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Breaking the Fast: Honey’s Role in Ramadan

July 10, 2013

‘Tis that time of year when Muslims around the world begin their annual month of fasting for Ramadan, a religious tradition that predates the advent of Islam, but has found new meaning for Muslims since then.  Ramadan began this year on July 8th, ushering in a holy time when it is believed that the Quran was revealed to mankind through the prophet Mohammed.

Men in Dubai, UAE breaking their fast in a traditional tent. Men in Dubai, UAE breaking their fast in a traditional tent. (image source:

Ramadan for every Muslim means the same thing: 29-31 days – depending on the visual sightings of the crescent moon – of fasting from sunrise or sunset. It represents a time when one is to seek inner peace and reconnect with his or her spiritual being by overcoming the needs and wants of the body and mind. It is believed that through this exercise of self deprivation, one can develop a sense of self discipline that is unmatched, as well as understand the privileges that one has been granted.

Traditional sweet treats prepared with honey, filo, dates and powdered sugar are commonly used to break the fast during Ramadan.

Because the Muslim world encompasses a variety of cultures, the tradition of fasting is practiced in many different ways. Still, there are a few similarities in these religious practices that bind Muslim people. For instance, in our last discussion about Ramadan, we shed light on the importance of dates. There is, however, another ‘super food’ that is enjoyed by Muslim people during Ramadan. It’s honey, which, like dates, is mentioned in the Quran several times. The Prophet Mohammed was reported to have drunk a honey and water mixture to ease his stomach, as well as recommending it to heal the sick on several occasions.

This view of honey as a beneficial food is not innately Islamic. Nonetheless, it has become a traditional food in many Muslim homes. In almost all Muslim cultures, honey is used in some way to prepare fast-breaking meals. Be it in sweets such as the Moroccan Chebakia (Honey Cookie), or Indonesian Ginger Chicken, honey can be found as either the main ingredient or an important supplementary addition.

Who do we thank for the Small Wonder that is honey? None other than the busy bees, of course! Be sure to check out Cheng & Tsui’s Small Wonders Level 2 graded reader Bees.  A perfect and beautifully illustrated addition to any course designed for North American learners of the Arabic language.