The role of food factor on controlling bodily appetites

One of the basics of Sufism is Qillah at-Taam (Scarcity of Food) which has the meaning of “eating little”

Eating much damages our physical body; it damages our spiritual life as well.

When a person eats like stuffing oneself,

• Fear from Allah vanishes  from the heart

• Prayers become difficult for him

• He is not much impressed with words of wisdom; he listens to the conversations that are of high wisdom yawning

• His power of impressing people reduces when he is to give advice

• He easily gets sick

• His bodily appetite becomes excessive and it does not obey the heart and mind

• His lustful desires strengthen

• Sleep takes over. His hours that he could spend with religious actions and praying are filled with sleep that resembles death and nothingness.

• Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him ) fasted on Mondays and Thursday. He also fasted on 13th, 14th and 15th days of every month of the lunar calendar. In the months of Rajab and Sha’ban, he fasted more often. He would not eat much even in the times that he was not fasting. Sometimes, smoke did not come out of his house for months.

The Holy Prophet advises that stomach should be separated into three parts: One third for food, one third for water and the remaining one third for air.

To eat only when one is hungry and to leave eating without a full stomach” is a significant unavoidable prescription for controlling bodily appetites.

Today’s Muslims who are turning the Month Ramadan into almost an “eating month”, with splendid iftar (the breaking of fast at sunset ) tables, reduce their benefit from this month of annual maintenance for the body and the soul. Nowadays desires and appetites of the body are spoiled with delicious meals, and the souls have become obstinate and disobedient. Eating little which is a common value in almost every mystical movement is what people today ultimately need. In parables of dervishes, we read stories of praiseworthy people who could survive with a single olive for forty days. It seems that a person who has forty olives along with cheese or jam in the breakfast would suspect these parables. However, it would be good not to forget that when a man rises to the level of life of the heart and soul, he becomes a sort of angel, and his need for food reduces to minimum. Besides, this should not be ignored: if the energy in an atom comes out of it, we encounter a huge amount of energy beyond our perception and imagination. Who knows, a similar situation can be the valid for these kinds of praiseworthy people.

From the book Nefis Terbiyesi (Discipline for Bodily Appetites)

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