Ramzan 2023: Why are Sehri, Iftar meals so important during fasting month

While fasting during Ramzan is considered as one of the five pillars of Islam, Sehri and Iftar, the two meals taken before and after fasting, are considered the most significant

Ramzan 2023: Why are Sheri, Iftar meals so important during fasting month

HYDERABAD: A week has already gone by since Ramadan or Ramzan, the holy Muslim month of fasting began in India. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramzan is considered the holiest for Muslims around the world as it is believed that during this time the Holy Quran was revealed by Prophet Mohammed.

Muslims worldover including those in India have been diligently fasting since March 24, 2023 – the first day of Ramzan after crescent moon-sighting – from dawn till sunset. They have been maintaining strict abstinence of food, drink and other worldly needs while devoting their time to Almighty Allah with prayers and showing benevolence and compassion to others.

The holy month of fasting ends with Eid-Ul-Fitr, called Eid-Al-Fitr in Arabic, which is the biggest festival for the Muslims. This marks the beginning of the first day of ‘Shawwal’, the next month in the Islamic calendar.

Significance of Sehri and Iftar in Ramzan fasting month

While fasting during Ramzan is considered as one of the five pillars of Islam, Sehri and Iftar, the two meals taken before and after fasting, are considered the most significant. They help the devouts replenish and recharge themselves with energy to keep themselves going with steadfast devotion throughout the month.

Sehri is a pre-dawn meal taken early in the morning before the fajr prayer and the beginning of the roza, which is observed until sunset. The second meal Iftar is taken in the evening to typically break the day-long fast.

Sehri or Suhoor is regarded as very significant since Muslims observing the fasting month either stay awake all night or get up in the early morning hours for this meal. They have a meal with a lavish spread that will satiate their bellies and keep them feeling full through the day-long fasting hours. Nalli nihari, sheermal, paya soup, dates, sweets and fruits are among the ‘typically high-carb and protein-rich’’ delicacies devoured during this meal. The meal is usually topped with a glass of tea or milk. It is a ‘strict no no’ to have the Sehri meal post Fajr prayer.

Foods to eat

The pre-dawn Sehri meal is quintessential but the most tricky one as well, given the unearthly time it is supposed to be eaten. The hunger levels will be relatively low in the pre-dawn hours but it is also necessary to eat something that will give the feeling of fullness through the fasting hours. To strike a balance between these two extremes, the believers usually try and eat delicacies that are light but take longer to digest.

To take care of the high-carb needs, bread, rice and potatoes are eaten since they are known to be full of complex carbohydrates which take longer time to digest while keeping up the energy supply. Fruits with high fibre content like apples, bananas and apricots besides whole grains like oats, barley and chickpeas are most favoured. Moderate intake of these is most advised to preempt side effects. To bring in the protein balance into the diet, eggs, chicken, lentils and yogurt are consumed in moderation. For proper hydration, coconut water, tomatoes, cucumbers, pineapples, oranges and water are added to their diet.

Foods to stay away from

In view of the long fasting hours, food dishes that are predominantly cooked with heavy spices and excessive oil are safely avoided for Sehri meal during Ramzan. This precaution is taken to keep themselves safe from indigestion and heartburn.

Too much indulgence in tea and coffee during the fasting month can cause dehydration and increase thirst which can be upsetting during the fasting time. Muslims also try and avoid salt-based food items for the same above reason. Binging on sweets and sugary foods can also prove counter-productive as they get digested pretty fast, thereby increasing the hunger pangs.

Iftar, the feast

Traditionally, devout Muslims break their Ramzan fast with water and dates. The idea is to not upset their bellies after 12 hours of fasting and yet get a quick boost of energy required for the body. Juice, sherbet and milk are served in some households at the time of breaking the fast.

Iftar is conventionally a feast which in itself signifies a heavy meal. It is followed by a light dinner ahead of the night prayers. Lip-smacking dishes made of chicken and mutton are omni-present with the addition of other regionally popular veg and non-veg items. Drinks providing a cooling effect for the body and some desserts were also indulged in at the end of the Iftar meal.

Haleem is one of the most popular Iftar delicacies in Hyderabad and some other southern parts of the country. People prefer to break their fast with this delicious item, packed with nutrients and proteins besides a rich taste. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the fasting Muslims prefer to end their ‘roza’ with ‘nombu kanji’, a unique dish prepared with meat, vegetables and porridge. Like Haleem, it is also cooked for hours to get the right taste.

In the north of the country, devouts crave for street food at the time of breaking their fast. Home-made chaat is also equally preferred and devoured by family and friends. In some northern states, fruit chaat tops the list of popular Iftar dishes. It goes well with fried food items like pakodas and samosas.

As one can easily anticipate, fish dominate the Iftar spread in easterns states. A wide variety of fish dishes cooked in Mughlai style will await to be relished by the believers at the time of ending their Ramadan fasting at sunset.

Why does Ramzan change its date every year

Every year, we observe the Ramadan (Ramzan) fasting month being advanced by a few days. In reality, it does not change as per the Islamic calendar but it does get advanced when compared against the Gregorian (English) calendar.

It is important to note that the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar while the Gregorian one is a solar calendar. The Islamic calendar is typically shorter than the Gregorian calendar by around 10 days. A new year in the Islamic calendar comes after 12 lunar cycles.

Consequently, Ramadan gets shifted ahead by 10 days as compared to each Gregorian year. On the positive side, the advancing of its date helps Ramadan shift through the seasons. If Ramadan is observed in summer this time, it will be falling in the next season a few years later.

Benefits of Ramzan fasting

Fasting during Ramzan is like a strict penance due to the abstinence of all needs. May seem tough to comply with but it certainly comes with a lot of health benefits. Studies over time have revealed that fasting during this holy and pious month actually results in a number of health benefits. They include improved insulin sensitivity, weight loss and a marked reduction in inflammation.

And here are a few tips to blindly follow for staying healthy during the Ramadan fasting: Ensuring that one is hydrated during non-fasting hours, making sure that nutritious foods are eaten during Sehri and Iftar meals, Avoiding overeating and binging on surgery and fried foods. Last but not the least, is to get enough rest and indulge in a bit of exercising, if possible.

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