THE start of Ramadan, the 30-day fasting by Muslims, is determined by the first confirmed sighting of the new moon which is due on May 15 and will end on June 14.
Practicing Muslims are not allowed to eat between sunrise and sunset to help teach “self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity”.
It is usual to have one meal, the “suhoor”, just before sunrise and another known as the “iftar” directly after sunset.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam — a verse in the Quran prescribes it for all mature and healthy Muslim to fast as an act of worship, a chance to get closer to Allah and a way to become more compassionate to those in need.
Young children, the sick, people with mental health illnesses, travellers, the elderly and women who are menstruating, pregnant, breast-feeding or have recently given birth do not have to fast.
The British National Health System has published a variety of tips for staying healthy during the fasting period.
It suggests eating at least two meals a day — the suhoor and iftar — and packing them with complex carbohydrates such as wheat, oats, lentils and basmati rice that release energy slowly.
High-fat and high-sugar foods are not recommended and fasters should instead eat baked samoosas, boiled dumplings, grilled meat and milk-based puddings.
Ramadan marks the month when Allah revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad and on the 27th day of Ramadan, Muslims mark Lailat-al Qadr — the “Night of Power”.
This is Islam’s holiest night and commemorates the day the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
It involves spending the night praying, studying and reciting the holy text. However, the exact day of Lailat-al-Qadr falls was never actually specified by the Prophet Muhammad and some Muslims choose to commemorate the last ten days of Ramadan as if they were Lailat-al-Qadr.
To mark the end of fasting, Muslims celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr festival, beginning with early morning prayers and then a day of feasting with friends and family.
Many Muslims don their best clothes to celebrate eating their first daylight meal in a month and give thanks to Allah for giving them strength and self-control.
They also exchange gifts and decorate their homes for the celebrations. Ramadan is based on a lunar calendar, which is determined by the position of the moon in the sky.
This means each year the fasting begins around 11 days earlier than the previous year.
Next year, it begins on May 5, then it moves to April in 2020.
By 2023, it will have hit March and by 2026, Ramadan will be in February.
In many Muslim countries, visitors are expected to abide by the restrictions of Ramadan, at least in public, meaning no eating, drinking, chewing gum or smoking during the day.