Advice to a Poor Black Muslim Youth 3
Understand that the path you are on is not the path of the multitudes in the hood—or even the multitude of the Muslims. What you see around you is not the standard by which you determine “normal” and “strange,” “good” or “bad.” You are looking to avoid the sins while gaining the maximum benefit from your precious time. In order to do this, you must not neglect the demands of your body. Your body has rights on you, so don’t abuse it.
As for taking care of your body, be sure to attend to your diet. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) said: “Most of the illnesses come from the stomach.” And keep in mind the proverb: “Disaster comes from the mouth; disease comes into the mouth.” Lessen your speech and be conscientious about what you eat. First of all, avoid the haraam (forbidden) meat at all times! This does not only mean abstaining from the swine. This means avoiding any type of meat that is not properly slaughtered—even chicken and beef. This means the meat in the Chinese grease pits is off limits, as well as, McDonald’s, the other fast food joints and restaurants and the meats sold in the grocery stores. Although kosher meats are technically allowed, I advise you to avoid them. Also, make sure that the money used to buy your food is halaal. So even if the food itself is religiously permissible, if it is bought with dirty money, like drug money or alcohol money***, then you can’t eat it. Your flesh grows from the food you eat. If you eat from the haraam, then your flesh will be of it.
One of the most disheartening things I saw when I arrived in Philadelphia years ago was the diet of the Muslims—even if they were not eating anything haraam. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and numerous other dietary related diseases are common in the hood and also among African-American Muslims. Although, you may not think you need to worry about such things now while you are a young and strong man, a lifetime of dietary neglect will take its toll as you get older. Also, by developing dietary discipline, it will build a foundation for self-restraint, which in turn will give you the confidence that you can to subdue other types of impulses. Furthermore, you will in time see an improvement in your health, if Allah wills. Your body will function on a schedule; in–shaa’ Allah, you will see fewer health problems; your mind will become clearer; your moods will be in equilibrium; you’ll have more energy, and your mental outlook will become increasingly positive. Contrary to what many may think, you can actually save money by eating healthy—if you know how to shop. Also, you will, God-willing, also save money and time by not having to go to the pharmaceutical dealing Frankenstein doctors as much—if at all.
Understand that some of the most profitable sectors of this economy are also the most parasitic. These sectors make absurd amounts of money off of peddling human misery. As you change your dietary habits and become more conscious, you will see that in the hood, folks are being fed a slow death. This means you have to get off the corna-sto’ diet. Chips, soda, and cigs are not sustainable “foods.” If you are on good terms with one of the local store owners, talk to him about getting some healthy foods. You can tell him, if you can find a few likeminded Brothers and Sisters, that you will bring him new customers if he carries healthy alternatives.
It isn’t my goal here to go into details about what to eat, but here are some tips. Stop seeing food as source of pleasure. See food as your medicine, that is, as a means to give you a healthy body and mind, so that you can use that body and mind to obey Allah. If you make this intention when you eat, then the act of eating itself becomes a form of worship and a source of reward. Do not overeat, for it will make you lazy, cloud your mind, and overeating will increase your shahwa (lusts). Drink plenty of bottled water—leave out the sodas, the “juice grenades,” and fruit “drinks.” Drink fruit JUICE—made with real fruit juice—and not that stuff with “five percent real fruit juice.” Keep in mind that a gallon of water is cheaper than two cans of soda.
Among the best low cost health foods are sunflower seeds (unsalted and raw—not the stuff steeped grease). Use these to snack on. Avoid the candy and the rest of the “junk foods.” Remember you are not eating to please your taste buds. You are eating to get strong to obey Allah. Try to get some good honey and take a tablespoon each morning; honey is praised in the Qur’an, and it’s a Sunnah to consume. Also, the honey will help with your sweet tooth, for you should try to phase white sugar out of your diet. Take advantage of Whole Foods and the Essene Market. You may not be able to go organic, but you will find the bulk foods are cheaper than what you can get in the neighborhood grocery store. Also, take advantage of the farmer’s market or the Italian market. Train yourself to snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, like carrots. Again, this is cheaper than buying candy bars and chips.
Don’t smoke—easiest way to quit is not to start. It looks bad for a student of knowledge to be smoking; it smells bad; and it isn’t going to help your health. Furthermore, a pack of squares goes for about $7. Use that money to buy books and other things that will enhance your ability to gain knowledge.
Also, consider a cleansing juice fasting. I am not talking the Religiously mandated fast (more on that later, God-willing). I am talking about doing nothing but water and fruit juices (like, grape) for one or two straight days. The city is a place filled with all sorts of toxins, the fasting will help clean you out, in-shaa’ Allah.
Exercise. I would suggest learning a martial art, for not only would you be keeping yourself in good physical condition, you will also be gaining an invaluable skill set that will help develop discipline, confidence, and composure, and someday you will be able to teach it and help others. Also, you know where you are. There may be times when you are simply forced to get into a physical confrontation. Don’t look for it, avoid it as much as you can, but if the situation arises, know that you can take care of you and yours. If you cannot find a humble learned Muslim teacher, my suggestion is to learn from a Chinese Kung Fu instructor. Learn about not only about the fighting arts, but also the healing arts; they are interrelated in the Chinese system. Also, do not look for a teacher who is little more than a brawler. You are not looking to learn these skills to show them off, get into street fights, or get on the MMA circuit. You are looking to develop skills that will improve yourself as a human being and help you get out of your circumstances.
If you cannot find or afford a martial arts teacher, you can still have a callisthenic program. If you can do it outside with a relative degree of privacy, then, all the better. Get up early—before the time of Fajr—and take advantage of the mornings. After offering your prayers go for a short run. The night crawlers and goons are usually not around at this time, so it is easier for you to focus on your program, and you’ll be getting a head start even upon those who work for a living.
Much can be said on this topic. The main thing is to get started and have the determination to break bad eating habits. Do it now, for it won’t be easier when you get older. Read more and more about natural health and exercise. Each person is going to find that which best fits their temperament. God-willing, in the next piece, we will talk about some do’s and don’ts to help you navigate through the streets.