A Wholesome Nutritious Diet and a Tonic for Ramazan Worshippers
Many fruits and fruit bearing plants have been mentioned in the Qur’an, but it is the date palm that finds maximum references. In Surah Nahl, Allah Says "With it He produces for you corn, olives, date palms, grapes, and every kind of fruit: Verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought (S XVI - Verse 11).
Quran also narrates the incidence when Holy Maryam was provided with fresh ripe dates when she was feeling pain during child-birth (SURA Maryam-Mary – XIX - Verse: 23).
In Prophetic traditions, many useful properties have attributed to dates. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised his followers to break fast with dates during Ramadan. He also advised "don’t miss evening meal, even if it happens to be constituted of few dates. Missing of evening meals hasten aging".
In other traditions, taking dates in the morning is said to help in preventing poisoning.
The botanical name of date palm is Phoenix dactylifera, which belongs to the family Palmae (Arecaceae). In Arabic, date-palm tree is called Nakhl whereas its fruit is known as Tamar, although in many Arab and African countries Hindi word Khajur and Persian word Khurma have been of common usage for the date fruits.
It is assumed that the domestication and cultivation of date palm started 6000 to 8000 years back in Mesopotamia. Probably no other fruit plant was in cultivation at that time anywhere in the world and that may be the reason why date palm is supposed to be the plant most associated with the development of human culture and civilization. According to an old saying in Arabic, the uses of date palm are as many as the number of days in a year.
The date is not only sweet and delicious but is one of the best-known nutritious diets for mankind. It contains more than 60% invert sugar along with a small amount of sucrose in addition to protein, pectin, tannin, cellulose, starch and fat in varying proportions. Vitamin A, B and C are also present in appreciable amounts. Furthermore, the mineral constituents present are Iron, Sodium, Calcium, Sulphur, Chlorine and Phosphorus. The nutritious dates are used for making confectionery, beverages, sugar and a sugary syrup, very much like honey.
Dates are reputed for great medicinal value. It is a demulcent, an emollient, a heart stimulant and helps in checking the loss of memory. Useful in respiratory disorders in general and asthma in particular. Dates are laxative, diuretic and aphrodisiac. Thus, taking into account of all its constituents and qualities. It can be rated as a wholesome nutritious diet and a health tonic.
Because of the beauty and elegance, date-palm gardens are an exquisite sight. Most of the poets of Arabia, Africa and even Europe have described the date palms in their well-known poems. Homer, in his epic Odyssey, has used the word Tamar (Date Tree) to represent beauty. Similarly Chaucer and Shakespeare have also mentioned data-palms in their writings.
Phytogeographically the area of cultivation of date palms extends from Western India to the East of Africa but the best producing regions are Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt followed by Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Sudan, Oman, and Morocco.
At present, the annual import of Dates in India is about 100 thousand tons, valued at more than 20 million dollars.
by: Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi, Retd. Scientist Deputy Director, National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow
(The above article is a part of the Chapter from PLANTS OF THE QURAN by the author of the article)