Breaking The Desire of the Stomach and the Private Parts

Breaking The Desire of the Stomach and the Private Parts

The desire of the stomach is of the greatest of the destructive vices, and it is what caused Adam (AS) to be expelled from Paradise. The desire of the private parts and greed for wealth both start from the desire of the stomach and is followed by many obstacles all of which is begotten of satiety and eating one’s fill.

In a hadith the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “The believer eats from one intestine [i.e. is satisfied with little] while the disbeliever eats from seven intestines [i.e. eats too much].”[1]

In another hadith: “The son of Adam does not fill a vessel more evil than his own stomach. It is enough for the son of Adam to eat that which keeps his back straight. If this is not possible, then at least a third for food, a third for drink and a third for air.”[2]

‘Uqbah al-Rasibi stated: ‘I went to visit al-Hasan [al-Basri] while he was eating. He said: ‘Come and join me.’ I said: ‘I have already eaten to my fill to the extent that I am unable to eat any more.’ Al-Hasan said: ‘SubbdnAllah, does a Muslim eat until he is no longer able to eat any more?!”

A group of ascetics went to excess in eating a little and being patient with hunger, and in this book we have already explained the inaccuracy of those who traversed such a course.[3]

Justice in regards to eating is to raise ones two hands [to indicate enough] while still having some appetite left, and the very least of levels is as the Prophet (ﷺ) indicated: “…a third for food, a third for drink and a third for air.”

Eating with justice is healthy for the body and averts illness, this is to only eat when hungry and then to raise ones hands [to indicate enough] when satiated. To constantly eat a little however weakens the body and a people did this to the extent that it led them to become deficient in performing the obligations. They thought, due to their ignorance, that what they were doing was noble when in reality it was not nobility in the slightest. Whoever praises hunger has indicated to a median path in this matter which have mentioned prior.

The way of self-discipline is to break the desire of the stomach and whoever has become accustomed to continual satiation should lessen his food intake slightly slowly until he reaches the median way which have discussed, for indeed the best of things is its middle. Firstly, he should eat that which does not withhold him from acts of worship and that which maintains his strength so that he does not feel hungry or unsatisfied, at this point his body will be healthy, his focus vibrant and his mind clear. Yet whenever he increases his food he becomes sleepy and dim-witted to the extent that his thinking becomes covered and this leads to other diseases. 

Those who leave desires should be warned from ostentation, some of the ascetics would buy an object of desire and hang it in their homes while refraining from it, hiding his asceticism, and this is the epitome of asceticism in asceticism by manifesting the contrary, this is the action of the sincere believers to drink from the sour cup of patience two times over.

As for the desires of the private parts, then you should know that the sexual desire in humans is for two beneficial reasons. The first of these is that it allows the human race to continue. The second reason is that by knowing its delight which can be made somewhat analogous to the delight of the Afterlife, as if he does not comprehend this by taste he will not magnify his longing [for the Afterlife], However, a person must be balanced in his sexual appetite as otherwise it may lead to numerous obstacles and trials. If this was not the case women would not be Shaytan’s entrapments [against men].

In a hadlth the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “I have not left among people after me a temptation (fitna) more harmful to men than women.”[4]

Some of the righteous people said: ‘If I was entrusted over the public treasury I think I could trust myself to fulfil that. But if I was entrusted over a black female [slave] for an hour, I cannot be sure that she will be safe with me.’

This may find support in the hadith, in which the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “A man does not seclude himself with a woman except the third one with them is Shaytan.[5]

Excess in regards to this desire can deviate men’s concern to enjoying women and preoccupy a man from remembering the Afterlife and could even culminate in indulgence in immoralities. A man could even fall into infatuated passion and this is of the vilest of desires. Many people fall into infatuation with wealth and property, or status, or playing backgammon, playing chess, or with playing stringed instruments and the likes. These things could overcome the hearts and people cannot be patient with them. To break the power of infatuated passion in its early stages is like pulling at the reins of a riding-beast when it heads for a gate it would like to enter: to rein it back is a very easy thing, whereas to treat such a passion after it has taken hold of one is like letting the beast go in, and then catching it by its tail and pulling it from behind: a much more difficult task.

[Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Imam Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdis, p.41-44]


[1] Muslim, #2062—from Abu Musa al Ash’ari with this wording; also reported by al-Bukhari, vol.9, p.468; Muslim, #2060; Tirmidhi, #1819 with the wording “the Muslim”—from Ibn Umar and also from Abu Hurayrah (radiyAllahu ’anhum).

[2] Reported by Tirmidhi, #2381 and Hakim, vol.4, p.121—from al-Miqdam Ibn Ma’di Karib and its chain of transmission is strong.

[3] Refer to Ibn al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis. Refer to the complete English translation, ‘The Devil’s Deception’, published by Dar as-Sunnah Publishers 2014 under the Ibn Jawzl Series.

[4] Bukharl, vol.9,p.l 18; Muslim, #2740; Tirmidhi, #2781—from Usamah (radiyAllahu ’anhu).

[5] Reported by Tirmidhi, #2166; Ahmad, vol. 1, pp. 18,26; Ibn Majah, #2363; al-Tayalisi, al- Humaydi, #32; Abu Ya’la, #141,142; al-Qada‘i, #403; al-Tahawi, Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar, vol.4, p.150; and others from ‘Umar (radiyAllahu ’anhu) with an authentic chain of transmission.

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