According to the definition a proverb is a simple, traditional saying that expresses a truth based on common sense or experience. However, no new proverbs have been reported as far back as we could check although both common sense and experience are still abundant, or so it seems. Another theory says that proverbs are expressions of “common folk’s wisdom”. If that’s true, it would mean that this kind of wisdom has completely dried up. As you can see, the matter deserves some investigation.
The word “proverb” derives from Latin proverbium; pro meaning for, on behalf of and verbum meaning word. Thus “proverb” could be rendered as on behalf of the word, where “word” should be understood as the Divine Word or Message. Clearly, it is connected to Prophecy and to the wisdom transmitted by the different prophets, which later on may have taken on a more concrete or concise form as it was passed down by word of mouth. That’s why the definition mentions that proverbs are “traditional”, which implies that their origin goes so far back in time that it can’t be traced with any precision. Chinese proverbs say “the more you eat, the less flavour; the less you eat, the more flavour”; and “he that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician”. A Japanese proverb says “when the oranges are golden, physicians’ faces grow pale”. On the other hand, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, although expresses a similar idea, is not a proverb but a saying, deduced, however, from the wisdom transmitted by “proverbs”.
We are quoting these proverbs here because at present a considerable amount of attention in the “civilized world” is given to nutrition. One constantly sees headlines such as:
– This Happens If You Drink Apple Cider Vinegar Daily
– If you eat pumpkin seeds every day, this is what will happen to your body
– Top foods that are good for your liver
– Olive Oil Improves Health of Obese People
– 7 Foods That Could Kill Cancer
– 11 All-Natural Antibiotics Provided By Mother Nature
– Stay away from these 10 deadly foods that could cause cancer
Also fruits, other captions are telling us, are packed with substances that enhance health, and give us nutrients with few calories and virtually no fat. They can protect us from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes, among many other items. Impressive.
The information of this kind comes from dieticians and is supported by the most sophisticated investigation carried out at different institutes by the highly specialized staff. One is led to believe that it is the result of breakthrough research and most astounding discoveries in the field of health which only now have seen the light of day. Nothing can be farther away from the truth. Mankind has always known these facts. Today they are dusted and presented to us as yet another achievement of the high priests of science. As always they are the last to acquire real knowledge.
When we say that mankind has always had this knowledge, we refer to the input provided by the prophets, whose messages awaken our conscience to the fact that we are creatures and hence remind us that there is a Creator, with everything it implies. And what it implies is that there is a specific way of life which is correct and finely tuned to our primordial nature. In order for this tuning to work we find in the prophetic input the instruction covering all fields and sciences man needed to survive and prosper, from metallurgy and writing system to nutrition and medicine.
The Qur-an and the teachings (hadith, pl. ahadith) of Muhammad, the last one in a long series of prophets sent to mankind, contain abundant information in this respect, the most fundamental among them being:
(168) O people! Eat of what is on Earth lawful and good, and do not follow the footsteps of shaytan (Satan). He is to you an avowed enemy.
Qur-an 2 – al Baqarah
The word rendered here as “good” is the Arabic word tayyib, meaning pure, clean, wholesome, nourishing, pleasing to the taste. One could venture to say that what is enclosed here is the principle of what nowadays is called dietetics. We should eat not only what nourishes but also what benefits. But how was man to know what was nourishing and what was harmful? Take mushrooms for example or all sorts of berries. It could have been done perhaps, one can’t help thinking, by some sort of elimination process, in which some people would be asked to eat something and if they didn’t drop dead, the rest would know it was edible. Yet, somehow one finds it hard to believe. As it’s hard to believe that in their roaming the countryside people would notice a plant growing somewhere and think “Oh, that one must be good for stomach aches. Let’s make an infusion, shall we?” Again, it doesn’t sound convincing. Rather, the basic knowledge must have been transmitted to man by someone who knew it already –malaikah (angels, but not exactly) and later on prophets, who received it by inspiration.
Thus, we have the element of “lawful” next to “good”. Each society, if well-regulated, follows what is lawful, meaning what was transmitted to this society by the Prophecy. If this condition remains unfulfilled, the society will follow in the footsteps of shaytan. In fact, we are not talking here about dietetics, but about the way of life since the word “diet” comes from Greek diaita, literally manner of living, to lead one’s life. Therefore, “dietetics” would mean the science or art of living.
Sadly, the modern man has no art or science of living. Hence, headlines such as “The Overuse of Antibiotics”, where we are told:
The result is that we are all consuming antibiotics on a near-daily basis. This level of overuse has pushed antibiotic resistance to a breaking point. Soon there will be super bacteria that medical science has no way of treating. New antibiotics are being developed all the time, but not fast enough. If you’re feeling scared, you should be.
We are, that’s why we keep reading and we are informed that garlic, oil of oregano, grapefruit seed extract, ginger, apple cider vinegar and 5 or 6 more items are perfect natural antibiotics which can save the day for us. With due respect –this knowledge does not come from dieticians. What happens is that right now the authorities almost everywhere are desperate and are telling us “go back to Mother Nature”, only that it is not her we must go back to. Exactly the same can be said about Canadian researchers who happen to have discovered the honey is not only a nutrient, but also medicine with far ranging properties and powerful curative characteristics. Moreover, we can read at “Honey and Health: A Review of Clinical Research”:
Evidence from Stone Age paintings shows treatment of disease with bee product such as honey originated 8000 years ago.
Well, well, well! Isn’t that interesting? They must have had excellent dieticians back then!
The last information received by mankind about things lawful and good in all aspects of life both public and private comes from the revelation received by the prophet Muhammad and reflected in his ahadith and the Qur-an itself. We have received from him information about the benefits of all nutrients mentioned most frequently by “dieticians” –dates, barley, honey, figs, grapes, milk, olives, pomegranates, vinegar and melon– among many others. The Qur-an declares for example:
(68-69) And your Lord taught the bee to build cells in hills, on trees and in human habitations. Then eat of all the produce and follow the ways of your Lord made smooth. There issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men. Verily in this is a sign for those who give thought.
Qur-an 16 – an Nahl
The word rendered as “taught” is the Arabic awha which ordinarily refers to inspiration. Here, it denotes the message put into the bee by Allah, which science calls so unscientifically –instinct. Not only are we informed of the properties of honey, and indeed its existence, but we are also encouraged to reflect on the phenomena connected with these humble flying creatures, so hard-working, useful and obedient. How else, if not as described by the verse quoted above, would they have found out that the hexagon is the best shape for the cells in which to store their produce since it takes advantage of every millimeter of the available area?
We were also told by the prophet not to overeat:
The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for him to eat a few morsels to keep him alive. If he must fill it, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink and one-third for air. (al Tirmidhi, Sahih)
Abu Juhayfah transmitted:
A man burped in the presence of the Messenger of Allah, and he said: “Keep your burps away from us, for the one who overeats in this world will be hungry for the longest time on the Day of Resurrection.” (al Tabarani, Sahih)
We are also told not to waste food and avoid all excess:
(31) O children of Adam! Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.
Qur-an 7 – al Araf
In several ahadith we were also informed about the necessity for oral health by means of cleaning our teeth after every meal with miswak. a sort of a toothbrush growing naturally.
The miswak is a teeth cleaning twig made from the Salvadora persica tree. It is reputed to have been used over 7000 years ago.
In every epoch, however, and in each prophet’s community there were those bent on covering up this knowledge or keeping it to themselves. Hence, today we frequently come across references to Mother Nature, spelt with capital letters –a very common trick used to eliminate the notion of our Creator. Interestingly, no-one ever takes the trouble to specify who or what this Mother Nature is. Is it the birds? The sun? The sky? The trees? All of them together? Clearly, one can only laugh at the absurdity of the idea that nature might be a creative force. And yet, this lie is propagated even by scientific papers. The truth is as follows:
Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age. (Abu Dawood, Sunan )
Furthermore, Abu Hurayra quoted the prophet saying:
Utilize the black seed for without doubt it is a cure for all sicknesses aside from death. (Al Bukhari, 7-591)
The point we are making here is this:
Mankind has always been accompanied by the malaikah, revealed books and prophets. It was the malaikah who taught man how to make use of fire, clay and iron; how to build ships; how to differentiate between beneficial elements found in nature and those which are harmful, and how to take advantage of both; they taught man about the sky and its constellations and revealed how to measure time and divide it into years, months, week and days; taught him agriculture, construction and everything else man needed to establish healthy societies, living in an environment which would have been extremely hostile had it not been for the tools and knowledge man was provided with. This multi-layered instruction, essential part of the prophetic narrative, will be systematically forgotten by man, which will eventually lead him to adore those very identities with whom he cohabited for a time and from whom he received knowledge and guidance.
How else could it have happened? Can we honestly suppose that one day, 5000 years ago someone found a plant growing somewhere wild and had a brilliant idea of this being wheat, and that it should be grown, harvested, ground, turned into flour, mixed with water and baked into bread? Without prophetic input man would not have survived or reached the present stage. And now, that he has reached it, he chooses to talk about Mother Nature. “Nature”, “instinct” and similar names are used when nothing else can be said by way of explanation about a given phenomenon –something that happens to scientists every day, which is why they constantly have to rectify and rewrite everything they had written until then.
The prophetic narrative teaches us what should be and how it should be. However, today it’s almost impossible because what is lawful and good cannot, actually, be found anymore. Waters have been poisoned, and that’s why the fish are toxic. The air has been polluted, and that’s why our lungs are deteriorated. Pesticides have ruined potatoes, which cannot be eaten without ingesting deadly chemicals. Cows and poultry are routinely fed antibiotics and hormones. And so on and so forth. Allah’s creation has been almost entirely defaced. This makes us think that the end is near and the time for mending one’s ways is running out.
(119) …and the will alter the creation of Allah…
Qur-an 16 – an Nahl