Most of the books that we have read on the life-history (seerah) of the Ma’sūmīn (a) do not give detailed info on the eating habits or meal practices of the Ahlul Bayt (a). However, there are numerous Hadiths on good and healthy eating from them. There is one book though, which every Muslim house should have it and refer to it regularly. This is Sunan an-Nabi compiled by a great Quranic exegete ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī. Chapter Nine in the book is dedicated to “Foods, drinks and table manners” of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s). All Hadiths quoted below are from this chapter.
i)Imam al-Sādiq (a): there was nothing more loved by the Prophet of Allah (s) than remaining hungry and fearful in front of Allah (swt)
ii) Imam al-Sadiq (a): the Holy Prophet (s) never ate wheat bread, and he never became sated with bread made of barely.
iii) In Nahjul Balāgha, Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) said: You should follow your Prophet, the pure, the chaste of all the people of the world; he was least sated and the most empty of stomach. He left this world hungry but entered the next world perfect.
iv) Imam al-Sādiq (a): the Noble Prophet (s) used to lick his fingers after he ate.
v) He (a) also said: the Noble Prophet (s) drank the water in sips and would not gulp it down, and he would say: ‘Liver ailments are caused by gulping down water.’
vi) al-Ghazali in his book Revival of Islamic Sciences: . . . when the Prophet ate meat, he would wash his hands properly, then, with the excess water, he would wipe his face.
vii) A disciple asked Imam al-Ridhā (a): ‘May I be your ransom! I see you eating these dates [i.e. Burni dates which are reddish yellow of best quality] with desire?’ He said, “Yes, I really like it.” I asked: ‘Why?’ He (a) said, “Because the Prophet of Allah (s) used to love dates, Amīrul Mu’minīn used to love dates, al-Hasan (a) used to love dates, Abu ‘Abdillāh al-Husayn (a) used to love dates, Sayyid al-‘Ābidīn (a) used to love dates, Abu Ja‘far (a) used to love dates, Abu ‘Abdillāh (a) used to love dates, my father (a) used to love dates and I (too) love dates. Our Shi‘ah love dates because they have been created from our clay.”
viii) Both the fifth & sixth Imams (a) have said: “There was no fruit on earth that was more liked by the Holy Prophet (s) than the pomegranate. And by Allah! When he ate it he did not like anyone to share it with him.”
These are but a few Hadiths on the eating habits of the Holy Prophet (s) and his Ahlul Bayt (a). The important point is that they preferred remaining empty of stomach and were least sated. And yes, they used to take both suhur and iftar when they fasted. For, they have emphasized taking these in their teachings, and we do not expect them to teach something they would not practice.
Allah knows the best.
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