Exceptional Food of the Quran: Figs
Ever since my son, Amro, was diagnosed with a heart condition a little over a year ago, I have become drawn to articles and information about heart-boosting foods. When these foods also happen to be mentioned in the Quran, another dimension of interest is added. One of these exceptional foods is figs.
In the Quran, the surah (chapter) titled At-Tin, or The Fig, God swears by the fig, saying, “By the fig and the olive And [by] Mount Sinai And [by] this secure city [Makkah], We have certainly created man in the best of stature;” (95:1-4). The way the fig is elevated in the Quran clearly demonstrates its importance for human beings. Figs are not only beneficial for the heart, they also contain advantages for the entire body including, but not limited to, digestion and weight control. Since the creation of humankind until today, figs are a sweet, nutritious fruit that can be found all around the world in both the fresh and dried variety to be enjoyed throughout the year.
God addresses his believers in the Quran, “O you who have believed, eat of the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah (God) if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (2:172). Technology allows us to break down the nutritious values in detail and prove just how good the “good things” are. Specifically, one medium fresh fig provides 6 percent daily value (DV) of fiber, 4 percent DV of vitamin B6, 3 percent DV of copper, 3 percent DV of manganese, 3 percent DV of potassium, and 3 percent DV of pantothenic acid (also known as vitamin B5).
According to The George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation, figs are one of the world’s healthiest foods. An important reason for this distinction is the high level of fiber per serving. A single serving of figs, which is about 40 grams equaling roughly three to five fresh or dried figs, provides 3.5 grams of insoluble and 1.5 grams of soluble fiber. Figs, like other fruits and vegetables, combine soluble and insoluble fiber, which affect the body in different ways, mostly the intestines. Sharon Perkins, a registered nurse and author of “What Are Figs and Are They Good for the Bowels?” notes, “Soluble fiber binds with fatty acid, forming a gel and slowing the emptying time in the stomach.” Perkins adds, “Americans need at least 20 grams of fiber per day but actually consume just 15 grams. Men and teens need 30 to 35 grams per day or more, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.”
In short, fiber slows the digestion process and makes you feel satisfied longer, thus aiding in weight management. Fiber also helps to balance and lower blood sugar. In addition to high fiber, figs also contain high levels of carotenoids which act as antioxidants within the body to protect against cellular damage associated with aging. A great way to obtain carotenoids is through naturally orange, yellow, and red pigmented food sources such as figs.
Additionally, figs provide a good source of potassium—another important factor in maintaining heart health. As Zaira Ahmad, a registered dietitian, points out, “Because the typical American diet tends to be high in sodium due to processed foods and overeating, the sodium-potassium balance that regulates heartbeats can be thrown off, so figs as well as other fruits and vegetables can be a good source of potassium in the diet. A high-fiber diet is one of the best ways to improve cholesterol levels, and as a result aids in countering heart-related diseases.”
Since fresh figs are naturally sweet, they provide a nutritious and yet tasty alternative to high-calorie desserts. Registered nutritionist Sarene Alsharif reminds us, “Dried, fresh, or cooked figs are healthy fruits rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamins, and antioxidants. Figs pack more nutrients than most fruits. Enjoying a couple of dried figs for dessert promotes a healthy body and weight loss when higher-calorie desserts are eliminated.” Indeed, figs contain natural fructose and glucose. These natural sugars are an excellent healthy alternative to added sugars. The sugar in figs can also help to stimulate the body with a burst of energy and help the brain to think faster and recall information more quickly.
When my son, Amro, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased because the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged and weakened, the diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks. I was shocked and fell into despair. As the doctors confirmed a grim prognosis, I turned to the only source I knew would not lead me astray: my faith in God and the Quran. For it is God who says, “Indeed, this Quran guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers and who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward” (17:9). For this reason, my despair was short-lived.
By the grace of God, Amro’s heart began to improve and he was discharged from the hospital in under a month. In addition to the medical advice, prescription drugs, and instructions, I decided to include in his diet foods specifically mentioned in the Quran, such as honey, dates, and figs. A year since his diagnosis with severe heart failure, I am happy to say that his heart function has returned to normal, albeit he is still in need of daily medication and is closely monitored.
Although Amro’s improvement is not indicative of most patients who are diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, I do believe that his recovery is due in large part to the inclusion of the blessed foods mentioned in the Quran. God reminds us, “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy” (2:168).
Although not as popular or predominant in today’s marketplace as apples or bananas, figs are one of only a few foods mentioned directly in the Quran. Despite the few forbidden foods in the Quran, there are innumerable permissible foods from all categories for us to gain benefit from and enjoy.
Asma Jarad is a freelance writer from the Chicagoland area. Asma has a bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies from the University of Illinois, and a master of arts degree in English from National University.