Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Three

Ibn Warraq continues his Ramadan thoughts...

A date with destiny

Last night, sitting around a table in the Medina, a group of friends from different cultures and countries became involved in a vigorous debate about what similarities we shared and those that set us apart. Finally it came down to what one thing did all of us around the table have in common. It was Hamid who nailed it.

"Dates," he said, with a laugh. "We all like dates."

The conversation continued and for the next couple of hours we nibbled sweet dates and talked about our experiences of them.

"For Muslims dates are iconic."

For David, from Manchester, dates were something his mother used to put in her scone mix. Editha, from Norway said they were only ever a treat for festive occasions. "And they are special for Muslims," she added.

Hamid, who collects English words, like some people used to collect stamps, saw an opportunity to use his latest acquisition. "For Muslims," he said, "dates are iconic."

It is true. Welcoming someone to a house, involves offering dates. Breaking the fast often starts with eating a date. In the sayings attributed to the prophet Mohammed one hadith records that the prophet he always broke the fast with dates and water. Even the tree, the date palm, is a symbol of hospitality and peace.

"like a petrol station rest stop in the desert"

"The date palms also are an indication of the presence of water," Hamid said, "like a petrol station rest stop in the desert."

Everyone laughed at the image and took another date.

"Are they actually healthy for you, or are they just a sugar hit?" David asked, eyeing the ever diminishing number of dates in the bowl on the table.

Fatima, who had been silent during most of the date conversation, leaned forward and pointed to the Qur'an. "The date is one of the blessings of Paradise and dates are mentioned in the Qur'an more than twenty times.  Dates are good for your health, especially for women. Read from Surah Maryam..."

The pains of labour drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She [Maryam] said, "Oh if only I had died before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!" A voice called out to her from under her, "Do not grieve! Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm towards you and fresh, ripe dates will drop down onto you. Eat and drink and delight your eyes…" (Qur'an, 19:23-26)

I should mention that Fatima holds a degree in science and, in addition to knowing lots about complicated molecules and other weird stuff, she is a good teacher. Here is what we discovered about the humble date. (Shukran Fatima.)

Dates are good for pregnant women. The date has one of the highest sugar levels, 60-65%, of all fruits. Doctors recommend that pregnant women be given foods containing fruit sugar on the day they give birth. The aim behind this is to energise and revitalise the mother's weakened body and at the same time to stimulate the milk hormones and increase the levels of mother's milk essential to the newborn baby.

In addition, loss of blood during birth leads to a fall in body sugar levels. Dates are important from the point of view of enabling sugar to enter the body and prevent blood pressure from dropping. Their high calorific value strengthens people weakened by illness or suffering from extreme fatigue.

The substance oxytocin, which is present in the date, is used in modern medicine to facilitate birth. In fact, oxytocin means "rapid birth." It is also known to increase levels of mother's milk after birth.

Oxytocin is actually a hormone released by the pituitary gland which stimulates contractions of the womb during childbirth. The effects of the hormone can be seen in the muscles that form the mother's womb and in cells in the muscular structure that enables the secretion of mother's milk. The effective contraction of the womb is essential if birth is to take place. Oxytocin enables the muscles that comprise the womb to contract in a very powerful manner. Moreover, oxytocin also initiates the secretion of mother's milk and assists the mother to bond with her new baby.

There was much more like this, things about Folic Acid, potassium, Iron and so on. But, by then we had run out of dates.

As I said, Ramadan nights are full of blessings. Good food, good companionship and great conversation.

As a Ramadan Diary bonus, I am reposting the best date milk recipe - fabulous for an instant Ftour (Iftar) boost!

The View from Fez Date Milk Deluxe

15 large pitted Medjool dates, chopped.
1 cup raw almonds, blanched (and brown skin removed).
4 - 5 cups of milk (to taste).
2 tablespoons of orange flower water.
1/2 teaspoon of genuine vanilla essence.
Small pinch of salt.
1/2 tsp cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.

Blend until frothy and smooth. Leave in refrigerator for a couple of hours or, if you are desperate, serve with ice cubes. Note: You can vary the ingredients and proportions to fine tune to your own taste. For an extra hit, add a chopped ripe banana!

Hamid's moderately funny joke...

Yussef''s wife, Malika, went to visit relatives in France for Ramadan, leaving her husband behind. But, before she left, she told him to take extra special care of her cat.

The next day Malika called her husband and asked if the cat was all right.

"The cat just died," Yussef said

Malika burst into tears and said,  "How could you be so blunt? Why couldn't you have broken the news gradually! Today, you could have said that it was playing on the roof; tomorrow, you could have said that it fell off and had broken its leg; then on the third day, you could have said that the poor thing had passed away in the night. You could have been more sensitive about the whole thing. By the way, how is my mom?

Yussef paused and then replied, "She is playing on the roof."

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy

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