An American Date for Ramadan

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.

So how did my beloved Medjool date find a home in America? Back in the 1920s, disease threatened the very existence of Medjool dates in their native Morocco. In a desperate attempt to save the Medjool, the ruler of Morocco sent 11 young date palms to southern California, where they found a new home and prospered.

There is a lesson in those thriving date farms of California that can be applied to the Muslim American experience. Like those dates, Muslims have also thrived in American soil–we constitute one of the highest per-capita income communities in the US, and we have become relatively well integrated into American society (at least in comparison with other Muslim-minority countries).

And rather than losing our religion in the American melting pot, our faith has blossomed as well. Native-born and educated US scholars, steeped in both traditional Islam and American creative thinking, are being re-exported to the Muslim world. Scholars from the US may be the key to resolving the post-modern identity crisis that afflicts too many Muslim societies.

Just something to chew on the next time you eat a date.

Shahed Amanullah is Muslim journalists and founder of altmuslim.com, a Muslim news website.



By: shahed amanullah | Source: alt muslim | Category: Americas, Articles, Faith, Featured, Society | Topic: ramadan | Views: 27,789 | Comments: 20

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20 Comments

  1. We thoroughly enjoy eating dates and at the table when breaking our fast, we all first aim for a date. The date we eat and enjoy year after year is the medjool date as its nice and big and juicy. My two year old son too enjoys this date as its tasty and passes the nut(the pit) to his daddy when he gets to the pit:) Now I know the origins of this lovely date and will pass this knowledge and article on to others when breaking our fast this evening! Tnx for the nice article. Hope the fast goes well for Muslims throughout the world, Insha Allah. Salaam.

  2. Though the anecdotal story of the date palm may solicit some grins and academic interest, the ending paragraph clearly shows the author is not grounded in reality. The reality of the matter is, their high socioeconomic status notwithstanding, Muslims in America are poorly led, have self aggrandizing and totally unaccountable leadership, dictatorships and oligarchies in mosques, and suffer from some of the same isolationist tendencies as regular Americans in general do — piss poor understanding of the world outside American borders and of how and why American policies and practices are destroying the world one country at a time. This is best manifested by the following:

    a. Muslims falling over themselves to declare that they helped “elect Bush” and that the “muslim vote” brought him to power.

    b. The myopic and cowardly reaction of so-called “traditional scholars” who the writer refers to i.e. When Bush made an address on 20/09/2001 where he said “You are either with Us or Against Us” a “traditionally educated sheikh” got up and cheered and clapped on national television. Where was his so-called “traditional education” then? Had he ever heard of this saying by Imam Ghazali:

    “Shun those ulama who go to the courts of the rulers. Go and learn from those who shun the rulers.”

    c. The equally self aggrandizing and self promotion of the so-called “new-age” 2nd generation Muslims of which this author should be acutely familiar i.e. female led prayer, endorsement of Muslims in the U.S. armed forces, and political allegiance (wal’aa and bar’aa) to America over other Muslims — MuslimsforObama.com. Never mind that he threatened to invade and nuke parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, America first, last, and always, Islam if it suits and your tastes and desires.

  3. The reality of the title is: “An Enemy Date for Ramadan”, How can they be the best dates in the world, where the dates that grows in the lands that God made these lands special better than any place found in this world, like Maka, Madena, Al-Qods.

    In addition to this, not forgetting you are supporting a non muslim country, and as every one knows, america is not just a non muslim country.

    Here in australia, most of th muslims search for arabic country dates, tunisia, eimarate, sudia arabia …etc not forgetting to tell that the majool dates also available,,,,

    So dear brothers and sisters in islam, please I ask you to be careful in what we are buying and from where….

    Prayig to God to accept our worship and help us to be guided to the right path in sha’allah.

  4. Assalamulaikum brother shahed, Interesting! I never knew the californian dates were from north africa/middle east until I read your article. Never tried it before either. All well to you and family. Wassalam

  5. FYI, North Africa is a date producer and the best dates are called Deglat an Nour, from the south of Algeria (Sahara). You can’t find them even in Algeria as they are exported to select places.

  6. Muslims falling over themselves to declare that they helped elect Bush” and that the “muslim vote” brought him to power.”

    Uh, no one has done this since September 11th and you’d be hard pressed to find any American Muslims that are still proud of this. They learned their lesson and didn’t support Bush after that.

    “The myopic and cowardly reaction of so-called “traditional scholars” who the writer refers to i.e. When Bush made an address on 20/09/2001 where he said “You are either with Us or Against Us” a “traditionally educated sheikh” got up and cheered and clapped on national television.”

    Yes, Hamza Yusuf was – and is – against those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. He’s also against Bush’s “war on terror.” These opinions do not have to be contradictory.

    “The equally self aggrandizing and self promotion of the so-called “new-age” 2nd generation Muslims of which this author should be acutely familiar i.e. female led prayer, endorsement of Muslims in the U.S. armed forces, and political allegiance (wal’aa and bar’aa) to America over other Muslims — MuslimsforObama.com.”

    American Muslims, like any other group of Muslims, is not a homogenous group with the same opinions. He may be familiar with the “new age” group, but doesn’t share their opinions. As for Obama, before his boneheaded comments about Pakistan, many Muslims had every reason to support him. Shahed’s website criticised Obama as soon as he messed up.

    So that’s it? Those three examples are the basis for your opinion? You are making broad and unfair generalisations about American Muslims. I suppose you won’t mind if others make sweeping generalisations about you.

  7. Geez I thought this would be an article about streamlining the date of Ramadhan for the first time in the US, not have many different ethnic groups following different dates.

  8. We have tried various dates from different places such as California, Iran, Morroco etc.but the best ones we like are those from Medina Munawara. However, madjool dates are also good and it is nice to know where they came to USA from. Thanks for the information.

  9. An interesting artcile but lacking Shukr.

    The king sent the plants they thrived.

    QED

    Nothing about being thankful to ALLAH (SWT) that by the GRACE of ALLAH those of use born so many years later and living in a strange land can enjoy these dates.

    Chest thumping without Shukr.

    So typically American.

  10. This is an excellent informative article about dates in the USA.

    A few comments on this article are disgusting and have nothing to do with this article. Some comments are utterly bad. Does Islamicity have a policy of reviewing the comments before posting?

  11. Sorry sir, I do not agree to your humble opinion: Quote “And in my humble opinion, they are the best dates in the world.” unquote

    In my opinion, the best date is Ajwa, which was liked by Rasoolullah s.a.w.

  12. Slm brother

    Just to enlight u regarding this dates, do you know who own these date

    farms? They are owned by jewish Americans who are the strongest supporters of

    the zionist apartied state of isreal around the world.

    Secondly, I think there is an element of biasness in declaring that

    American dates are best in the world! No date can compete with Medina

    dates in quality and taste. Madjool date is originated in the Jordan valley

    and also grows in Medina. This is the desert fruit.

  13. Assalaamuralaikum,maa shaa Allah,interesting to read about the medjool dates,want to taste it but unfortunately it is for the USA only. In shaa Allah in the future it will be available worldwide.

  14. Masha Allah tabarakallah Innal Ardh wasia i.e My earth is spacious can grow anywhere, which means Allah’s Qudurah is enormous as we can see the date is thriving from Morocco to the States Allahu Akbar very interesting story of medjool which we always see on our IslamiCity as Ramadan approches.

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