Bottle Gourd: Religious and Scientific Review

Maulana Maudoodi has written that Yaqtin in Arabic means a climber like Gourd and that such a climber was provided to Prophet Yunus so that he could eat its fruit and could protect himself from the scorching sun by its shade.

By Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi (Dr. Mohammed Iqtedar Hussain Farooqi)

Quranic Name:  Yaqtin

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Common Names: Yaqtin, Dabba, Qarat (Arab.), Calebasse, Gourde (Fr.), Cucurbita (Lat.), Kadu (Pers.), Flaschen-kurbis  (Ger.), Lauki (Hindi, Urdu), Alabu, Tumbi (Sans.), Dudhi (Guj.), Bhopla (Mar.), Lau (Beng.), Surekai (Tam.), Aanpakai (Mal., Tel.), Aal  (Kash.), Sukabaji (Turk.), Kundur (Indon) Hu lu gua (Chin.)  Kalabas (Danish) Yuugao (Jap) Labu Putih (Indon, Malay) Cabaco (Port) Kalebass (Sw).

Botanical Name: Lagenaria siceraria Standl. (Syn. L. vulgaris Seringe) (Family: Cucurbitaceae)

Quranic Reference :

  1. SURAH XXXVII (As-Saffat-Those Ranged in Ranks). V:139-146

So also was Jonah among those sent (by Us) when he ran away (like a slave from captivity) to the ship (fully) laden, (140) he (agreed to) cast lots, and he was condemned: Then the big Fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame.

Had it not been that he (repented and) glorified God, (143) he would certainly have remained inside the Fish till the Day of Resurrection. (144) But We cast him forth on the naked shore in a state of sickness, (145) and We caused to grow, over him, a spreading plant of the Gourd kind.

In the above Verse, the story of Prophet Yunus (Jonah) is told. He was advised by God to go to Nineveh, the Capital city of Assyria and ask people there to shun violence and acts of sin otherwise they might have to face the wrath of God. Prophet Yunus accordingly went there and warned the people of the God’s wrath.

His warning was unheeded by them, so he felt frustrated and escaped from the place by boarding a ship. He faced a big storm in the sea and the sailors threw Prophet Yunus out of the ship as they considered him an unnecessary burden. He was swallowed by a big Fish (Whale) and then was cast out ashore where he was provided the shelter of a plant, called Yaqtin. He regained strength and again went to Nineveh where he succeeded in his mission.

According to Maulana Majid some scholars think that the above incident of Prophet Yunus took place in the Mediterranean Sea but others say that this happened somewhere near Mosul.

Maulana Maudoodi has written that Yaqtin in Arabic means a climber like Gourd and that such a climber was provided to Prophet Yunus so that he could eat its fruit and could protect himself from the scorching sun by its shade.

Mr. N.J. Dawood and Mr. Pickthall translated Yaqtin as Gourd. Allama Yusuf Ali has given its translation as ”spreading plant of Gourd kind.” Maulana Thanvi has written Bel (climbers) as the meanings of Yaqtin while Maulana Fateh Mohammad Jalandhari has stated its meaning to be Kaddu (Urdu) which is the equivalent of Gourd.

Kaddu is a Persian word which actually means Bottle Gourd, the botanical name of which is Lagenaria siceraria. The other common Gourd is Cucurbita pepo. Both belong to Cucurbitaceae but L. siceraria i.e. Bottle Gourd has been in cultivation in Arabia since ancient times whereas C. pepo, a native to America, was introduced there much later. Thus, in all probability the Gourd with respect to the story of Prophet Yunus must have been Lagenaria siceraria and not Cucurbita pepo.

The story of Prophet Yunus (Jonah) has also been told in Bible by saying that Kikayan was provided as a source of shade. Kikayan has been identified by some researchers as Castor Tree (Ricinus communis) which is also known as Palma Christi. This plant, a source of Castor oil from the seeds, is generally a shrub with big leaves in Arabia but in India it attains an appreciable height.

In the Quranic description the word ”Shajarat Min Yaqtin” is used which definitely means a climber. Thus, the Qur’an gives emphasis on the presence of a climber and, therefore at the most one can say that the climber was provided on a tree for the purpose of shade.

Gourd is a very useful vegetable. It contains pectin, Vit., B, Vit. C, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Potassium and Iodine. Gourd is diuretic and is useful as a remedy for gout. The oil from its seed is a good medicine to relieve headache. Bottle gourd is also known as bottle squash and calabash gourd. Its delicate nutty flavor adds greatly to hot curries as well as cooling yogurt dishes like Raita.  It can be used like squash but it has a firmer, crisper texture.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a liking for Gourd as a useful vegetable. There are several Ahadith (Traditions) of Tirmizi, Al-Bukhari (25) etc. regarding Gourd.

Chemical Composition: Moisture 96.1%; Calcium 20 mg; Protein0.2%; Phosphorus10 mg; Fat0.1%;Iron0.7mg; Minerals0.5%; Fibre0.6%; Thiamine, Niacin, Riboflavin, Ascorbic acids, Carbohydrates 2.5%, Calorific Value 12.

Medicinal Value: Cooling, diuretic, sedative and anti­bilious, urinary disorders.  It gives a feeling of relaxation after eating it. It helps in constipation. Juice with lime is useful for treatment of burning sensation in urinary passage due to high acidity of urine. It serves as an alkaline mixture.

The juice with a pinch of salt useful for excessive thirst due to severe diarrhea and diabetes and excessive use of fatty or fried foods. Juice also useful for insanity, epilepsy, nervous diseases. Stomach acidity, indigestion and ulcers.

Bottle gourd is not only rich in essential minerals, iron, protein and trace elements; it is also rich in fiber. Fiber is known to be missing in the modern diet, the absence of which is the cause of not only constipation but other digestive disorders like flatulence and even piles. Hence diet using different preparations made from this vegetable are useful. (Courtesy: Ayurveda For You).        

Mixture of bottle gourd juice and sesame oil acts as an effective medicine for insomnia. It should be massaged over scalp every night.

Important Traditions (Ahadith) on Gourd :

1. The Prophet said ‘Let them eat Gourd (Tradition, Qar’a) for it stimulates the intellect and the brain.

2. The Prophet used to advise Ayesha to add more Gourd to the curry as it stimulate (strengthen) the heart (Aljozia).

3. Anas bin Malik narrated: Prophet Mohammad (SAAS) used to eat Gourd very frequently (Aljozia)

4. Abu Tabut (R) narrated. The Prophet liked Gourd (Aljozia)

5. Narrated Anas: I saw the Prophet being served with soup and containing gourd and cured meat, and I saw him picking and eating the pieces of gourd. (Bukhari)

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