Muslims generally break their fast by eating dates. Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) is reported to have said, "If anyone of you is fasting, let him break his fast with dates. In case he does not have them, then with water. Verily water is a purifier."
The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) used to break his fast by eating some dates before offering Maghrib Salaat, and if ripe dates were not available, he used to substitute them with some dried grapes. When they too were not available, he used to have a few sips of water, according to some reports. Modern science has proved that dates are part of a healthy diet. They contain sugar, fat and proteins, as well as important vitamins. Hence, the great importance attached to them by the Prophet.
Dates are also rich in natural fibres. Modern medicine has shown that they are effective in preventing abdominal cancer. They also surpass other fruits in the sheer variety of their constituents. They contain oil, calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium. In other words, one date satisfies the minimum requirements of a balanced and healthy diet. Arabs usually combine dates with milk and yoghurt or bread, butter and fish. This combination indeed makes a self-sufficient and tasty diet for both mind and body.
Dates and date palms have been mentioned in the Noble Qur'aan twenty times, thus showing their importance. The Prophet likened a good Muslim to the date palm, saying, "Among trees, there is a tree like a Muslim. Its leaves do not fall."
Dates are rich in several vitamins and minerals. When the level of trace elements falls in the body, the health of the blood vessels is affected leading to an increased heart-rate and a consequent inability to perform its function with normal efficiency. As dates are also rich in calcium, they help to strengthen the bones. When the calcium content in the body decreases, children are affected with rickets and the bones of adults become brittle and weak.
Dates are also important in keeping up the health of eyes. It is quite effective in guarding against night-blindness. In the early years of Islam, dates served as food for Muslim warriors. They used to carry them in special bags hung at their sides. They are the best stimulant for muscles and so the best food for a warrior about to engage in battle.
The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) used to combine dates with bread sometimes. At other times he mixed ripe dates with cucumber, or dates combined with ghee. He used to take all varieties of dates, but he preferred the variety called Ajwah.