Ramadan begins today, with millions of Muslims taking part in the biggest event in the Islamic calendar.
Muslims will be fasting over the next four weeks, as well as praying five times a day and reading the Quran.
The dates of Ramadan change every year, with Islam using a lunar calendar which has shorter months than solar months used elsewhere.
This year it runs from April 23 – May 23, before the day-long Eid-al-Fitr celebrations that start on the last day.
For those who don’t practice Ramadan, there can be some confusion about what the event entails and its rules.
Everyone must fast
Fasting is something adults are expected to do during Ramadan, but not children.
Even then, there are a number of adults who are exempt from fasting including pregnant and breastfeeding women, those on their periods, people travelling and the elderly.
Anyone who can make up the days at a later stage though are expected to do so.
You can’t eat anything during Ramadan
Fasting does not last for the entire month, but instead during the hours of daylight. That does mean though that daily fasts in some years, and in some locations, can be longer, depending on the length of the day.
Between sunset and dawn though, food and drink can be consumed and enjoyed in the usual way.
Every day families and friends break their daily fast after sunset with a meal known as iftar.
Fasting rules are strict, which means that not even water can be consumed during the hours of daylight.
However Muslims can still brush their teeth – Islam considers personal hygiene very important and places an emphasis on physical and spiritual cleanliness.
You cannot eat in front of someone who is fasting
There’s nothing to say that you cannot in front of someone who is fasting.
Generally, this will not bother Muslims, however it is subjective so out of politeness, it’s probably best to ask first.
Only food and drink
Fasting during Ramadan is more than just abstaining from consuming food and drink during the day.
Muslims are also expected to refrain from smoking, fighting, swearing, gossiping and sex.
The idea is that it encourages self-restraint and gives Muslims the ability to focus on their religion, which involves focusing on religious duties and carrying out charitable acts to help cleanse their souls.
Fasting is bad for your health
Muslims have been fasting during Ramadan since the religion was founded, and history has shown that it is safe.
Islam teaches that you shouldn’t do anything that compromises your health, meaning it’s unlikely fasting would still be followed if it was bad for you.