Ramadan 2019 – Day 13 : Significance of the ‘three dates’ in breaking the fast
Ramadan 2019 – Day 13: Significance of the ‘three dates’ in breaking the fast
Fasting during Ramadan is from sunrise to sunset. This tradition is rooted in religious teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, who is quoted as saying: “When one of you is fasting, he should break his fast with dates; but if he cannot get any, then (he should break his fast) with water, for water is purifying.“
Muslims around the world, follow a religious tradition of serving dates (Khajoor ) at their Ramadan iftar table, with many making it a point to actually to break their fast with them. Dates are not only associated with Ramadan, however. The fruit is mentioned more than 20 times in the Quran, and they’re favoured by many Muslims for tahneek, the tradition of rubbing something sweet into the mouth of a newborn.
Significance of Date in Islam
Born in the seventh century, Islam brought many attributes to the modern world, one of which was the significance of the date palm. Although the date can be traced back to 4000 BCE in ancient Arabia, Islam has stressed the holiness of the date and the date palm more than any other religion. In fact, the Prophet Muhammed said that Ajwah dates—grown in the Madinah region of Saudi Arabia—are from paradise.
The date palm, mentioned more than any other fruit-bearing plant in the Qur’an—22 times—is a symbol often associated with Muslims, even as the religion has spread around the globe. Whether the fruit is called tamr (Arabic), khajoor (Urdu), hurmah (Turkish), or buah kurma (Indonesian), it is part of Muslim upbringing.
While the proverb “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is known in much of the world, the Muslim equivalent is “seven dates a day keeps the doctor away.” The Prophet argued that seven dates in the morning protected one from poison and witchcraft. This gives the date a sort of mystical property, almost supernatural.
Dates in Quran
The Quran states that Mary was advised to eat dates while in labour with Jesus, to ease childbirth and strengthen the body. Experiments have also shown that dates contain stimulants that 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 bleeding. The Prophet emphasized the importance of dates in the growth of the fetus and reportedly put chewed dates into the mouths of newborns.
Prophet Muhammad said a faithful Muslim resembled a date palm and ate dates with bread as a meal by itself. He used to eat odd numbers of dates and took out their seeds with his index and middle fingers. He advised eating fresh and dried dates together because he believed that the devil feels discomfort when an individual lived long enough to be able to consume both the fresh and dried versions of a fruit.
Prophet Muhammad once advised his friend Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas to mash dates and consume it after mixing it with milk and oil. This is called “fariqa,” and women who had just given birth drank it. Dates are not just a fruit, there are many meals and desserts made with dates in Arabic cuisine as well as many others. The importance of dates is not peculiar to the holy month of Ramadan. Distributing dates instead of candy during Mevlid recitations in Hijaz was a tradition. The most precious gifts brought by pilgrims from Mecca are “zam-zam” water and dates.
There are different types of dates, of course, the best and most precious one is the round-shaped, curled, black “Ajwa” which is grown in Medina. Prophet Muhammad planted a date tree and recited an abundance of prayers. He said that those who eat seven dates on an empty stomach in the morning will be protected from any poison and ill-wishes.
A respectful staple
Prophet Muhammad once said: “Respect date palms, which are your relatives [aunt]. Because the first date tree was created with the same mud from which Adam was created.” Perhaps his words are a sign that date palms are superior to any other plant.
Ahmad Sirhindi (a.k.a Imam Rabbani), who was the most well-known Sufi in India in the 16th century, referred to the prophet’s words in his 162nd letter: “Community and justice are at the core of the creation of the date palm. This is the same for human beings’ creation. Prophet Muhammad said dates have abundant features because they have everything [beneficial] inside. When dates are eaten, they become a part of a person and [its benefits] are transferred to that person. The date’s supremacy can also be found in the person who consumes it. Those who eat dates as it was praised by the prophet benefit from it both earthily and spiritually.”
Importance of Dates
Dates are as important as camels are for people who live in deserts. Since dates do not spoil and are resistant to bugs, they keep well. The substantial fruit can be eaten fresh or dried or it can be pressed for its juice. The branches of date palms are used to cover roofs and the fronds’ fibre is used as paper or to fill mattresses. Timber is made from date palms, which can be as tall as 20 meters, and walking sticks can be made from its branches. The fibre is also used to weave rugs and baskets. Date seeds usually serve as animal feed, but it is also possible to make prayer beads from them. Wooden barrels made from date palms makes fermentation easy, hence the prophet forbade storing grape juice in these barrels.
Dates for Iftar
Dates are a staple on iftar tables during Ramadan. Prophet Muhammad’s humble iftar table always had dates. At iftar time, Prophet Muhammad used to break his fast with either a few fresh or dried dates or a sip of water. Since fire is believed to be a sign of wrath, he preferred to break the fast with raw food- untouched by fire. If there were no dates on the iftar table, he began with water, salt or olives.
The Prophet was once reported to have said, “People in a house without dates are in a state of hunger.” Stressing the health benefits, the Prophet said to break the fast in the month of Ramadan with a date. Every Ramadan, breaking my fast with a khajoor feels transcendent. Within half an hour, the body regains vigour. It replenishes sugar in the blood, the lack of which is the main factor in feeling hungry, rather than an empty stomach. Following the Prophet’s tradition is one way of connecting with and remembering him, which is a spiritual experience for Muslims.