Written by: Dua
This is Part III of the Mindful Eating Series – A Prophetic Example.
Part I can be accessed here: “The Mindful Eating Series: Eating with Ihsan”
Part II can be accessed here: “The Mindful Eating Series: Drinking Mindfully”
Mindful eating is all-encompassing in that it includes not only the eating process itself but also food preparation. Focusing on food preparation and the pre-meal time allows us to create the proper mindset for being more present during the meal itself. Imam Al-Ghazali in his book, Ihya’ Uloom Aldeen, included a chapter on eating. If that chapter was titled ‘Mindful Eating,’ it would still have the same exact content. This is how closely connected Islam and mindful eating are.
Imam Al-Ghazali opens the chapter by sharing the importance of eating and how it is an act of worship. He says that our ultimate goal as believers is to worship God and attain God’s pleasure, and that, in order to do this, we need to keep our bodies healthy. And in order for our bodies to be healthy–I hope you know where this is going–they need to be fed appropriately. Reassessing our intentions for eating alone can help us become more mindful and present; it can help us achieve ihsan in our eating itself.
Prior to eating, there are a few steps we can take to be more connected to both our Creator and our food:
- Ensure that the food that you eat comes from a halal sources and that the food itself is tayyab (good). This is an in-depth topic with scope far outside our discussion here. But the general application of this can certainly help us be more mindful in our eating and more connected with our food. This is primarily telling us to be vigilant in our food choices. For a lot of us, this can be as simple as learning more about the sources of our food, including both animal and plant products. Knowing where the food came from, how it was processed, and how it got to you can increase your appreciation of the food and in turn the attention you give it while eating it.
- Wash your hands before eating. This is common sense for us today, and it was even taught to us by the Prophet Mohammad (s) himself. In a hadith shared by Imam Al-Ghazali washing the hands prior to eating repels poverty. This can be further extended to help us with our mindfulness in eating. In same way wudu is partly a mental preparation for praying, washing hands prior to eating can be a mental prepation and an increase in our presence for eating.
- Sit at a table. This tip is in every mindful eating class and all mindful eating instructions. One of the primary reasons we eat mindlessly is because we are eating too fast. Sitting down at a table helps us focus; it forces us to slow down as opposed to eating while standing up really quick or on the go.
- Set an intention. This is probably my favorite tip, as it stems from both a mindfulness perspective and also from a spiritual aspect. According to Imam Al-Ghazali, our intention should be to strengthen ourselves to worship God and do what we need to do to please Him. He also highlights that, for our intention to be genuine, we must avoid getting too full. Eating in excess is actually counterproductive, as it leads to fatigue and lethargy.
It’s hard to do the above with every meal or every time we eat, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pick a meal a day or a few meals a week and try to meet the above recommendations.
I encourage you to challenge yourself this week by:
- Choosing a meal a day (or a week)
- Assessing the foods in that meal, finding out where they came from and how they got to you
- Specifically washing your hands before eating, even if they’re clean
- Setting a table and sitting at it, even if alone
- Starting the meal with an intention, a reminder to yourself that this meal will help you reach your ultimate goal of pleasing God (swt)
Watch the Mindful Eating Series on Dua the Dietitian’s Youtube channel to learn more about Mindful Eating and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), you can also read the entire series, visit Dua the Dietitian’s blog, and follow her on Instagram or Facebook.
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.