Did the Prophet (pbuh) eat dates in odd numbers such as one, three or five dates? What is the wisdom behind it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

A narration regarding the issue is as follows: Anas (radiyallahu anh) narrates:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would not go to mosque for prayer on Eid-al-Fitr unless he ate a few dates (an odd number of dates).” [Bukhari, Idayn 4; Tirmidhi, Salah 390, (543)]

1. The wisdom behind the Messenger of Allah’s (pbuh) eating something while going to the Eid-al-Fitr prayer is explained as follows by some scholars: “He wanted to prevent people from thinking that fasting continued until the prayer was performed, and from making such a mistake.” Others explained it as follows: “When the order to break the fast was sent down after the order to fast, it was necessary to haste and speed to obey Allah’s order.” Some other interpretations were also made.

2. The preference of dates is explained as strengthening the ability to see, which is weakened by fasting, with dessert. Some Tabi’un scholars decided that it was mustahab to start eating with something sweet, such as honey, if there was no date, on the day of Eid because of the various virtues of sweet things, such as ease of digestion, the fineness they bring to the heart, and their compatibility with belief. It is said that sweet things help people hold urine.

What is essential is to have iftar, even if with water only. In Eid al-Adha, what is essential is not to eat anything until the prayer.

3. The reason why an odd number of dates is preferred is to indicate the oneness of Allah. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did everything possible “once”, or an odd number of times, for tabarruk: As a matter of fact, he said, “Allah is one and loves one.” (Bukhari, Daawat 68). (see İbrahim Canan, Kütüb-i Sitte, Akçağ, 1990, Ankara, 9/355)

One (odd) is one of the words that left its mark on the daily of our Prophet (pbuh). As a matter of fact, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) always chose an odd number in many of his actions during the day. For example, he drank water in three sips, not two or four sips. In wudu or ghusl, he preferred to pour water on his body three times, not two, four or six times. The number he chose for his tasbihat after each prayer is 33. He said Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah and Allahuakbar 33 times each. He said, “Whoever applies kohl on their eyes should do it an odd number of times.” He also said, “Whoever cleans himself using stones after defecation should use an odd number of stones.”

Again, the day on which he had blood cupped from his body was either the seventeenth, the nineteenth, or the twenty-first day of the month. It is reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Using a stone is an odd number of times. The stone thrown at the devil is an odd number. Sa’y (walking/running) between Safa and Marwa is done seven (an odd number) of times; so is circumambulation (tawaf). So, if one of you is to use a stone, let him do it an odd number of times.” The main reason for all of them is that “One”, which expresses tawhid, is the general principle for the Messenger of Allah. So much so that he even describes Asma al-Husna with an odd number: “Allah Almighty has ninety-nine names; one less that a hundred. He is one, he loves one.” (see Bukhari, Daawat 68)

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