What are the benefits of eating and drinking a little? What should be the criterion for eating?

The Details of the Question

What are the benefits of eating and drinking a little? What should be the criterion for eating?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

A person can get used to it by trying to eat less and leaving the table before getting full.

The stomach is like the pool of our body. The stomach is a kitchen where the nutrients and vitamins that all of the organs need are prepared. The feeling of eating and hunger that forms in the stomach is the primary desire. A person who is full feels a desire for sexuality. Then, he will try to work and earn a lot of money in order to maintain the satiety. The way to earn a lot of money is possible by being close to people of authority and higher-ups, to have good relations with them or to be a person of authority. It will increase the desire and ambition for money and fame. Ambition increases the desires of a person, and he may have to resort to some haram (forbidden) ways that are contrary to human honor in order to maintain his/her position.  Satanic attributes like wrath, fury, animosity, grudge, ambition to be prominent will start to accompany that person.

As it is understood from that simple analysis, it will not be exaggeration to say, to surrender to the stomach, which is the primary cause of all sins, means to be under its command.”

When we say "the tongue", what we mean is not its biological functions; similarly, when we say the stomach, we do not mean how it works and its digestive functions but where the desires originating from the stomach takes man and how it elevates and debases man. In this framework, we will deal with the merits of eating a little and the harms of eating a lot.

The words of the Messenger of Allah, his companions and saintly people about eating a little

"Fight your soul through eating and drinking a little. The reward of eating and drinking a little is like fighting (jihad) your enemies. There is nothing more rewarding than it before Allah.”

The person who fills his stomach with food is not allowed to ascend to the sky of mysteries.”

“The loveliest ones among you before Allah are those who think a lot and eat a little. The least lovely ones are those who eat a lot, laugh a lot and sleep a lot.”

“Do not kill your heart by eating and drinking a lot. The heart is like a crop; the crop that is watered a lot decays.”

“The worst container that man fills is his stomach.”

“Allocate one third of your stomach to food, one third to water and one third to respiration (so that you will not be short of breath)”

“Do not fill your stomach completely so that you will have strength for worshipping and dhikr (mentioning the name of Allah and remembering Him).”

“The devil travels in a person’s body like the blood. Eat a little so that the ways of the devil will be blocked.”

“Your heart should see Allah; you may keep your stomach hungry and thirsty if you wish.” Hazrat Eesa (Jesus)

“Knock on the gate of Paradise with hunger and thirst. It will definitely be answered.” Hazrat Aisha

“A person who has enough food for himself and who gets up in the morning without needing anybody is the happiest man in the world.” (Malik B. Dinar)

Benefits of Eating a Little:

1- It brightens and enlightens the heart: Eating a little will cause an increase in the functions of the heart. Eating a lot will make the mind obtuse.

“The heart becomes pure and fine by eating a little.”

“Those who keep eating a little become intelligent, clever and strong in terms of thought.”

“Do not eat until you are full lest the fire of comprehension in your heart will extinguish. Comprehension is the way to Paradise and eating a little is the way to comprehension.”

2- The fineness of the heart and thought will increase, which will enable one to find pleasure in dhikr and prayer:

Eating a lot causes anger-fury and sleep. A person who eats a lot cannot find courage and strength for worshipping. Even if he worships and makes dhikr, it will take place in the tongue (superficially); it will not go down to the heart; the spirit will not take any pleasure from it.

“The eating table is a veil between Allah and you. It is impossible for those who are addicted to the eating table to take pleasure in prayer and dhikr.” (Junayd Baghdadi)

3- Eating a little causes weakness and brokenness: Eating a lot means to stir up the rebellious soul. A person who eats a little becomes humble, broken and weak. A slave cannot prostrate truly before Allah unless he sees his weakness. One of the ways of feeling one’s weakness is to eat a little. A person who eats a little will manage to thank Allah for His bounties and beg in front of Him more. 

When the treasures of the earth were presented to the Messenger of Allah, he said:

“I do not want them!.. I like it better to fast one day and to eat one day because I show patience when I fast and I thank Allah when I eat.”

4- Hunger; It reminds us hungry people and increases compassion and mercy. Hunger reminds one the trouble of the people of Hell; thirst reminds one the scorch of the Gathering Place (mahshar). A person who does not undergo hunger cannot understand the situation of the poor that cannot find any food to eat. A person who eats a little and who fasts from time to time understands the situation of the poor better. It will enable to revive the feelings of mercy and compassion, increase in alms and helping. Mercy and compassion are the keys to Paradise. 

They asked Hazrat Yunus (Jonah) (pbuh): “You have the treasures of the earth, why do you remain hungry?” He answered, “If I am full, I will forget about the situation of the hungry.”

5- Eating a lot depraves the soul:

When the soul is depraved, it gives in to all kinds of animal feelings and instincts especially lust and becomes under their command. The best way to train the soul is hunger. Eating until one is completely full means to invite sins through one’s own hands.

6- He who eats a little sleeps a little:

To eat a lot means to invite sleep and heedlessness, which brings about laziness and unwillingness to work and worship. They cause the destruction of man. A lazy person cannot find the energy necessary for mental and physical activities in his body. 

7- He who eats a little will have a lot of time:

A person who allocates little time to eating will have more time for useful activities like learning, reading, working, listening and studying. To put it simply, he will spare the time spent for tasks like preparing meals, buying and carrying food.

8- He who eats a little is saved from illnesses, drugs and doctors: The primary reason of diseases is eating junk food and eating greedily. If we think that diet is the main treatment method of doctors, another useful aspect of eating a little will be clear.

Modern medicine has approved how significant the meaning of this hadith is:

“Perform fasting so that you will be healthy”.

9- The expenditure of a person who eats a little will be a little:

He who eats a lot needs money and wealth. He who eats a little will be contented. Therefore, he will spend less money.

Ibrahim Adham said to a person who complained that something was very expensive while wandering in the market:

“Do you want to cheapen it?”

The man said “Yes”. Ibrahim Adham said:

The easiest way to buy something at a cheaper price is not to buy it.”

10- He who eats a little will have strength for alms, patience and contentment:

A person who eats without wasting will have enough money and opportunity for giving alms, and he will realize patience and contentment more than everybody else.

The Messenger of Allah said the following by touching the abdomen of a fat companion:

If you had put what you had put here in somewhere else, it would have been better for you.”

The saintly people said the following:

The food that fills the stomach becomes investment for the toilet. What is given as alms becomes a capital for Paradise.”

We know that it is extravagance to fill the stomach too much. Today, the science of medicine has approved the harms of eating too much. It is very lamentable that the statistics show that the bread that is wasted in Turkey in a year is enough to feed people for a second year. Although there are people who suffer from poverty, it costs us dearly to waste bread and food: physically, we suffer from diseases and spiritually, we live in unproductiveness.  That economic balances are not established in Turkey and that inflation is high originates from indulgence in food and the waste caused by it! Here, I would like to quote what I heard from an old official who worked for government years ago:

In the mid 50’s, the Menderes government prepared a series of programs to develop Turkey. It was decided that Germany, which had made a remarkable development despite having been in the Second World War, be taken as a model. They invited the German Economy Minister to Turkey.  The Minister, who was going to give a conference to Turkish economy planners, was taken to a luxurious hotel for dinner. They started with soup as it is customary in Turkey. The German Minister ate all of his soup but the Turkish bureaucrats ate only two spoons of soup and returned the bowls. They had the idea that finishing the food in your bowl or plate was violation of etiquette. You had to leave some of it in the plate even if it was very little. The Turkish bureaucrats did the same thing with the main dish that followed but the German Minister finished his food. Lastly, while they were having rice and the Turkish bureaucrats were about to return their plates after having two spoons of rice, the German Minister intervened and said, “Stop!” He said, “Let everybody count every rice grain in their plate!” through his interpreter. Astonishingly, the bureaucrats and politicians did what the guest said. “Add the figures and multiply the sum by half of the population of Turkey”, he added. They multiplied the sums and found out that they wasted tons of rice. The economic cost of it was terrible. The German minister turned to the group and said to them:  

“If the Turkish nation wasted so much food every year, I have nothing to teach you, gentlemen! We, Germans, did not create a miracle; we only used our resources very well and we did not waste them!”

What is filled into the stomach is investment for the body and toilet; they will not bring any spiritual earnings. It will be the most profitable investment to give away to people by cutting down on the stomach, to eat and drink moderately, to perform fasting from time to time, thus contributing to the health of the body and gaining rewards.

Those whose brains are dependent on their stomachs can never be successful in spiritual and mental works. If we see the stomach only as an organ that fulfils its function and as a storage supplying energy to the brain, then it will be possible for us to carry out effective works.

We should not forget that those who tried to be saintly people reached the truth by experiencing hunger and thirst that the prophets and apostles did not eat until they were full, that our prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) could not eat enough barley bread and that he sometimes broke his fast by only one date and a glass of water.


What should the criterion be in eating?

Since "obesity" has become a remarkably common disease especially in developed countries, its treatment has become an important field of today’s medicine. Islam has laid down universal principles and methods that do not go out of date regarding every issue that interest man. What Islam has advised to prevent obesity are the targets that preventive medicine is trying to reach today. 

The issues to be paid attention to in preventing obesity

Today’s medicine classifies the causes of obesity mainly under the headings of the content of the food, the amount of the food, the interval between meals, the feeling of fullness and the length of time for eating a meal. 

The content of the food

Fat, sugar, protein, vitamin and minerals are taken into the body as basic substances. Among those, fat and protein weighted nutrition harms the vein system first and the relevant organ’s tissues later. The rate of death from atherosclerosis in the USA and developed countries is 50% but we do not have any reliable information about it in Turkey since statistical studies regarding the issue are insufficient in Turkey. Due to the fact that the rate is so high, the tendency toward low fat diets has increased.

When excessive carbohydrate is taken, the extra glucose is transformed to fat in the tissues based on the metabolism in the liver. If there is more protein than the tissues can use in the diet, it is also stored as fat. That extra fat, sugar and proteins are stored in the body as fat makes the content of the food important. Our Prophet (pbuh) said:

"The stomach is the pool of the body; if the stomach is healthy, the veins will be healthy; if the stomach is not healthy, the veins will not be healthy."

Consequently, the content of the food that enters stomach is very important. If the stomach is filled with high-calorie food like fat, carbohydrate and proteins, the risk of catching atherosclerosis at the age of 40-60 increases depending also on the genetics of the family and the physiological program.

The amount of the food

The stomach and the intestines are organs that stretch and shrink. The normal volume of the stomach before stretching is 1.000-1.500 milliliters, and the length of the small intestines is 5 metres when they shrink. After the food that is taken into the stomach softened and is turned to chyme, it is sent to the small intestines (first to the duodenum). However, it does not mean that every food that is turned to chyme in the stomach will be poured into the intestines directly. The chemical properties and the amounts of the food is checked by the automatic system located between the stomach and the intestines; if the system placed there by the Creator does not find the food appropriate, the food will not be allowed to pass.  The content in the stomach does not pass into the duodenum if the protein breakdown products and the content of the stomach are too much, the food is too fatty, the gastric fluid is hypertonic or hypotonic. That property of the content is used to check the exit of the stomach through reflex. Then, how much food should we take into the stomach. Our Prophet (pbuh) said the following about the amount of food in these two hadiths: "Man fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to have a few mouthfuls to give him the strength he needs. If he has to fill his stomach, then let him leave one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air."

"Man fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to have a few mouthfuls to give him the strength he needs. If he has to fill his stomach, then let him leave one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air." (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah At’ima, Musnad)

"The stomach is the pool of the body; if the stomach is healthy, the veins will be healthy; if the stomach is not healthy, the veins will not be healthy." (K. Khafa, Baghdadi, Qayyim, Ummal Zawaid)

"A believer eats in one intestine, and an unbeliever eats in seven intestines." (Bukhari, Muslim Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)

• The most beloved of you to Allah is he who eats a little and is light in terms of the body weight. (K. Ummal Haqaiq, Gümüşhanevî)

• My greatest fear for you is the appetites of transgression with regard to your stomachs and your privates and the inclinations which lead astray.

• The first trouble that will affect the ummah after prophets is eating a lot and satiety. When people are full, their bodies become fatty but weakness appears in their hearts; their carnal desires increase and become difficult to control. 

• Our Prophet (pbuh) said the following for the people of Madinah:

"The inhabitants of this town do not eat until they get hungry. They leave the table before they are full although they can eat as much as they have eaten. Therefore, they are not taken ill."

"The stomach is the home of the diseases; diet is the primary means of treatment. Give each body what it is accustomed to." (al Madkhal, K. Khafa)

If the total capacity of the stomach is assumed to be 1.000-1.500 milliliters, the amount of food taken during one meal, according to the hadiths, is about  333-500 milliliters depending on the anatomic structure of the body. With a rough estimation, a person whose stomach is big should not eat more than about 2,5 glassful of food at a meal (bread, main course, soup and fruit with the addition of 1/3 water, 666-1.000 cc becomes the amount to be eaten at one meal). It is approximately equal to the volume (700-1570 cm3) of the duodenum, whose diameter is 4-5 centimeters and length is 20-25 centimeters. Our Prophet (pbuh) expressed the littleness of the ideal amount by saying:

“A believer eats in one intestine, and an unbeliever eats until his seven intestines are full."

When the system was created, the organs were given the property of flexibility; the middle part of the small intestine (the jejunum) has a volume of 4 liters but it has a stretching capacity of up to 10 liters. Therefore, if a person eats a lot, the Creator has given the system of intestines the ability to tolerate it. When it is taken into consideration that the organs continuously stretch with the intake of excessive food and the complications of obesity appear, it will be seen that our Prophet (pbuh) expressed the ideal criterion for eating.

Interval between meals

Man feels two kinds of hunger: physiological and psychological.

In the physiological hunger, hunger cramps appear due to the food need of the body whereas in the psychological hunger, conditioning is in question. Hunger cramps appear with the intervals of 12-24 hours. If those cramps that start after taking the last food will reach the most intense levels in 3-4 days if they are not stopped through eating; in the following days, the cramps decrease gradually even if no food is taken.  

In the psychological hunger, if meal times are determined as periods of less than twelve hours and if that order is followed, the body becomes conditioned to it in 5-7 days and the person feels hungry when the time comes. In the working places, since lunch breaks are generally at 12.00-13.00, a person feels hungry at 12.00-13.00 even if he has had breakfast at home at 08.00 in the morning because he is conditioned to have a meal four hours later. When the month of Ramadan starts, a few days later we forget about lunch and do not get hungry at 12.00. It is suppression of the psychological hunger by a new conditioning. Physiological hunger is the hunger that is felt through hunger cramps at 20.00 in the evening if one has had breakfast at 08.00. Therefore, except for diabetes and other exceptional situations, what is natural is to have two meals a day in accordance with physiological hunger.

The feeling of fullness and the duration of a meal

The period of time spent while eating a meal is very important. The food should be chewed a lot and ground in the mouth, which is the doorkeeper of the mouth. The longer the period of chewing and the hormones are secreted, the longer the feeling of fullness. The feeling of fullness does not depend on the amount of food but the period of chewing in the mouth. There are experiments that confirm it. Fistulas were opened in the esophagi of some animals and the food that they ate were sent out not to their stomachs. 20-40 minutes after the animals ate the food, they were given some more food but they did not want it and did not eat it. We can understand from the experiment that along with the amount and content of the food, the period of chewing in the mouth is also important for the feeling of fullness.  Especially those who are on a diet should take it into consideration and should chew the low-calorie food in the mouth for at least 20 minutes and form the feeling of fullness.

Choosing the type of food in the diet

If a person is not ill and if he is overweight, he must know the amount of the calorie of the food he eats. For instance, if all of the 300-500 cc food taken at a meal consists of bakery products, the calorie to be taken is 1.050-1.750; if it is salami only, the calorie is 1.420-2.545. However, if the same amount of spinach is eaten, it will be equal to only 50-80 calories. The daily calorie need of a person changes between 1.800 to 3.500 calories based on his work. A person who eats 350 grams of salami must not eat anything else within 24 hours if he does not want to put on weight. The amount and content of the food is more important than daily meals.  Our Prophet (pbuh) said the following for the people of Madinah:

"The inhabitants of this town do not eat until they get hungry. They leave the table before they are full although they can eat as much as they have eaten. Therefore, they are not taken ill." 

Leaving the table full by eating too much enlarges the stomach. When meat and fatty food with a lot of taste and calories are added, obesity appears. Acting upon the criteria of our Prophet (pbuh), we can say the following:

1) A person should eat 350-500 cc at each meal.

2) The interval between the meals should be 8-12 hours.

3) The length of time for a meal should be 20 minutes.

Today, especially in developed countries, the frequency of obesity and the diseases depending on it has reached grave levels. Islam has presented ways appropriate for the nature of man regarding the issues like the amount and content of the food, the length of time for chewing it in the mouth and the interval between meals so that man will not catch the disease of obesity.

Dr. Arslan MAYDA


Tıbb-ı Nebevî;

Guytan (Medical Physiology)

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