Dates – a popular food during the month of Ramazan

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Among all Islamic months, Ramazan is special. It is characterized by fasting – which is one of the five pillars of Islam. During this month, Muslims observe fast, eat before sunrise and after sunset – not in between. Allah (SWT) mentions the purpose of fasting in the Quran and says – Lailakum Tataqun (so that you attain taqwa – that means the consciousness of Allah that can lead to His true obedience and His Messenger (SAAW).
The food that Muslims consume during the month of Ramazan also makes this month unique. Depending upon the financial strength, every family ensures that varieties of dishes are cooked and served; however, one thing remains constant in each house, which is the use of ‘dates’. Almost every family breaks the fast with Dates.
In Arabic, the date-palm tree is called ‘Nakhla’, and the fruit (date) is called ‘Tamr’. In Turkish and Urdu languages, it is called Khurma and Khajoor respectively. Botanically, it belongs to the family Arecaceae, genus – Phoenix, and species Dactylifera. Dates usually grow in tropical and desert climates; therefore, it thrives in countries with long, hot summers like those in the Middle East and neighboring countries. Besides finding mention in Quran, dates have been preferred by Beloved Muhammad (SAAW). Many Ahadees (prophetic sayings) underline the significance of Dates and shows that Date was the favorite fruit of Allah’s Apostle (SAAW).
Narrates Ibn Umar (R.A.): I was with the prophet (SAAW) while he was eating fresh dates. He said, ‘From the trees, there is a tree which resembles a faithful believer and it is date palm (Al-Bukhari). Scholars stated that the believer was compared with the date palm due to the abundance of its goodness, continuity of its shade, the goodness of its fruit, and its presence throughout the year, etc. just as the believer is all goodness with characteristics like obedience, nobility of manners, and so on. In another hadees, the Prophet (SAAW) emphasized the importance of dates and said; that the household, which has dates, will not go hungry. Another version states, that the house having no dates has no food (Muslim). These two traditions suggest that dates constitute a rich diet and families having dates to consume do not require any other food.
Anas Bin Malik narrates that Prophet (SAAW) never proceeded for prayers on the Day of Eidul Fitr unless he had eaten some dates (Al-Bukhari). The tradition of breaking fast with dates is also rooted in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAAW). Hazrat Anas reported, The Messenger of Allah used to break his fast before performing Maghrib prayer with three fresh date fruits. If fresh dates would not be available, he would eat three dry dates. Only in non-availability of dates prophet would end his fast by taking water (Tirmizi).
It is an interesting fact that most Prophetic teachings possess scientific importance as well. We have several Prophetic sayings and practices, which have now been evidenced by modern science. And consumption of dates is one of these practices, the importance of which has been described by medical science.
According to science, the date is one of the most nutritious fruit around the world with various benefits. It has been found that dates are packed with lots of essential vitamins, proteins, and minerals that are required for overall health. Dates are rich in fiber, which makes them one of the healthiest dry fruit.
Dates have a high concentration of anti-oxidants – the chemicals that eliminate harmful free radicals from the body and thus contribute to good health. The anti-oxidants that dates are rich in include a) Carotenoids – known for reducing chances of muscular degeneration and maintaining cardiac health. b) Flavonoids – having anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic action. c) Phenolic Acid – with antiviral, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have found dates to be beneficial for brain health. According to a paper published in the journal, Neural Regeneration Research dates have promising therapeutic potential against diseases like Alzheimer’s due to their property to combat inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.
Being rich in micronutrients such as magnesium, copper, selenium, etc., dates can contribute to the strengthening of bones. Studies suggest dates can act as a supplement in the promotion of bone health and prevention of bone-related complications like Osteoporosis. Some experts are of the view that dates have the potential to aid in blood sugar regulation due to their low glycemic index (how quickly or slowly a particular food causes an increase in blood glucose level), fiber, and antioxidants. Thus, consuming dates may benefit a diabetic.
Dates contain various nutrients that are helpful for the Skin. Dates are a rich source of Vitamin C and D, which helps to maintain skin elasticity and keeps skin smooth. Dates are copper-rich and are advantageous in pigmentation so these are recommended in skin-related conditions like vitiligo.
Dates are a source of fructose, a natural type of sugar found in fruits. For this reason, dates are sweet and can make a substitute for white sugar, which may increase the chances of diabetes. White sugar can be replaced with dates by using them in raw-form, paste-form, or as date-syrup. Additionally, sugars present in dates help in boosting energy.
According to the Ayurvedic system of medicine, dates promote peace of mind, nourish our immune system, and are considered a nutritive tonic for the body. Ayurveda experts describe dates as a ‘super food’ because of their dietary value.
These were a few amongst numerous advantages of eating dates as put forth by experts, nutritionists, and physicians. Therefore, by continuous consumption of dates, one can reap both religious as well medical benefits.