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The Sweetness of Dates During Ramadan

Imam Khalid Latif shares his memories of dates and how they taste so much sweeter during Ramadan.

Imam Khalid Latif is a University Chaplain for New York University, Executive Director of the Islamic Center at NYU, and a Chaplain for the NYPD. He is also the co-founder of Honest Chops, the first-ever natural and organic halal butcher in NYC, the Muslim Wedding Service, an agency specializing in providing charismatic and inspirational marriage officiants for wedding ceremonies, and a partner in the MKO Group, an investment group that owns and operates multiple Edible Arrangements franchises in Manhattan.  

Plate of dried dates.

When I was growing up I never understood why my parents were so fond of eating dates. Regardless of the time of year, you could be sure to find amidst the oranges, apples, bananas, and grapes in our kitchen fruit bowl a basket holding dates. They would eat them as snacks, they would eat them with meals, they would even throw them into bowls of cereal and milk and eat them like that. To me, dates looked like little cockroaches. I didn't really get it until I started fasting.As I got older, I started to practice my faith more consistently and one of the first things I became quite observant of was fasting in the month of Ramadan. Muslims around the world abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset, in hopes of attaining a higher level of mindfulness. I started to think more about what it was that I was consuming and really how much I had to be grateful for. It is customary for Muslims to break their fast on water and dates. The water that I drank at the end of a long day's fasting tasted more refreshing than any water I had ever drank before. And those same dates that I grew up having a disdain for now tasted sweeter than anything I had ever eaten. 

As the days of the month passed by, the mindfulness started to deepen. I started to become more aware of what I consume and what kind of impact it has on me not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. I could feel the difference on the days that I ate greasy food or even a minimal amount of sugar, versus food that was all-natural, high-quality and not processed. As my body detoxed from substances that were unnatural to it, the introduction of even a small piece of candy left me feeling quite lethargic the next day, which in turn made my fasting less of a spiritual act for no other reason other than I had eaten a single piece of chocolate. In the moment I thought it was because I was tired because I wasn't eating, but in reality my tiredness came from what I had chosen to eat and, consequently, what I had chosen to not eat instead. 

These days I try to make sure my fasting days start and end with substances that are pure and of high quality. I am fortunate that brands such as Saffron Road are easily accessible and provide easy-to-prepare halal meals that use ingredients that I am comfortable with. In the past year I opened Honest Chops, a whole animal halal butcher in the East Village of Manhattan that ensures vegetarian feeds, no antibiotics or added hormones, and a transparency that our customers can trust. Saffron Road appeals to me because the values that drive it coincide with ours at Honest Chops. When I eat their products, my fasting doesn't then become about eating and drinking but becomes an integral catalyst in deepening my own sense of mindfulness. My thoughts move away from a simple satiation of my stomach and go towards a satisfaction of my soul. I can feel gratitude at the end of a day's fasting and can see growth at the end of a month's fasting because I fueled my body with food that was prepared with respect for me as an entire person, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. 

Now all they need to do is start making dates and I'll be all set.

How do you break the fast during Ramadan? 

Updated 9/22/15.

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