O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.
Quran translation, Surah al-A’raf, 7:31
Assalaamu Alaykum brothers and sisters,
We’re all used to hearing about an unrealistic body image being promoted for women in the modern world and yes this is a terrible problem, leading to depression, anxiety, eating disorders (over as well as under eating) and suicides among many, including our young (and sometimes not so young) sisters. We cannot deny how huge an issue this has become but are we not guilty as a society of the same when it comes to men?
THE UNACHIEVABLE MALE BODY IMAGE
Given these same eating disorders are now affecting males, as well as physiological problems relating to health and fitness I think it’s fair to state now that modern media, social media, artwork and overall society is promoting just as an unhealthy body image of men as they’ve done in the past with women. Body images which are just as unreachable as those female equivalents that are now so widely recognized as so damaging on the minds and bodies of women that we see some city authorities wanting to ban from the public space so should we not recognize the dangers to men also?
STRUGGLING WITH DEMOTIVATION
This unachievable male body image was something which disheartened me recently as I’ve looked into getting back to a more healthy state. I just knew I am never going to be thin nor will I ever be the right shaped human to get that V upper-body figure most men crave.
I’m a human being, and as I read article after article on health and fitness it affects me on some level seeing the accompanying images (most likely photo-shopped), a body image I’ll never achieve no matter how long or how often I worked out or did sports.
This was something which can be a huge downer and as I read others blogs and online material I know it is something which can make many, men and women, want to give up almost before they start. I think if it was not for the fact I know I’m failing in my Islamic obligations by being so out of shape I’d have been far more tempted to give up myself by now after just a few weeks or eating more sensibly and a wee bit of regular exercise.
Narrated by A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said: “The first calamity for this nation after the Prophet’s death is fullness of their stomachs; when their stomachs became full, they became obese and their hearts weakened and their desires became wild.”
Sahih al Bukhari
Thinking about all of this brought my wandering and desperate thoughts back to my favourite part of the Quran, a couple of verses I come back to again and again when faced with difficulty in life.
Do think the people that they will be left because they say, “We believe” and they will not be tested?
And indeed, We tested those who (were) before them. And Allah will surely make evident those who (are) truthful and He will surely make evident the liars.
Quran translation, Surah al-‘Ankabut, 29:2-3
So I knew I just had to keep going, even with the occasional slips, and disheartening as it is get to the best I can be and in every instance of being tested we have difficulties, and I find if you keep looking at a problem from different angles you’ll find a way through the problem.
AN EPIPHANY THROUGH FACEBOOK
So I kept walking as I do when I want to think, or just to relax and still this problem would trouble me, I couldn’t think of a way through until one day on opening facebook in the morning the following image came up.
I looked, and looked again and it hit me that the 1st image on the left, that is something I can never achieve, but the 2nd image, the one of the right, yes I could see myself looking like that after plenty of work.
Guidance from Allaah comes sometimes in the strangest places, one conversation, one quote, one meme or picture can change our perception for us, Allah opens up our minds and allows us to view things from a different perspective.
As I continued to think about the problem I realized there is no one ideal body shape, or even just a few different body images, each difficult or almost impossible to achieve for myself and most others. Instead each of us has our own ideal size and strengths we can work towards.
As I read more about this topic I realized more and more the ‘healthy’ body image given to us is actually unhealthy, and almost impossible to achieve hence why men are now increasingly resorting to plastic surgery to get that ‘perfect’ muscle structure implanted into their bodies.
You may be small, wiry, you’ll also never achieve that V upper body, but maybe you’ll run marathons one day which I’ll likely never do. You may be large like myself and aim to be strong and healthy in a different way. Each is good, none is wrong, none are ideal for everyone, each of us needs to tailor our health and fitness to best suit the hand we’ve been dealt.
Though the Sahabah all sought to be healthy, as taught in the Quran and by our beloved Nabi Muhammad ibn Abdullah (Sallallahu alayhi wa salam), they were a differing bunch of people as we all are today.
Some thin like Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him), some large like Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), some tall and some short, differing looks, differing physiques, they strove and struggled just as we do today and by living a moderate life according to the guidance given to them and us they achieved a balance in such matters of health and fitness as they sought balance and a moderate path in all areas of life.
So for myself I know I need to keep working hard, striving for the sake of Allah and know Allah doesn’t measure me against others but against myself, knowing what I am personally capable of doing.
My health didn’t get so bad in just a matter of weeks, it took years of neglect and it will take many more months and years to get back to something approaching acceptable and I have to accept that and keep going.
For those of you in the same boat as me, all need to remember it’s not just a physical battle we’ve got going on here, but a mental, emotional, even spiritual battle as well to get ourselves and keep ourselves in the best possible health and I think we need to put to one side and maybe ignore many of the things we see around us, instead aiming for a body image which is personal to us, the best each of us can be.
Assalaamu Alaykum folks,
So I do actually have a job, it’s not well paid but to make it clear I’m not one of those dole-wala types chilling all day online because I should be paid by society as I’m doing ‘dawah.’
I am not one of those guys, and I do love my job working in a community centre, they pay me to help people which I’d happily do for free if I was rich, but unfortunately I’m not. Rich that is, I am happy most of the time Alhamdulillah.
But not being rich, the charity sector not paying well, the cost of living going up, as well as house rental costs rising at an alarming rate I’ve found myself facing the prospect of being on the job scene after many years away.
Times are tough, and only going to get tougher, the country is effectively broke and living off it’s credit cards due to spending tonnes of money we didn’t have on public services, disastrous foreign adventures and of-course bailing out all those toff merchant bankers who almost pushed the world economy off a cliff a few years ago.
So cuts are biting for everyone, the benefit caps coming in in November which is going to hit so many people, prices are rising and I am finding myself looking for part-time work at a time when everyone else is probably deciding it’s a good time to do the same.
What is more, to make matters more difficult in finding extra work, it needs to be something which will fit around my existing position and I am totally looking forward to going from the jolly flexible role in the charity sector to the strife and struggle of trying to find time for family, shopping, friends, studies, going for salaat with working 2+ jobs.
APPLICATIONS DUTY SENT
Applications have been duly sent in to usual agencies, the job centre, subtle and not so subtle queries made to friends and family and I also applied for a number of call centre positions in my city. Yes I’m probably a bit old for call-centres but it’s something I’ve done before and let’s be honest, though it also doesn’t pay well it is easy money.
I must have applied for 200+ jobs in the space of the past 3 weeks, had a few call backs from agencies for entirely unsuitable jobs, either the hours were not right, they were expecting me to go self-employed (Been there, done that, never again), or they wanted me to work in places as a Muslim I’d rather not go near.
“No thank you for the kind offer, but as a Muslim I really don’t want to work in the head office for a pub chain, nor do I want to work in HR in a Pork Pie factory.”
But then out of the blue I got a call back today from the very first job I applied for on that first day of looking. I had assumed I’d failed somehow as not heard anything back and they’d had a totally evil online application form and devilish mathematics quiz attached which I assumed I’d failed.
The call took about 40 minutes and despite my mobile sound cutting out and being crackly all the way through I managed to pass the dreaded phone interview and I’ve been invited to an further interview and work based assessment tomorrow morning, look, here is the confirmation email!
DAVID BRENT NEVER GOT FIRED HE JUST GOT MOVED SIDEWAYS TO HR
If Allah wills it and I am successful tomorrow, I’ll begin training later this month which will be lots of fun… think if they try to make me do that ‘trust-exercise thing’ where someone drops backwards I’m thinking of moving to drop them straight to the floor.
Well maybe not… unless I really don’t like the guy then I am up for it but really cannot stress enough how much I cringe at these training days, but at least if I’m successful I’ll have more money coming in, and maybe, just maybe I’ll finally have a bit left over to start saving up and getting ahead in the financial stakes.
Would appreciate if those reading this can raise their hands and make a quick dua for me to be successful tomorrow, or even a long dua, or even setting your alarm for tahajjud and getting up and making lots and lots of dua for me, and the rest of the ummah as well of-course. Please?
In which BIB visits Bedfordshire to meet Football League Manager Abdul Kahaar.
A-Man: Beard Is Beautiful (The Poem)
In which BIB meets musician turned Muslim, Thomas “Aimen” Evans. We discuss the transition from stubble to lamb chops to flourishing follicles, receiving the red card for facial hair at Notting Hill Gate tube station and never leaving home without a comb!
In which BIB meets Yaqub Renwick, a convert, poet and sound engineer all rolled in one! We discuss Turkish kebab shops in Acton, living on the Thames and a couple of cases of not so mistaken identity on account of the beard!
Tommy ‘A-Man’ Evans of ‘Beard is Beautiful’ fame explains in a powerful spoken word the experiences of many white Muslims in Britain including myself.
The elation of reversion, before the gradual realization that not all is as it should be post shahadah, the needing to find your own way – to bridge that gap between Islam and British culture, whilst maintaining your own individuality.
His also touches on the blessing / curse of being white in a Muslim community still burdened with something of a colonized and / or cultural mindset in a way I’ve always struggled to articulate.
Christine Amina Benlafquih invites us to try this aromatic condiment in a myriad of ways.
What comes to mind when you think of ginger? Asian dishes such as teriyaki, baked treats like gingerbread and ginger snaps, or perhaps a beverage along the lines of ginger ale? For many years, that was pretty much the extent of my own encounters with ginger, but today the spice represents considerably more.
In my Moroccan kitchen, for example, I use ground ginger almost daily in dishes which run the gamut from savoury soups and stewed veggies to well-seasoned chicken, meat and fish preparations. Use a little, and ginger can be described as fragrant, sweet and peppery; use a lot, and you’ll notice that it’s also a bit fiery.
The Qur’an cites ginger as a food of Paradise:
“And they will be given to drink a cup whose mixture is of ginger.” (Al-Insan:17)
There is little to be found in the Sunnah with explicit references to ginger (zanjabeel in Arabic). However, one hadith narrated by Abu Said al’ Khudri shows that the Prophet (SAW) tasted and shared some preserved ginger which he received as a gift from the Byzantine emperor. (Medicine of the Prophet)
In addition to being a remedy for colds, flus and respiratory infections, ginger is widely recognised as an effective treatment for indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea, flatulence and nausea. Some pregnant women find that ginger alleviates the symptoms of morning sickness, while some travellers conclude that it’s useful in combatting motion sickness.
While these therapeutic qualities are notable, ginger’s chemical properties go beyond improving how one feels. Ginger is also said to improve the memory, increase sex drive, benefit the circulatory system by reducing cholesterol levels and preventing blood clots, and work as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-fungal and anti-viral. It can be used to treat headaches, muscular and joint inflammation and menstrual cramps.
Ginger in fresh rhizome and dry, ground form is available all year round. The rhizome can be refrigerated (or peeled, wrapped and frozen) to preserve its shelf-life; dry ginger should be stored in an airtight container and replaced every few months.
Although the flavour and pungency of fresh and dry ginger differ a bit, one can be substituted for the other using a ratio of 4 to 6 measures of freshly grated ginger to every 1 measure of dry.
The plethora of international dishes which call for ginger make it easy to incorporate this sunnah food into our diet. To get started, try these easy recipes:
Ginger and Honey Tea
Fresh ginger tea is a healthy concoction that can aid digestion, soothe an upset stomach and provide relief from cold and flu symptoms. Honey, another sunnah food, adds flavour and additional health benefits.
• 2 ½ cups water
• 1 ½ inch section of fresh ginger
• 2-3 tbsp honey, or to taste
1. Peel the ginger. Cut into thin slices and put it in a small pot with the water.
2. Bring the water to a boil and allow it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or a bit longer if you prefer a stronger tea.
3. Strain the tea into cups, add honey to taste and serve.
Grilled Ginger Salmon
This Asian-influenced marinade works well with salmon, swordfish or firm fish steaks. You can also try it on chicken or turkey breasts.
• 1 kg salmon
• ½ cup orange juice
• ½ cup soy sauce
• 1/3 cup honey
• 2 tbsp Dijon style mustard (optional)
• 1½ tsp dry ground ginger
• 1½ tsp garlic powder
• Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Wash the fish. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisking until smooth.
2. Reserve ¼ cup of marinade and set aside.
3. Add the fish to the bowl, turning it over several times to coat it with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
4. Remove the fish from the bowl and place over medium heat on a grill (alternatively you can use a grill pan or broiler). Cook for approximately ten minutes each side, basting occasionally with the reserved marinade. Serve.
Christine Amina Benlafquih is an expert on Moroccan Food. Her culinary creations can be found on http://moroccanfood.about.com