Ready... set... Ramadan!
Once more, the holy month of Ramadan is fast approaching.
The time is coming for Muslims to fast from dawn to dusk for a whole month.
The month of Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. It was in this month that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was appointed to be the final prophet and messenger of Almighty God, and it is the month in which the first revelation of the Quran took place.
This is a time of great blessings and rewards, cherished by Muslims around the globe.
Almighty God commanded in the Qur'an that all those who are healthy and able should fast, and those who cannot, for example due to illness or travelling, are exempt until they regain the ability to fast.
"Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear signs for guidance and measure. So every one of you who is present during this month should fast." (Qur'an - 2:185) Fasting is not a new phenomenon, it has been practised by believers throughout the ages.
All prophets had to spend time in fasting and seclusion before receiving guidance from Almighty God and were asked to encourage their followers to practise fasting also.
This year, Ramadan falls in June and July and coincides with some of the longest days (18 hours) of the calendar in the UK, and whilst British summer may be unpredictable, there are likely to be at least a few hot days.
There are several recommendations on how to approach the challenge of fasting in Ramadan effectively.
People are recommended to practise fasting for few days before the arrival of the holy month, in the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
This will aid in establishing an effective schedule for eating and sleep. Drinking often throughout the night is also recommended in order to stay hydrated.
Eating foods that are high in water content, such as fruit, is also a good idea.
Children before the age of puberty are exempt from fasting and should not be forced to fast a full day.
Many children, however, love to be part of the spirit of Ramadan and may try fasting from breakfast to lunch to feel involved.
As well as fasting, Muslims are encouraged to spend this month in different acts of worship and spiritual purification, so that they leave the month refreshed and with their faith strengthened in preparation for the coming year.
These acts include prayer and reading the Qur'an. Muslims believe there is no greater blessing for mankind than the Qur'an, a book filled with guidance, mercy and reassurance. Thus Muslims are encouraged to spend much of their time in this month in contemplation of Allahs words.
This month offers great physical benefits also. Fasting allows the body to focus on the many other functions it has beside digestion, and has been proven to improve overall physical wellbeing.
Social wellbeing and care for the community are also promoted in Ramadan.
Muslims are encouraged to look to the needy, and the giving of charity and the feeding of others is of great importance.
We are also encouraged to share the blessings of this month with those around us. We invite people of all faiths to join in the blessings of this month, by participating in acts of fasting, charity and promoting community bonds.