Moderation in a Fattening World

How following Islamic teachings can lead to a healthier life.

27The Review of Religions – February 2004 The Inbuilt Criterion for Good and Bad God has endowed the human physiology with intrinsic potentials to distinguish disease from health and creative phenomena from destructive phenomena. This system of dis- crimination works without the knowledge of human consciousness and as an ongoing self-flowing phenomenon. In fact this applies not only to human beings but to all forms of life as well. Each species, whether elementary or advanced, is well equipped with that inbuilt ability which informs each individual belonging to any species of what is good for it and what is bad for it within its own tiny world of the barest form of existence. Even the amoeba has its limitations of health and disease, what it should endeavour to possess and what it should avoid and evade. But in man it is so highly developed and complex, that even a cursory glance at its function is absolutely astounding. The process of selection and rejection is observed in perfect operation at every level of human existence; the following simple illustration will help elaborate the case in point. Balance Within Man’s Body This article is an extract from the book Absolute Justice, Kindness and Kinship: The Three Creative Principles, in which the author, Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad – Khalifatul Masih IV, elaborates on the three stages of human relations; namely Adl (Absolute justice), Ihsan (to grant someone more than his due) and Ita’I Dhil-Qurba (to treat someone with such grace and overw h e l m i n g benevolence as one would treat one’s kindered). This section follows a discussion of one meaning of verse nine of Surah Al- Shams (‘And He revealed to it what is wrong for it [fujoor] and what is right for it [taqwa]’), and focuses on another aspect of its meaning. The appetite in man creates in him the awareness of the requirements of e n e rg y. The sense of sight, smell, touch and taste, and even in some cases the sense of hearing, all immediately begin to take an active part in determining what is good and what is bad, and to what extent something is good and to what extent something is bad for the man in need of some form of energ y. Then if a morsel of something is introduced into the mouth, the taste buds and heat buds and the sensory org a n s relating to touch etc., the teeth and salivary glands and jaw bones and the nerves attached to the teeth, muscles of the jaws and circular fibres around the oesophagus and trachea, all begin to play a perfectly balanced role, as if dancing in perfect harmony in step with the music of life. Then, when at last something is swallowed, the selection process begins to play a more profound role in disintegrating the food into its constituent materials and purifying it from alien matters not needed by the body and purifying it from bacterial or viral impurities and breaking it into such chemical elements as can be readily assimilated by the system and recycled into other more complex organic materials after having being introduced into the bloodstream of man. These are but a very few oversimplified examples of how the human body is equipped to create a balanced diet for human con- sumption. If the balance is disturbed, then the quality of human life and health is adversely affected. The balance needed within the system of life in human beings is so perfectly measured and precisely proportioned, that even a slight disturbance in mutual proportions can turn life into death. 28 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 IN SHORT, IN TERMS OF HUMAN PHYSIQUE, THIS VERSE OF SURAH AL-SHAMS INDICATES THAT HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY AND ANATOMY AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM AND THE PORTAL SYSTEM, INTRAVENOUS SYSTEM AND GLANDULAR S Y S T E M, A N D T H E I M M U N E S Y S T E M A R E A L L W E L L EQUIPPED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT IS GOOD AND BAD FOR THEM, AND HOW TO AVOID EVIL AND ADOPT A HEALTHY COURSE. Here it would be logical to translate Fujoor as changes threatening the healthy progress of life, and Taqwa as measures of the potential ability to avoid the dangers which may lead to illness and death. This also has a connotation of protective capabilities or defensive measures. In short, in terms of human physique, this verse of Surah Al-Shams indicates that human physiology and anatomy and the nervous system and the portal system, intravenous system and glandular system, and the immune system are all well equipped with the knowledge of what is good and bad for them, and how to avoid evil and adopt a healthy course. A minute study of just one of the systems alluded to would virtually require volumes to be written; yet by no means would the subject be exhausted. To say that this magical and wonderful would be naive. To compare the intricacies and the tiers upon tiers of mysteries with which human life is endowed is like placing Alice in Wonderland. In comparison to the wonders of human creation all fiction relating to mystery and wonder is paled into nothingness. When we study the scientific explanation of how the human body functions, we are amazed to notice how perfectly they verify the relevant Q u r’anic statements. There is an amazing balance between man’s propensity to fall ill and catch diseases and his potential ability to cure himself from all forms of disease of which he may be stricken. Even cancers can be cured without intervention of physicians or oncologists. In fact there are some terminal cases of cancer which are duly recorded in medical history where the patient made a complete r e c o v e r y, defying the scientific understanding of how it could have happened. The specialists’ know-how is disregarded when terminally ill patients begin to recover and return to life without any understandable cause. The scientists are in unanimous agreement however that the intricacies of the human immune system are as yet superficially understood. Yet only this much we can say with certainty, that our defence system is provided with limitless possibilities. Despite its perfection no defence apparatus in man can bring him eternity. In each system that man is endowed with there is an inherent counter system which works in measured tones for its ultimate destruction. Everything is precisely measured and proportioned. The estimated duration of the life of each cell of the human body is 29 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 predetermined by the most intricate dominant and recessive charac- teristics etched onto the genes. It is also clearly predetermined as to how long the growth rate for certain organs would move at a faster pace than the death rate of the same organ. Also it is clearly predetermined as to the age at which the pace of growth and destruction would remain perfectly matched, and again it is also predetermined as to the time after which the rate of death would outpace the rate of growth. None of these is accidental. Physical Growth Let us study by way of illustration the simple example of the growth of teeth. The milk teeth as we know them are governed and are being constantly monitored in the rate of growth and decay, so that for some years the rate of growth outpaces the rate of decay. For some years the balanced stage is reached where the rates remain constant. Then suddenly the balance is tilted in favour of death and decay, and the days of the milk teeth are numbered. After that begins the age of the adult teeth. The rate of growth in the beginning is much faster in this case than the rate of the wear and tear. Up to a certain stage, when they reach their predetermined size of length, breadth and thickness, the balance in favour of growth remains intact. After a pre-calculated size is reached, suddenly a perfect balance between the rate of growth and the rate of wear and tear is delicately maintained, so leaving injury through disease and accident aside, they remain in a perfectly healthy and balanced state with no apparent changes occurring in their length and size. Ordinarily people think they have grown and stopped growing, and that is all that there is to it. This naive concept is farthest from the truth. If they had stopped growing they would have ground into nothingness in a matter of weeks and months. If on the other hand, the rate of growth continued to remain the same as was operative in the initial stages, they would have continued to grow longer and longer till the lower teeth would have jutted out of the top of the human skull and the upper teeth would be seen hanging below the jaw. So it is not an unmeasured, uncon- trollable phenomenon that we are observing. All the factors responsible for measuring growth to a certain period and the change in the rate of growth after a certain period of time and the mutual balance between the rate of growth and decay, are an extremely complex set of instructions specifically and clearly written into 30 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 the blueprint of human creation. When they act in detail, it is mind boggling to realise how the blueprint of human design and engineering unfolds itself and works in such an amazing and intricate manner. The safe removal of the waste products through the human excretory system is also a system in itself which astounds human understanding. Here of course the principle of Adl is applicable with no awareness on the part of the human mind. Only when he treats the teeth with injustice does he begin to realise the outcome of his folly through the damage that he himself inflicts on his own teeth. And within a small sphere he begins to observe another form of justice in play, that is the justice operative in the phenomena of crime and punishment. Diabetes Diabetes is a common disease which can be used to illustrate the mysteries of balances. Among other things, diabetes is caused by imbalances in the secretions of some vital glands in the human assimilative system. The pancreas produces two types of secretions or chemicals. One is called insulin and is largely responsible for the assimilation of sugar into all parts of the organs of the body, which constantly require sugar as a source of e n e rgy for their survival. There are so many glands involved in this complex task. Even if the animal does not eat sugar directly, various forms of carbohydrates he consumes in the forms of starches, powders, fruits and vegetables etc., are broken down into sugar by certain glands in the body. This sugar, or any other sugar directly consumed by an animal is a ready source for all his requirements of e n e rg y, but it cannot be directly utilised by any human organ or part of the body without the help of insulin. But if insulin is produced in excessive quantities, a disease which is the opposite of diabetes can be caused and this is called hypoglycaemia. In this disease, the sugar level is so lowered by over-consumption or by other factors, that if it is not immediately rectified it can result in sudden death or a deep coma which is damaging for the brain and other vital org a n s . To keep a counter check on production of insulin there is a complex signalling system at work in the body which sounds an alarm as if announcing the fact that all the insulin that was needed has been produced and no more is required. This counter insulin secretion is also produced in the same area of the glandular system which is responsible for the production of insulin. When secretion 31 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 is released the production of insulin suddenly halts and the animal seems to enter a state of perfect satiation. Tilt the balance to either side and the health will be adversely influenced to some degree. But this is not all to the story of insulin and measures created by God to keep it in check and balance. Each human organ requires insulin for the assimilation of sugar, but also other rare elements and secretions are needed to support this complex system. Every cell in the bloodstream constantly needs energ y. After the consumption of energ y, the waste product needs to be thrown out. For this, adequate measures are taken whereby the waste product and toxins etc. are secreted out of the system. All the above functions are performed through the agency of the blood- stream. Talking of the bloodstream, this in itself offers limitless wonders. The problem with the bloodstream is that it can be self-destructive. The medium of liquid in which blood cells of different types are suspended can destroy the nucleus of the cell immediately if it is permitted to flow into the cell freely. To counter this danger there is a bi-layered envelope around each cell which cannot be penetrated directly by the liquid electrolyte system in which the cells are suspended. This bi-layered envelope provides a very effective preventative cover to each cell. But it creates its own problems. Sugars are found dissolved in the bloodstream and the same double cover preventing the solution of blood from reaching the nucleus also prevents sugar from reaching the nucleus where it is vitally needed far survival. Also, a well-proportioned amount of insulin must somehow be transported into the cell. So to keep perfect balance between both requirements and provide eff e c t i v e measures against both dangers (either side), God has designed the two covers of the cells to meet the situation p e r f e c t l y. Both covers have certain pores through which a molecule of sugar is transported with an attached molecule of insulin into the heart of the cell where it is immediately consumed. The waste products are carried back through the pores of the same covers to the bloodstream where they are washed out to the porous skin in the form of perspiration, or highly complex mucous membranes in the kidney etc. This transportation of sugar into the cell and the expulsion of waste product occurs at unbelievably high speeds. This is the energy transportation 32 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 system; but this again is not all. There is far more to it. Each human organ, including cells in the bloodstream, requires a certain amount of sugar constantly for survival. But of course there are priorities, the priority of the brain is supreme over all the organs of the body. If the sugar level in the bloodstream sinks, the brain must somehow be guaranteed a constant supply till the entire reserve of sugar is depleted. If every organ and cellular tissues of the body had equal access to the consumption of sugar, there would always be a danger of the brain being deprived of its vital supply of sugar because of over- consumption elsewhere. Hence to keep the balance between various priorities, glands also create other secretions which direct the consumption of insulin in a complex and controlled manner. If the sugar falls below a certain level where the supply to the brain could be threatened, the relative glandular secretions would stop all supply of insulin and sugar to other organs of the body including blood particles. The entire stock will be stopped for the survival of the brain. The balances are not only in one place. Tier after tier of extremely delicate balances are created and maintained. In short, this is absolute justice which works unconsciously in man at diff e r e n t levels of existence. Hence they may not be referred to as absolute justice, but one cannot escape the fact that justice and perfect balance are two names for the same phenomenon. In other words, we can say without fear of contradiction that perfect health is another name for absolute justice. To understand the issue of balance in relation to sugar in the human body, let us discuss the specific example of how much sugar is needed, and what are the minimum and maximum levels. For each 100 ml of blood, there must always be at least 60 mg of sugar available for consumption. But on the other side of the equation the sugar level must not exceed 180 mg per 100 ml of blood (Textbook of Medical Physiology, Arthur C. Guyton, 5th Edition, Saunders, 1976, Chap, 78.). If it exceeds that level then the state of imbalance is referred to as blood sugar. To keep the balance correct if the insulin fails to maintain the balance, the excess sugar in the blood is washed out by the kidneys so that the excessive presence of sugar in the blood may not corrode the cellular tissues of the body. When the excess is passed out into the urine what we have is a case of diabetes with the unwarranted presence of sugar in the urine. Sometimes the threshold of the 33 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 kidneys is high and the excess of sugar in the blood is not washed out, resulting in dangerously high levels of sugar in the blood. This has a corrosive effect on some organs; the heart valves can also be eaten up by the excessive flow of sugar through them (like acid corroding the channels it flows in). The extra sugar is somehow deposited where the flow of the blood is slow, in places like the capillaries, causing many types of irritation and damage. When this happens in the blood capillaries of the eyes, the person may suffer from cataract and glaucoma and other types of eye diseases. It can slow down the impulses carried through the nerves and create dangers directly resulting from this lethargic state of transport through the nerves. In every day experience we find that some diabetic patients remain unaware of pain they should feel as a result of spasms around the heart. By missing these signals they may be taken by a surprise heart attack. So talking of the balance of justice is not just an academic luxury. The persistent lack of justice or disproportion in balance is unlikely to go unpunished in nature. Alas, this lesson is ignored by man and he lives under the illusion that he can escape the consequences of injustice. But that we will turn to later. Protection Against Disease Let us now turn our attention to certain other examples of balances created by God for the healthy maintenance of human life. Not only human life of course, the entire universe of innumerable species of life are firmly controlled and run under the absolute and unwavering principle of justice. Where violated, inadvertently or intentionally, one will never fail to discover the presence of disease. There is an amazing system of balance within our bodies. Any imbalance may cause complications, eventually leading the patient to death. If we know how this intricate system of balance, which God has created in our bodies, works we will only appreciate it more. How unfortunate is the case of man, otherwise such a proud animal, conscious of being at the head of all evolutionary achievements of life, being equipped with the most complex faculties of thinking and computation, yet he remains unaware of the most complex system of balance God has provided him with. This in itself is an injustice. In fact there is a vast internal universe of innumerable correlating factors, suspended in perfect balance and harmony constantly taking care of life in every aspect of its requirements. 34 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 This micro-universe of symphony in man is the greatest wonder that God has created. Man is the masterpiece of G o d ’s creation and is so naively unaware of his own creative wonders that he consequently remains oblivious of the gratitude he owes to his Creator. But there is more to it than just Adl. God in His extreme beneficence has taken measures to provide an additional system of cushioning and resilience to the working of the human body, which strictly speaking does not belong to the realm of Adl and justice. It is something extra, as if unearned, granted to the body entirely by way of special kindness. Looking at it from another angle, one can say that in view of human faults, excessive negligence and even accidents, a system of compensation is provided by God. When viewed from the vantage point of conscious human actions, it appears much like the term Ihsan in action, as we have previously discussed at same length. The benefaction of Ihsan and Ita’i Dhil-Qurba are granted to protect the system of justice. Far instance, if man was provided with digestive juices s u fficient to meet the daily requirements of food, that would imply that each animal eats exactly what he requires with there being no room for excess. This is only the dictate of justice. But God has provided animals with far greater possibilities to meet the eventualities of excessive eating on their part. With some effort of course everyone can digest twice the amount of food required for healthy living. When that is exceeded, then the domain of punishment begins. When one begins to become a habitual violator of justice a breakdown follows at long length. This is a very primitive and simple example of the provisions of Ihsan in all functions of human and animal life. The Production of Insulin In order to illustrate this point further we look at the example of the daily requirements of sugar of every animal and see how the factors of benevolence perform rescue operations and shield the patient’s health from the bad affects of indulgent eating. For instance, if the insulin produced by the pancreas was in exact proportion to the daily requirements of sugar by an animal then this would only fulfil the requirements of Adl and benevolence would have no part to play. But God has granted the pancreas the capability to produce more insulin than is the ordinary requirement. If a healthy man consumed ten to twenty times more sugar, his metabolism 35 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 would not allow him to suffer from diabetes. Also, if the pancreas is damaged by disease or accident, so that only one-seventh remains functional, still the daily requirements of the insulin supply could be maintained. It is interesting to note here that if the pancreas produced less insulin than the required amount, this too would violate the principle of justice. It would be befitting here to elaborate this discussion a little further for the benefit of the lay people, who normally do not understand the workings of the scientific phenomena. The production of insulin is not in any way accidental. When we say it can produce insulin matching exactly the need for insulin, we do not mean that automatically the pancreas produces a certain amount of insulin irrespective of the presence of sugar in the body system. That would be extremely unjust. The intake of food in all animals is not measured or regulated to ensure that every animal takes the exact amount of needed sugar, directly or in the form of carbohydrates. Animals have no knowledge of what they require, only a vague craving for eating, which compels them to eat whatever satiates their hunger and is palatable to their taste. The amount of food consumed is such a variable factor that no regular measured intake could be guaranteed to suit each individual animal. Yet scientifically it can be determined as to how much average intake of food is required by each animal of certain weight, size and physique. So when we talk of daily requirements we talk in terms of averages, while the actual intake of food may change almost daily. The pancreas is not only equipped to produce the average need of the animal, but the production system is so well regulated and monitored that somehow messages are delivered to it, informing it of the exact measures of insulin needed at a certain time. Hence every time the animal requires insulin for the breakdown of sugar intake, the pancreas produces the exact amount that is needed. First of all, the point worthy of note is the fact that no blind accidents seem to take place in creation. Otherwise in some animals the pancreas would always fail to produce the daily requirement of the animal and such animals would ultimately die due to lack of energ y. In other animals it is possible for the pancreas to overwork and overproduce insulin which would result in another unhealthy state. This chaotic behaviour could 36 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 result from their being provided by more or less potential than needed. Also it could result from lack of a monitoring system. What we observe in real life, h o w e v e r, is the most beautifully balanced state of affairs. The size and production of pancreas in each animal is exactly made to measure. When there is less need for the production of insulin, or no need at all, the pancreas slow down or cease functioning accordingly. The pancreas would constantly receive signals which would will it to sleep. When the intake of sugar requires production of insulin, immediately the entire factory will begin to function at maximum capacity until the need is met. Then suddenly it will receive signals transmitted from somewhere, ordering the pancreas to cease to function at once. What we are talking about by way of illustration is that the provision of I h s a n is beyond the discussion of genuine demand and supply. We are talking about accidental or intentional over-pumping of sugar into the system. If only the system of justice had been operative, the principle of crime and punishment would continue to punish the animal forthwith for all excesses committed. But God, the most Beneficent and Merciful, has taken into account the accidental or intentional excesses on the part of animals, particularly in the case of man. Hence, potentially, human beings are provided by so many times more pancreatic material so that even if a person were to consume so many times more sugar, this crime would be overlooked and he would not be immediately punished for such occasional excesses. But if he continues to disregard the dictates of justice and if he constantly violates the principles of healthy living by eating disproportionately to his requirements, then a time may come when the hand of I h s a n would be withdrawn, and pure and simple justice would take o v e r. The pancreas would break down and cease to work the extra load; such transgressors would then suffer from what we call diabetes. Even at this stage we find the elements of Ita’i Dhil-Qurba coming to the rescue of such sufferers. If the sugar level were to then rise to a dangerous level in the bloodstream, the kidneys would be ordered to start excreting extra sugar to the maximum capacity. Here again we observe the fascinating display of balance and preference. The kidney suffers of course, but by way of sacrifice for the more vital organs. It suffers because it can take more of the suffering. 37 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 If the kidney were designed to excrete blood sugar automatically as a routine function, no sugar in the blood would be left for the normal consumption of the human body. It would constantly leak out into the liver if so. On the other hand, if the kidneys were designed never to excrete sugar from the complicated and highly designed membranes, then every diabetic patient would hasten to his end faster. In the case of those whose kidneys excrete excessive amounts of sugar, this over and extra kindness above the routine benevolence of Ihsan can be linked to Ita’i Dhil-Qurba. When the kidneys take the load of excreting sugar, it is a self-sacrifice on their part. But the kidneys themselves are a marvel of creation. All the human waste in the bloodstream which is constantly produced through metabolic activities is channelled out of the human system through various organs. It is not the normal function of kidneys to excrete sugar; the normal function of kidneys is to excrete waste products of metabolism. If the human body is healthy and enjoys a balanced diet, the metabolic waste would require a certain size and weight for the kidney to perform its function of excretion. If the kidneys are only made to measure in accordance with this requirement, one-eighth of the size of the human kidney would be sufficient, and it would require no extra cushioning in case of accidental disease or excesses by gourmet eaters. It is a fascinating display of Ihsan and Ita’i Dhil-Qurba together. The kidneys are fashioned to take eight times more load than the ordinary requirement of the day-to- day bodily functions. That is to say that if there is a constant disregard towards the dictates of justice and towards the beneficence of God, and if man were to lose seven parts of his kidneys out of his eight parts, still he could survive as a normal healthy person, provided he learns his lesson and returns to a normal balanced life. Thus we see that absolute justice and benevolence in most situations can flourish together without one interfering with the other. However, if there is a danger of a clash occurring between the two, then benevolence is not permitted to play a role and absolute justice must prevail. If the coming into play of benevolence requires the sacrifice of justice, that is to say if favours can only be shown at the cost of justice, then the course of benevolence cannot be permitted to function. As long as benevolence coexists without interfering into the domain of justice it will be permitted to survive and function. Although 38 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 benevolence is a thing of a higher order, justice is more fundamental in its nature and fundamentals are never sacrificed on the altar of what is extra and optional. We shall now consider the above mentioned example in the light of a tradition of the Holy Prophet(sa) that: ‘A non-believer may eat seven times more, in comparison to a believer.’ (Muslim Kitab-ul-Ashreba, Ch. 34, Hadith 182, 184.) This tradition so accurately demon- strates the minimum maximum capacity of the digestive system. H o w e v e r, this subject is vast and requires a deeper study to reach the intricate workings of the mechanism of digestion of sugar into the system and the maintenance of the relevant balances. Again, the subject is so complex that by no means could it so accurately be kept in poise and balance through accidental creation. Insulin is just one factor which is largely involved in the transportation of sugar from the blood system to the areas of requirements. But hundreds of other factors are responsible for perfect balance of insulin-related activities. Hence it is possible for a patient to suffer from diabetes despite the pancreas working normally. So f a r, scientists have discovered hundreds of possible factors which play a role in the maintenance of the complex sugar absorption system in the body. Yet, in the final analysis, the emphasis is on perfect balance, or an absolute justice, as it has also been referred to. Calcium Calcium also plays an important role in keeping man’s health in good order. His health is at a great risk if the balance of calcium is somehow disturbed even ever so slightly. In this respect, the margin between health and disease is much narrower than that which exists in the case of the glucose level in the blood. A healthy body needs a minimum amount of 9.2% calcium and a maximum of 10.4% calcium (Textbook of Medical Physiology, Arthur C. Guyton, 5th Edition, Saunders, 1976, Chap. 79.). Any rise or fall in the proportion of calcium may cause severe damage to health, even resulting in sudden death. A study of a disease not uncommon among cattle would be helpful in demonstrating how important it is for calcium to be present in the body in exactly the right proportions. Sometimes due to viruses or environmental factors, the cattle 39 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 begin to show signs of sudden loss of energy which is perplexing for the farmer, as there is no outward reason for this to happen. A cow, perfectly healthy the night before, suddenly buckles in at the knees and drops like a dead weight and simply cannot rise again. There is no fever and no sign of any disease, just a slump into death. A capable veterinary could of course save the cattle by the injection of readily soluble calcium which would miraculously inject life into the dying cattle. This is how important it is for calcium not to drop below the minimum required level. Sometimes persistent progressive debility amongst humans is traced to the gradual decrease in calcium. So far, the principle to understand is that the delicate levels of calcium should not be disturbed, as this would be dangerous for human health. Generations of scientists working on this may not have quite understood all the factors responsible for maintaining this delicate balance. Its role in the composition of the human body is a complex one. Calcium phosphate gives rigidity to the human skeleton and the calcium salts provide the hard structure of the bones and teeth and give hardness to the membranous tissues covering the cell. The poor condition of the cells and teeth and excessive irritability a r e among the symptoms possible for indicating a shortage of calcium, whereas too much calcium may result in mental confusion and the lethargic condition of the body. Inside the cell is the living protoplasm which is surrounded by a tough membrane. Any deficiency of calcium in the membrane removes its toughness, consequently making the cell weaker. This may result in the protrusion of protoplasm. Among humans, the intake of calcium varies according to what they consume and where they live. Thus any deficiency of calcium or its excessive intake can make their lives vulnerable to diseases. An imbalance of calcium in the bone tissue and bloodstream can be responsible for the following disorders: • Vasodilation resulting in a drop in blood pressure. • Reduced contractility of the heart muscles. • The change in bone tissue which results in rickets. • Serious osteoarthritis where the ratio of calcium is disturbed and also involves angina attacks. The 40 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 drop in the calcium level is because of the drop in the blood pressure and causes serious and permanent damage to the brain and tissues. Hence God has provided man’s body with another protective system which keeps the balance of calcium in order. The factors responsible for maintaining the delicate balance in calcium are numerous and intricately interrelated. This monitoring and corrective system can be likened to the phrase in Surah Al-Shams, verse nine. Taqwa, in this context would mean, ‘We have computed into the building material of life the instructions concerning the areas of dangers which should be avoided, as well as the detailed instructions of how they could be avoided.’ Accordingly, the calcium balance also has many inherent monitoring systems which constantly guard over it and, whenever necessary, call for remedial measures. The call is immediately responded to by the complex glandular system, which is well equipped with the necessary mechanism to create the supply of the much-needed remedies. A small amount of calcium is needed by the blood and soft tissues, the rest is stored in the teeth and bones. If calcium in the blood is in short supply it is replenished from the store in the b o n e s . The body adjusts its absorption rate according to the supply of calcium in the diet – a low dietary intake means the absorption is high, and a high intake means that the excess will be stored in the bones until an optimum is reached, and then the absorption from the gut is slowed down. The presence of Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium. Hence, in tropical countries, even though the diet may be deficient in calcium, the high level of Vitamin D in the body (from exposure to the sun) will make the absorption of calcium more efficient. Regulation of the calcium balance is under control of a hormone called parathormone, which is produced by the parathyroid glands. This works in conjunction with Vitamin D to adjust the absorption of calcium to meet the requirements of the body. Calciton is another hormone which plays a role in regulating the balance of calcium. If there is too much calcium in the blood, calciton takes the excess back to the bone. It also slows down absorption from the gut. Sodium and Potassium Let us illustrate the system of Fujoor a n d Taqwa from another angle. Sodium and potassium are two elements which are essential for the maintenance of human life, and a 41 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 balance has to be kept between them. H o w e v e r, the necessary sodium- potassium ratio varies with the d i fferent parts of the body. For example, the bones and the flesh require more potassium than they do sodium, whereas blood cells need more sodium than they do potassium. An imbalance between these salts can lead to dangerous consequences. The balancing of these two chemicals in all parts of the body is not accidental either, but is part of a well organised scheme. Also, the health of the nervous system is largely dependent on both sodium and potassium, but the requirement of nerves for each chemical changes according to the situation. Nerve cells pass messages to other nerve cells in a chain, so that the messages eventually reach the part of the body that they are intended for. In the transfer of messages from nerve cell to nerve cell, sodium flows into the cell while potassium flows out. If this process is then not reversed immediately and potassium is not rehabilitated to its resting level then the result can be spontaneous death. It is from this that we can deduce the meaning of the Qur’anic expression Fa Sawwaka Fa Adalaka. One short phrase summarises the entire complex system of balances and c o u n t e r-balances that exist in our bodies. Cell Division Similarly, the process of cell division is very interesting. Every seven years, each cell in the body is replaced under the highly complicated system of catabolism. Catabolism is the process whereby cells are constantly consumed and destroyed. However, we are not aware that this phenomenon is taking place as none of our physical features change radically. It is possible that with the passage of time, one may improve in health and gain weight, or deteriorate and lose flesh, but the personality of one’s physical being remains exactly the same. Each new-born cell which replaces the dying one is born almost in the image of its predecessor which is destroyed in the process of catabolism. To illustrate this point perhaps the most commonly known example is that of fingerprints. The thumb impression of the newborn babe in its intricate pattern remains exactly the same as when he grows up to a ripe old age. The thumb impression does not change. This subject is related to the system of 42 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 Adl in that the cells which replace the dead ones are born in accordance with the needs and requirements of the b o d y. The body organs need a constant system of repair because every organ would diminish in size unless the cells lost in the process of its function are replaced. If the rate of supply of cells rises higher than the requirement, the organ will continue to grow beyond its designed size. If it is less than the needed rate, then the organ in question will diminish in size. If human cells which are perpetually consumed for one reason or the other are not replaced by almost exactly the same number as those lost, an imbalance will occur causing serious disorder in the human physique. By applying this principle to any organ of the body one can easily visualise the abominable consequences. Take the eyeball, for instance. During the daily function of the eye, we are constantly using life cells in every part of the eye. If replacements are made at a rate faster than consumption, the eyeball will begin to grow out of its socket. If the balance is tilted on the other side, the eyeball would reduce in size until it becomes a mere dot before passing into nothingness. To sum up, if the balance in man’s body is disturbed, and fewer cells die than are born, then man’s physique would expand out of all proportion. On the other hand, if dying cells were not replenished at the required rate, man would fade out of existence. A Look Into the Insect Kingdom Although we are discussing human life, it should be borne in mind that this system of absolute justice encompasses all forms of life. Justice, in application to the governing of life processes, means that everything is kept within its designed limits and is not permitted to transgress into others’ areas of rights. If every cell of a living body, whatever the nature of the tissue it belongs to, has a definite function to perform the principle of absolute justice requires that the function of each must be confined within the limits of its design and should not be permitted to outgrow and run amok without any control. In application to the insect kingdom, it becomes evident that it is this intricate system of control which keeps them within a limited level of growth. Each insect has a predetermined dimension, which could be disturbed to an unman- ageable degree if strict controls were not applied against the overgrowth of its tissues. Insects constantly 43 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 consume certain types of food suitable for the maintenance of their life. If unchecked by the laws of nature they would grow to such gigantic sizes as to fill the earth from end to end. Why should their growth come to a halt at a certain stage? What are the forces which impose such limits? What is the system which keeps them within a limited level of growth? These are questions which are as yet to be understood by scientists. To let them grow would appear to be an act of kindness, but at what cost? At the cost of all other forms of life. So balance, or absolute justice in human terminology, is not kept a u t o m a t i c a l l y, but is imposed and controlled by certain forces as yet not fully comprehended. Previously we mentioned the example of growth within each organ of the body. The mechanism which controls the growth of teeth and eyeballs etc. within every individual human being, also seems to be operative in relation to one species and the other. Alas, man is ingrate. In spite of intelligence, he remains heedless of that Omnipotent Being, while every particle of the universe bears witness to His existence! Imbalance and Disease If man were to reflect on his true worth, he would realise that he is no more than a handful of dust. All that he is arrogant about is vain pride, while he possesses nothing. All belongs to Allah. Man has been granted such a perfect body, but when in health he fails to comprehend that he is dependent on a grand and intricate system of balances. When he falls ill, his discomfort, pain and suffering bring out the realisation in him of his frailty. It is then that his dependence on God begins to dawn upon him. It is God who prevents him from falling victim to the numberless diseases which hover around him. But he is protected from each by an inbuilt defensive mechanism which is constantly on the watch. Even a minute lapse here or there would make him a victim of disease. The point to be highlighted here is that even if a small and insignificant part of the body is permitted to fall ill, while the remaining parts stay perfectly healthy, the diseased person suffers in totality. A small sore on the tip of a finger, a corrosion of a tooth, an infection in a part of the eyelid, can make one suffer so intensely that people are known to have taken their own lives in order to escape the agony caused by such apparently minor ailments. The growth of a gland in the 44 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 brain could make a person epileptic, a suffering not only to himself but to his entire circle of family and friends as well. Only in such cases can the immense beneficence of God be fully realised; a beneficence which is constantly showered on every living creature. This realisation can only dawn on those who have the faculty to think and be grateful. Again in the final analysis, disease is nothing but the disturbance of balance which we term as absolute justice. A mere imbalance in the elements of the body can cause a number of fatal diseases. Many a great man, king, philosopher and scholar, who commanded respect and earned great renown at various times in history, when afflicted with disease and suffering, lost all dignity and self- respect and stooped to the level of begging abjectly for help from those of their attendants who themselves had no power to help them ease their suffering. Great emperors who struck terror into the hearts of men far and wide, when afflicted with paralysis, or palsy or epilepsy, appeared so small and insignificant and meaningless, that the meanest of their servants and slaves would not exchange their slavery with the sovereignty of those moments. Such was the treatment by Shakespeare of Julius Caesar when in one of the masterly strokes of his genius he shows Julius Caesar at the height of his glory and majesty at one moment, and writhing in pain and s u ffering under a severe epileptic attack-like a mere worm of the earth- in another moment And when the fit was on him, I did mark How he did shake; ‘tis true, this god did shake; His coward lips did from their colour fly, And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world Did lose his lustre; Julius Caesar (Act I, Scene II) But little do these observations make impression on the ego of man. The moment he returns to health, he completely forgets those trying moments of his life and loses no t i m e in returning to his vanity. Epilepsy, which can make a person feel as if he had been robbed of his dignity, is in fact caused by a minor imbalance in the nervous system. The imbalance is so minor, that very often it is not possible to determine which part of the nervous system is affected, and h o w. 45 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 Guardian Angels The path to progress is fraught with pitfalls and dangers. Each step towards advancement can, if carelessly taken, lead to destruction. There is no exaggeration in this. Even the minutest details of the workings of life and death seem to go hand in hand. Protection of life is a profoundly well organised mech- anism which is still to be fully comprehended. But whatever of it has been understood, to a degree, is astounding. Behind this apparently self-flowing mechanism, according to religious understanding, there are some invisible conscious forces who have different dimensions than ours and are known as angels. The entire universe is run by the laws of nature, which are governed, maintained and implemented in the minutest details by these governing agents – the angels. The same applies here. One can visualise for instance, any unit of life advancing in time. At every minute step it takes, there is always the attendant danger of taking the wrong turn to death. The angels of life guide each step of the components of life in the right direction, but when the moment of death is decreed it is the angel of death who takes over and every step of living is turned towards death. The Excesses of Man If given leave, man would transgress all boundaries. But it is a great bounty of God that he has little control over the enormous workshop which operates within his body. He is unaware of what goes on inside him and is incapable of manipulating his own internal mechanisms. An overwhelmingly large number of functions of human life run without conscious control of the possessor of life. There are of course some limited areas where he is able to exert his influence. For example, excessive eating, indulgence in carnal pleasures, habits and lifestyles are the few areas where he is free to exercise his will. We know well the havoc he plays in the areas under his c o n t r o l . Yet in spite of all the licenses he takes, and the excesses he commits against himself, there runs an innate system of well cushioned protection within his physical mechanism. This protective system is designed to bear with many a fault to a certain extent. But if man continues to commit mistakes, or takes suicidal steps beyond all limits, then the punitive system takes over. Even then, a struggle begins between disease and health, life and death, with each step 46 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004 being provided with all of the requisite devices for prolonging this struggle against the destructive forces, with a fair chance of victory. What we understand in religious terminology as indecency or lax behaviour or decidedly abhorrent attitudes, or at a third stage, rebellion against all order, are in fact applicable to the physical world as well in all these three categories of progressive transgression. Of course we do not mean to apply the same terms to the physical counterparts of spiritual behaviour, but the similarities are so strong that one is tempted to use the same terminology. To find appropriate descriptions for the three categories of’ transgression, perhaps we could coin our own terminology, with the first stage being that of carelessness and lack of responsibility in maintaining one’s health. The second stage would be described perhaps as positive degradation from the principle of health with incautious indulgences. The third stage could of course be appropriately described as blatant rebellion against all norms and principles. Yet it should not be forgotten, that even at such extreme stages, the benevolence of God and Hs limitless mercy can still come to man’s rescue. From a study of the physical world, we can draw safe and dependable conclusions to guide our steps in the spiritual and religious world. Likewise man can draw his lessons by critically examining his social, political and economic behaviour. It is not difficult for him to discover that if he were to conduct himself carelessly in any area of his activity, he is likely to suffer the consequences of his digression from the path of justice. 47 Balance Within Man’s Body The Review of Religions – February 2004