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Links between the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recommended foods and disease management: A review in the light of modern superfoods

Nutrition and other bioactive natural products present in specific foods within a balanced diet play an indispensable role in maintaining and promoting human health. Plants are rich sources of a balanced nutrition because of high content of bioactive products; hence, most of them recently have acquired the status of superfoods. It has been used since ancient times for the treatment of various ailments, and these traditional medicines still remain as one of the most affordable and easily accessible sources of treatment in the primary health-care system. The scientifically based use of these superfoods date back to the era of Prophet Muhammad along with other historical uses of plant products. Prescription of a large number of herbal foods such as dates, pomegranate, olives, figs, grapes, and black seeds was successfully proposed by him. These recently have become superfoods with their powerful healing properties and act as favorable dietary interventions for disease prevention as well as for the good maintenance of health. The use of these foods as ingredients of natural origin with fewer side effects seems to be more favorable than the chemical treatment, which is often complicated. The present review is an attempt to provide a brief survey of the literature on scientifically based significance of these superfoods carried out by various researchers and exploration of a wide spectrum of their pharmacological actions which include antidiabetic, anticancer, immune modulator, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and hepatoprotective properties.


There is a myriad of diverse flora available on our earth, having powerful medicinal values to prevent or cure several human diseases. Many of them are considered as superfoods due to their high and varied contents of large number of natural bioactive products, which have immense health benefits. Superfoods include a class of most potent, super concentrated, and nutrient-rich foods having an abundance of synergetic elements in their natural state, which work together in the human body. Besides having good taste, superfoods have the ability to enormously increase the vital force and energy of one’s body and are the best choice for improving overall health.[1,2]

In addition to providing nourishment to the body, food plays a vital role in the management of various diseases, since the dawn of civilization and hence they are our natural safe bet, of late. There has been a long history of the use of plant-based foods against human ailments. They have been used since the time of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). He had prescribed the use of foods rich in nutrients which can counter the effects of substances that have been proved to be harmful. He had recommended certain foods such as dates, olives, fig, pomegranate, black seeds, grapes, and many others for alleviating several ailments. Prophetic recommendations of food are remarkable for their prescience, as they came centuries before research was conducted on healthy diet and their benefits to the body.[3,4]

There are tremendous advances made in allopathic medical practices which sometimes have been proven to have drastic effects on humans.[5] In the recent years, treatment strategies have focused on the development of novel curative options with no side effects. Sunnah (prophetic tradition) advocates the pre-date use of food as medicines by many centuries, serving as precursors to the principles of modern treatment. Due to one of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) statements, “The one who sent down the disease sent down the remedy and for each disease, Almighty has given a cure.” People are encouraged to seek out those remedies and use them with skill and kindness.[6]

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recommended foods have now become superfoods of the day for their powerful healing properties, which are now becoming known to us. These are being practised even today; however, still our knowledge regarding the active ingredients of these plants and their products, which have powerful phytochemical and pharmaceutical actions, are poorly understood. There are no proper scientific validations, and despite a treasure of phytomedicines, our ailments such as cancer, obesity-related hypertension, diabetes, and many incurable diseases are on the rise. There is an urgent need to review the historically prescribed superfood-derived drugs for their state-of-the-art development and use. Hence, the present review highlights therapeutic potentials of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recommended plant-based superfoods and their constituents against many incurable human ailments.

Most Common Life-threatening Diseases and their Treatment Approaches

Cancer is a major cause of death worldwide. Development of cancer gets started from the uncontrolled growth of cells to the development of primary tumor, vascularization, and its consequent spread to other body parts, where secondary tumors may form. The common type of cancers leading to overall mortality are of lung, liver, stomach, breast, and colon. There are a number of treatment techniques which are in use or under development today to cure these types of cancers, which are commonly grouped in five categories: Radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and immunotherapy.[7,8]

Apart from various treatment approaches, chemotherapy is one of the chief therapeutic approaches to combat cancer. The main objective of the ideal cancer chemotherapy is to deliver the exact amount of drug with desired controlled rate and for satisfactorily long duration of time to the site of action, preventing the normal cells to obtain therapeutic response.[9] However, there are certain problems associated with such treatments such as rigorous side effects, repeated treatments, high patient risks, and the attainment of multidrug resistance by the cancer cells.[10-12]

The other threatening disease is diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes more commonly of type 2 has gradually been rising as a consequence of today’s desk-bound lifestyles and increased obesity. It is calculated that about 171 million people worldwide had diabetes in 2000, which will gradually been increased to reach 366 million by 2030, resulting in high morbidity and a vast economic burden.[13] The pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes is extremely accelerating, and its causes are characterized by decreased insulin sensitivity and decline cell function. Deteriorating insulin function results in chronic hyperglycemia and severe glycemic fluctuations.[14]

Type 2 diabetes is usually managed with acute medical therapy and a stepwise approach, including lifestyle modifications, addition of oral antidiabetic drugs (OADs), and the addition of insulin. Treatment is succeeding only in limited cases because OADs may also have undesirable side effects. The effects of OADs are often initiated too late, which results in exposing the patient to destructive levels of hyperglycemia.[15] Insulin therapy is frequently accompanied by weight gain.[16] The conventional vial and syringe method of insulin administration are linked in some cases with needle aversion, be short of convenience, complexity with exact dosing and ultimately, and reduced adherence to the insulin regimen.[17-19]

Obesity imparts an accelerating risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Obesity is a multifaceted disease that develops from the interaction between genotype and the environment. It involves the integration of several factors including social, cultural, behavioral, physiological, metabolic, and genetic factor.[20] Some of the various approaches for the treatment of obesity are pharmacotherapy, behavior therapy, and weight loss surgery.[21,22] In pharmacotherapy, FDA recommended that weight loss drugs are prescribed, and its long-term use may cause numerous side effects. Weight loss surgery provides significant weight loss, but lifelong medical monitoring is required. Some patients also develop incisional hernias, gallstones, dumping syndrome, and subsequent weight loss failure.[23,24]

Traditional medicines have been used to those diseases. The reason is that they are cheaper, correspond to the patient’s ideology, relieve from the adverse effects of synthetic medicines, satisfy a need for more personalized health care, and let greater public way in to being healthy knowledge. The chief use of herbal medicines is for health promotion and treatment for chronic diseases. However, the uses of traditional medicines are in demand only when a conventional medicine becomes no more effective against a particular disease such as in advanced cancer or in a condition of new infectious disease. Moreover, traditional medicines widely seen as natural and safe without any toxicological implications.[25-27] Recently, some traditional foods called “super foods” are remarked because they contain various bioactive compounds. Many studies suggested that some traditional foods including dates, pomegranate, black seeds, fig, and olives play an important role to inhibit or to cure diseases. Pictorial representation of these superfoods are shown in Figure 1 . The scheme of the links between superfoods and their health potentials is shown in Table 1 , and their precise characteristics are discussed in the next section.

Life Experience School

Bronze bust of young Muhammad Ali when he refused induction into the US Army in 1967 as a conscientious objector. Ali received the Courage of Conscience Award in 1994 at the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, MA.

The Muhammad Ali Project seeks to exhibit the cold cast bronze bust of the young boxer-turned-social-activist in boxing clubs, community centers, schools and colleges to promote his lifelong message of civil rights, nonviolence and conscientious objection.

In refusing induction into the armed services, he said the following: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.

But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.

If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”

Having just completed the bronze bust of Daniel Berrigan, we are proud to announce that our artist, Lado Goudjabidze will begin sculpting the likeness of Heavy Weight Boxing Champion and Conscientious Objector, Muhammad Ali. Ali received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award in 1994. At that time, he unveiled the memorial stone for Unknown Civilians Killed in War on the grounds of the Abbey. His likeness in bronze will be added to the Peace Abbey Sculpture Collection at the Abbey Foundation in Millis and at UMASS Boston Permanent Peace Collection.

On April 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refuses to be inducted into the U.S. Army and is immediately stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 14, 1942, the future three-time world champ changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 after converting to Islam. He scored a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and made his professional boxing debut against Tunney Husaker on October 29, 1960, winning the bout in six rounds. On February 25, 1964, he defeated the heavily favored bruiser Sonny Liston in six rounds to become heavyweight champ.

On April 28, 1967, with the United States at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier in the “Fight of the Century” and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional boxing career. On June 28 of that same year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction for evading the draft.

At a January 24, 1974, rematch at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Ali defeated Frazier by decision in 12 rounds. On October 30 of that same year, an underdog Ali bested George Forman and reclaimed his heavyweight champion belt at the hugely hyped “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire, with a knockout in the eighth round. On October 1, 1975, Ali met Joe Frazier for a third time at the “Thrilla in Manila” in the Philippines and defeated him in 14 rounds. On February 15, 1978, Ali lost the title to Leon Spinks in a 15-round split decision. However, seven months later, on September 15, Ali won it back. In June 1979, Ali announced he was retiring from boxing. He returned to the ring on October 2, 1980, and fought heavyweight champ Larry Holmes, who knocked him out in the 11th round. After losing to Trevor Berbick on December 11, 1981, Ali left the ring for the final time, with a 56-5 record. He is the only fighter to be heavyweight champion three times. In 1984, it was revealed Ali had Parkinson’s disease.