A Perceived Predicament
While I was living in the United States, there was a major issue among many youth in a number of Muslim communities throughout the country. Many of the of Muslim adolescents living in the West felt that it is not possible, or it would be very difficult, to be a devout Muslim and attain “worldly success” at the same time. This came from their observation of many Muslims who have comfortable lives and successful careers but had chosen worldly comforts over their religion. On the other hand, many of the most devout Muslims in their communities didn’t attempt to have successful careers or stable financial situations. Of course, there are always wonderful examples of Muslims who could manage both, but those examples were few in comparison to the others that were leaning one way or the other.
The perceived disconnect between having a successful and prosperous life and being a devout Muslim is a result of a poor understanding of the true essence of Islamic teachings. Islam is a religion of moderation. Allah, exalted is He, created everything in this universe in perfect balance. Taking one extreme or the other in anything that we do will disrupt that balance and lead to adverse consequences. Achieving worldly success is an inevitable outcome of correctly understanding and practicing the perfect teachings of this wonderful religion.
Striking a balance in everything we do is key to being successful in this world and in the hereafter. This includes striking a balance between our bodies and our souls, between enjoying this world and preparing for the next one, between work life and personal life, between utilizing the natural resources Allah blessed us with and preserving it for future generations...the list goes on to include everything that we do in life.
A very important balance that we should maintain is the balance between nourishing our bodies and purifying our souls. Our bodies and our souls are companions that cannot be separated. Nourishing our bodies while ignoring our souls will lead to misery in this world and loss in the hereafter. Focusing on our souls while ignoring our bodies will cause our bodies to fail, and we will not be able to carry on with our spiritual obligations. Striking a balance between our bodies and our souls is a must to achieve success in this world and in the hereafter.
Following are a few tips for achieving this very important balance. These lists are not inclusive, but the idea is to list some examples in each category.
Tips for Nourishing Your Body
- Make sure you get enough sleep every day: Sleep is very important for your body to function properly. Experts recommend at least 7-8 hours of sleep per day. It is also recommended to sleep early and wake early. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to sleep shortly after Ishaa and wake up after the first half of the night for prayer.
- Eat a healthy diet: You are what you eat! It is very important to to eat a healthy diet in order to maintain a healthy body and be able to carry out your spiritual duties. A good diet contains balanced amounts of protein, carbohydrates and good fats. Eating smaller meals throughout the day maybe better than eating a few very large meals. It is recommended to avoid eating late at night. Your last meal should be at least two hours before you go to bed.
- Take vitamins and dietary supplements to augment your diet: If you eat a healthy diet with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and healthy fats, you probably won’t need to take additional vitamins and supplements. Unfortunately, most of us don’t consistently eat a well-balanced diet. If your diet is lacking some important nutrients that your body needs, you should supplement it with vitamins and dietary supplements.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity is crucially important to maintaining a healthy body. Many of us lead sedentary lifestyles with limited physical activity. Exercising regularly can help you lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health and strengthen your bones. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise or a combination of both. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is an easy goal to remember.
Means to Purifying your Soul
- Daily remembrance of Allah: There are prescribed remembrance (azkar) to make from the moment you wake up in the morning until the moment you go to sleep at night. These include specific azkar that are said at specific times or in specific situations such as azkar made before and after you eat and before and after daily prayers. Other azkar not limited by a time or place and can be made at anytime include praising Allah, exalted is He, asking for forgiveness or making duaa. The more you remember Allah, the closer you will stay connected to Him and the happier you will be in this world and in the hereafter, inshaa Allah.
- Reading Quran: Allah says in the second chapter of the Quran, “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah” [Al-Baqarah 2:2]. Quran is our guide to success in this world and in the hereafter. Make sure you read Quran every day in order to stay connected with Allah and to receive daily guidance.
- Establish your daily prayers: Establishing prayers is the second pillar of Islam after the testimony of faith. It is very important to disconnect from everything in this world and connect with Allah, exalted is He, for a few minutes. Getting up early for Fajr prayer is the best way to start your day. The five daily prayers should be the pillars around which you schedule the rest of the day. This will lead to more happiness and productivity throughout the day. Friday prayer is a great chance to meet other Muslims in your community and get an inspiring weekly reminder during the Friday sermon.
- Earn and spend your money in halal ways: In a time where materialism and consumerism is governing most aspects of our daily lives, it is very important to earn your income using halal means and to spend it in ways that are pleasing to Allah. Many people think that being a good Muslim means that you have to be poor. This is not true. You can make as much money as you want, get as rich as you can, and spend your money however you please as long as you earn it the halal way, pay your zakat and spend it in halal ways without committing excess.