With Dhul Hijjah and Hajj season about to begin, it’s got me thinking about the physicality of performing the Hajj (or even Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage that can be done any other time of the year). One needs stamina and a modicum of physical fitness to perform the Hajj or even Umrah.
Sure, Muslims from around the world in all sorts of physical conditions perform Hajj and Umrah every year, and there are accommodations to help them. But it helps to be relatively physically fit and able to manage long walks and crowds. Even though it’s been more than 15 years since my husband and I went for Hajj (and there have been plenty of improvements made to help transport and accommodate the millions of pilgrims who come to Makkah and Madinah), I remember well the physical challenges and exhaustion of performing Hajj.
For that matter, other aspects of our daily faith practices also require a minimum of good health and flexibility
, such as performing the rituals of salah or fasting in Ramadan. And outside the practice of our faith, we all know that attending to our physical (mental and spiritual) health is one of the best things we can do to live healthy lives.
We deserve it. Our bodies are an amanah, a trust placed in us by Allah (S), and caring for our bodies and our health is a beautiful way to please Allah (S).
Allah says in Surah Al-Araf, verse 31:
“O Children of Adam! Dress properly whenever you are at worship. Eat and drink, but do not waste. Surely He does not like the wasteful”
And the Prophet Muhammad (saw) says in a hadith, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both.” [Muslim]
tawaf during Hajj. Image source here.
While the hadith is more so referencing the strength of faith and character of a Muslim, attending to one’s health and fitness as best possible is also important. Or, as it says in this article in Quran Explorer
, “The reason for taking care of our body and health is that we all belong to Allah (S), to whom we should return, and this body is given to us by Allah (S), and we should submit this body one day to Allah (S). Hence, it is our duty to take care of these bodies which are given to us and we should submit these bodies in better conditions to Allah (S). Our bodies should not be neglected or abused in any way, because bodies do not deserve such bad treatment.”
I’ve had this yo-yo relationship with working for my physical health for years, in that I’m not a fan of working out and don’t gravitate towards any particular sport or activity, but I also have seen the trajectory of women in my family and do not want to go that route. My eldest son also has profound support needs, and I know I need to stay fit and active not only for myself and to honor the body that Allah (S) has given me, but because I also need to go the distance with him.
I was reading this article on Learn-Islam.org
recently about the sunnah
of prioritizing our physical health, something I’ve never been good at. It said, “After Islam/iman
, one of the biggest blessings from Allah (S) is good health. … after Islam, the biggest blessing is health – the ability to see, hear, touch, walk, work perfectly is a blessing from Allah (S), that we cannot thank Allah enough for. (S)"
The article goes on to say, “Ibn al-Qayyim said, ‘Since health is one of the most precious favors Allah (S) has given to His servants, the most generous of His gifts, and most plentiful of His bounties, nay more, absolute health is the most precious of all favors, without exception – it is fitting that whoever is granted a portion of this good fortune, to cherish, preserve and to guard it against harm.’”
“Bukhari has related in his sahih form the hadith of Ibn Abaas: Ibn Abbas reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time’ ... [Zaad al-Ma'aad 4/196]”
Triathlete Jeri Villarreal practices biking wearing a hijab from our HH Sport collection. I'm sharing Jeri's photos because we are close in age and I so admire how she shows that you can get super physically fit at any age in life! Image source: Haute Hijab.
As shared in my “From the Editor’s Desk
” column in June, after years of starting different exercise schedules and always falling off the bandwagon, I impulsively (but also intentionally) signed up for a thrice-weekly exercise and strength training class with a fantastic local Muslimah who does these classes over Zoom. What I learned about myself over years of trying to attend to my health and then always retreating to my busy and more sedentary ways was I needed a few things to motivate me:
1. Money, in that I was paying someone to lead me in a fitness class. If I’ve committed that automatic payment, I know that will motivate me to show up. I hate wasting money!
2. Accountability to a person. My instructor expects me to show up. I hate letting others down more than I hate letting myself down. I know. That’s the next thing I need to work on.
3. Being able to exercise in my own home. I’ve tried a gym membership. I’ve tried classes at the YMCA. I didn’t much enjoy exercising with or in front of others in public, and now in this COVID/post-COVID world, I’d just rather be able to stop working, roll out a yoga mat, fire up the Zoom and get my sweat on at home. No driving anywhere.
4. Relentless aging. I’m only aging in one direction (so are you), and it ain’t pretty. I needed to do something so that I wouldn’t wake up with lower back aches and other minor aches and pains. I have much more life to (Insha’Allah) live, and I have people in my life who need me to support them as they continue to age as well.
It’s only been about six months, but I’m still showing up to class, and I even did so while fasting in Ramadan. There hasn’t been any magical changes in me, but I do feel physically better and am waking up with way less aches and pains. When I squat to help my eldest son put on socks to help him in his bathroom routines, I’m not finding it hard.
I’m like the last person to do anything for myself, and I’m doing it. (I hope I continue to do it.) I owe it to myself, I owe it to my family and children and I owe it to Allah (S). If you’re not already doing something, anything, to help keep you physically fit, I hope this motivates you to dig deep to find your own self-motivation in attending to our bodies.
Lawyer Afia Yunus focuses on her physical well being through a kind of intense yoga I can only wish to do! I love her work ethic and style! She's wearing our FlexFit in Smoke from our HH Sport collection. Image source: Haute Hijab.
Find what your motivation is. Find what will keep you showing up for yourself. My mom and mom-in-law always told me that if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to take care of my loved ones. I listened half-heartedly when I was younger, because I had youth and relatively good physical health on my side.
Then I became middle aged and time started catching up with me. I'm listening now. I hope you are too.
Your body is an amanah. Period. Let's treat our bodies as the gifts they are to ourselves from Allah (S)