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.
On the day I got up as usual, it was still dark, and made breakfast. I prayed the Lord's Prayer - 'give us this day our daily bread!' and asked for strength in fasting as a spiritual exercise. I finished breakfast around 06.30 (discovering later that the fast should began at 05.30, no imam for guidance though I could have researched it better - this was several years ago).
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.