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Fundamental Duties in Islam: Impact on Health (Contd.)

Reference : Dr Javed Jamil

Fundamental Duties in Islam: Impact on Health (Contd.)

Series: Qur’anic (Dynamic) Paradigm of Health (Part IV)

It can be easily noticed that the movements involving Sajdah, sitting in between them and the returning back to the position ofQayam (standing) evoke the nerves in an orderly sequence, first from above downwards and then down upwards. The sitting in between theSajdahs ensures that even the movements of ankle and fingers do take place; this could not have been possible if there had been no sitting.

Salat (Salah): the Islamic Prayer
 
Qur’an says:
 
  • For such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times. (4: 103/A)
  • Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the Middle Prayer; and stand before God in a devout (frame of mind). (2: 238/A)
  • And establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night. (11: 114/A)
 
(“A” in this book used in the references of the verses of Qur’an denotes the English Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali..)
 
First, let us analyse the method of the Salat from an anatomical viewpoint. Human nervous system has two functional components: Sensory and Motor. Through sensory component, one controls various types of sensations like touch, heat, light, odour etc. The motor system governs the motions of the body. If for example, a needle pricks one’s hand, this information will immediately be carried to the spinal cord and brain through the sensory system. Then the motor system with its headquarters in brain and spinal cord will order the part to pull away from the needle. In the same way as the brain contains a sensory map, discussed n the chapter on Wudu, it also contains a motor map. The sensory map is located on the Postcentral gyrus and the motor map on the Precentral gyrus. The sequence of various motor actions on the map13 is as follows:
 
  • Swallowing, Chewing
  • Tongue, Jaws, lips
  • Face, Eyes, eyelids
  • Neck
  • Hand, wrist, elbow, shoulders
  • Chest, abdomen
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Ankle, Feet.
 
 It can be seen that the movements of different organs in Salatare almost exactly in accordance with this sequence. After performingWudu, a Muslim has been advised to swallow some water. Then he starts the prayer with the reading of the Niyyah (intention) using his lips, jaws and tongue. He then focuses his eyes on the point of Sajdah(prostration), also flexing his neck in the process. Then he moves his hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders raising his hands (Takbeer). After standing for a while, he bends his hips, which also brings his chest and abdomen into motion (Ruku). After extending his body again, he goes for prostration (Sajdah) bringing his knees, legs and feet in action. Thus in one unit (Rakat) of Salat, almost all the areas of the body engage in their movements, using almost all the major muscles of the body and activating almost all the motor system in the process.
 
Let us try to understand the movements in a little more detail. The movements are anatomically divided into:
 
  1. Flexion, which means bending in the sagital plane. (The body has two planes: the Sagital that divides the body into right and left portions, and the Coronal, that divides the body into Anterior and Posterior;
  2. Extension, which means strengthening of the flexed part;
  3. Adduction, which means bringing a part in the coronal plain (such as bringing back the legs raised on the right.);
  4. Abduction, which is the opposite of the adduction;
  5. Inversion, which is the flexing of the foot inwards; and
  6. Eversion, which is the opposite of inversion.
 
The movements of every part are controlled by different nerves coming out of the Spinal Cord.  When a person raises his hands for Takbeer at the beginning of the prayer, it involves the following actions:
 
  • The abduction of the shoulders, controlled by C5 (C here stands for the cervical part of the spinal cord.);
  • The flexion of the elbow, controlled by C5,6;
  • The extension of the wrist, controlled by C7,8;
  • The adduction of fingers, controlled by C8, T1. (T stands for Thoracic)
 
This means that the actions are taking place in an orderly sequence involving the nerves from C5 to T1. When one goes to Ruku(bending), the movements of the arm, trunk and hip involve C5 to L2, 3. Similarly, the movements involving Sajdah (prostration) have the following components and the nerve controls:
 
  • Flexion of hips L1,2,3 (L means lumbar)
  • Extension of knee L3, 4
  • Flexion of ankles L4,5
  • Extension of Hips L5, S1
  • Eversion of feet L5, S1
  • Plantar flexion S1,2
 
It can be easily noticed that the movements involving Sajdah, sitting in between them and the returning back to the position ofQayam (standing) evoke the nerves in an orderly sequence, first from above downwards and then down upwards. The sitting in between theSajdahs ensures that even the movements of ankle and fingers do take place; this could not have been possible if there had been no sitting.The Salat ends at Salam, which is done in the last to ensure that the attention is maintained before the prayer ends.
 
Let us now study the impact of Salat on health.

1.  The regularity of the prayer ensures that a person maintains a strict regime of hygiene. A Salat cannot be offered unless a man purifies himself. If one is in a state of impurity following a sexual intercourse, one has to take bath in a specified manner to ensure that all the discharges involving a sexual contact are fully removed. If one is not in a state of sexual impurity, one is required to wash one’s organs that are usually exposed during the day. It has been proved in the previous chapter that the organs washed in Wudu activate more than three fourth of the mini-man present in the postcentral gyrus of the brain. It has already been shown that the Wudu protects skin from the infective and cancerous disorders, helps in preserving high oral hygiene and also helps in keeping the internal infections at bay, particularly the urinary tract infections. The feeling of freshness that goes along with the Wudu is an added advantage.
 
2.  Different postures of the prayer have been designed in a way that most of the motor system of the brain gets activated and an overwhelming majority of the muscles of the body are brought into action. Different postures help in the relaxation of the muscles that usually become taut owing to taxing activities of the different types of works. The postures of Salat are also a more comprehensive and easier-to-do alternative of the various yoga exercises.
 
3.  Sajdah in particular is an extremely important posture. When I was studying in MBBS at King George’s Medical College, Lucknow, my professor of Medicine, Prof. S.N. Chakravarty very fondly talked of “Mohammedan’s Prayer Position”, explaining that patients of several diseases try to keep themselves in this decubitus because the cardiological output, the respiratory function, the amount of oxygen in the blood and the supply to the brain are at their optimum levels. This decubitus helps in clinically diagnosing diseases like Bronchiogenic Carcinoma, Pericardial Effusion, Persistent Thymus, etc. The extraordinary importance of this decubitus means that every Sajdah cleanses different organs and refurbishes the body with new vigour. It is pertinent to say therefore thatSajdah is not only the most loved sight in the eyes of God but is also anatomically and physiologically the best position of the body. The more the number of Sajdahs in a specific prayer the greater the benefits will be. However, a very long Sajdah may increase the blood supply to the brain for an undesirable period of time; so instead of one Sajdah, two Sajdahs with a gap have been prescribed in the prayer.
 
When I was studying in MBBS at King George’s Medical College, Lucknow, my professor of Medicine, Prof. S.N. Chakravarty very fondly talked of “Mohammedan’s Prayer Position”, explaining that patients of several diseases try to keep themselves in this decubitus because the cardiological output, the respiratory function, the amount of oxygen in the blood and the supply to the brain are at their optimum levels. This decubitus helps in clinically diagnosing diseases like Bronchiogenic Carcinoma, Pericardial Effusion, Persistent Thymus, etc. The extraordinary importance of this decubitus means that every Sajdah cleanses different organs and refurbishes the body with new vigour. It is pertinent to say therefore that Sajdah is not only the most loved sight in the eyes of God but is also anatomically and physiologically the best position of the body. The more the number ofSajdahs in a specific prayer the greater the benefits will be.
 
4.  The timing of the prayers and the number of units in different prayers are also significant in terms of their impact on health.  As has been elaborated above, every Salat comprises a certain number of units (rakahs), which are repeated several times thus repeating postures from standing to bending to prostrating to sitting a number of times. This ensures several rounds of exercises involving the activation of different muscles and motor areas in the brain and spinal cord as well as increased circulation of blood to different areas in a rhythmic pattern. Obviously, the more the number of units the more will be the refreshing effect on the body. Now the timing and the number of units in the 5 compulsorySalats have been designed to produce maximum effect. It can be noted that
 
First, the total number of obligatory (fard and wajib) and non-obligatory (Sunnah and nafl) units in the 5 compulsory prayers is 48. It means that 2 units are practised per hour. Out of these, 20 come in the category of fardand wajib (compulsory) and the rest in that of Sunnah and nafl (optional). The number of rakahs and the timing of each prayer are as follows:


Table 1  The number of rakahs and the timing of each prayer

Fajr (Morning Prayer) After dawn, before sunrise 4 (2 + 2)
Zuhr (noon prayer) Immediately after noon 12(4+8)
Asr (Afternoon) Afternoon 8 (4+4)
Maghrib (Sunset prayer) Immediately after sunset 7 (4+3)
Isha (night prayer) About an hour after sunset, up to the dawn 17(7+10)
 
(The above is according to the Sunni Hanafi way; the other schools may have slight differences; but the general pattern is the same.)
 
Second, it is obvious from the above that a total of 24 units are for the day prayers and 24 for the night. The number of fard units is 10 each for the day and the night.
 
Third, the number of units in the prayers generally depends on the amount of physical activity in the period before that prayer. In Fajr, there are only 4 units. The emphasis in Fajr is on recitation of long surahs(recited loudly in the congregational prayers). This means that one stands for a longer period of time. As the brain is already fresh after the night rest, the standing is longer compared to the time taken by Sajdahhs (prostration). Zuhr prayer is offered after a relatively longer period of physical and mental activities, as it is the prime time of work, and therefore involves much greater number of units, that is 12. In this prayer, rhythmic movements are much more essential than standing. The pattern followed therefore is to silently recite shorter Surahs. In the Asr prayer, 8 units are offered, which again are broadly proportional to the period between Zuhrand Asr. The same is true for Maghrib. Now the people have returned from their works, so surahs are recited loudly. In Isha, the number of units is maximal, as it is at a time when man can offer long prayers after a long day of activities. This also covers the period that will be spent in sleeping. A long prayer with a number of Sajdahs and qayams will remove all the wear and tear from the body, the muscles and joints will relax, and the person will have better chances of enjoying a sound and comfortable sleep.
 
Fourth, Salat is also a very good exercise for the eyes. Eyes have been naturally formed in a way that they can rapidly adjust to see the near and distant objects. This is called Accommodation Power and is obviously an invaluable tool in the human weaponry. The Eyeball has the ability to turn up and down and right and left. These movements are controlled by various muscles of eyes, the chief ones being superior rectus, inferior rectus, medial rectus, lateral rectus, inferior and superior obliques and dilator and constrictor pupillae14. When the eyes are focussed on a near object, one set of muscles constricts changing the shape of the lens, which makes it able to view the object. When the eyes are focussed on a distant object, another set of muscles performs the opposite action. During the prayers, these movements take place repeatedly one after the other. When a person stands, his eyes are focussed on the earth, which means a distance of 5-6.5 feet depending upon the height of the man. When he bends inRuku, the distance becomes almost half. When he stands again and goes for the Sajdah, the distance of the object changes from around 5.6 feet to a few inches. When one sits and then goes to the Sajdah again, the distance of the object varies from around 3 feet to a few inches.  Thus the eyes are frequently changing from positions of full convergence to half convergence to Full divergence, and the vice versa. This is sure to strengthen the Power of Accommodation of the eyes to a great degree. The oblique, adductor and abductor muscles are also brought into action in the prayer and the turning of the neck right and left at the end of the prayer.
 
Fifth, while standing, the feet should be kept neither too close nor too far. A distance of about one-foot is an ideal position of the feet, as it helps in proper distribution of weight on different bones. This is because it is in this position that the maximum part of the sole of the foot is in contact with the earth.
 
It can be seen that 48 units in 5 prayers a day will involve 96Sajdahs, 48 rukus, 48 qayam (standing) and 74 sitting positions and 34salams (turning neck right and left). It also involves 18 movements on the elbow joint (Takbeer), this number being much greater in Shafai and Shia schools, 248 movements (flexion and extension) of hip joints and at least 96 movements of the knees. These are approximate numbers. (Any error of calculation if there is regretted.) With these kinds of figure, the net impact on the physical, mental and spiritual health of the individuals has to be tremendous. But it must be clarified that the basic aim of the prayers is not body building; Prayers are meant for proximity with God, but God has been kind enough to design a scheme of prayers that also cause huge physical and mental benefits.
 
In Islam, prayers assume distinctive character in many other ways too. These include a number of direct and indirect benefits and will be discussed later in the chapter on the mental and spiritual health.

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Header
Dr Javed
Jamil
 
 

 


 
Other articles by Dr Javed Jamil

 

FUNDAMENTAL
DUTIES IN
ISLAM-
IMPACT ON
HEALTH

IN
PRINCIPIO-
MODERN
SCIENCES
–
MISTRESSES
OF
ECONOMIC
FUNDAMENTALISM

FB
RECENT
SPURT IN
“TERROR
ATTACKS”
MAY
CONTINUE
TILL TRUMP
WINS

DEATHS
OF 10
JAWANS IN
GAYA A
SMALL NEWS
BECAUSE
THE
KILLERS
BORE
HINDU, NOT
MUSLIMS
NAMES

Freedom
of Speech

MUSLIMS
VICTIMS,
NOT
PERPETRATORS
OF HATRED
AND
VIOLENCE

US-Britain
led West
must
apologise
to the
Muslim
World and
pay at
least 5
trillion
as
compensation


CONTENTS

PART I: FAITH

PART II: PHILOSOPHY

PART III: CONSTITUTION

PART IV: THE SYSTEM

PART V: THE HISTORY OF CONFRONTATION

Last Word: The Final Document of Peace