Allah, the Wise, has said:
وَ يُطعِمُونَ الطَّعاَمَ عَلیَ حُبِّهِ مِسکِيناً وَ يَتِيماً وَ اَسِيراً
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) has said:
إنَّ الاِطعاَمَ مِن مُوجِباَتِ الجَنَّةِ وَ المَغفِرَة
Do know that eating less for the well-being of one’s interior and exterior self is always recommended. Consuming food is indispensable for the body and is necessary for procuring strength for performing acts of worship and other needful tasks. However, eating excessively causes the heart to become hard and cruel, passions to be aroused and the body to become sick. It ought to be noted that procurement of food by lawful means is mandatory; all the prophets and the auliya (friends of God) always abstained from impure, unlawful and dubious food, and constantly endeavoured to procure their livelihoods by lawful means. This is because the foremost of the achievements and successes is attained by means of the morsels that enter into the stomach.
Two mystics from Khorasan set out on a journey together. One of them was weak, consuming food only once in two nights, while the other was strong and healthy, eating food three times a day.
As fate would have it, when they happened to be near a city both of them were taken into custody, charged with spying for the enemies, imprisoned in a house and the door of the house was locked and sealed. A couple of weeks later it came to be known that they were not spies but two innocent people. When the house was opened, it was observed that the strong mystic had died while the weak one was still alive. The fact that it was the stronger of the two, who had died caused great astonishment amongst the people.
Coming to know of the bewilderment of the people, a learned doctor from amongst them said: On the contrary, it would have been a matter of great astonishment had the weak mystic died; the death of the strong one was caused by the fact that being an excessive eater, he could not get himself to endure these fourteen days without food, whereas the weak one, being accustomed to eating less, was able to endure this adversity and managed to survive.3
Abd al-Rahman Ibn Hajjaj narrates:
We were in the house of Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) and were having food with him when some more rice was brought for us. We sought to excuse ourselves from eating more whereupon the Imam (peace be upon him) said: Whoever likes us more shall consume more food with us.
Hearing this, we once again sat down and began eating the food. Witnessing this, the Imam (peace be upon him) stated: This is so much better.
He (peace be upon him) then continued: One day, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) was presented with some rice, whereupon he (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) invited Salman, Abu Dharr and Miqdad to join him in eating it. They sought to excuse themselves but he (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) insisted: “Whoever likes us more ought to eat more with us.” Hearing this, all of them ate to their full.4
Fadhl Ibn Rabi’ relates:
Once, Sharik Ibn Abdullah Nakhai’ arrived before Mahdi Abbasi, the third Abbasid Caliph, who said to him: You must accept to perform one of these three tasks: Become a judge in the judicial setup, educate my children, or eat my food.
Sharik thought that teaching the Caliph’s children was a tough proposition; becoming a judge was tougher; however, eating the Caliph’s food appeared to be simple and so he accepted the third option. Mahdi instructed the cook to prepare various kinds of delicacies which were then brought before Sharik, who satiated himself with them.
The kitchen attendant said to Mahdi: O Caliph! This sheikh, after consuming these delicacies, shall never attain salvation.5
Fadhl Ibn Rabi’ states:
By God! After consuming that food, not only did Sharik began to increase his association with the Bani Abbas and agree to educate their children, but also consented to become the judge. Once, Sharik’s pay-slip, which was used to collect his salary from the treasury, was handed over to him. When he approached the treasurer for his pay he insisted that he be paid immediately in cash. Noting his insistence, the treasurer said to him: You have not sold linen or an expensive garment that you insist so vehemently on receiving immediate cash payment.
Hearing this, Sharik retorted: By God! I have sold something that is more precious than linen – I have sold my religion!6
The Blessing is in the Bread7
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) has said: Regard bread with great esteem for most of the entities that exist between the Arsh (Throne) and the earth have some form of contribution in making and preparing it. He (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) then said: Previous to you, there lived a Prophet by the name of Daniyal. One day he gave a loaf of bread to a pauper, who, upon receiving it frowned and flung it in the middle of the road, saying: What can I do with a loaf of bread, which has no worth.
When Daniyal witnessed this he raised his hands towards the skies and said: Honour bread with a lofty rank!
Due to that reprehensible act of that person, God withheld the rains from pouring and prohibited the earth from bringing forth its vegetation. Circumstances became so adverse that people resorted to cannibalism, and began eating one another.
Two women, each of them possessing two children, decided amongst themselves that one day the child of one woman would be eaten while the next day it would be the turn of the child of the other. On that day one child was consumed; however the next day, the mother of the other child whose turn it was to be eaten, refused to give her child. This led to a great dispute between them until eventually they approached Daniyal and placed their issue before him.
When he came to realise the condition of the people, he prayed to God, Who then opened the doors of His mercy upon them.8
After the death of Mu’tasim Abbasi (d. 227 AH), his son Harun, titled Waathiq Billaah Abbasi, became the Caliph. It has been recorded that he was immensely fond of sexual intercourse, and so requested his doctor to provide him a concoction that would serve to increase his sexual strength.
Excessive sexual intercourse wastes away the body and I do not want your body to be wasted, the doctor advised. But Waathiq insisted: You have got to prepare it for me.
The doctor, seeing no alternative, set about to prepare the concoction; he ordered meat of wild beasts to be boiled seven times in vinegar that was procured from wine. This meat was to be consumed in a measure equivalent to the weight of 54 peas, after drinking wine.
However, Waathiq consumed more than the prescribed quantity and before long was afflicted with dropsy. The doctors were unanimous in their opinion that his stomach would have to be split open after which he would have to be placed within a furnace heated by means of olive oil.
They then set about putting their suggestion into execution and, despite his repeated requests, refrained from providing him water for 3 hours till large boils manifested themselves upon his body, whereupon he was taken out of the furnace.
Do not place me in the furnace again for I shall surely die, he beseeched, but once again they put him inside. When the boils burst they pulled him out of the furnace in a state that his entire body had turned black; he died shortly afterwards.
A cloth was placed over his dead body, and his corpse lay forgotten and unattended as the people soon became occupied in pledging allegiance to his brother Mutawakkil. Thus, in the year 232 AH, at the age of 34, he succumbed to his food of death.9