Written by: Dua Aldasouqi
Part 1 of the Mindful Eating Series – A Prophetic Example
The Prophet Mohammad (s) said:
“Verily God has prescribed ihsan [perfection] in all things.”
All things. That phrase includes not just our acts of worship, but also extends to social relationships, personal manners and etiquette, and even eating and drinking. As we enter Ramadan, now is a time to focus on our relationship with food and try to establish ihsan in an activity we partake in multiple times a day.
First, let us define ihsan in more detail.
Linguistically, the term ihsan means doing something well, perfectly, and with sincerity. When it comes to Islam, ihsan is the highest level of awareness of God. Prophet Mohammad (s) explained ihsan as “worshipping God as if you see Him.” [Muslim]
If we are aware of the Highest Power watching our every move, then our every move would be done with the utmost perfection and contemplation. We would not hesitate to slow down a little bit and make sure we did everything just right. We would not hesitate to ensure all of our “t’s” were crossed and our “i’s” dotted.
This is ihsan, it is an increased awareness and desire to do our absolute best.
Sheikh Aatiyah Salim, in his explanation of the above hadith, said that if every individual was to apply it, then there would be no need for court systems, police protection, or inspectors. If every person focused on ihsan, then every time he or she even thought of taking a short cut on something they were doing or cheating someone, they would just stop themselves by remembering the presence of God.
So, how does this concept of ihsan apply to eating?
That’s an easy one! We can increase our ihsan in eating by applying the concepts of mindful eating. Mindful eating stems from the idea of mindfulness, which is simply to increase awareness and participation in the present. To understand mindfulness, think of the brain as having two functions: thinking and awareness. Thinking is when your mind is focused on something in the past or the future like an exam you just took or a doctor’s appointment you have coming up. Awareness, on the other hand, is being present in the current moment; it is observing and noticing what is happening around you.
The two have an inverse relationship, meaning that, as thinking goes up, awareness will go down, and vice versa. Think of a time you were in a social gathering. You physically sat there but you were worried about an upcoming doctor’s appointment. All of a sudden, everybody around you laughed and you had no idea what just happened. You were thinking so much that you weren’t aware at all.
This very same concept can be applied to eating. Have you ever gone to take a bite of your food only to realize it’s already gone? You weren’t present during eating that you didn’t even realize you already ate it all. Increased mindfulness at meal times can help us improve the eating experience. It helps us realign ourselves with our bodies instead of eating habitually. A spiritual benefit is to be connected with what we are eating, how it was prepared, and in turn the source of the food, our creator.
Mindful eating is not a diet; it is a tool that elevates the eating experience by increasing our presence. It encourages us to use all of our senses prior to eating during food prep, in the actual meal while eating, and afterwards by checking in with ourselves. It is important to recognize that there is no wrong or right way to eat mindfully, there are merely varying levels of awareness in the food experience.
Mindfulness is a journey and process, in the same way our efforts towards ihsan are. To learn more about mindful eating, join Dua this Ramadan in her Ramadan series: ““Mindful Eating – A Prophetic Example” Ramadan Series.
Dua Aldasouqi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Health Coach, and the founder of Dua the Dietitian. She has been practicing since 2010 and genuinely believes that our relationship with food should not be complicated. She is also a student at Qalam Institute and loves combining the traditional teachings of Islam with modern day nutrition guidance. You can reach her on her website, Dua the Dietitian, or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr.