You Are What You Ate, Six Feet Under

Maxims made real: "Are you really what you eat?" In my Islamic studies there is a vast topic on health, consumption and eatin...

are what you eat inforgraphic health death decompose
Maxims made real: "Are you really what you eat?"

In my Islamic studies there is a vast topic on health, consumption and eating habits. Prophet Muhammad used three fingers to eat his food, saying bismillah (in the name of God) beforehand and surviving on little. In contrast the Devil uses two fingers to eat whatever waste nourishes him, picking and pecking at food like a miser.

But what has this got to do with the popular saying, you are what you eat? As an expression it's a metaphorical dig at the fast-food diet and mass produced menu, which is supposed to serve diabetes and heart attacks with fries. I think in reality the expression goes further.

I was thinking about dying. Not in a morbid way, just to remind myself of where I'm heading. I am afraid of what will become of "me", my carbon-based life-form, my body. If I eat more vegetables, will I make better compost?

Will My Afterlife Be Defined By What I Consume? Islamic faith says yes, partly

In the Islamic doctrine Muslims are taught they have two lives; the one we are currently living, and another which we will live after being resurrected from death. While I am deeply immersed in the worldly lifestyle, like any Westernised consumer, I am more concerned with the effects I will leave behind.

Just as we have two lives, we have two opportunities and two choices. We are living our choices now and the lives we build are the outcome of these choices. We can choose to eat processed junk or vegetables. We also have the opportunity to live almost any kind of life we want; urbanised, rural, agricultural, vegetarian, vegan, ascetic or opulent. Our bodies are our victims and the first consequences our actions create are to ourselves. Too much choice though, will ruin us.

Granted, this is  "limited freewill" yet the choice and opportunity is there nonetheless, which brings me back to thinking about my demise. We have an earthly 'footprint' but we're neglecting the 'print' our bodies will leave when our souls are being judged on their lifestyle habits.

When I die, what will happen to the choices I made? The maxim you are what you eat resonates with Islamic accountability because our levels of consumption are being recorded, although the maxim is not a clear enough explanation. Just because you ate a burger does not suddenly make you a meat patty. A better maxim with clarity should be

"You are what you ate." 

In the end, after death, what we see will be the accumulated bank balance of all of our choices. Either a meadow, or a wasteland. And after consuming indulgently, what will our bodies make of our choices to take, and take, and take?

How Long Does It Take For a Human Body To Decompose?

It takes a human 50-365 days to completely decompose after death, leaving only bones behind. Preservation of the body can be prolonged by being washed (ghusl) and shrouded (kaffan) but eventually everything returns to dust. What you eat now indicates how your body will return to its origins. So. Will your body make a liquid stink for bugs or create organic compost to grow flowers?

Ultimately, your biggest 'footprint' is undecided and will be six-feet under. But one choice you will enjoy having is being able to say to God,

"Subhana-k'Allah, Glory be to You, Who gave me this bodily loan and I returned it in the same condition."

You will become what you ate. Think about that.

Peace + eco-jihad. Zaufishan, The Eco Muslim


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  1. I love this article!

    Well articulated points to consider! What we eat affects every facet of our being, on a cellular level it makes us who we are, spiritually it either assists us or hinders us in our worship.

    May God increase you in goodness. Timely reminder


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