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Random thoughts

June 15, 2015

Prayer and health

Opinion

June 15, 2015

Part - I
Random thoughts
Recently I wrote columns on ablution (vuzu), bathing (ghusal), namaz (prayer), fasting (rozah) and zakat (alms). Today I would like to stress the relationship between prayer and health.
In recent discussions with my friend, Dr Rashid Seyal, a US trained cardiologist and medical specialist, who has written many books on Islam and science and Islam and health. Here are some of the points he made regarding the benefits prayer to health.
A senior Professor of Medicine, Prof. Noor, represented Pakistan at the Tokyo Medical Congress in 1986. It was a ten-day conference in which about ten thousand dissertations covering various fields were presented. One day different medical attitudes were discussed with reference to Islamic endowment and etiquette. One of the papers discussed the implications of eating food while sitting or standing. It was agreed that sitting was the natural posture for eating and that standing could lead to gastric disturbances and peptic ulcers.
Urination was also discussed and it was affirmed that in subjects who customarily urinated in a sitting position, the occurrence of benign hypertrophy of the prostate was less frequent. Similarly, some papers claimed that the incidence of constipation and haemorrhoids was more frequent in those who used western toilets rather than Asian ones.
The incidence of suicide or ‘seppuku’ due to frustration etc is highest in Japan, a very advanced country. It was established that people who washed their hands and faces repeatedly during the day, as Muslims do during ablutions, felt less frustrated with hardly any suicides were recorded. It was also pointed out that using toilet paper increased the incidence of pilonidal sinus (an ulcer having two ends: one inside the gut and the other next to the anus. Invariably this leads to soiling of clothing.) Recent studies also indicated that toilet paper was a prime source of water pollution.
Surprisingly, these papers

were mostly presented by non-Muslims. Prof Noor concluded that Muslims had applied these practices for more than 1400 years because right and wrong were prescribed by our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Namaz, a ceremonious and sedate prayer, is a combination of yoga-like movements and meditation, with the additional advantage of mild isotonic exercise. This leads to a sense of discipline, continuity, physical and mental health, atonement, composure and constraint of body and soul. Religion and ritual have always played an important role in the daily routine of human beings. Whether Hindu, Christian or Muslim, people seek alleviation of their problems through their rituals and convictions. This assists in experiencing great physical and intellectual endurance in the long run.
Regular prayer is mandatory for every adult in Islam and an earnest disciple will pray conscientiously to the Almighty five times a day, as ordained in the Holy Quran. Apart from the spiritual nature of prayer, this ritual relieves a person from stress of work and other problems and gives him/her repeated unconscious breaks to rejuvenate their physical energy, alleviate mental stress and sooth the soul, enabling work to again be taken up without tension. It also requires regular ablution for physical hygiene before rituals can commence. Namaz at divided intermissions helps keep the body in an appropriate physical and mental state.
Breathing in a correct manner during namaz ensures that all the bodily systems, both physical and mental, maintain an even balance. At the same time, this also helps to make the person feel relaxed. The yoga-like movements help maintain physical and intellectual fitness. The fundamentals of yoga, which are probably about 5000 years old and have been practiced in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, are divided into various categories. Ashtanga yoga consists of yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyana and Samdhi.
When examined closely, one finds a strong resemblance between the rituals of namaz and the routines of yoga. During namaz one is unconsciously performing yoga thereby reaping the benefits of maintaining physical and intellectual equilibrium. Namaz and yoga are both genuine rituals that keep one physically and mentally fit. However, namaz goes a step further in also assuring spiritual health as well.
The discipline of ablution has already been discussed in an earlier column. Here I would like to stress one particular physical aspect of this requirement –Taenia Solium –the larvae of a parasite that enters the human body, either through the oral route or via the spaces between the toes. Having entered the blood stream, it finds its way to the brain, heart, liver, lungs, peritoneum and muscles, causing disabling diseases. Cleaning and washing of the inter-digital spaces during ablution was particularly advised by the Holy Prophet (pbuh). How could an uneducated person without any knowledge of modern medicine advise this without guidance from the Almighty?
Praying five times a day is a set of guidelines for every Muslim. The act of performing prayers in accordance with the rules laid out in Islam is namaz or salat. It embraces the conscious contemplation, physical discipline and humble recitation of Quranic verses as specified and ordained in the Holy Quran. “Be guardians of your prayers, and of the midmost prayer, and stand up with consecration and commitment to your Lord (11:238).
Many advanced countries are nowadays treating infirmities and diseases with acupuncture, as has been done in China for centuries. The theory behind this treatment is based on the principle that the human body carries current along specific pathways and that the big toe of the right foot is its starting point. This current can be focused in different parts of the body at changing times during the 24 hours of any day.
Knowledgeable people will notice that the schedules of namaz are devised in such a way that they also keep changing in accordance with the daily variations in rhythms, thus allowing movement of different parts of the body at different times. Incidentally, the theory and significance involving the emanation of physical phenomenon throughout the body is well represented in namaz.
The second part of the column, under the same title, will deal with the influence of various movements made during namaz on the health and wellbeing of the body.
To be continued
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