We inevitably think about all of the special meals that we will eat during the holy month of Ramadan.
After a day of fasting and worship, the reward for Muslim or Muslimah is not only the sense of peace that he or she has gained, but also the special iftar that waits.
In many areas of the world such as the Middle East, India, and African countries, iftar meals are filled with traditional foods that can be traced to the time of the Prophet (SAW).
In other countries, the food may take on the flavor of the country one is in, such as a pizza iftar in America or a taco iftar in Mexico.
However, there are traditional gifts from nature that we should remember wherever we live, gifts that were used by Prophet Mohammed (SAW) in his life, and gifts that assist the fasting Muslim during Ramadan. Among these bounties are the hibiscus flower, dates, rosewater essence, and miswak.
In the Middle East and Africa, hibiscus is readily served to guests, especially during Ramadan.
However, for so many Ramadan traditions like the kunafa (a Ramadan sweet) and the musaharati (the man who wakes people for suhur), few look beyond the tradition for its benefit.
Although the sweet richness of kunafa can claim to nourish the spirit of the believer, the hibiscus flower can lay claim to many physical benefits for the fasting body.
Hibiscus is, first of all, a pleasant tasting drink with astringent and, thus, thirst-quenching properties that may it quite useful when consumed during Ramadan.
Secondly, a cup of hibiscus tea is 17% citric acid, and contains half as much vitamin C as an orange so it helps to strengthen the immune system.
Hibiscus also has similar uses as cranberry juice in treating urinary tract infections, and is also useful for the heart and blood flow.
Other properties in the herb help maintain the blood sugar balance in the body, another challenge one must overcome during fasting.
The traditional way to prepare hibiscus is to make a cold infusion. Take a quarter-cup of the herb and soak it in a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, strain out the hibiscus flowers and add honey to taste. Many people use sugar to sweeten their hibiscus; however, sugar leeches vitamins B and C from the body, can encourage urinary tract infections and counteracts most of the other benefits of the hibiscus as well.
The best choice of sweeteners is to use about a teaspoon or more of the herb stevia, a green leafy herb from Paraguay that is sweet and lacks calories much like Nutra-sweet, but with none of the synthetic dangers.
Stevia also has blood-sugar balancing properties and, thus, is the safest herb for diabetics.
Dates are another traditional item to ingest during the iftar. Muslims around the world, following the example of the Prophet (SAW), usually break their fast with dates.
The reason that they are so beneficial is that their natural sugar travels quickly to the liver, and is converted more quickly than any other nutrient into energy that the fasting body soaks up like a sponge.
This is the healthiest way of breaking the fast as it eases the body into digesting. Dates contain protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and natural sodium. They also contain a high amount of dietary fiber, which makes them a good digestive aid.
Dates are also said to protect the stomach and the intestines from parasites and bacterial infections, so they are an especially good beginning to a meal when traveling or eating at a restaurant.
To be Continued
This article is from our archive, originally published on an earlier date, and highlighted now for its importance