Discourse 13: Two Despised Characteristics: Eating Too Much And Looking At Others

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللٌّهِ إِيَّاكُمْ وَ فُضُولَ الْمَطْعَمِ فَإِنَّهُ يَسِمُ الْقَلْبَ بِالْقَسْوَةِ، وَ يُبْطِيءُ بِالْجَوَارِحِ عَنِ الطَّاعَةِ، وَ يُصِمُّ الْهِمَمَ عَنْ سَمَاعِ الْمَوْعِظَةِ وَ إِيَّاكُمْ وَ فُضُولَ النَّظَرِ، فَإِنَّ يَبْدُرُ الْهَوى، وَ يُولِدُ الْغَفْلَةَ.

The Messenger of Allah (S) has said, “I warn you in relation to eating too much because surely this act poisons the heart by making it hard (no emotional feelings), and makes your body parts lazy and lethargic in relation to obedience of Allah, and it deafens the ears from hearing advice and good counsel. I also warn you in relation to looking around with inquisitiveness because surely this act excites your desires and gives birth to negligence.”1

In the above tradition, we have been prohibited from eating too much (filling our stomach) and looking at other people and (immaterial) things with inquisitiveness.

1. Eating Too Much

The issue of observing moderation in our food is something whose importance we do not know or realize as we are not acquainted with the important benefits - both from the point of view of our physical body and health, and also in relation to our spirit and soul that this action has upon us. Thus, eating too much can be looked at from two different angles: the physical aspect and the spiritual aspect.

A) The Physical Aspect

It has been confirmed that a majority of the diseases which people are afflicted with are due to eating too much food. There are some doctors that have even brought proof to back up this claim and state that, “Microbes can and do enter the body from four different channels which are air, food, water and sometimes even through our skin and there is no way to prevent these from coming into our system.”

When this skin of ours - which is a thick barrier that should prevent microbes from entering our body - has a scratch or wound on it, it is possible that through this injury, microbes can enter the body, thus breaking through this barrier of protection. Thus, we always try to defend ourselves from various types of attacks of microbes and illnesses. In addition, our body develops the means of protection and the defense mechanisms needed so that it does not become a source of infections.

It is also been stated that the extra fat which covers over the tissues in the body is a place where various types of microbes can form and grow - just like a garbage can which is full and if kept in a place for a long time could lead to sicknesses and the spreading of various diseases.

Some of the things which can protect us from such diseases is to burn off all of our excess body fat - and one of the ways that the fat can be burnt off is through fasting. All people can understand this fact since everyone can discern that when there is excess food in one's body which is not absorbed into itself, then the body stores this excess, and in the end, the job of the heart then increases.

In summary we state that when a person becomes heavier, it has a negative effect on all parts of his body and thus the heart and other organs also get sick faster, and naturally the life of the person is cut short. Therefore, if a person is sincerely trying to attain goodness for one's self, he must abstain from eating too much food and one must habituate himself to eating less, especially those people who do not exercise much.

A doctor once said, “For over twenty years I have been trying to cure sick people and my answer to all of the experiences (over these years) that I have seen can be summed up in two phases: 'moderation in food' and 'exercise.'”

B) The Spiritual Aspect

The tradition we started with points to three very important spiritual aspects that a person who eats too much will face:

1) The first is that a person who eats too much will develop spiritual hardness of his heart.

2) The second point is that eating too much will lead a person to becoming lazy and lethargic in his worship. When a person eats heavy food, he is not able to easily perform his Salatul Fajr and when he does wake up for the Salat, he resembles a person who is giddy or drunk. However, when a person eats light and simple food, then when the time of the Adhan comes, or even before the time of the prayer, he wakes up and is full of joy and energy. He would be in a mental condition to study or to perform the worship of Allah (SwT).

3) The third point is that a person who eats too much will have his ears sealed to listening to and taking heed of advice and good council.

When a person is fasting, we see that his heart has pity and sympathy for others in it and his level of spirituality increases. However when a person's stomach is full, his mind does not work properly and thus, one even becomes spiritually far away from Allah (SwT).

Maybe you yourselves have noticed that during the Month of Ramadhan, the people's hearts are more willing and ready to hear advice and exhortation since through staying hungry and fasting in the day time, the hearts have developed a sense of purity in them.

2. Looking At Others

What is the meaning of the word نظر” “ in this tradition? One is that of looking at a non-Mahram which can lead a person to take his lower desires as his Lord. However this word has a much wider and deeper meaning than just this.

By this we mean that any sort of look with the eyes which can lead a person's lower desires to get excited, may be included in the meaning of this word in the tradition under review. For example: a person passes by a store and while staring with astonishment at the things he sees in the window, he wishes for them and says to himself, “Oh! If only I had those things!” Or a person sees the newest model of car that has come out and has the desire that he had that car. This sort of looking at something and having that longing and desire that he had such a thing can lead to negligence and forgetfulness [of Allah (SwT)]. It is these sorts of wishes that make a person attracted and attached to this temporal world.

However the look which is done to take lessons and learn, and which is purely a “religious look” or that look which is for example done to help and reach out to a poor, destitute person or a person who is sick so as to help and cure him is a look that is very highly recommend and has been emphatically emphasized (in our religion).

Point to Consider: Many types of wealth and levels of status in this material world, as has been mentioned in the traditions and Nahjul Balagha, can be described as such:

كُلُّ شَيْءٍ مِنَ الدُّنْـيَا سَمَاعُهُ أَعْظَمُ مِنْ عَيَانِهِ.

“Everything that is in the world which is heard about (that people say) is greater than what can be seen of it (greater than it truly is).” 2

As it is commonly stated, “The sound of the kettledrum is pleasing to hear from afar.” From a great distance, the sound of such a drum is nice and pleasing however as a person gets closer and closer to it, he will then realize that it is a flimsy, empty thing which actually hurts the ears!

The late Hadhrat Ayatullah al-'Uzma Burujerdi once gave the following advice to us in one of his lessons, “If a student (of the Hawza) studies Islam with the intention that he wants to reach the level or status that I (Ayatullah al-'Uzma Burujerdi) have reached to, then do not have any doubt about his foolishness and simplicity. You are thinking from afar (not in this position that I am in) and you see that I am at this position of Marja'iyyat however I see myself at a station where I am not the master of my own life and how it passes by. I do not even have the ability to control when I take a rest or relax.”

Almost all gifts of this world are just like this.!

  • 1. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, pg. 182.
  • 2. Nahj al-Balagha, Speech 114.