Dates. No matter where you go in the world and it comes to the moment of iftari you can be sure that we (muslims) will open our fasts with dates. Most people know that the prophet (pbuh) would Anas bin Malik narrates that:
“ The Prophet (pbuh) performed Iftaar with fresh dates, if there weren’t any then with dried dates and if there weren’t any then with water” (Abu Dawud)
Dates are therefore nearly always present at any iftari. In fact, I am ashamed to say, that I have only ever heard, first hand, of one instance in my life where a person had no dates to open his fast with and only water. It makes me realise how fortunate I have been to never have experienced hunger and to never have fasted not knowing what I will have for my iftari. If anything Ramadan for those fortunate to have plenty (and I include myself in this) turns into a daily wish list – soon to be fulfilled- of what we would like to eat that evening.
For some people iftari is about dates and getting a sugar rush, for others it is all about the crunch of fried things, anything golden brown and for others like myself, the moments post iftari are spent in a state of self imposed restraint desperate not to put on weight that I have spent nearly a year losing!
After the first couple of days gobbling caramel super sweet dates after iftari I realised that I could not go on like this after all twenty six days remain. I cannot possibly eat as if I am attending my last feast on earth every day for a month. When each date contains approximately between 112 and 250 calories each depending on which counter you use the calories soon stack up! I have tried to benefit from the fact that it is summer and that there is an abundance of fruit in the shops. Now I try and limit my date in take to two. I plate up small fruits along with the dates so that they are there in front of me once the fast is opened and I have something low calorific to eat and fill me. Only then will I eat my meal. Fruit is really important to a person fasting as it helps to rehydrate the body. Similarly raw vegetables are also really helpful. Cucumbers and celery contain a high water content and mineral balance which means that they hydrate the body while providing low calorie food. All of which assist the weight conscious faster.
I try and shy away from food elements which are laden with things that I just wouldn’t eat on a daily basis. I recently read on a message board about a dish which involved buying date puree with added sugar, frying it in ghee and spread that on toast for sehri. If that recipe had been in my family we would most certainly have added cream after it was fried! I have no doubt in my mind that it would taste delicious but if I eat like that for a month I will have undone my 8 month’s worth of hard work. So for the moment less is more, I tell myself. I try and restrain myself every day which is hard as invariably once the hunger hits in, like everyone all I can think about is food. However the fasting day is about restraint. Yes we don’t eat, but it is for our eyes, our ears and mouths to fast too. Jaabir bin Abdullah used to say:
“When you fast your hearing, sight and tongue should also fast from lies and sins” (Gaaya tul Ihsaan)
If we are able to restrain ourselves through out the day fasting in all senses then shouldn’t it be easy to show restraint at iftari and eat conscious that our bodies do not need excessive amounts of rich food. We should eat conscious that so many of our muslim brothers and sisters through out the world have nothing on their plates and will unfortunately have nothing more than water to drink this iftari. Inshallah Allah(swt) will make Ramadan easy for those who have nothing, inshallah Allah(swt) will fill their plates with and inshallah Allah(swt) will answer our prayers ameen.