Islam on Prevention of Heart Diseases

Prevention through prayers

Islam has given a very special attention towards health of the heart, both spiritual and physical. The Qur'an denotes the significance of a healthy heart through the words, peaceful heart. The holy Prophet (saw) explained the same question, stating:
Indeed there is a muscle in the body; if it remains healthy, the whole body becomes healthy, and if it is diseased, the whole body becomes diseased. Beware, it is heart.[1]

Therefore, Islam has placed a remarkable stress on prevention of heart diseases through its teachings and practices.

Prayer is the most important and fundamental practice of Islam which possesses the highest spiritual and physico-medical significance having positively an effective role in care and treatment of many ailments particularly the heart diseases.

Giving identification of the hypocrites, the Qur'an states:
When they stand up for prayer they perform it languidly.[2]

It means that hypocritical manner of prayer is based on lethargy and carelessness as they get neither any spiritual benefit from the prayer nor any physical good is done to their state of health.

The Quranic injunction is further elucidated by the holy Prophet’s tradition:
Verily the prayer has cure in it.[3]

The constant praying habit resultantly lessens the hazards of heart diseases through the following methods:

1. Regular prayer habit with real cordial interest and spiritual concentration removes or minimizes the strains and provides mental relaxation and contentment which helps in prevention of heart diseases. The holy Qur'an says:
Surely the heart strains and tensions are removed through remembrance of Allah.[4]

2. There are two main categories of fat in the diet: saturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats. Saturated fats tend to raise blood cholesterol levels and poly-unsaturated fats tend to lower them. Raised blood cholesterol may lead to obstruction of the coronary arteries with coronary thrombosis and occurrences of heart attacks.
Normal cholesterol level ranges from 150 to 250 mgs with the intake of food its level registers abrupt increase in our blood. One of the ways to obviate this threat is that cholesterol should be made to dissolve before it gets deposited in the arterial wall.

Islam has prescribed five mandatory prayers a day. The three of them Fajr (morning), 'Asr (afternoon) and Maghrib (sunset) coincide with times when the human stomach is normally empty. So these prayers comprise less number of cycles, which involves less quantum of exercise. On the other hand, 'Isha (night prayer) is normally offered after having the dinner; that’s why it consists of 17 cycles. 17 cycles of exercise which facilitates the dissolution of excess cholesterol. This quantum of cycles has been fixed by the special addition of sunan (non-mandatory) and nawafil (voluntary) prayers.

In the month of Ramadan, the whole day is spent in thirst and hunger. So naturally at the time of iftar (breaking of the fast) there is comparatively more intake of foods and drinks, therefore Isha (night prayer), consisting of 17 cycles, is further added with 20 cycles of tarawih prayer. There is a very significant tradition of the holy Prophet (saw) in this respect, reported by Imam Abu Nuaym:

Dissolve your dietary cholesterol through the process of remembrance of Allah and offering of Prayers.[5]

Immediately after the meals neither the sleep is recommended nor any hard exercise. Both can be harmful for heart. Only a soft kind of exercise like the prayer activity is said to be useful. The holy Prophet (saw) said:

Don’t go to bed immediately after the meals; it will harden your heart. Avoid any hard or large quantum of exercise immediately after meals, it will also cause a damage.[6]

That’s why a very balanced and soft physico-spiritual exercise has been prescribed in the form of prayer activity.

3. Function of two types of calf muscles called gastric anemias and soleus is also worth consideration. These muscles function as muscular pump for conveying back the veinal blood to the heart. As the heart pumps out fresh oxygenated blood into the body, the blood that passes through arteries to legs is returned to the heart through veins. When the calf muscles become weak and inert, the return flow of the veinal blood is affected, whereas the strong calf muscles render a considerable help in backward flow of the deoxygenated veinal blood to the heart.

The prayer that provides 5-times mandatory and another 4 to 5 times non-mandatory routine of light exercise is of appreciable assistance in accelerating the action of the muscular pump in the calf region. Every time standing up from prostration or sitting for a new cycle a sort of pressure is exerted on the calves. Owing to this process of contraction of calf muscles, the flow of the obstructed veinal blood is restored and it rushes back rapidly to the heart. This helps a good deal in decreasing the pressure on heart and its pumping action is somewhat reinforced.

1. Bukhari, as-Sahih (1:13).
2. Qur'an (an-Nisa') 4:142.
3. Ibn Majah, Sunan.
4. Qur'an (ar-Ra'd) 13:28.
5. Abu Nuayrn.
6. Abu Nuaym.

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