I had a date last night. No, it’s not what you think: Muslims customarily break their fast with a date. Dates have a special significance in Muslim culture and tradition. Referenced many times in the Qur’an, date palms are said to have sheltered and sustained Mary while she was giving birth to Jesus, and dates were a staple of the diet of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions.
My date of choice is a Medjool date, large and plump, and I usually bring to potluck iftars a plate of Medjools stuffed with walnuts and sprinkled with powdered sugar. 90% of Medjool dates available in the US come from the fertile Coachella Valley of California, near where I grew up. In fact, southern California is one of the few areas outside the Middle East where dates are successfully cultivated. Dozens of varieties of dates are grown there. And in my humble opinion, they are the best dates in the world.
My father used to take me on pilgrimages to Mecca. Not the holy city in Saudi Arabia, but the town of Mecca, California, where the annual Date Festival is held. We got to sample every type of date available — Zahidi, Deglet Noor, Empress, and others. In this part of California, dates are not only celebrated–view the many roadside date shops and billboards along Interstate 10–but their links to the Arab and Muslim world are acknowledged respectfully. The date growers we met even asked us if they were pronouncing the Arabic names properly.
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About Hungry for RamadanThe last update to the Hungry for Ramadan blog was in October 2007. We welcome your comments about Ramadan and Islam in general in our Muslim forums.
Shahed Amanullah, a frequent Beliefnet contributor, is one of the country’s foremost Muslim journalists. He has harnessed the power of the Internet to spread a positive view of Islam. Amanullah is the editor of altmuslim.com, a Muslim news website, and founder of Halalfire Media, a network of Muslim-themed websites with more than five million annual visitors. Through his work Amanullah has tapped into a strong force of online activism. He lives in Texas with his wife and two sons, and looks forward to the spiritual rewards of Ramadan every year.
- Ramadan 2009 (on Beliefnet)
- “Hungry for Ramadan” Recap
- These are the Days of Eid
- What a Difference 30 Days Can Make
- The Sweets of Ramadan
- Making Ramadan Festive for Children
- The Solitude of the Suhoor – The Morning Meal
- Sharing the Blessings of Ramadan with the Fast-a-thon
- A Golden Opportunity to Curb Addiction
- The Story of the USPS Eid Stamp