The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to break his fast by eating some dates before offering Maghrib (sunset) prayer, and if ripe dates were not available, he used to substitute them with some dried grapes. When they too were not available, he used to have a few sips of water, according to some reports. Modern science has proved that dates are part of a healthy diet. They contain sugar, fat and proteins, as well as important vitamins. Hence the great importance attached to them by the Prophet (pbuh).
Dates are also rich in natural fibers. Modern medicine has shown that they are effective in preventing abdominal cancer. They also surpass other fruits in the sheer variety of their constituents. They contain oil, calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium. In other words, one date is the equivalent of a balanced and healthy diet. Arabs usually combine dates with milk and yogurt or bread, butter and fish. This combination indeed makes a balanced and nutritious diet for both mind and body. Dates and date palms have been mentioned in the Holy Quran nearly 20 times, thus showing their importance. The Prophet (pbuh) likened a good Muslim to the date palm, saying: "Among trees, there is a tree like a Muslim. Its leaves do not fall."
Maryam (Mary), the mother of Jesus (a.s.), may Allah exalt his mention, was advised to eat dates as her food when she felt labor pains, during her confinement. Dates are definitely the "crown of sweets," and an ideal food which is easy to digest, and within half an hour of taking it, the tired body regains vigor. The reason for this is that a shortage of sugar in the blood is the main factor that makes people feel hungry and not an empty stomach as is often assumed. When the body absorbs the nutritional essence of a few dates, the feeling of hunger becomes appeased. Breaking the fast with dates helps one avoid over-eating later.
Experiments have also shown that dates contain some stimulants that strengthen the muscles of the uterus in the last months of pregnancy. This helps the dilation of the uterus at the time of delivery on one hand and reduces the bleeding after delivery on the other. Dieticians consider dates as the best food for women in confinement and those who are breast-feeding. This is because dates contain elements that assist in alleviating depression in mothers and enriching the breast-milk with all the elements needed to make the child healthy and resistant to disease. The Prophet (pbuh) has emphasized the importance of dates and their effectiveness in the growth of the fetus. He has also recommended they be given to women. Modern dietitians now recommend dates to be given to children suffering from nervous disorders or hyperactivity. The Prophet (pbuh) has also recommended dates as a medicine for heart troubles, according to some reports. Modern science has also proved the effectiveness of date, in preventing diseases of the respiratory system.
'Aa'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, used to prescribe dates for those suffering from giddiness. It is now well known that a fall in the level of the sugar in the blood and low blood pressure are among the causes of giddiness. She was also reported to have used dates combined with cucumber to help her gain weight. She said, "They [her family members] tried to fatten me by giving me everything. But I did not become fat. Then they fattened me with cucumber and ripe dates and I gained weight!" 'Aa'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, was correct on this account as we now know that one hundred gram of dates contains nearly 3,000 calories which alone are sufficient to supply the minimum daily requirements of an active man for one full day.
Dates are rich in several vitamins and minerals. When the level of trace elements falls in the body, the health of the blood vessels is affected leading to an increased heart-rate and a consequent inability to perform its function with normal efficiency. As dates are also rich in calcium, they help strengthen the bones. When the calcium content in the body decreases, children are affected with rickets and the bones of adults become brittle and weak.
Dates are also important in keeping up the health of eyes. They are quite effective in guarding against night-blindness.
The Prophet (pbuh) used to eat dates by combining them with bread sometimes. At other times he mixed ripe dates with cucumber, or dates combined with ghee (clarified butter). He used to take all varieties of dates, but he preferred the variety called 'Ajwah (a particular variety of date found exclusively in Madeenah).