The Black Seed

History of the Black SeedFor over two thousand years the black seed, a plant from the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family, has been traditionally used by various cultures throughout the world as a natural remedy for several diseases and ailments and to improve health in general.

The ancient Egyptians knew and used the black seed and described it as a panacea (cure for problems and diseases). Tutankamun even had a bottle of the oil in his tomb!

The Romans also knew this seed and called it Greek Coriander and used it as a dietary supplement.

In the first century, the Greek physician Dioscoredes recorded that the black seed were taken to treat headaches, nasal congestion, toothache and intestinal worms.

The black seed is also mentioned in the Bible in Isiah 28:25-27 as the ‘fitches’. Ibn Senna, known in the West as Avicenna, who wrote the great medical treatise ‘The Canon of Medicine’, referred to the black seed as the seed ‘that stimulates the body’s energy and helps recovery from fatigue’.

What is Nigella Sativa (the black seed)?

Nigella Sativa originates from Western Asia and is a herb that grows about 16-24 inches in height and has white flowers when in bloom. The plant is now cultivated from the Near East to India. The deep black, sharp-cornered rectangular seeds (no longer than 3 mm) are the part of the plant that is used for the preparation of products.

The black seed is cultivated in Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, Oman, Ethiopia, Middle East, Far East, India, Bangladesh, France, Germany and the Mediterranean Basin. It also grows wild in Egypt, Syria, Asiatic Turkey and the Balkan States.

Nigella Sativa is known commonly in Arabic as Habbat-ul-Baraka (blessed seed) and in English as Love in the Mist.

Since 1959, over 200 studies have been carried out at international universities and articles published in various journals have shown remarkable results supporting its traditional uses.

The Nigella Sativa seed itself contains numerous esters of structurally unusual unsaturated fatty acids and the chemical composition is very rich and diverse. Apart from its active ingredient, crystalline nigellone, it contains 15 amino acids (including eight of the nine essential ones), carbohydrates, fatty acids including linolenic and oleic, volatile oils, alkaloids and dietary fibre, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, sodium and potassium.

Recent research on the black seed as an anti-biotic, anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, anti-histaminic, anti-bacterial, anti-bronchial and immune boosting agent has shown great promise.

Traditional uses of the Black Seed from around the world
For centuries, the black seed and its oil has been used by people in Asia, Africa, the Middle and Far East to promote health and fight disease. It has been traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions related to respiratory health, stomach and intestinal complaints, kidney and liver function, circulatory and immune system support and to improve health in general.

Please find below some traditional Black Seed remedies that are used around the world:

Asthma & Bronchial Problems (Far East, Middle East & Malay Peninsula)
Mix a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil in coffee. Taken twice daily. Also rub chest with Black Seed Oil every night and inhale the vapour of Black Seed Oil in hot water.

Backache & other kinds of rheumatism (Middle East & Malay Peninsula)
Mildly heat a small amount of Black Seed Oil and then stroke the rheumatic area intensely. A teaspoon of the oil should also be drunk three times daily.

Diabetes (India)
Mix a cup of whole Black Seeds, a cup of watercress or mustard seeds, half a cup of pomegranate peel, and half a cup of fumitory. Grind the mixture to powder. Take half a teaspoon of the mixture together with a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil daily before breakfast for one month.

Diarrhoea (India & Middle East)
Mix a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil with a cup of yoghurt. Drinking the mixture twice a day until symptoms disappear.

Dry Cough (Middle East & North Africa)
A teaspoon of Black Seed Oil should be mixed in coffee and taken twice a day. Rub the chest and back with Black Seed Oil.

Flu & Nasal Congestion (General)
Placing three to four drops of Black Seed Oil in each nostril can relieve nasal congestion and head cold distress.

Hair Greying (General)
Massaging the hair with Black Seed Oil regularly may prevent premature hair greying.

Hair Loss (India & Middle East)
Stroke the scalp thoroughly with lemon and leave for about 15 minutes, shampoo, wash and dry hair thoroughly. Then massage Black Seed Oil into the scalp. Drink a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil mixed in tea/coffee.

Hay Fever (Middle East)
One tablespoon of Black Seed Oil mixed with a glass of lemon should be taken twice daily until symptoms disappear.

Headaches (General)
Rub the forehead and the sides of the face near the ears with Black Seed Oil and bandage the head. Also a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil should be taken before breakfast.

Healthy Being (General)
To maintain good health take a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil mixed with one teaspoon of pure honey, twice daily.

Healthy Complexion (General)
Mix a tablespoon of Black Seed Oil with a tablespoon of olive oil. Rub the face with this mixture and leave it for at least one hour. Wash with soap and water.

Hypertension (India)
Mix any drink with a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil and also take two lobes of garlic every morning with breakfast. Rub all the body with Black Seed Oil and expose your body to sun rays for half an hour once every three days. Repeat for one month.

Laziness and Fatigue (Turkey)
One tablespoon of Black Seed Oil with a glass of pure orange juice every morning for at least 10 days.

Memory Improvement (Middle East)
A teaspoon of Black Seed Oil mixed in 100mg of boiled mint for at least 15 days.

Muscular pains (General)
Massage the area with Black Seed Oil.

Nervous Tension Stress (India)
A teaspoon of Black Seed Oil with a cup of tea/coffee to be taken three times daily.

Sexual Impotency (Europe & Middle East)
Mix 200g of ground Black Seeds with Olive Oil & l00g of ground olibanum & 50g of Black Seed Oil & 50g of olive oil & 200g of pure honey. Mix thoroughly and take a tablespoon after every meal.

Sleeping Disorder (General)
A tablespoon of Black Seed Oil mixed with honey in any hot drink in the evening.

Toothache & Gums (General)
First cook Black Seeds with vinegar. Add Black Seed Oil. Rinse the mouth with this formulation to help the gums and relieve toothache.

Ulcers (Indonesia & India)
Roast powdered Black Seeds over the fire. Mix them with oil of orrisroot, or the oil of henna plant, or the oil of camphire plant making an ointment that is then spread over the festering rural ulcers. After lavation treat with vinegar.


There is a lot of confusion about the names of this spice: It is referred by a multitude of names which, in other sources, might mean something else entirely. In some English sources, it is called black cumin, but I think this is a poor choice, as the name “black cumin” is already reserved for another, somewhat obscure, spice from Central Asia and Northern India. I have also read the name “black caraway” (for its usage, together with caraway, in Jewish rye breads) and “black onion seed” (motivated by the similarity to the seeds of onion); but there is no botanical relation between nigella and any of these plants.

In the USA, nigella is often known as charnushka (deriving from the Russian name chernushka [чернушка] and probably introduced into American English by Armenian emigrants). The Hindi term kalonji is widely used by Indians even when speaking English.

Moreover, nigella is sometimes confused with black sesame seeds; occasonally, it is even named such.

I have decided to stick with the more neutral botanical name Nigella, mainly on the reason that this name cannot so easily be confounded with anything else.

Note, however, that there are several Nigella species besides N. sativa; the second most important species seems to be N. damascena, a common ornamental in Europe. By the use of the genus name for the spice, I do not imply that all members of the genus can be used culinarily. The seeds of N. damascena do have some flavour, but I find them inferior to those of the true spice N. sativa.


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The Eating Habits & Diet Of The Prophet

By Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah

The Prophet’s guidance with regard to food is perfect guidance.
It was described by Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah as follows:

1. When he put his hand in the food, he would say, “Bismillaah (in the Name of Allaah), and he told people to say this when eating. He said, “When any one of you eats, let him mention the name of Allaah. If he forgets to mention the name of Allaah at the beginning, let him say Bismillaahi fi awwalihi wa aakhirihi (in the name of Allaah at its beginning and at its end).” Saheeh hadeeth, narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1859) and Aboo Dawood (3767).

The correct view is that it is obligatory to mention the name of Allaah (say Bismillaah) when eating. The ahaadeeth which state this are saheeh and are clear, with no contradictions in them.

2. When he raised the food to his mouth, he would say, “Al-hamdu Lillaahi hamdan katheeran tayyiban mubaarakan fihi ghayri makfiyyin wa laa muwadda’ wa laa mustaghni ‘anhu Rabbanaa ‘azza wa jall (Allaah be praised with an abundant, beautiful, blessed praise. He is the One Who is Sufficient, Who feeds and is never fed, The One Who is longed for, along with that which is with Him, and the One Who is needed. He is Our Lord, may He be glorified). Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5142).

3. He never criticized food at all. If he liked it, he would eat it, and if he did not like it, he would leave it and not say anything. Narrated by al-Bukhaari (3370) and Muslim (2064).

Or he would say, “I do not feel like eating this.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5076) and Muslim (1946).

4. Sometimes he would praise the food, as when he asked his family for food, and they said, “We have nothing but vinegar.” He asked for it and started to eat it, saying, “What a good food is vinegar.” Narrated by Muslim (2052)

5. He used to talk whilst he was eating, as is seen from the report quoted above about vinegar.

And he said to his step-son ‘Umar ibn Abi Salamah when he was eating with him: “Say Bismillaah and eat from that which is in front of you in the dish*.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5061) and Muslim (2022). [*At the time of the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam people used to eat together from one dish, and children would sometimes forget the correct etiquette. – Translator]

6. He would repeatedly urge his guests to eat, as generous hosts do, and as is seen in the hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah, narrated by al-Bukhaari, about the story of drinking milk, where he repeatedly said to him, “Drink!” and he kept telling him to drink until he (the guest) said, “By the One Who sent you with the truth, I have no more room for it!” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (6087).

7. When he ate with others, he would not leave until he had made du’aa’ for them. He made du’aa in the house of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Bisr, and said: “O Allaah, bless for them that which You have provided for them, forgive them and have mercy on them.” Narrated by Muslim (2042).

8. He commanded people to eat with their right hands and forbade them to eat with their left hands. He said, “The Shaytaan eats with his left hand and drinks with his left hand.” Narrated by Muslim (2020). This implies that eating with the left hand is haraam, and this is the correct view, because the one who eats with his left hand is either a shaytaan (a devil), or he is imitating the Shaytaan.

It was also reported in a saheeh hadeeth that he told a man who was eating with his left hand in his presence, “Eat with your right hand!” The man said, “I cannot.” He said, “May you never be able to!” – and the man never lifted his right hand to his mouth after that. Narrated by Muslim (2021). If it was permissible (to eat with the left hand), he would not have prayed against him for doing so. It was the man’s stubborn arrogance that made him refuse to obey the command, and this is the utmost disobedience which deserved this prayer against him.

9. He commanded those who complained that they never felt full to eat together and not separately, and to mention the name of Allaah (say Bismillaah) over the food so that He might bless it for them.” Narrated by Aboo Dawood (3764) and Ibn Maajah (3286).

See Zaad al-Ma’aad, 2/397-406

10. It was also reported that he said, “I do not eat reclining.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5083.

11. He used to eat using the first three fingers (of his right hand), which is the best way of eating.

See Zaad al-Ma’aad, 220-222.

The Prophet’s guidance regarding diet:

1. The Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to know what he was eating.

2. He used to eat what was good for him.

3. He used to eat enough to keep him going, but no so much as to make him fat. Ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said: “The believer eats in one stomach whilst the kaafir eats in seven.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5081) and Muslim (2060).

4. He taught his Ummah something to protect them from diseases caused by eating and drinking. He said: “The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls, to keep him going. If he must do that (fill his stomach), then let him fill one third with food, one third with drink and one third with air.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1381), Ibn Maajah (3349); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (2265).

Islam Q&A
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

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Seven Ways to Deal With Stress

By Deepa Kandaswamy

In today’s world, most of us spend each moment of our life working. We are caught up in the race to stay ahead that we don’t even notice as life passes us by. We are surrounded by cell phones, computers, pagers, TV, ATMs, and other technical gadgets that are meant to help us. Instead, they are keeping us plugged into the world 24/7. It is almost like we are all wired to one another. As a result, stress has become a part of our everyday life.
Nature of Stress

Stress is our body’s response to external or internal stimuli. External cues can be any of the following: a move to a new city, a death of a close relative, a marriage in the family, or a long-awaited promotion. Internal stimuli consist of both physical and mental comfort and discomfort.

Physical triggers can include sitting in uncomfortable chairs, working in cramped spaces, overworking, and many other situations.

Emotional triggers include boredom, anxiety, or a conflict in personal or work relationships. Apart from these, personality traits, like the need to please others and to be perfect at everything, can also cause stress.

The events that provoke stress are called stressors. These cover a whole range of situations – everything from outright physical danger to making a class presentation.

The human body reacts naturally to fight the stressors. This reaction is called the fight response or the stress response. It activates the nervous system and specific glands that release hormones.

These hormones speed up heart rate, breath rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. Blood vessels widen to let more blood flow to large muscles putting them on alert. Pupils dilate to improve vision. The body releases some of its stored glucose to supply more energy. Moreover, sweat is produced to cool the body.

All of these physical changes prepare a person to react quickly and effectively to handle the pressure of the moment.

If the body is working properly, then the fight response actually helps to perform better under stress. However, the fight response can cause problems if after the stressful situation passes, the body doesn’t reset to its normal condition.

Good Thing

Stress can be good as it keeps a person on his or her toes. For example, being alert while one is driving is good stress. It can help avoid accidents by making the driver slam the brakes at the right time. Another example is stepping up to play a crucial penalty kick during the World Cup that might win the game. Stress can carry many students through their finals as well.

The thing about good stress is that it only lasts for a small amount of time and helps enhance performance or avoid accidents. After the event passes, the nervous system goes back to its normal mode.

When Good Goes Bad

Stress becomes bad when we are stuck in situations where the body has to fight back constantly. This can be an ongoing divorce, overworking on a regular basis, or coping with a learning disability. It can be related to different types of abuse ranging from physical to emotional.

According to Dr. Catanza Rite, author of The Rite Way to Immortality: 7 Rite Rules of Wellness, Energy & Longevity, “Long-term stressful situations can produce a lasting, low-level stress that’s hard on people. The nervous system senses continued pressure and may remain slightly activated and continue to pump out extra stress hormones over an extended period. This can wear out the body’s reserves, leave a person feeling depleted or overwhelmed, weaken the body’s immune system, and cause other problems.”

Stress Overload

Facts & Figures:

· Up to 80% of industrial accidents are due to stress.

· Over 50% of lost work days are stress-related.

· 14% of all workers say stress caused them to quit or change jobs in the previous two years.
· 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects due to stress.

· 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders.

· An estimated 1 million workers are absent on an average workday because of stress related complaints.

· Stress is said to be responsible for more than half of the 550,000,000 workdays lost annually because of absenteeism.

Although a small amount of stress can be a good thing, too much of it is not. Pressures that are too intense or last too long, or troubles that are too big to be handled, can cause people to feel stress overload.
According to the Encyclopedia of Occupational Safety and Health, some studies link stress overload with ulcers, cancer, impaired immunes function, and suicide. Job stress is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders such as neck pains, and psychological disorders such as depression and burnout.

Every one experiences stress differently. Some people become angry and act out their stress or take it out on others. Some people internalize it and develop eating disorders or substance abuse problems. Others who have chronic illnesses may find that the symptoms of their illness flare up under a stress overload.

With revolutionary advancements in medicine, living a stress-free life should be a reality. Instead, more people than ever before suffer from stress and stress-related illnesses. According to Rite, who runs the Central for Better Health in the US, it comes down to bad habits.

The reason is individuals fail to change as they are literally “slaves” to unhealthy behaviors and are compulsively driven by habits formed in the subconscious. Bad habits foster an unhealthy lifestyle and over time, as poor choices become engrained in the subconscious mind, the ability to overturn these poor living habits seems overwhelming.

However, when there is a stress overload, the body sends out warning signs. Some of these signs are sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, overeating, and stomach problems. Irritability, depression, an allergic reaction like asthma, and a feeling of being constantly pressured or rushed are also related signs of stress overload.

Seven Steps

If you would like to see what stress does to your body, go to the mirror and clench your fists, scowl, and tense your body as the participants do at Mr. Universe. Look at yourself now. Do you make a pretty picture? This is what happens inside your body when you experience stress overload!

If you think you look horrid on the outside in this pose, imagine what it is doing to your poor nerves, tiny veins, and delicate body parts on the inside. It is not surprising that stress overload is ruining to health. Usually, some lifestyle changes can help manage stress. Here are seven steps to reduce stress.

1. Don’t overwork.Never take on more work than you can complete on your own. If you feel stretched, consider cutting down a task or two. Try to focus on the tasks that you think are the most important.

2. Get enough sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep keeps your body and mind in top form. If you work during the night, then sleep during the day. Whatever your sleeping pattern is, make sure you get six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Getting enough sleep helps your body combat negative stressors.

3. Don’t be a perfectionist. Don’t try to be perfect, and stop expecting others to be perfect too – the truth is no one is perfect. This expectation of yourself or others will only add to your stress level. Be realistic. Delegate tasks instead of doing all of it yourself just because you don’t think others will do it perfectly. If you do not delegate, then you may burnout because of the cumulative effects of stressors.

4. Solve the little problems. Learning to solve everyday problems gives a sense of control. Avoiding them will only cause depression and stress to accumulate. This buildup over time will lead to a stress overload. Feeling capable of solving little problems builds the inner confidence to move on to life’s bigger and more stressful situations and be ready for them.

5. Treat your body well. Your body is the canvas on which you paint your life. Treat it well. Experts agree that regular exercise helps combat stress. However, excessive or compulsive exercise routines can add to stress. Eat nutritious food rich in vitamins and minerals. Otherwise, during stressful conditions, you may turn to junk food, alcohol, and drug abuse. Although alcohol and drugs may seem to temporarily relieve stress, relying on them during stressful conditions increases the problem as it slowly wears down the body.

6. Learn to relax. Do yoga or simple breathing exercises. Ensure your schedule is calmed down by making time for relaxing activities on a daily basis. When the body and mind rest, a relaxation response is triggered that can combat stress.

7. Change your attitude. You are what you think. Change the way you view things around you. Treat setbacks as temporary problems. Believe that you’ll achieve your goal if you work towards it. Your attitude, outlook, and thoughts influence the way you see and react to events around you. A little optimism helps combat stress. This is how some people stay cool under pressure.

Try to follow these seven ways regularly and not only when you are overloaded with stress. This will help you avoid stress on a day-to-day basis. However, in case of stressors like rape and other traumatic events such as an earthquake, it is better to seek professional help.

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Sweat and Smell Good!

Mariam Al Moatassem Bellah

I woke up one summer morning, took a cold shower, put on my clothes and prepared myself for a new day at work.

I ran to catch the bus and when I had sat down, I noticed that girl nearly my age sitting next to me wearing fine and neat clothes. She looked beautiful, but … what was that smell?

How come someone so pretty and attractive had that awful smell that repels people away and makes them feel disgusted?

I tried to breathe fresh air, then I gave up at last, pushed the window wide open, and got my head out like kids until the bus arrived to the underground station where another kind of suffering was about to begin. I think those who are used to taking the underground in Cairo everyday know exactly how I felt!

What are those awful odors, people? Haven’t you heard about soap and water?
I finally arrived at work feeling very weary, not only from the sun and heat, but also from people who smell too!

Let Your Body Breathe

I thought many times if there’s a way we could stop people from sweating, but after a long search on different medical websites I found that what I was thinking of may bring all people’s life on this planet to an end!

As our lungs breathe oxygen, our skin breathes through the sweat we secrete everyday so as to lower the body’s temperature and get rid of toxicants. A healthy person secretes an average of 1 liter of sweat daily. Here’s why we sweat:

1. The rise of body temperature in general.

2. Exercise and involvement in different kinds of sports.

3. Consumption of hot and pungent food (e.g. Jalapeno and chili pepper).

4. Physical or mental exhaustion, stress, or nervousness.

Sweat Is Odorless

Sweating (also called perspiration) is the production of a fluid that mainly contains water as well as a smaller amount of salts, excreted by the sweat glands in the skin.

The strangest thing is that sweat itself doesn’t have a smell! Yes, believe me: it’s odorless. There are two kinds of sweat glands responsible for hidrosis (the formation and excretion of sweat):

* Eccrine glands : These are small sweat glands distributed over the body surface that produce mainly water and various salts devoid of odor and color). They are important in regulating body temperature. They are particularly abundant on the palms of the hands, soles of feet, and the forehead.

* Apocrine glands : These are multicellular glands that produce sweat containing fatty materials. They are present in the armpits and around the genital area. Their activity is the main cause of odor, due to the bacteria that break down the organic compounds in the sweat from these glands.

So now we know that sweat itself doesn’t cause the bad smell, but it’s the bacteria that secretes an acid formed in the places that sweat the most.

Sweat As You Like

The best thing about sweating a lot is that it’s very useful and keeps you clean from inside, so now it’s your role to keep yourself clean from outside.

Many youth go through many embarrassing situations because of their bad sweat smell, although they take many precautions in order to stay clean. That problem appears the most when we spend long hours outdoors in the sun and the heat or when we’re in a damp or a closed place with many people. The big problem of sweat is that you can’t smell yourself, only others, and vice versa.

There are lots of ways we can apply to get rid of the sweat bad smell and they’re very easy:

* Take a warm shower daily using a natural loaf and strong-smelling soap or pamper yourself with a beautiful scented shower gel. You can take a shower more than once a day according to your skin nature. You could also use anti-bacterial soap or cleanser with a moisture.

* Drink large amounts of water and fresh juice everyday.

* Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables everyday and avoid food that contains caffeine like chocolate, tea, coffee, along with pungent food, pastrami, and hilbah (fenugreek) seeds.

* Change your clothes when they get dirty, greasy, and full of sweat and wash them immediately; that includes what you wear indoors and outdoors and your sleeping gown/pajamas, and of course change your underwear daily.

* Remove your underarm hair on a regular basis.

* Use suitable kinds of deodorant directly after shower. They come in different forms, such as powder, cream, splash, and roll-on. First You have to be sure that it doesn’t contain alcohol so as not to blacken your underarm. For girls especially, you can use natural fruit deodorants. They smell good and at the same time they are not very strong scented.

* Avoid synthetic clothes that are purely made of nylon and polyester. Exchange them with clothes made of cotton as it absorbs the sweat and does not cause dermatitis (skin inflammation). Or at least you can wear cotton underwear as it is the closest thing to your skin.

* Spraying perfume under your armpits won’t hide the bad smell. Instead, It will react with sweat salts causing dermatitis, black and dark areas in the skin. Plus, alcohol evaporates real fast!

* If you’re allergic to regular deodorants or don’t like them, there’s quite a wonderful natural option: crystal deodorant rock. It’s very cheap and odorless, and it doesn’t have any side effects. It can be found in herbal shops.

Good Muslims

Finally, if none of the above worked out for you and the bad smell still exists, you can seek a dermatologist’s opinion. You might need medical treatment.

Always remember that Muslims must be clean and should care for their hygiene. Instead of being a good person who smells so bad, be a good Muslim who always smells good.

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Ten Myths About Exercise

Deepa Kandaswamy

One of the longest and toughest battles in history was the Battle of the Bulge. The daily battle against bulging body forms is not less hard, if not as bloody. Many people are getting increasingly obese, and obesity is stepping in early nowadays.
Before, women used to lose their figure after their first or second baby. Men used to develop beer bellies or become obese due to inactivity. Nowadays, however, obesity develops at a young age, as young as 10 sometimes.

Increasingly, kids are taking to junk food and television dinners, and they rarely play in the evenings – unless it is computer games. As for today’s adults, both men and women lose their health and shape due to overwork. The worst jobs are desk jobs, such as working in administrative, IT, and customer service positions. This has become a form of occupational hazard.

Do you know people can gain weight if they continuously miss on sleep? According to a University of Chicago research study by Eva Van Cauter and her team, which appeared in the medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, sleep deficiency causes a fall in secretion of a hormone called leptin and an increase in another called ghrelin. Leptin is responsible for telling the brain that a person is full and does not need to eat. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for triggering hunger. The decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin together cause a person to crave food even when the body does not really need it. They also tell the body to store the extra calories eaten for later use. No wonder obesity starts early and is on the rise!

One of my cousins was stuck in an executive job that required her to be seated for over nine hours a day. She decided that the easiest way to lose weight was to skip breakfast and go jogging two kilometers on the beach early in the morning everyday. As a result, she would end up eating a bigger lunch than she used to eat before she started her “lose weight” program. After a month of this, she not only gained weight but also stopped jogging because she decided exercise was useless!

Starving yourself or skipping a meal is neither practical nor sensible. Many people cringe at the thought of dieting and exercise. This is either because they don’t understand what it means or because they take drastic measures when they decide to lose weight. Some fitness fiction like “no pain, no gain” still exist to this day.

In addition, there is a constant background of products that advertise losing weight on television, such as miraculous drinks for a slimmer body in 10 days and other similar outrageous product promises. People buy these due to a lot of popular misconceptions that are still widely prevalent. Here are 10 of the common myths about exercise as well as the not-so-commonly-known facts based on current exercise research.

Myth #1

Exercise Your Weight Away

Like all the different results which one can get from exercising, weight gain or weight loss is due to many factors. These can range from food intake and dietary programs to genetics. Not all individuals will lose the same amount of weight on the same exercise program. In fact, it is possible to be active and overweight! So if you are active and still overweight, do not lose hope. Exercise being the only sure way to lose all the weight you want is a myth. While exercise alone cannot guarantee you ideal weight, regular physical activity is one of the most important factors in building up stamina and in the long term helps with reducing weight.

Myth #2

You Burn More Fat by Exercising Regularly at High Intensity

The most important aspect in exercise is not how fast or vigorous the workout is but rather how much calories are burned during an activity. While it is true that you burn more calories by running, walking, or stepping quickly, it is often not possible to sustain the pace of a high-intensity exercise routine. This is the reason why most people give up their fitness programs after eagerly joining the local gym. It is trying to do too much too fast. It is safer and more practical to exercise longer at a lower intensity, especially when you are starting out or returning to your exercise routine.

Myth #3

Exercise Is a Waste of Time If Not Done Regularly

This kind of thinking keeps people away from even starting an exercise routine or joining an exercise program. Research continues to show that a little exercise is better than no exercise at all. Therefore, if you missed some days of your exercise program, don’t give up but rather go back to it. So, exercise whenever you find the time, or try to do it by not using the usual gadgets. Go over to the television and try to manually change the channel each time instead of using the remote control. Walk over to the telephone instead of picking up the cordless phone. Don’t get into your car to visit your neighbor who lives down the street, take a refreshing walk instead.

Myth #4

Overweight People Are Unlikely to Benefit Much From Exercise

This myth discourages many obese people from ever getting into an exercise routine because there is way too much fat to get rid of. The truth is both men and women of all different sizes and weights can improve their fitness levels with modest increases in activity or exercise. Studies have repeatedly showed that obese people who participate in regular exercise programs have a lower risk of mortality than lazy individuals, irrespective of weight. (EuroAspire Study Group)

Myth #5

Yoga Is Completely Gentle and Safe

Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline. It is an excellent exercise system and has huge benefits due to its holistic nature. However, some asanas, or poses, are quite rigorous and demanding, both physically and mentally. As with any form of exercise, a qualified instructor and close supervision are essential for a safe and effective workout. It is true that yoga is a safe program but not without a yoga master. One cannot perform all the asanas just by watching the video instructions on the yoga DVD. Therefore, try not to undertake yoga on your own without supervision.

Myth #6

Only Gym Workouts Help Reduce Weight

Despite all the hype about the gadgets, trendy exercise facilities and routines, it is not true that you will lose weight only if you go to the gym. Research shows you lose weight if you perform an exercise routine consistently. For most people, home-based workouts are fine as they are easier to stick to, rather than a trip to the local gym. The keyword is “consistently.” The location is irrelevant.

Myth #7

Benefits of Mind-Body Programs Are Questionable

A research study by Dr. Michael Irwin recently published at Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, shows that the health benefits of mind-body programs Tai Chi and Yoga continues to grow. Tai Chi, for example, has been shown to treat lower back pain. Yoga has been shown to cure asthma and other diseases. Both these routines result in improved flexibility, balance, co-ordination, posture, and strength. They can also reduce stress and promote weight loss.

Myth #8

Water Fitness Programs Are Only for Older People or Those with Disabilities
A recent research published in American Fitness magazine shows that water fitness programs can be highly challenging and effective for both improving fitness and losing weight. Nowadays, even top athletes, such as Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, integrate water fitness programs in their training workouts.

Myth #9

Be Critical of Yourself

This is not just a myth but also a very bad idea. It is easy to get skeptical and critical if you don’t see immediate results in your exercise program. Weight loss varies from one individual to the other. Fitness experts all over the world are now saying that weight loss largely depends on one’s Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which is the rate at which the body burns calories while not exercising. RMR varies greatly from one person to another and depends on genetic factors. This is why some people lose the first few pounds quickly, then take a lot of time losing the rest while others take forever to lose the first pounds and then lose the rest quickly. Some others experience weight loss at a steady rate. So when you are on an exercise routine, remember your goal is long term and the weight loss is mostly related to genetics. Do not be critical of yourself if you don’t lose your weight immediately. Instead, be supportive of yourself and reassure yourself each time you’re doubtful. Hard work always pays the dividends in the long run and it is no different in exercise.

Myth #10

Reward Yourself for the Pounds Lost

Most people treat themselves if they achieve a particular weight on the scales. According to IDEA Health and Fitness, this is the wrong way to go about rewarding yourself. Experts suggest instead of rewarding yourself for the pounds lost, it is important to reward yourself for the positive changes you make in your behavior. This reward system will not only make you feel good about losing weight but will also help you continue to regularly exercise, even after you have reached the desired number on the scale.

Now that you have learnt the myths, what are you waiting for? Stop counting the calories and weighing yourself every couple of hours. Stop following the latest fad diet. Do not buy one of those “lose weight without exercise” quick fix gadgets they advertise on television. Watch what you eat, sleep eight hours a day, and exercise everyday, at least a little each day.

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Du’as for Stress

General advice from Prophet Muhammad (s) when you are in distress or suffering from anxiety:

In hadith #599 narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas in Sunan Abu Dawood, The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If anyone continually asks pardon, Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress, and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide for him from where he did not reckon.

When in distress or difficulty or sorrow:

Source for this dua subsection: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, volume 4, no 128

1. Ibn ‘Abbas reported, “The Prophet, peace be upon him, at times of sorrow and grief used to supplicate, La ilaha illa Allah Al-’Azim, Al-’Alim, la ilaha illa Allah, Rabbul ‘arshil ‘Azim, la ilaha illa Allahu, Rabbus-Samawati wa rabbul ardi wa rabbul ‘arshi karim (There is no god but Allah, the Mighty, the Forbearing, there is no god but Allah, the Lord of the mighty throne, there is no god but Allah, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and the Lord of the throne of honor)’.”
Source: Bukhari and Muslim.

2. Anas said that when the Prophet, peace be upon him, was faced with a serious difficulty, he would always supplicate, “Ya Hayyu, ya Qayyumu, bi-rahmatika astaghithu (O the Living, O the Eternal, I seek help in Your grace).
Source: Tirmidhi

3. Abu Hurairah reported that whenever the Prophet, peace be upon him, was faced with a serious difficulty, he would raise his head to the sky and supplicate, “Subhan-Allah al-’Azim (glory be to Allah, the Mighty).” And when he implored seriously and strongly, he would say “Ya Hayyu, Ya Qayyum (O the Living, the Eternal One).”
Source: Tirmidhi

4. Abu Bakrah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The supplications of distress are, ‘Allahumma rahmataka arju, fala takilni ila nafsi tarfata ‘ain, wa aslah li sha’ni kullahu, la ilaha illa anta (O Allah, I hope for Your mercy, so give me not over to my self even for as little as wink of an eye, and set right all my affairs, there is no god but You).”
Source: Abu Daw’ud

5. Asma, daughter of ‘Amais, reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked her, “Shall I tell you words that you may say in times of pain or distress. These are, ‘Allah, Allah, Rabbi la ushriku bihi shai’an (Allah, Allah, my Lord, I associate none with Him).” Another narration says that these words should be said seven times.
Source: Abu Daw’ud

6. Sa’d ibn Waqas reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The supplication made by the Companion of the Fish (Prophet Yunus) in the belly of the fish was, ‘La ilaha illa anta, subhanaka, inni kuntu minaz-zalimin (there is no god but You, You are far exalted and above all weaknesses, and I was indeed the wrongdoer)’. If any Muslim supplicates in these words, his supplication will be accepted.” In another report we read, “I know words that will cause Allah to remove one’s distress. These are the words (of supplication) of my brother Yunus, peace be upon him,”
Source: Tirmidhi

7. Ibn Mas’ud reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “If any servant of Allah afflicted with distress or grief makes this supplication, his supplication will be accepted: ‘O Allah, I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of your maidservant. My forehead is in Your hand. Your command conceming me prevails, and Your decision concerning me is just. I call upon You by every one of the beautiful names by which You have described Yourself, or which You have revealed in Your book, or have taught anyone of Your creatures, or which You have chosen to keep in the knowledge of the unseen with You, to make the Qur’an the delight of my heart, the light of my breast, and remover of my griefs, sorrows, and afflictions‘.” A supplication in these words will be answered. Allah will remove one’s affliction and replace it with joy and happiness.
Source: Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Hibban

8. Anas reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to supplicate, “O Allah, there is no ease except what You make easy, and you alone can turn a difficulty into ease.” (Ibn As-sinni)

Source: Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 4, #131

9. Allah’s Apostle used to say at the time of difficulty, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Majestic, the Most Forbearing. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Lord of the Tremendous Throne. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Lord of the Heavens and the Lord of the Honourable Throne.”

Source: narrated by Ibn Abbas in Sahih Bukhari, volume 9, #526.

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The Hidden Crimes of Tobacco

The WHO states that nearly half the people who smoke regularly will eventually be killed by tobacco. What is very alarming, however, is that hundreds of thousands who have never lit a cigarette are also killed each year by tobacco. The culprit is passive smoking.
Most smokers know they are destroying their health. However, passive smoking, or secondhand smoking, harms the health of non-smokers. These people did not choose to be exposed to the harmful smoke, yet they will suffer for it.

This year, World No Tobacco Day, marked on 31 May, is calling for more protection for non-smokers. The best and only solution, according to WHO, is to promote 100 percent smoke-free environments.


Tobacco smoke contains 4,000 different chemicals. Nearly 250 of these are either carcinogenic or toxic. They range from the colorless and odorless poisonous carbon monoxide to hydrogen cyanide. Secondhand smoking coming from the tip of a burning cigarette actually contains higher concentrations of many of these compounds than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.

Much of the harm caused by secondhand smoking actually starts at home. While many people see their homes as the perfect place to smoke, they unwittingly expose their families to the poisons carried in the smoke.

Children have a weaker immunity system and their bodies are still developing. This makes them more vulnerable to the poisons in smoke than adults. Secondhand smoking can aggravate asthma and respiratory diseases as well as cause ear problems in young children.

According to research by the US Surgeon General, babies whose mothers were smokers during pregnancy are born with weaker than normal lungs. This could increase the risk of many heart problems. These babies are also at a higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies unexposed to smoke.

While a pregnant mother should not expose her fetus to the harmful toxins in smoke, she should not be exposed to secondhand smoking either. In addition to the harm it can cause, passive smoking is known to also decrease female fertility. This makes it harder to conceive a baby.

A US study showed that secondhand smoke exposure can endanger pets as well. In the research, longer exposure to the smoke caused an increase in the likelihood of cats developing health complications.


Many non-smokers think that by avoiding smoking, they are caring for their health and well-being. The problem is that they have no control over other people’s smoking. Non-smokers involuntary take in smoke through passive smoking, unaware of the dangers this poses to them.

Several studies highlight that exposure to secondhand smoking increases the risk of developing heart diseases by 25 to 30 percent. It can also increase the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by 20 to 30 percent. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in its latest report that secondhand smoking is carcinogenic to humans.

In addition to these long-term effects, exposure to passive smoking can cause short-term symptoms. These can range from coughing or wheezing to severe headaches and nausea. If a person suffers from asthma, passive smoking can cause significant decline in their lung function.

100 Percent Smoke-Free Environments

Researchers have been working for many years to determine a threshold for the level of smoke to be tolerated. However, all results point to one fact: there are no acceptable levels of tobacco smoke that would cause no harm to non-smokers.

Options such as segregating smokers from non-smokers or ventilating the room are not enough to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. According to WHO, ventilation systems 100 times above common standards would be needed just to remove the odor of smoking. Even higher ventilation rates would be needed to remove all toxins in smoke. Such a level of ventilation is neither viable no affordable.

If you are a smoker, the best way to protect your family and loved ones is to quit smoking. This will also protect you from the adverse effects of smoking.

Meanwhile, there are several options to decrease your family’s exposure to passive smoking. A good start is not smoking inside the house or in the car. Make smoking an outdoor experience only. Such smoke-free rules are actually proven to help people quit smoking as well. Another good option is persuading businesses to adopt smoke-free areas. Workplaces continue to be a major area of secondhand smoke exposure.


The tobacco industry usually promotes the “courtesy of choice,” where smokers and non-smokers live in harmony, to counter the requirements of 100 percent smoke-free environments. Voluntary actions do not offer enough protection to non-smokers. That is why there is a need for legislation for 100 percent smoke-free environments.

Some people, especially those affiliated with the tobacco industry, claim that smoking bans infringe on the rights of smokers. The truth is that while smokers have the choice to smoke, non-smokers are involuntarily being exposed to secondhand smoke.

It is important to remember that most people are non-smokers, and many smokers wish to quit but do not have the will to. Smoke bans are not there to infringe on the rights of smokers, but to promote the rights of others to breathe clean, healthy air and not have to worry about poisons they intake.

To choose to smoke is an act of free will. But to choose to harm others is a selfish act.

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