"Eat Little, Be Cautious, and Constantly Remember Allāh"

Extracted from the book :"The manners of the knowledge seeker"

Ibn Jamā’ah said:

“From the best ways to help yourself understand the knowledge you are dealing with and to prevent boredom from it is to eat very little, and from what is halāl."

Ash-Shāfi’ī said:

“For the past sixteen years, I never ate my fill.”

The reason for this is that eating excessively leads to excessive drinking and sleeping, dulling of the senses, and laziness of the body. This is all in addition to the fact that doing so is disliked in the Sharī’ah, and exposes the body to all types of dangerous disease as it was said: Indeed, most of the diseases you see Are from eating and drinking… And none of the famous scholars or awliyā’ were ever described as having eaten much, or was ever praised for doing so. Rather, excessive eating is a trait of mindless animals.

A person’s intellect is the source of his deeds, and it is too noble to be hampered and wasted by such a despicable thing as excess food. If there were no downside to eating too much other than that it forces one to use the bathroom, this would’ve been enough for the intelligent one to steer clear of such a practice. And whoever attempts to be successful in seeking knowledge while insisting upon excessive eating, drinking, and sleeping is attempting the impossible.”

Ibn Qudāmah (may Allāh have Mercy on him) said:

“The desire of the stomach is the most destructive of them all, and it is what caused Ādam (peace be upon him) to exit Paradise, and from the desire of the stomach comes the desire for sex and wealth. These leads to many problems, all the result of satisfying one’s appetite."

‘Uqbah ar-Rāsibī said: “I entered upon al-Hasan while he was eating, and he said: “Come eat with me.” I said: “I have already eaten until I can eat no more.” He said: “Subhān Allāh! Does the Muslim eat until he can eat no more?!””

[Tadhkirat as-Sāmi’ wal-Mutakallim’]

Eating in moderation consists of raising one’s hands from the table while he is still a bit hungry. This strengthens the body and wards off disease, and this is because such a person does not reach for food unless he is hungry for it, and raises his hands back while he is still hungry for it. However, eating too little can also weaken you, and some people were so deficient in what they ate that this caused them to be lax in their obligations. Out of their ignorance, they thought this to be something good while this was not the case, since those who praised and encouraged hunger were referring to moderate hunger that we have described above.”

[‘Mukhtasar Minhāj al-Qāsidīn’]

All of this revolves around being cautious in all affairs, and cautiousness (wara’) is from the stations of the journey to Allāh, the Exalted, as Ibn al-Qayyim said:

“And the Prophet (peace be upon him) combined everything related to cautiousness in one phrase:

“From the Perfection of a man’s Islām is that he leaves that which does not concern him.”

[Reported by at-Tirmidhī (2317), Ibn Mājah (3976), Ibn Hibbān (229), Ahmad (1/201), and Mālik (2/470). In ‘Sharh as-Sunnah’ (14/321), al-Baghawī said: “Its chain is authentic, but it is mursal,” and al-Albānī declared it authentic in his checking of ‘Mishkāt al-Masābīh’ (3/1361).]

So, this includes not talking about, looking at, listening to, touching, walking towards, or thinking about that which doesn’t concern him, as well as involving any other outer or inner movements that are of no concern to one. So, this statement is more than enough to illustrate how to be cautious, and

Ibrāhīm bin Adham said:

“Cautiousness is to abandon anything doubtful, and to leave what does not concern you is to leave anything you don’t need.””

[‘Madārij as-Sālikīn’]

And the essence of cautiousness is to leave what is doubtful, and the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) encouraged this in the narration of an-Nu’man bin Bashīr:

“The permissible is clear and the forbidden is clear, and between them are doubtful matters. So, whoever leaves what he suspects is sin will be farther from what actually is sin, and whoever is bold enough to fall into what he suspects is sin will fall into what actually is sin. Sins are the boundary that Allāh has placed, and whoever hovers around a boundary will cross it.”

[Part of a longer hadīth reported by al-Bukhārī (52 & 2051), Muslim (1599), and Ibn Hibbān (721)]

Al-Baghawī said:

“This hadīth is an essential one when it comes to cautiousness. It says that if someone is confused as to the permissibility or prohibition of a matter and has nothing to refer to, the cautious one is he who abandons it, because if he doesn’t abandon it, proceeds with it, and makes it a habit, it will drag him into what is prohibited.

Most doubtful matters can be divided into two types. The first type is that which has no reference for which one reach a ruling of halāl or harām, and such a case warrants that the person leave off that action. As for the second type, this is where there is a reference and clear basis for declaring that matter either halāl or harām. In this case, one should stick to what is established, and should not digress from the basic ruling except with certain knowledge. For example, if a man purifies himself for the prayer and then has doubt as to whether or not he nullified his ablution, he is to pray so long as he isn’t certain that he nullified his ablution. Also, if one finds some water in the desert that he is not sure is pure, he should stick to the basic principle of water being pure, hold firm to this, and not fall for the devilish whisperings.”

Ibn Hajar (may Allāh have Mercy on him) said:

“”The permissible is clear, and the forbidden is clear” shows that the rulings are divided into three categories, because each matter either has a clear text showing its virtue and a warning from abandoning it, a clear text showing its harm and a warning from falling into it, or no clear text indicating either of the two. So, the first is what is clearly halāl, and the second is what is clearly harām. When he (peace be upon him) said that

“the permissible is clear,”

he meant that it does not need any additional clarification, and that it is something known to all. As for the third, it is what is ambiguous and unclear to the one who fears it, such that he doesn’t know if it is halāl or harām. In this case, the person should avoid this action, because if it actually is harām, he has taken the safe route, and it is actually halāl, he is rewarded for abandoning it with this intention.”

“So, the seeker of knowledge should be cautious in all aspects of his life, and should be particular about his food, drink, clothing, and housing being permissible in all aspects. He should apply this concept to everything that he and his family need in life, so that he can fill his heart with light and condition himself for soaking up the light of knowledge and benefiting from it.

He should not automatically lean towards something being permissible so long as he can exercise caution and does not need that thing. He should also not indulge in the permissible things. Rather, he should always seek to be at a higher level and follow in the footsteps of the righteous scholars of the past, who used to exercise great caution even in those things they judged to be permissible. The one he should most strive to imitate and follow is our Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him), who would not even eat a date that he found on the road out of fear that it was from charity, even though it was quite improbable that it was. The people of knowledge should be followed and imitated, and if they don’t exercise caution, who will?”

Anas (may Allāh be Pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) came across a date that had fallen from a tree, and said:

“Were it not for the fact that it could be charity, I would’ve eaten it,”

and Abū Hurayrah (may Allāh be Pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) said:

“Verily, I turn to my family and find a date fallen on my bed. I raise it to my mouth to eat it, and then fear that it might be charity. So, I put it down.”

Ibn Hajar said: “Here, the Prophet (peace be upon him) specifically mentioned that he found it on his bed. With this, he refused to eat it out of caution,”

and an-Nawawī said: “This hadīth contains an example of caution, as this date was not forbidden by mere suspicion that it was from the charity. Rather, it was left out of caution.”

May ALlah make us enable to seek fruitful knowledge. Aameen