Bismiallah Ir Rahman Ir Rahim.
Like many Mindfulness based healing paradigms that have existed from around the world, a discussion of how Sufism has contributed to the Nutritional and Healing Arts is well deserved at this time. Islam and the Muslims who have come to understand and embrace the inner reality of the 5 Pillars of Islam have established a long history of not only deciphering and answering some of the greatest Mystical inquiries related to the present life as we have come to know it, but have also contributed greatly to the art of Healing around the world; and the tradition continues on today. When it comes to the concept of Holistic Nutrition, Tasawuuf or authentic Islamic Sufism is intertwined and it is for these reasons that the sick and spiritually ailing individual has sought the assistance of the Sufis from the time of the Golden Age of Islam in the regions of Al Andalus in Spain, , Baghdad in Iraq ,the great empires of West and North Africa, to India, Arabia, the Mediterranean and even beyond to the West.
Whether you agree or disagree that the Science of Sufism is authentic and has a place in Islam isn’t the premise of this piece: its premise is related to the contributions and upliftment of health consciousness, intellect and the healing of the human body, mind and spirits of those who sought them out.
Although the Sufi Masters and their students who have learned from them have used various methods to provide health promotion and healing to the masses there are some core methods that run as currents throughout most of the authentic Sufi Orders which we will explore here. Sufism is not magic or an Art based on superstition; but rather a Path based on Self inquiry, purification of the Ego and Ikhlas (sincerity) in striving to comprehend the Truth. These three elements serve as foundations in which true healing of the body and mind can begin. Here are some of the core ways Sufism has contributed to the ideas of Holistic Nutrition and Healing:
1) Stress Relief through Awareness of the Breath:
While we have already touched upon the concept of the Hosh Dar Dam (meaning you should not inhale or exhale your breath without true consciousness) there is another level in which establishes that the Breath if properly guarded, it leads to higher consciousness of the body and the world in which it lives. With an increased emphasis on performing extra Sunnah prayers, constant Dhikr (reciting the Holy Names of God) this understanding of the Nasma (Non-Physical Body) through Meditation, Sufi Healers are able to tap into the powers of HSP (High Sensory Perception) which can address issues of physical body pain, disease and mental distress. Sheykh Abdul Kerim (Q) spoke of the importance of being aware and in touch with ones breath to know that… “Ones life is not based on the number of years a Man or a Woman has been granted, but rather the number of breaths they have taken.” Seeing life in this way pushes the seeker to cherish and value each breath, which releases internal energies to cause the body to relax, to reduce stress and be present as much as possible in the present moment.
2) Eating and Prescribing Foods that Promote ‘Vital Life Force’ Energy:
In addition to following the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) to leave a portion of food to let your stomach be at ease, the Sufis have promoted healthy and life charging foods that heal the body and promote healthy mental health. This concept of Vital Life Force energy is an idea in Holistic Nutrition that concludes that all living things contain a spark of life (i.e. Qudrah (Power or Essence), and the foods that you eat either promote the body towards a healthy and vibrant life or can lead you down a path to deterioration and a painful ending. It is for these reasons that conscious Sufi Practitioners eat and prescribe large numbers of fresh, whole foods with minimal amounts of animal proteins in order to propel the body to supreme health. Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin Chisti in his book The Book of Sufi Healing spoke of the importance of coming to understand that… “Food is the main medicine.”
3) Ramadan and Extra fasting throughout the Year:
While the Sufi keeps the traditional Islamic fast of the month of Ramadan, He or She also keeps and prescribes fasting of the not just the body of the mind on various days throughout the year; like fasting on Mondays and Thursday’s for example which is a well known and established Sunnah. Fasting is also of great importance in the field of Holistic Nutrition because it establishes (as well in the Sufic) that most if not all physical ailments begin in the stomach, and can mostly be cured within the stomach. Thus Fasting is a way of purifying the stomach lining and also allows the blood to reach other extremities of the body (like the Brain for example; for heightened awareness) rather than being directed to constantly process food all of the time.
4) A Continued History of Healing and Service to All:
Those who are keeping the vibrancy of authentic Sufism alive continue to make themselves available to the masses who seek them out. Whether it was the Ahul Suffah (People of the Bench) who used to stay up and night in the city of Medina to seek, pray and host the locals who came to them; to the Dergahs, Khaniqahs and Zawiya’s all over the world, the Sufi Orders have made their centers open to those who are seeking healing and physical and mental refuge. These traditions continue today and inshallah will continue as the days go on.
Holistic Nutrition and Mindfulness go hand in hand and Sufism has its place in both and is worthy of inclusion in the discussions related to Healing Paradigms throughout the world. Here’s to your health and deeper expansion of your mind and understanding of your true reality.
– Daud Scott -CHNP.