Dates – The Candy That Grows On Trees

Image datesDr. Sadaf Sheikh explores the medical and spiritual healing preserved in dates

There are many edible palm fruits and the most widely found and favoured are dates. Dates were cultivated in ancient lands, from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 6000 B.C. Then, as now, dates were a staple for the natives of those dry regions. Much later, Arabs spread dates around northern Africa which are classified according to their fleshiness:

  • Soft dates (Barhee, Halawy, Khadrawy, Medjool)
  • Semidry dates (Dayri, Deglet Noor, Zahidi)
  • Dry dates (Thoory)

Dates are rich in natural fibres and therefore, help against many ailments. They 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.

The Prophet (sa) likened a good Muslim to the date palm, saying: “Among trees, there is a tree like a Muslim. Its leaves do not fall.” (Bukhari)

Dates were the food that Allah (swt) provided for Maryam (as) when she felt labour pains, and after she gave birth to Isa (as) under the palm tree. The great worth of dates is also indicated in a famous and beautiful passage of the Quran, (Maryam, 25:6): “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.”

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 they 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.

Regarding the Messenger of Allah (sa) breaking his fast with fresh dates, dried dates, or even water, there is, of course, a subtle reason. Since dates, particularly if they are moist, travel faster to the liver and are converted more quickly than other nutrients, the liver accepts their contents more readily and hastens their distribution to the rest of the body, which is thirsting for energy. Another factor making dates the ideal food is their digestibility. Within half an hour of eating them, the tired body regains new vigour. 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. It would seem that taking dates after fasting helps one avoid overeating.

A serving of dates contains about 31 grams of carbohydrates, making them a powerhouse of energy. 

Aisha (rta) used to prescribe dates to 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 on any. Then they added cucumber and fresh date to my diet and that did it.”

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 they stimulate muscles and give energy for physical exercise. They also help heal stomach ulcers. Modern medicine has shown that eating dates prevents abdominal cancer.

There are said to be at least eight hundred uses of the date. It is used as a fresh or a dry fruit with excellent storage properties, and is commonly used in the confectionery trade. One possible industry that is currently unexploited is the use of dates for crude sugar.

People often ask: “Do all these dates really taste different?” The answer is a resounding: “Yes!” Each variety of date not only has its own distinctive taste, but also its own distinctive texture, sweetness and size. When properly stored, dates keep exceedingly well. Stored in airtight containers and kept in the refrigerator, dates will stay moist and delicious for as long as 30 days. Dates can also be kept frozen for up to a year with no loss of taste or quality.

Nutritional Facts

A serving of five or six average dates contain about 20 calories each and are a good source of fibre, potassium, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates, without the sodium or fat found in other snacks. A serving of dates helps fulfil the “2 to 4 servings of fruit and vegetables a day” guideline of the USDA’s “Food Pyramid”.

Fibre

A serving of dates provides approximately 14% of the USDA Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of fibre, which has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Potassium

Eating dates and drinking water is an ideal, natural way to replenish the body’s need for potassium. One serving of dates contains about 240 milligrams of potassium, or 7% of the RDA, of this essential nutrient.

An interesting scientific medical study, published in the British Medical Journal (No. 6993, 10 June 1995), proved the benefit of giving a new-born child sugar to reduce the feeling of pain during procedures, like heel pricking for a blood sample, or circumcision. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Dates contain a variety of B-complex vitamins. They contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and pantothenic acid. Dates also contain 2.2% protein, vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2 ad nicotinic acid (which fights against Pellagra); they also have traces of minerals needed for the body such as potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, manganese and copper.

Carbohydrates

A serving of dates contains about 31 grams of carbohydrates, making them a powerhouse of energy. The carbohydrates found in dates, include about 3 grams of dietary fibre and about 3 grams of naturally occurring sugars, such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Dates have about 1430 calories per pound and for that reason are not recommended for anyone on a diet.

They are variously classified as food, drink, fruits, sweets, nutrients, and medicine. Cured dates are called ‘Ajwah’ in Arabic. Aisha (rta) related the saying of Allah’s Messenger (sa), “Ajwah date is an excellent remedy.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Dates are also among the fruits of Paradise, as noted in the Hadeeth: “Ajwah is from Paradise and contains an antidote against poison.” (At-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet (sa) said: “He who eats seven Ajwah dates (the dates which he sow himself) every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them.” (Bukhari)

Dates and date palms have been mentioned in the Quran 20 times, thus showing their importance. The Prophet (sa) likened a good Muslim to the date palm, saying: “Among trees, there is a tree like a Muslim. Its leaves do not fall.” (Bukhari)

It is also a custom among Muslim parents to put a piece of well-chewed date (or other available sweet fruit) in the mouth of a newborn baby. An interesting scientific medical study, published in the British Medical Journal (No. 6993, 10 June 1995), proved the benefit of giving a new-born child sugar to reduce the feeling of pain during procedures, like heel pricking for a blood sample, or circumcision. This reduced the crying time, compared to babies who got water. Also, their heart rate returned to normal more quickly.

Finally, we hope that Muslim medical scientists and researchers will take this new discovery on board; and that many more Islamic ideas and practices needing investigative research and scientific study will get the attention they deserve, Insha’Allah.

Surfing The Web!

Image surfing the netStatistics shared by eMarketer revealed that: “75% of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and/or services.”

Surprised? Well, as parents we ought to be more informed and prepared rather than shocked, if we need to protect our children from those paedophiles seeking access to children. As Michelle Nasir puts it: “When it comes to the ‘wild, wild, web’, there is no off-limits and nothing is too sick or twisted.”

The PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunications) has moved to block 1,000 pornographic sites. However, this is still a limited defensive measure. It is a painful fact that an alarming 60% of the estimated one million internet users in Pakistan visit pornographic sites. Adults and kids are equally a victim to the unscrupulous porn industry that is fuelled by billions of dollars. Thousands of internet cafes have sprung up in major cities and in remote areas. Youngsters spend hours surfing pornographic sites for as little as 15 rupees ($0.35) an hour.

Below are just a few successful strategies that are facilitating the pornography industry:

Pornographic cartoons – who do you think these are aimed at?

Misspelled domain names – anybody can make a typo.

Cyber Squatting – Pornographers often buy up commonly used domains with legitimate sounding names, which many people would assume are decent websites, but, in fact, are not.

Advertisements – often with photos, used on websites, which may not be pornographic, but are looking to do anything to make profits.

Unsolicited e-mails – by giving out personal information that is sold to people for a profit. This enables them to send e-mails offering products/services you have not requested.

Now we no longer need to visit an adult site. They come to us via junk mail. All we need to do is click on the mouse and there it is. And we thought checking mail was so innocent.

The question is: What needs to be done? Should we prevent ourselves, and our children from using the internet? Not really. The web is not all bad when used supervised and correctly. It can be an extremely powerful tool for education. Having said that, like any tool, we must approach it carefully, following all the rules, and understanding how it functions. Some helpful tips for parents and internet users in general, are:

  • Most importantly, if you own a computer – learn to use it. This will develop a sharing relationship with your kids.
  • Place your computer in an open room, so anyone walking by can monitor what is being worked on.
  • Anyone who surfs the web, uses chat rooms, receives and sends e-mail should be monitored. Make it obvious you are monitoring their online activities.
  • Make the rules crystal clear, they cannot delete any e-mails without your checking them. If you cannot read it, they should not be receiving it.
  • The kids should not be allowed to use the computer at odd hours of the day, when you are not around.
  • One of the most important steps to take would be to educate our youth, to lead by example, and to revive and adhere to our Islamic moral principles.

We must not accept lewdness as part of ‘being tolerant’, but raise a voice to end it. The government needs the help of the ISPs, the Internet café owners and the citizens. Make sure everyone in our homes is constantly reminded of Islamic morals and recognizes the evil that is porn. With a little effort on our part, the Internet can be a wonderful tool to explore the world Allah (swt) has created.