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During the month of Ramadan, there is an abundance of dates everywhere we turn. There is good reason for this, as Muslims generally break their fast by eating dates. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, "If any one of you is fasting, let him break his fast with dates. In case he does not have them, then with water. Verily water is a purifier."
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to break his fast by eating dates before offering the Maghrib prayer, and if ripe dates were not available, he would substitute them with dried ones. When even these were not available, he used to have a few sips of water, according to some accounts. Dates contain sugar, fat, and proteins, as well as important vitamins. Hence the great importance attached to them by the Prophet (PBUH).
Regarding the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) breaking his fast with fresh dates, dried dates, or even water, there is of course a subtle reason for this. Since dates travel faster to the liver and are converted more quickly than other nutrients, particularly if they are moist, the liver accepts their contents more readily and hastens their distribution to the rest of the body, which is thirsting for energy. So dates are the perfect food with which to break the fast, since they quickly supply the body with the energy it needs.
Dates are also rich in natural fibers and therefore the eating of them helps to fight many of the ailment with which we commonly suffer today. Modern medicine has shown that eating dates is effective in helping to prevent abdominal cancer. Dates also surpass other fruits in the sheer variety of their constituents. They are the most wholesome food among fruits because of their hot and moist substance. Eating dates in the morning on an empty stomach kills intestinal worms and other parasites, for dates have an antidotal potency which inhibits their growth. Dates contain calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, magnesium, and volatile oils.
Dates and date palms are mentioned in the Qur'an 20 times, thus showing their importance. The Prophet (PBUH) likened a good Muslim to the date palm saying, "Among trees, there is a tree like a Muslim. Its leaves do not fall."
Dates were the food Almighty Allah provided for Sayyidah Maryam (Allah be pleased with her) when she felt labor pains and after she gave birth to Jesus (PBUH) under the palm tree. Allah Almighty revealed to her the following:
"Shake the trunk of the palm tree, and it will drop ripe dates on you, so eat, drink, and comfort your eyes with what Allah gave you." (Qur'an 19:25)
Experiments have also shown that dates contain some stimulants which strengthen the muscles of the uterus in the last months of pregnancy. This helps the dilation of the uterus at the time of delivery and reduces post-natal bleeding. Dieticians consider dates the best food for breast-feeding mothers. This is because dates contain elements that assist in alleviating depression and enrich the breast milk with the nutrients needed to make the child healthy and resistant to disease.
Another factor making dates the ideal food is their digestibility. Within half an hour of eating them, the tired body regains new vigor. The reason for this is that low blood sugar is the main cause of hunger, not an empty stomach as is often assumed. When the body absorbs the nutritional essence of a few dates the sensation of hunger is abated. Many who break the fast with dates afterwards find themselves unable to eat much. It would seem that taking dates after fasting helps one avoid overeating.
Aishah (R.A.) used to prescribe dates for those suffering with giddiness. It is now well known that low blood sugar and low blood pressure are among the causes of giddiness. She was also reported to have used dates combined with cucumber to treat her over-slim condition. She said "they fed me with every type of food to gain weight, yet I did not put any on. Then they added cucumber and fresh date to my diet and that did it."
As previously mentioned, dates are rich in several vitamins and minerals. When the level of trace elements in the body falls, the health of the blood vessels is affected, which leads to increased heart rate and a consequent inability of the heart to perform its functions with normal efficiency. As dates are rich in calcium, they contribute to healthy bones. For this reason it is recommended that children and older adults, especially women, eat plenty of dates to strengthen their bones.
Dates are also important in maintaining good vision and are effective in guarding against night-blindness. In the early years of Islam, dates were served as food for Muslim soldiers. As the best stimulant of the muscles, they are the best food for one about to engage in battle.
The Prophet (PBUH) would sometimes combine dates with bread. At other times he mixed ripe dates with cucumbers or combined dates with ghee. He took all varieties of dates, but preferred the variety called 'ajwah.
Dates are variously classified as food, drink, fruits, sweets, nutrients, and medicine. Cured dates are called 'ajwah in Arabic. Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) related the saying of Allah's Messenger (PBUH), "Ajwah date is an excellent remedy." (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)
According to another narration, "Ajwah date is certainly an excellent and sufficient food." Dates are also among the fruits of Paradise, as noted in the hadith:
"Ajwah is from Paradise and contains an antidote against poison." (Reported by at-Tirmidhi)
The Islamic Bulletin
P.O. Box 410186, San Francisco, CA 94141-0186
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