Over the next month millions of Muslims across the world will be observing fasts during the month of Ramadhan (the Islamic month of fasting). Fasting is a very important component in Islam; it is one of the five main pillars that make up the values of the religion and is also seen as a practice that is good for the soul.
In this year's month of Ramadan, which is only a few days away, Muslims in the northern hemisphere will have very long days of fasting. In London it is expected to be around 19 hours of voluntary 'starvation' from food, drink and physical intimacy. This annual month-long fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam aimed to create 'God-consciousness' (taqwa in Arabic) amongst believers.
British Muslims are an extremely enterprising community. They contribute over £31billion to the UK economy every year. Over 100,000 British Muslims are civil servants, doctors, lawyers and accountants. In London alone, small businesses run by Muslims employ over 70,000 people... The majority of people view British Muslims as contributing well to our national way of life. Let us build on and strengthen that. While I'm fasting this weekend - when I'm hungry and thirsty - I will be thinking about what I can do to promote a more positive view of British Muslims - I think we should all do the same.
Muslims in the country are 'Britain's top charity givers', giving an average of almost £371 each a year". Prime Minister David Cameron, in his video message to mark the start of Ramadan 2014, said "Here in Britain, Muslims are our biggest donors - they give more to charity than any other faith group."
Real-life Muslims have considerable contradictions in practical, day-to-day life: we have a disproportionately high number of Muslims in the prison population that is worrisome; there is a visible, although tiny, number of violent extremists who have been putting Muslims in the docks through their mindless acts. The Ramadan message needs to reach all Muslims.
During the month we (Muslims) train ourselves, train ourselves to have restraint, train ourselves to have patience and steer clear from basic desires. The desire to eat, the desire to drink, the desire to argue back when under attack, the desire to indulge curbing our enthusiasm for all of these things until the set time and realizing that in actuality we are in no need of most of these desires.
I'm really starting to enjoy fasting. There, I said it. In my first blog post I wrote about how I wasn't quite sure about giving up food and drink this year; due to a combination of questioning my faith and also the impending heat wave but now we are almost a week in I find myself looking at things differently and so far there are three things I have come to realise.
I'm lucky because I'm physically able to fast (touch wood / Masha'Allah) but given the heat wave it really needs to come down to practicality and personal choice. Some relatives of mine said they wouldn't keep fast because in previous heat waves abroad they've fainted. Their attitude makes sense. Why put yourself in danger like that if you've had bad experiences?