Super Foods for Ramadan

By Umme Faatimah (B. Dietetics Univ. of Pretoria)

dried fruitsThe modern world has swept us off our feet in so many ways… our dressing, our lifestyles and most noticeably our eating habits. We have so casually adapted the western culture of unhealthy eating, moving further and further away from the Noble teachings of the Quran and Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sa).

Yet, the newest nutritional research continues to discover the benefits of certain foods, labeled as “Super Foods”. They have also unraveled the great benefits of certain eating habits, such as washing the hands before and after meals, eating with the hands, not drinking with meals…just to mention a few. However, all of this has already been outlined in the Holy Quran and Sunnah more than 1400 years ago.

We are certainly the losers if we do not make an effort to practice upon the Sunnah in our homes and kitchens. What better time to bring about these changes than now? Our beautiful Deen offers us the opportunity during the beautiful month of Ramadan, to bring about positive changes in our lives- changes that benefit us mentally, physically and spiritually which, Insha’Allah, can be sustained for the future.

Physically, fasting gives the digestive system a much needed rest. Energy normally used for digestion is now directed to body detoxification, tissue repair and system healing.

With that in mind I have chosen to highlight just a few of the favourite foods of our Prophet (sa). With the special month of Ramadan fast approaching, we can all ensure we have these foods on our shopping lists. Insha’Allah, by us adopting the lifestyle of the Messenger (sa) we will be rewarded enormously… Ameen.

DATES

Dates are the most mentioned fruit in the Quran. They are high in energy, fibre, iron, vitamins and minerals. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The home with no dates is like the home with no food.” (Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) used to break his fast with fresh dates and a few sips of water. If he did not find fresh dates, he would use dried dates. He (sa) said: “When one of you breaks the fast let him do so with dates, for they are a blessing and if he cannot find dates then with water for it is a purification.” (Tirmidhi)

He often consumed dates with cucumber, butter, cream or bread. A dessert called “Haisa” made with ghee (butter), dates, cheese and yoghurt was also prepared.

Tips: At Iftaar (breaking fast) time, dates can also be used to prepare date milkshakes, date chutney, date desserts as well as sprinkled over salads. For Sahoor (pre-dawn meal), dates can be used as a softened spread over bread or added into muffins, rusks, etc.

OLIVE OIL

Dieticians and nutritionist the world over have been advocating the use of olive oil for its excellent cardio-protective, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Ongoing research is revealing more and more great benefits on the consumption and application of olive oil.

The Noble Messenger of Allah (sa) aid: “Eat the olive and use it as an ointment as it comes from a blessed tree.” (Tirmidhi)

Tips: During Ramadan, olive oil is best used raw as a dip for breads or as a salad dressing. The lighter olive oils are well suited for cooking and baking purposes. Whole olives can be added to salads as well as de-pitted and added to breads, muffins, pies and pizzas.

BARLEY

A recent Readers Digest article highlighted barley as one of the five healthiest foods we tend not to eat. Yet it was barley that was one of the staple foods in the diet of our noble Messenger of Allah (sa). Modern research is discovering that barley has a very high soluble- fibre content. This helps to keep the arteries clear and healthy. It has an extremely low glycaemic index (GI), which means it takes a longer time to digest, keeping one fuller for longer.

It is mentioned that the Messenger of Allah (sa) consumed barley in the following ways:

  • SAWIQ– a coarse broth prepared from ground wheat and barley – very much like a haleem (soup).
  • THARID – Barley bread covered in gravy cooked with meat.
  • TALBEENAH– A porridge prepared using barley and milk.

A Hadeeth in Mishkaat narrates that the Messenger of Allah (sa) never used sifted flour in his lifetime. We should take lesson from this, as we are all moving to consuming more refined and processed foods where all the beneficial nutrients have been stripped off. Allah (swt) mentions in the Holy Quran grains with their husks, amongst His many gifts to us. Un-sifted flour as used by the Messenger of Allah (sa) contains all the valuable nutrients found in the bran and germ layers and has a lower GI.

Tips: During Ramadan, barley can be added to soups and broths or prepared as a drink by boiling and straining mixture. A Hadeeth in Bukhari mentions that the Prophet (sa) consumed “Sawiq” at Iftaar. Barley flour can be used for preparing breads and Rotis. Substitute 1.5 cups barley flour for every 3 cups regular flour. Cereals containing barley flakes like muesli can be purchased, or barley flakes can be added to biscuits, muffins, breads and other cereals.

Barley can be prepared as a filling porridge for Sahoor – Talbeenah. Soak 1-2 tablespoons whole barley overnight in a flask filled with rapidly boiling water. At Sahoor time, strain water out and prepare porridge with honey and milk. (Store bought “pearled barley” has been polished with some of the bran layer removed).

HONEY

Modern research has been abuzz with the myriad of health benefits associated with honey- anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, energising tonic… to name a few. Our beautiful Deen has encouraged the use of honey 1400 years ago. The Holy Quran mentions: “There comes forth from the bee’s belly, a drink of varying colours, wherin is a healing for men.” (Quran 16:68-69)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) further said: “Make use of two cures – honey and the Quran.” (Ibn Majah)

The Prophet (sa) loved drinks that were sweet and cold and often consumed honey water.

Tips: Honey can be used to sweeten items like tea, fresh juices, milk drinks and cereals, etc. Raw honey, which is thicker and creamier, has a lower GI, and can be mixed with cinnamon and used as a spread on toast for Sahoor.

GRAPES AND RAISINS

Grapes have been found to contain resveratrol – a powerful antioxidant that protects the body on a cellular level from damage. The seeds are rich in flavonoids which lower the risk of fatty plaque accumulation on the lining of blood vessels to the heart.

The Messenger (sa) loved eating grapes. Hadeeth in Abu Dawood mentions that the Prophet (sa) often consumed a drink “Nabeez”- prepared from soaked raisins. Nabeez can be prepared by soaking raisins after Esha (evening) prayer in clean water covered with a plate. The following morning the water can be drunk and the soaked fruit eaten or just use the blender to obtain a beautiful cloudy Nabeez. And, if you soak in the morning, drink in the evening. Nabeez should be consumed within twelve hours of soaking to prevent fermentation.

Tips: Nabeez or fresh grape juice can be prepared as a drink after Taraweeh (evening prayer in Ramadan). Grapes can be served as part of salad or dessert. Raisins eaten with nuts can be enjoyed as a healthy munch after Taraweeh Salah.

The Sunnah way of eating is the healthy way of eating. Insha’Allah, let us all strive to revive and bring alive the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sa) in our homes this Ramadan. I have highlighted just a few. Make an intention to eat on the floor, share eating utensils and to fill a third of your stomach with water, a third with food and a third left for air.

Besides the immense health benefits outlined above our greatest rewards really lie in following the Sunnah, as it comes in Hadeeth mentioned by the Prophet (sa): “The person who follows my Sunnah is the one who truly loves me, and will be with me in Jannah.” (Tirmidhi)

Allah (swt) said to His Messenger (sa): “Say (to mankind), if you love Allah, follow me – Allah will love you and forgive your sins.” (Quran 3:31)

The Best Prescription

Islam considers health to be one of the most important blessings given to human beings by Allah. Good health is something for which we are accountable to Allah. The Prophet (sa) said, “The first thing every servant of Allah will have to account for on the Day of Judgment is that he will be asked by Allah, Have I not given you a healthy constitution and have I not quenched your thirst with cold water?” (At-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet (sa) also said, “No one will be allowed to move from his position on the Day of Judgment until he has been asked how he spent his life; how he used his knowledge; how he earned and spent his money; and in what pursuits he used his health.” (At-Tirmidhi)

The preservation of this blessing can only be achieved through taking good care of one’s health and taking every measure to maintain and enhance it. Moreover, the Quran and the Sunnah contain teachings, which show every Muslim how to protect his health generally and how to take care of each of his organs. Numerous examples can be given. Prominent among these is Wudhu (ablution), which Islam regards as compulsory whenever it is invalidated.

Bathing

Another act of worship, which also helps to maintain good health, is taking a shower, or Ghusl. This is compulsory when one is in the state of ritual impurity. We read in the Quran, “If you are defiled (following sexual intercourse or a wet dream) then purify yourselves.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:6) The Prophet (sa) also recommended his followers to have a shower on many occasions, such as on Fridays. He said, “He who comes to Friday prayer should first have a shower.” (Agreed upon)

Bathing is also recommended on the two feasts. Taking a shower is also recommended for entering into the state of consecration (Ihram); whether for Hajj (pilgrimage) or Umra (lesser-pilgrimage); after washing the body of a deceased person in preparation for burial; for praying for rain or eclipse of the sun; before secluding oneself for prayer; when body odour becomes too strong; and before attending any social gathering.

Hands, Feet, Nails, etc

Islamic teachings are not confined to general cleanliness, but also take care of local cleanliness, such as washing one’s hands. The Prophet (sa) used to wash his hands before eating. We are also recommended to clip our nails. Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said, “Five practices are part of natural cleanliness: circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, plucking out the armpit hair, cutting the nails and trimming the moustache.” (Agreed upon).

A Muslim is also supposed to keep the feet clean, for the Prophet (sa) used to rub in between his toes with his little finger when he performed his ablutions.” (Abu Dawood) He also said, “Woe to heels (from the punishment of Hell if they are not washed). Perform the ritual of ablution properly.”(Abu Dawood)

Mouth and Teeth

Islamic teachings also take care of the cleanliness of one’s mouth. We are required to rinse our mouths, as the Prophet (sa) said, “When you perform ablutions, rinse your mouth.”(Abu Dawood). The Prophet (sa) also said, “Rinse your mouth after drinking milk, because it contains fat.”(Abu Dawood). We are also commanded to keep our gums clean. The Prophet described the process of cleaning one’s teeth as “purification of one’s mouth, and an act that is pleasing to the Lord.” (Al-Nasa’i). The Prophet (sa) also said, “If I were not afraid that it would be too hard for the community, I would have asked Muslims to brush their teeth whenever they prayed.” (Agreed upon)

Eyes, Ears, Nose

Another aspect of health protection is to keep clean one’s ears, eyes, nose, hair and genitals. It has been authentically reported that the Prophet wiped his ears, using his forefingers to clean them from inside and his thumbs on the outside, thus wiping them both inside and out. It is also authentically reported concerning cleanliness of the eyes that the Prophet used to wipe the inner corner of the eye. We are also recommended to clean our noses, for the Prophet said, “When any of you perform the ablutions, introduce water into the nose and then blow it out.” (Ibn-Majah). Science has proven that the act of inhaling water slightly in order to moist the inner top of the nose is beneficial for Sinus patients since it clears away germs.

Hair and Private Parts

With regard to keeping the hair clean, the Prophet said, “He who has hair should take good care of it.” (Abu Dawood). Local cleanliness particularly includes the genitals and private parts. Anas (rta), the Prophet’s servant, said, “When the Prophet defecated, I brought him water to wash with.” (Agreed upon). Aisha (rta), the Prophet’s wife, told Muslim women, “Tell your husbands to wash their private parts with water, for I am too shy to tell them so. The Prophet (sa) used to do that.” (At-Tirmidhi)

It is part of the duty of every Muslim, therefore, to safeguard this blessing and not to allow any change to overcome it through ill usage. Islam put stress on human body’s cleanliness. In summary, our healthy body is a gift from Allah and we are the trustees. We should not misuse it, nor provide wrong raw product for the factory and should keep superb maintenance of this delicate and sensitive machine, in order to enjoy Allah’s blessings. It is after all, the container of our soul.