Religious people often comment on the differences between humans and animals. You’ll hear people saying things like, “We are more than just animals…we were not meant to just eat and sleep,” and other similar phrases. But, to a certain extent, we are like animals. We do need to eat and sleep. But even more than that, we love our most basic functions. We find pleasure in fulfilling the needs and wants of our bodies.
One of the most beautiful aspects of Islam is how it takes our most animalistic urges and makes them sacred. Sex can be worship, if done lawfully and with awareness of one’s partner’s needs. Sleep can be something which brings us closer to Allah, if we do so with the intention of getting our needed rest in order to wake up and continue doing good deeds. In addition, the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) taught us incredible supplications to make at different times, so that everything we do can have an spiritual aspect.
In this month of Ramadan, where we are focused more on eating than at any other time of year (both because of our abstention from it, and our delight in iftar), I thought it apt to focus on the sheer joy of a satisfied stomach. One of my favorite duas of all time is the one at the end of eating:
Alhamdulillaah alladhee at’amanaa wa saqaanaa wa ja’alanaa* minal muslimeen
Translation = All praise is due to God who fed us, gave us drink, and made us from among the Muslims
*note that the Arabic text is mistakenly vowelled. It says, “ja’alnaa” (we made) instead of the correct “ja’alanaa” (he made us).
So simple, but so good. After a good meal, when I say this, it makes it all that much better. It takes the natural state of satisfaction and adds to it a spiritual component.
And to be honest, one of the few things that rivals the satisfaction of a full stomach is the satisfaction of feeling the release of that food once it has nourished us. This, to me, is simply amazing. We have a beautiful prophetic du’a about what to say after using the toilet:
Alhamdulillaah alladhee adh-haba ‘annee aladhaa wa ‘aafaanee
Translation = All praise is due to God who has expelled the filth from me, and given me well-being
Almost every time I say this du’a, I can’t even believe it. I can’t believe how awesome Islam is that it can take going to the bathroom and make it a profound spiritual experience. Truly, nothing is left out in this deen.
The basis of animal life is the intake and out-take of the sustenance that is required to sustain life. This most basic of functions, without which no animal could live, is for the Muslim, just one other opportunity to praise God. God has put joy in the fulfillment of our bodily needs, and also placed for us, in the example of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him), a way to turn those moments into praise and worship.
All praise is due to God who taught us to praise Him in all states!
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