Why Muslims Shouldn’t Lead A Sedentary Lifestyle

Imagine an obese man returning home from work. He uses an app to order transportation. On the way, he uses another app to order pizza. It should be home by the time he gets there. He feels a slight pain in his chest, but ignores it.

After getting home he plops down on the couch and turns on his PlayStation. He pulls up his phone to browse social media while the game boots up. After all, he doesn’t have the patience required to wait 30 seconds.

Speaking of which, he begins wondering why his food is taking so long. As he does, the bell rings. He begrudgingly gets up, wishing that there was an app to get the food right in front of him, so that he wouldn’t have to walk all of 20 feet to get the door. Another pang in his chest goes ignored as his pulse shoots up.

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He finally gets the food and walks back towards his couch. On the way he looks out the window and sees a garden, with children playing and families having picnics. When was the last time he had been outside? With a feeling of guilt as slight as the chest pain, he pulls the curtains, blocking the outside world. Sunlight? Exercise? Those are things of the past. Out of sight, out of mind.

We live in an age of accessibility and on-hand entertainment, where SB (sedentary behavior) is becoming not just prevalent, but the norm. And the physical health consequences are severe, to say the least.

A prominent Pakistani cardiologist had this to say at the 50th Cardiocon of the Pakistan Cardiac Society in Karachi:

“The youngest patient with heart attack brought to the NICVD was a 17-year-old boy who had the MI (heart attack) due to heavy smoking and obesity. A large number of people between the age of 25-40 years are now having heart attacks in Karachi and the rest of the country due to a sedentary lifestyle and other risk factors,”

The article further states that the prevalence of diabetes has upped by 150% in the last two years! And this is just the situation in Pakistan, where people still aren’t as deeply drenched in SB as in the West.

But how does a sedentary lifestyle lead to increased risk of a heart attack?

Almost every tissue in our body requires blood flow in order to acquire nutrients. The more tissue we have (such as in obese people), the more blood flow we require, which causes the heart to compensate by pumping harder. This leads to hypertension (increased blood pressure) and a gradually weakening heart.

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This blood chronically flowing at high pressure has a tendency to damage arteries. The fix for this damage comes in the form of fatty deposits, known as plaques, which unfortunately also reduces the size of the artery, making it harder for the blood to pass through. This leads to more damage, and subsequently, formation of more plaques.

In this fashion, arteries throughout the body get damaged until the plaque eventually breaks off, travels in the blood, and becomes clogged in the tiny arteries supplying the heart. Parts of the heart stops receiving oxygen, leading to a heart attack.

Then how is exercise a solution to this problem?

A study by the University of Oxford found:

In a study of more than 90,000 people, researchers found that not only is physical activity associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, but also those who are active at the highest levels achieve the greatest benefit to heart health.

Allah has designed a beautiful system of adaptability in our body, wherein our muscles are utilized when we exercise, causing increased metabolism, which burns off the excess calories, relieving the excess burden on the heart, leading to a decreased blood pressure, and an overall better circulation and health.

Islam shows the importance of being active. Our days consist of performing prayers at least 5 times a day for the sake of Allah, which in addition to imparting nourishment to the soul and strengthening a believer’s connection with Allah, acts as a good form of physical exercise.

We worship Allah through fasting in the month of Ramadan and also try to fast voluntarily throughout the year according to the Sunnah, which also keep us healthy and is a great way to lose weight.

Hajj also is a process that requires challenging physical activity.

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The Prophet (ﷺ) and most of his companions were all in great shape, ready to fight the forces of evil at any given moment. Therefore, we too should strive to follow this Sunnah.

Let us adopt this Dua found in Sahih Muslim:

Anas b. Malik reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) used to say:
” O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from incapacity, from indolence, from cowardice, from senility, from miserliness, and I seek refuge in Thee from the torment of the grave and from trial of the life and death.”

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Assalamu alaykum, jazakAllah khayr for raising an important issue. There are many ahadith that encouraged the sahabah to train and stay fit. Also generally how they viewied eating practices and laziness. Frankly we should ask Muslims to get up and excercise. Hit the gym, do martial arts and/or regualr sports and running. Salah is not excercise. Fasting is great but not excercise. Hajj once in a lifetime. The ending proposal in the article could be much better. May Allah bless you.

Baz (SL)

But there are some issues with your suggestion of exercise and sports. The fact is that there are still some Islamic Oulemaa or mullahs who declare that all sports (which were not done by prophet/sahaba) are haram (including all the modern Ball games), because playing sports which were invented by the cuffar is “imitating the infidels” or “teshebboh Bill cuffar”. For them the only halal sports are the Sunnah of horse riding, archery and swimming and wrestling, and that only for men/boys.

And then there is the issue that many ultra-orthodox Muslims (such as this blog’s authors) don’t like, that nearly all the gyms are mixed gender and have young women in semi-revealing outfits working out in full view of men. Exercising at home is not an option for everyone because many people live in small homes or flats with not enough space to run around and jump in.

Then there are some ultra-orthodox hardliners who claim that it is haram for women to play sports or exercise in the same way as men (such as playing sports or lifting weights or using cardio machines) even inside their private homes or female-only closed rooms, either because it is “imitating cuffar” or “imitating men” or “violating their natural purdah haya modesty”.

Baz (SL)

That’s why Muslims should get more involved in the gym industry to set up more gender-specific gyms (branded as “Gents gyms” and “Ladies’ gyms”) like how there are many gender-specific barbershops, including women’s home-based gyms that are built inside Muslim businesswomen’s House harems.