.e. beginning any meal with the name of Allah, eating from what is in front of you, eating with your right hand etc. In continuation from the previous hadith of standing and drinking, Hazrat Anas raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them" relates:

قُلْنَا فَالأَكْلُ فَقَالَ ذَاكَ أَشَرُّ أَوْ أَخْبَثُ

“We said to the Holy Prophetsa: What about eating? He replied: That is even worse.”

Eating while standing could have similar effects to drinking while standing. However, sitting and eating corresponds to eating slowly, whereas, when we stand and eat, it naturally causes us to eat quicker and that has many dangers and disadvantages.

When we sit, we eat slower and more attentively. Eating attentively plays a major role in our health and well-being. The fact of the matter is that when we eat, it takes approximately 20 minutes for the stomach to inform the brain that it is full.

Meaning, if we stop eating as soon as we feel full, during the 20 minute time span of our stomach getting the message across to the brain, we would be overfilling the stomach with excess food.

For this reason, which science has proven today, the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" said 1400 years ago:

يَأْكُلُ الْمُسْلِمُ فِي مِعًى وَاحِدٍ، وَالْكَافِرُ يَأْكُلُ فِي سَبْعَةِ أَمْعَاءٍ

“A Muslim eats in one intestine, and the disbeliever eats in seven intestines.”

Addressing the matter of eating, the Holy Prophet  saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" instructs Muslims to eat less and not to fill their stomachs to the full. Eating till the stomach is full, shows signs of arrogance and pride which is completely against the teaching of Islam. Additionally, eating less has now been scientifically proven to be beneficial.

If we eat less, we may not experience the feeling of being full immediately, however, once the stomach has sent the message to the brain, the sensation of being full would be experienced. Moreover, eating slowly enables us to be able to focus more on each and every bite and chew, which ultimately allows us to taste the food better. Concentrating on the food we eat enhances the taste, smell and texture, and whenever one experiences this pleasure, we become satisfied and this further results in us being more grateful to Allah for what He has blessed us with.

Sleeping

Sleeping is another necessity of life, without it our bodies are drained and exhausted. Due to this we are unable to function correctly. On the other hand, when we get enough sleep, we are fully recovered, attentive and have less stress on our minds. Regarding sleep, it is narrated:

كَانَ رَسُولُ اللّٰهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِذَا أَوَى إِلَى فِرَاشِهِ نَامَ عَلَى شِقِّهِ الأَيْمَنِ‏

“When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, went to his bed, he slept on his right side”

Looking into this matter scientifically, you find that sleeping on the left side has many more advantages than the right side. Yes, this does raise questions as to why the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" would sleep on his right, surely, if the left is better, then Allah would have made it in His plan to make the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" to sleep on his left side.

Sleeping on your left side can have the following benefits:

1. Relieve heartburn

People who suffer from heartburn are often ordered to sleep on their left as their right side could cause further problems.

2. Improves Digestion

By sleeping on your left side, gravity helps move the food from the small intestine to the large intestine, thus, making digestion easier for the body.

3. Promotes the Heart’s Health

the heart, being one of the most vital organs of the body, is aided when sleeping on the left side due to gravity taking some of the workload off the heart.

4. Aids control of Bodily Fluids

When sleeping on the left, the body is able to filter toxins better along with Lymph fluid and other waste products.

5. Helps circulation

The vena cava is put under less stress when sleeping on the left side, thus allowing circulation to be completed healthily while sleeping.

6. Helps pregnancy

Pregnant women are advised to sleep on their left side because of all of the above benefits, particularly because of the improvement of blood circulation.

This still does not answer why sleeping on the right was preferred by the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". Science shows that sleeping on the right side only puts a little less stress on the internal organs in comparison to sleeping on the left side. However, this benefit does not outweigh the benefits of the left side.

When we sleep on the left side, the body falls into a deep sleep which enables all these benefits to take place. This deep sleep aids muscle recovery and repairs the body. However, when we sleep on the right side, the body is in a state of sleep which is much lighter. This very reason may be why the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" chose to sleep on his right side.When we are in this light level of sleep, the body is able to wake up much quicker and be more active upon waking up in contrast to the left side. We are able to derive from this that, in order for the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" to wake up for Tahajjud prayer early in the morning, it was more beneficial to sleep on the right side.

This way, the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" would wake up for Tahajjud with ease. Therefore, sleeping on your right side has a spiritual benefit which overshadows all the benefits of sleeping on your left: Tahajjud. This way less time is wasted in getting up after sleeping and one is much more active and does not feel sluggish. In regards to offering Tahajjud, the Promised Messiah, peace be on him, said:

Our Jama’at should make Tahajjud namaz essential, those who cannot offer a lot, they should just offer two rak’at as they would at least be able to have the opportunity to pray.

Fasting

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and every Muslim who is eligible and able to fast, is obliged to fast during the month of Ramadhan. Despite this, it is narrated by Hazrat Aishah raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them" that:

إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ يَتَحَرَّى صِيَامَ الاِثْنَيْنِ وَالْخَمِيس

“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, was keen to fast on Mondays and Thursdays.”

The spiritual benefits of fasting consist of being more grateful to Allah for what He has given us, abstaining from sins, worshipping Allah more, remembering Allah at all times, reaching a higher level of spirituality, the list is continuous. However, it is not just a spiritual gain from refraining from food and drink for a certain period of time.

1. Improves Metabolism

Fasting allows the digestive system to take rest. After working constantly for months and years, the digestive system too needs a break. This allows the organs to repair and work better once food is consumed again. Digestion is regulated and also aids bowel functions to become healthier.

2.Promotes Brain Function

When we fast, there is a boost in the production of a protein: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These brain stem cells are activated by this protein and it also activates various chemicals which help neural health. This benefit also protects changes in the brain which are linked with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

3. Improves Immunity

Fasting enhances our immune system as the body is able to regulate its inflammatory conditions and does not allow cancer cells to form. By looking at nature, we observe that animals tend to stop eating and concentrate on resting. This allows the body to fight off any infection as it is the only focal point of the body; the body is not concentrating on eating, digesting etc.

4. Helps Lose Weight

The body can easily burn through fat when fasting in comparison to when one is eating. When fasting, the body uses the fat as the primary source of energy, replacing the sugar.

5. Lower Blood Pressure

By not consuming any food or drink, the body is not taking in any salt content, also, the salt level in the body is reduced via urinating. This would, overtime, decrease blood pressure and is very beneficial for those who suffer from high blood pressure.

6. Decrease Blood Sugar Levels

The blood sugar level drops by about 30% in the first few days of fasting. Similarly to how blood pressure is reduced, the blood sugar level is then more manageable to regulate for the body. 

We can conclude from the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", that it is evident how beneficial they were, despite the fact that these advantages were discovered well after the demise of our beloved Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". This is not only astonishing, it proves and strengthens the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him"; demonstrating that he was divinely guided by Allah the Almighty.

It goes without saying, that those who follow the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him", will most definitely gain from it spiritually and physically and Allah the Almighty will surely reward them for their intentions to follow the lifestyle and character of the Holy Founder of Islam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

Disclaimer

This article was originally published in the Annual Printed Edition of Majallatul Jamia

Shamail Ahmad

Shamail Ahmad

Student Jamia Ahmadiyya UK

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