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What Is a Suhoor?

By Karize Uy
Updated May 16, 2024
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Suhoor generally pertains to a Muslim meal that is eaten before dawn, or before the first light of day appears. It is a traditional part of the Ramadan, a period wherein Muslims usually fast as an act of purifying themselves. The pre-dawn meal is said to not be mandatory, but it is very important, as the meal helps sustain and nourish a Muslim within the fasting period of the day. In other languages, suhoor is also known as sahari, sehur, or sehri.

The literal meaning of the Arabic word “suhoor” is “of the dawn,” most probably in reference to the time of day when the meal should be eaten. In the past, the Muslims considered the daily fasting period to be more than 20 hours, but later analysis and examination of the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, revealed a story involving the prophet Muhammad and two companions, Bilal and Ibn Umm Maktoon. The story recounts how both companions prayed before dawn, with Bilal being the first one, but Ibn Umm Maktoom’s prayer nearer the time of dawn. Muhammad then designated the latter’s prayer as the signal for the fasting to begin.

There are certain rules Muslims usually follow in having the suhoor, one of which is finishing the “breakfast” before the “fajr” or the “dawn” prayer. If a person is still eating, even just one minute after the prayer has started, the act of fasting becomes disqualified. Technically, the sehur can be eaten once midnight is over, but many Muslim authorities advise eating the meal just before the fajr prayer. Muslims are also encouraged to recite a suhoor prayer: “I intend to keep the fast for tomorrow in the month of Ramadan.”

The practice of eating the sehur also implies that a Muslim should also be able to wake up especially early during the month of Ramadan to partake of the pre-dawn meal, as eating and drinking anything is not allowed after dawn. Muslims also believe that a person abstaining from sehur may lose many blessings, as Muhammad was reported to have instructed, “Eat suhoor, for there are blessings in it.” Suhoor is typically served as large, heavy meals, given that it is the only meal Muslims are allowed to eat before sunset. It is advised, however, that the meals be kept simple, as Ramadan is a month-long reminder that Muslims ought to be purified, charitable, and humble. Many Muslims enjoy the suhoor as a family affair, inviting relatives and friends together to make for a large gathering.

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Discussion Comments
By literally45 — On Aug 12, 2012

@fBoyle-- That suhoor meal sounds delicious!

I usually eat some eggs, a cheese sandwich or oatmeal for suhoor. I also have milk and some nuts. I try to have a balanced meal with protein and carbs. I also try to have food that will keep my blood sugar steady.

My mom taught me from a young age not to eat sweets during suhoor because it will make blood sugar to go up and then go down. So by noon, I will be terribly hungry. Oatmeal, milk and eggs are good choices for suhoor for this reason. It keeps you full for a long time and you won't lose energy very quickly.

I also have lots and lots of water during suhoor. I don't have any tea or coffee because that just makes me dehydrated.

By burcinc — On Aug 11, 2012

I'm from Turkey and we actually have suhoor much before fajr prayer, not immediately before. If you can spare the time, it's best to finish eating and drinking at least thirty minutes before fajr. I think the reason is because if it gets too close to fajr and you don't watch the time, you would put your fast at risk.

So if fajr is at five a.m., I need to finish eating at least by four-thirty a.m. I will get up some time between three and three thirty a.m. to eat.

By fBoyle — On Aug 11, 2012

I find the tradition of Ramadan very interesting. I have two Muslim roommates and every year, they fast during the entire month. I'm amazed at how they're able to do it. They say that God gives them strength. Especially on years when Ramadan is during the summer months, it gets much harder. Because the days are longer and the heat makes people dehydrated.

On several occasions, I actually got up and did suhoor with my roommates because I was awake. It was actually fun to be up so early before dawn. We had basic Middle Eastern breakfast food like cheese, hummus, olives, bread and black tea. It felt nice!

I think suhoor is not just an opportunity to eat and prepare for a long day of fasting. But it also brings people together and you sort of start the day together. Although most of the time my roommates end up going to bed for a few more hours before they have to get up for school.

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