Islam greatly emphasizes maintaining one’s well-being by adhering to the principles of halal (permissible) and tayyib (pure) in all aspects of life. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, not only guided us in matters of faith and righteousness but also in the care of our bodies. He advocated for good hygiene, proper manners, regular exercise, and moderation in eating, always leading by example.
Additionally, there were specific foods that held a special place in his heart, often for their nutritional value. These nutrient-dense foods have many health benefits, and some are even mentioned in the Quran. To demonstrate our love for the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and keep our families strong and healthy, the first step is to learn about these nutritious foods and add them to our daily diet.
Here are a few examples:
1. Hello, honey!
Honey is not just a term of endearment for your sweet bundle of joy, it is also a medicinal and nutritional powerhouse mentioned in the Quran. Allah says about honey:
“And your Lord inspired the bees: “Make ˹your˺ homes in the mountains, the trees, and in what people construct, and feed from ˹the flower of˺ any fruit ˹you please˺ and follow the ways your Lord has made easy for you.” From their bellies comes forth liquid of varying colors, in which there is healing for people. Surely in this is a sign for those who reflect.”
(Surah An-Nahl, 16:68-69)
Honey, a timeless natural wonder, has been a culinary staple, a delightful condiment, and a trusted medicinal remedy for countless millennia. Its reputation for promoting health and well-being is firmly established, with a wealth of scientific research validating its efficacy in combatting various ailments and supporting the healing process. The highest quality honey is unadulterated, raw, and organic, crafted with minimal processing and devoid of any additives.
Honey is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial agent. It soothes coughs, aids in wound care, provides allergy relief, helps to heal burns quickly, has numerous skincare benefits, and is a safer and nutritious alternative to sugar. What a sweet deal! Honey is perfect for ages one and above, making it essential in every Muslim household.
Did you know that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, had a sweet tooth? This was especially the case for honey. His wife, Aisha, reported:
“The Messenger of Allah used to like sweets and honey.”
Not only did he enjoy it as a treat, but he also recommended it for its tremendous health benefits. He advised his companions:
“There is healing in three: a cupping operation, a drink of honey, and cauterization with fire, but I forbid my nation from using cauterization.”
2. How about a date?
When talking about Sunnah-inspired foods, we must remember to mention dates. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used to eat them every day. His wife, Aisha, reported that:
“The household of Muhammad never ate two meals in a day but that one of them consisted of dates.” (Sahih Bukhari)
Dates were a staple in the Arabian Peninsula due to their abundance, durability, and versatility. With numerous varieties available, dates can be enjoyed at various stages of ripening, and they can also be sun-dried to extend their shelf life further. You would think that since the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, ate dates every day, he would have gotten tired of the sweet fruit, but it was the complete opposite. He consumed and recommended dates as a pre-fasting meal, to break the fast, as a cure, and to eat regularly. His favorite variety was ‘Ajwa dates from the city of Medina, of which he said:
"Whoever takes seven 'Ajwa dates in the morning will not be affected by magic or poison on that day." (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
The Quran mentions dates more than twenty times, and when we learn their benefits, it comes as no surprise. Dates offer a wealth of essential minerals and vitamins necessary for normal growth and development. Additionally, they are an excellent source of dietary fiber, promoting digestive health. Furthermore, dates provide valuable antioxidants that play a vital role in protecting cells from oxygen-free radicals and may reduce the risk of various ailments, such as colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Dates contain iron, which helps to prevent and treat anemia and are especially helpful for pregnancy and childbirth. They are also a potent source of potassium, essential for regulating heart rate and blood pressure, and magnesium, calcium, manganese, and copper, which support musculoskeletal growth and red blood cell production.1
3. Cool as a cucumber
When speaking about the Seerah, the life and recorded words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, we cannot talk about dates without also mentioning cucumbers. That is because the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to eat these two together. Abdullah ibn Ja’far reported:
“I saw the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, eating fresh dates with cucumbers.” (Sahih Muslim)
Regarding this habit, the famous scholar Ibn al-Qayyim said: “The cucumber is cold and wet… so it is proper to use along with it whatever rectifies it and diminishes its coolness and moisture, as the Messenger of Allah did when he ate it with fresh dates. If it is eaten with dates, raisins, or honey, it will balance it out.” (Al-Ṭibb al-Nabawi, 1/267)
Cucumbers are not only cool but refreshing and hydrating. They are 95% water and are packed with vital antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Research even suggests eating cucumbers may protect against cancer and can help with blood sugar control.22 Opting for organic, locally grown varieties is optimal, and cucumbers can easily be grown in your garden. With their neutral flavor, pleasing texture, and cooling nature, cucumbers are a hit even among the pickiest eaters, making them an ideal addition to your child's diet. Cucumbers are great to have raw as a snack, in salads, and even juiced into a favorite blend.
Additionally, they may aid in weight management, as outlined in the following narration from Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her:
“My mother intended to make me gain weight… But nothing which she desired benefited me until she gave me cucumber with fresh dates to eat. Then I gained as much weight (as she desired).”
(Sunan Abi Dawud)
4. Awesome olive oil
There is no doubt that olives are a blessed fruit from a blessed tree because Allah swore by them in the Quran in the following verse:
“By the fig and the olive.”
(Surah At-Tim, 95:1)
He also describes His own majesty with a beautiful metaphor in which olive oil is mentioned:
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. His light is like a niche in which there is a lamp, the lamp is in a crystal, the crystal is like a shining star, lit from ˹the oil of˺ a blessed olive tree, ˹located˺ neither to the east nor the west, whose oil would almost glow, even without being touched by fire. Light upon light! Allah guides whoever He wills to His light. And Allah sets forth parables for humanity. For Allah has ˹perfect˺ knowledge of all things.”
(Surah Aan-Nur, 24:35)
Regarding the use of olive oil, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Season (your food) with olive oil and anoint yourselves with it, for it comes from a blessed tree.”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
There are so many benefits to olive oil, and it is one of the key foods in the acclaimed Mediterranean diet. This plant-centered dietary regimen encompasses daily consumption of whole grains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and nuts, as well as an array of herbs and spices. Numerous ongoing studies consistently highlight the advantages of the Mediterranean diet, which reduces the likelihood of heart disease and strokes and vastly improves longevity. The diet's nutritional benefits probably come from various sources (cucumbers included!), but the generous use of olive oil appears to be an evident factor.3 Olive oil is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and rich in fatty acids and vitamin E. As the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said olive oil can be enjoyed as a food or used topically. It also works wonderfully as a hair moisturizer. Grab a bottle ethically sourced from Palestine for maximum blessings.
5. Better with butter
Unlike olive oil, butter gets a bad rap sometimes in the health food world. There is a decades-old debate regarding whether consuming butter is harmful. However, a recent article by USA Today confirms that when it comes to butter, “while saturated fat (the main type of fat in butter) has been historically demonized as unhealthy, studies have found no significant link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease.”4 Experts say butter is a good source of calcium, it contains fatty acids that have benefits for gut health and weight management and contains anti-cancer and anti-obesity properties.
Whatever the science may say, we know from our tradition that all pure and lawful foods are good in moderation. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used to enjoy eating butter. It was narrated by some of his companions that:
“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, came by us and we offered him some butter and dried dates, as he used to like eating butter and dried dates.”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
In his book, Healing with the Medicine of the Prophet, Ibn al-Qayyim wrote, “The wisdom behind the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, eating dried dates with butter is that they would neutralize the effect of each other.” (p. 277) He also mentioned that butter’s hot and wet qualities relieve the dryness in the body.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, praised vinegar in more than one hadith and he used to eat it with bread. Jabir, one of his companions, reported:
"I entered the house of the Prophet with him and there was some bread and vinegar. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: 'Eat; what a good condiment vinegar is!’"
Not only does vinegar serve as a wonderful condiment, but it has tremendous health benefits. Vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, is associated with several potential health benefits. It may help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, making it valuable for diabetes management. Additionally, vinegar has been proposed to support weight management by promoting a sense of fullness and reducing calorie intake.
Vinegar can be used as a dressing for salads. It can also be used as a marinade, preservative for pickling or canning, in sauces, and for baking. Mix it with olive oil, honey, and spices and drizzle it over a cucumber salad for added Sunnah-inspired benefits.
Some individuals use vinegar as a home remedy for digestive issues, as it may increase stomach acid production and improve digestion. However, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health warns that while these potential benefits exist, more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness, and vinegar should be consumed in moderation due to its high acidity, which can have adverse effects on dental health and the digestive system.5
7. Beneficial barley
Barley was an essential part of the diet of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and was mentioned in numerous hadith. Barley can be prepared in many ways and is typically used to make bread, porridge dishes, and soups.
Aside from eating it as a regular food staple, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to recommend it as a remedy. His wife, Aisha, narrated:
When a member of the family of the Messenger of Allah would fall sick, he would order that barley soup be made, and then the ill person would be commanded to have some of it. He used to say, ‘It strengthens the heart of the sad person and relieves the heart of the ill person, just as one of you would wash the dirt off of her face with water.’”
(Sunah Ibn Majah)
Likewise, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to recommend talbina, the sweet porridge made from barley and honey, as a remedy for sadness. Regarding this practice, the scholar Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said:
“It is a kind of food that is made from flour or bran to which honey may be added. It is so called because it resembles milk in its whiteness and consistency. Its benefit is that it is soft and well-cooked, not hard and raw.” (Fath al-Baari, 9/550)
Barley contains many vitamins and minerals, and because it is a rich source of fiber, it can help lower cholesterol, slow digestion, and lower blood sugar. Because it can be prepared into a soft food, whether sweet or savory, it is easy to incorporate into a variety of dishes. Preparing it in a slow cooker may help busy families.
Although this article focuses on the foods that received praise in authentic hadith narrations, it is crucial to recognize that indulgent eating was not central to the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. His approach to food, whether during fasting or regular days, was marked by moderation, devoid of extravagance or waste, and following Allah's guidance. Food never took precedence in his daily life; instead, he consumed only what was necessary to sustain himself. In essence, his life was a testament to the importance of moderation and balance in all aspects, including food, to pursue a righteous and fulfilling existence. This should become a goal and habit for us and our families so we can maintain a healthy lifestyle that emulates that of our beloved Prophet.
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.