A unique tree and its unique fruit - the date palm

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The unmistakeable date palm tree

As ever, Ramadhan has been a harbinger of holistic upliftment for Muslims all over the world. For the Dawoodi Bohras there has been the spiritual sowing seeds through prayer, good deeds and fasting from which are reaped the fruits of inner contentment and piety.

Analogous to this has been the worldwide tree-planting drive in which Syedna TUS has asked of individuals and groups to plant 200,000 saplings in gardens of homes and community properties.

This Ramadhan has been a green season for Bohras planting trees all over the world and committing to the betterment of the environment.

It is a tradition amongst Muslims generally and just as much so for the Dawoodi Bohras that, after a day's long fast, their iftaar (breaking of the fast) is invariably with a date. A hadith states that RasullulahSA himself used to perform iftaar by dry dates tamar in their season and by moist rotab in their season.

Research has found that dates are easy to digest, sate the pangs of hunger of the fasting person and likewise prepare the stomach to receive food after being inactive throughout the day.

Dates are rich in sugary energy while the alkaline salts in dates adjusts the acidity of the blood which results from excess consumption of meat and carbohydrates.

Along with relishing the fruits of this tree, this Ramadhan has also highlighted the importance of their source - the date palm. The commencement of the plantation drive was inspired by Molana Ali ibn Abi Talib's AS reply to a query about what it was he was transporting - they were date pits. He said, "Date palms; by the will of Allah."

It would be fitting then to have an insight into the botanical make-up of the date palm to widen vistas of perception and understanding of this remarkable tree.

There is special mention of the date palm in the Epistles of the Brethen of Purity. The epistle on the plant kingdom enumerates some unique characteristics of the the date palm.

The date palm has subtle roots, slow growth and a long life. As for its structure it is erect, with a circular trunk. The branches have a hexagonal structure originating from tightly stuffed fibres. The trunk of the date palm is distinctive from other trees. It is tender, disjointed and loose which helps in the process of absorption of nutrients which are sent to the top of the tree and the tips of the branches."

The date palm or phoenix dactylifera belongs to the arecacae (palm family). The genus phoenix contains 14 species of palms which are said to be native to the lands around the Persian Gulf and were especially abundant between the Nile and Euphrates rivers. Today these palms are found in diverse habitats including deserts, swamps, mangroves and sea coasts. The phoenix dactylifera is distinguished from the other species by several characteristics such as 1) production of offshoots 2) tall, columnar and thick trunks 3) dark green leaves

The erect date palms can grow up to 30 meters. Its 4-5 meter long leaves surround the trunk in a spiral pattern. Branched forms of the date palm are also found.

The root system of the date palm is fasciculated, fibrous and extremely dense and sometimes found as far as 25m from the palm and more than 6 m deep.

Date palms are dioecious, which means that there are both male date palms and female date palms. After reaching maturity, the male date palm yields flowers that produce the pollen, and the female date palm yields flowers which will become dates, if they are pollinated through various agents of pollination.

Date palms produce between five and ten bunches of dates per tree. A single large bunch may contain more than a thousand dates, and can weigh between 6 to 8 kg. They begin to bear fruit at 3 to 5 years, and reach full production after 10-12 years. Date palms can survive up to 150 years.

The value of the date palm is still being understood. As an old Arab saying goes: The uses of the date palm are as many as the number of days in the year. The date palm is one of the many bounties that have been placed on this earth for us to benefit from. Happy Dating!!