What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar which begins with the sighting of the new moon. For the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, this begins the religious practice of fasting, one of the central tenants of Islam. Muslims fast for the whole month of Ramadan, 29 or 30 days (depending on when the new moon for the next month is sighted). But that doesn’t mean Muslims don’t eat anything for a whole month! Rather, Ramadan is a period of intermittent fasting. Muslims begin their fast at dawn and break their fast at sunset. Because fasting times depend on the movement of the sun, you will find that different countries fast for different number of hours. Northern countries in the summer months have longer fasting hours than countries to the south.
The Purpose of Ramadan:
In Ramadan, Muslims abstain from otherwise permissible acts such as eating food, drinking water/beverages, and having sex. This demonstrates the notion that if you can prohibit for yourself such completely natural and permissible things, then you can also abstain from sin. The focus of Ramadan is on improving yourself spiritually by limiting your worldly distractions (i.e., food, drink, sex). The statement I think which captures Ramadan in a nutshell, “starve your self, feed your soul.”
Ramadan and Food:
I think Ramadan is a time where one can take the time to evaluate their relationship with food. We are encouraged by the sunnah to eat and drink in moderation for overeating causes laziness. Ramadan gives us the opportunity to think about how much food and what type of food we are putting in our bodies and allows us to gauge the effect that has on our spirituality.
That is, if you eat ten samosas at Iftar are you able to stand and concentrate in prayers? If you skip suhoor, do you have the energy to complete the tasks for the day? Do I spend most of my days fasting thinking of the food I am going to eat after iftar rather than spending my time productively? These are some questions that may benefit you in evaluating your relationship with food. It is important to have a healthy relationship with food. You do not want to fall into the extremes where you are averse to food (bulimia, anorexia, etc.) nor too desirous of food (obesity, etc.). Rather one should have a relationship with food which is as close as possible to the sunnah of moderation.
Best Ramadan Food
The traditional choice to break the fast with are dates. This is followed by a spread of foods that varies by culture. Dates are not only sunnah but an excellent source of energy, sugar, and fibre. They are one of the best Ramadan food not only for Iftar but also for suhoor.
For Suhoor, the best Ramadan food would depend on your individual needs (i.e., your job, climate, length of fasting, etc.). There are generally three types of people when it comes to having suhoor:
- Those that eat breakfast items (cereal, eggs, pancakes, etc.)
- Person who have a full dinner.
- Someone who sleep right through suhoor.
You do not want to be in the third category. Suhoor is a part of the sunnah and it will provide you with the necessary energy to spend the rest of the day in worship. Whether you are in category 1 or 2, just remember that you should aim towards including all food groups in your meal, such as dairy, meats, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Indeed the best Ramadan food would be that which contains the essential nutrients your body needs to function through out the day in this blessed month.
May Allah (SWT) bless our efforts this Ramadan and make this month a source of mercy for us. Ameen.