The fruit date is a cherished fruit by many all over the globe, and more so in the middle east. Since it originated in the region it has a long history in the eastern culture. It's easily accessible and plays an important role in the Muslim culture and more specifically during Ramadan.
Islam is the second most followed religion in the world only behind Christianity. It’s estimated that there is over 1.5 billion followers all over the globe. Places like Indonesia, Iraq, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria and Egypt are the most heavily populated counties where Islam is practiced. Although the Middle East is where Islam originated, the popularity of the Muslim faith has spread vigorously throughout other countries. We have even seen major growth here in the United States. The premise of the Muslim faith is that they live and follow a set of 5 Pillars of Islam. These five important set of traditions are Declaration of faith, doing charity work, pray five times a day toward the holy land, a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during their lifetime and lastly fasting. The fasting pillar is where dates will play a role...we will get into that later.
The Islamic calendar consists of 12 months, the ninth month of this calendar is known as Ramadan. This year (2016) Ramadan starts on June 6th and ends on July 5th. Ramadan is the celebration of the prophet Muhammad receiving the revelations from God and ultimately led to the formation and basis of the Quran. During the month of Ramadan the Muslim religion will not eat (fast) from sunrise to sunset. This includes any liquids. They are also not to be involved with any immoral behavior or indulge in any impure thoughts during the fast of Ramadan. The fasting is said to cleanse the Muslim soul and prove their compassion for those that are suffering from hunger all over the globe.
Activities during Ramadan will not be all that different from their normal day-to-day activities. However, the reduction in food will have an effect, so staying idle or moderate activities are suggested. Attending Mosque, praying more frequently or studying the Quran are more popular activities during Ramadan. Elders, women who are pregnant and those who are sick typically will not fast if their medical well-being is at risk. But, they are to make up the days missed during Ramadan and pay it forward when their condition improves. The meal that is consumed before the sunrise is known as the Suhoor. Suhoor in Arabic means “pre-dawn” or “of the dawn”. The meal that concludes the fast is known as the Iftar and is consumed during the sunset. To celebrate breaking of the fast Islamic families have Iftar parities where the menu may consist of Maamoul cookies, spring rolls, samosa, fruit chaat, pakoray, Ramadan tea and of course Medjool Dates, or any dates for the matter.
This is where dates play a critical role during Ramadan and why Muslims break their fast with dates. It is said that the prophets would break their fast with fresh dates before they were to pray. If fresh dates were not available they would then use dried dates. If dates were not available then a few sips of water would be used. Beyond the religious following of the prophets and how they broke their fasts, dates also offer many health benefits to those coming out of a fast. Being that someone has been fasting from sunrise to sunset they can suffer from fatigue, low blood sugars and even headaches. Dates are naturally high in carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, potassium and magnesium. These are essential nutrients that will air in the recovery of someone who is fasting. They will provide the immediate energy needed with their carbs, dates are a low glycemic fruit so they will not spike ones blood sugar, but elevate it over time. And more importantly, the fiber found in dates will ease an unsettling stomach that one might feel at the end of a fast. Dates are easy to digest, will not upset the stomach and curb the hunger. The fiber in dates will also prevent any constipation caused by low fiber intake during a fast or the change in eating habits.
As you can see, beyond the natural health benefits of dates that we see today. The Muslim culture has for years known the power of the fruit date. It’s a cherished fruit that is ingrained in the history of the eastern world and Muslim culture.