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Healthy Suhoor for Ramadan

The Arabic word “futoor” means breakfast. Hardly anyone needs an explanation of the word “breakfast”, but for the sake of clarity, let it be said that the word “breakfast” is the resulting one word which means “the breaking of the fast”, the “fast” generally understood as the time throughout the night in which we rested our bodies after a long day’s work, and slept.

In ages past, long before the advent of electricity and all else that has come along with it (all-night television, movie theatres, dance clubs, 24 hr. restaurants, and much more), people most generally would sleep early at night, resting in preparation for an early rise the next day, and take a hearty breakfast in preparation for the day’s work. It is notable to recall what Benjamin Franklin said: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Similarly, prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings upon him) was quoted as seeking blessings for those of his nation (followers) who are early risers.

However, in this day and age it is not uncommon, in fact becoming more widely practiced, that people will stay up very late at night and into the wee hours of the morning, eating and drinking all the while, and then when they do wake in the morning, they are not up to eating breakfast at all, much less a balanced and healthy breakfast, as they should.

Nutritionists all around the world are in agreement that the best way to encourage health and stamina throughout the day is to begin with a healthy, well-balanced breakfast. That does not mean to overburden with only calories, but to make sure that the calories are from the right sources to ensure the best possible energy rate. Caffeine and high sugar content foods are not included in this group for promoting good energy throughout the day. In fact, high caffeine and sugar content foods will only give a short quick burst of energy which ends up in a quick and hard down-time, quite the opposite of what a true “power breakfast” is.

For those who fast, the meal taken at the end of the day as dusk approaches, is called “futoor”, or “breakfast”, logically because it is the meal, which ceremonially and literally breaks the fast that was observed during the daylight hours. And the meal taken at the end of the night, right before the commencement of the dawn, is called “suhoor”, or “late meal”, because it is the last meal before commencing the fast.

According to the prophet’s traditions and sayings, it is best to break the fast immediately when it is noticed that night is approaching and the daylight is descending, and also best to leave the last meal, or the “suhoor”, till the last possible moments right before the approach of dawn, or shortly before praying the fajr prayer (which, if observed at its proper timing, is performed before the rise of the sun in the east).

Now, many of those in the west, particularly those who are rather new to Islam and unfamiliar with the Arabic terms for many things, tend to refer to this meal as “breakfast”, simply because of its timing, early in the wee hours of the morning (sometime around 3 or 4 o’clock a.m., depending upon what the time of the year is, and when the fast will actually commence). For most people, they have slept through the night, and upon waking for this meal, it simply feels like it is breakfast. However, it is not actually breakfast, but truly the last late meal before commencing the fast, or the “suhoor”.

In preparation of the day of fasting ahead, it is good to take something that will remain for a while in the stomach, giving the feeling of fullness for a while yet, but still nothing too heavy in the oils or other hard-to-digest foods. Things heavy in fiber are a good choice, as well as dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheeses. Because one is prohibited from drinking during the fasting hours, it is also best to take in plenty of liquids before commencing the fast, but refrain from caffeine, since it is a diuretic and will prevent your body from properly hydrating. Along this line, it is also wise to watch carefully the intake of salt. Try flavoring your foods with lemon juice, spices and herbs instead of too much salt.

Foods that are high in fiber and filling like dates, dairy products and rolled oats are excellent choices to make a healthy and filling mixture for your suhoor. They are also light on the stomach, while giving you a lasting sensation of fullness, providing energy throughout the day to help you make it all the way to dusk when it is time to break the fast before evening sets in.

Remember that we are told in the Quran, concerning prophet Mohammed and his speech: “Nor does he speak of (his own) desire.” (s. An-Najm, s. 53, v. 3). He wisely advised his companions, and hence this advice stands for us as well and those who will come after us: “Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “Take Suhur as there is a blessing in it.”

He did not say exactly what that blessing is. Perhaps it is simply a spiritual blessing, and perhaps it is of a more physical nature. Or perhaps it is some combination of both. We do not know exactly, but we do know that he advised us to partake of the suhoor, for there is a blessing in doing so.

Is it no wonder, then, that medical science has found the medical benefit of taking a healthy breakfast in the morning? There are countless other instances where medical science or general science studies have proven the truth of the message of Islam contained in the direct words of Allah in the Quran, or the sayings of prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) contained in the collections of ahadith.

We Muslims do not need such proof, but it is helpful to strengthen the belief that we already have. For the non-Muslims, it is an interesting field of study to compare the developments of modern science and medicine with the teachings of Islam, and how they seem to mirror what was given to us in the message of Islam over 1400 years ago.

Sources:

Holy Quran: S. An-Najm, s. 53, v. 3.
Hadith Sahih Al-Bukhari, #146, the Book of Ar-Riqaq.
http://www.netnutritionist.com/fa5.htm
http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=IC0809-3657