Ramadan is seen by Muslims as a time for self-restraint, self-reflection and prayer.
Each day during the holy month, they do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.
Fasting is seen by them as a way to cleanse the soul. It is also seen as a way to develop empathy for those who are hungry and less fortunate.
They are also supposed to avoid impure thoughts and bad behaviour.
The end of Ramadan is marked by a celebration known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Eid ul-Fitri, which falls on June 15 in Singapore this year.
Sometimes, the faithful have had to face tough conditions during Ramadan.
They could be very long fasting hours, and the tough physical demands of their professions.
They embrace the challenges as part of the journey, but read on for the sometimes surprising decisions they have had to make.
The most common emergency calls received as Ramadan began in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, involved car accidents, and patients with blood-pressure conditions and diabetes, reported Gulf News.
Number of emergency calls that the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS) responded to in the first five days of Ramadan, a rate higher than the usual during normal days.
Between 2pm and 2am
The time period when the number of emergency calls peak in the first few days of Ramadan. On normal days, the peak is between 11am and 11pm.
“During the early days of Ramadan, there is always an increase in the number of emergency calls due to the rise in the number of car accidents, especially before iftar time. Also, many patients with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and blood pressure tend to face health complications during Ramadan.” - Head of emergency department at Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services Ahmad Abdul Hakeem.
The demand for National Ambulance services increased in northern United Arab Emirates during Ramadan, reported The National. Car accident rates in 2016 rose before and after iftar, the evening meal with which Muslims ended their fast at sunset.
33 per cent
Increase in the number of car accidents between 6pm and 7pm during Ramadan, compared with the same time during other months.
41 per cent
Increase in the number of car accidents between 9pm and midnight during Ramadan, compared with the same time during other months.
Director of operations Michael Ghani at Burjeel Day Surgery Centre in Abu Dhabi said steps were taken to ensure services were available to patients when they’re needed.
“Most of the time, patients are fasting during the day, so they so not want to see their doctor,” he said. “We’ve decided to make our specialists available from 8.30pm to 11.30pm. Normally, we are working from 9am until 10pm, but it is usually very quiet during the daytime.”
“We advise these types of patients to be extra careful and avoid driving before iftar because this is the time their bodies can experience a drop in levels and their concentration can be reduced. They should also ensure they are following up with their doctors, so no health complications arise before, during and after the fast.” - DCAS paramedics supervisor Mohammad Amer, on patients with blood-pressure conditions or diabetes.
Being healthy means carefully choosing what food you eat even when faced with a delicious spread.
At Singapore’s annual Hari Raya Bazaar at Singapore’s Geylang Serai, there is a wide array of food on offer - from rolled ice cream in waffle cones in colourful hues to hearty items like black pepper beef ribs and tulang or lamb shank served in a bucket.
Dr Zeeshan Khan at Dubai’s Medeor 24x7 Hospital advised against the consumption of fried foods that can cause increased cholesterol levels, and to opt for healthy cooking methods instead, such as baking, grilling, boiling and roasting.
“You must try to include foods packed with proteins in every Ramadan meal, such as meat, legumes, dairy products and eggs, which will also help to increase your satiety level and avoid overeating,” he said.
STAYING FIT AND FAST
He’s fast on his feet, and he fasts for his faith.
In 2012, British runner Mo Farah, who’s Muslim, decided to fast after Ramadan as it occurred during the Olympic Games. He then won two gold medals.
The other three Muslim athletes from Britain (discus thrower Abdul Buhari, rower Moe Sbihi and fencer Husayn Rosowsky) had decided not to fast during Ramadan that year too, so as not to jeopardise their Olympic performance.
They said they would make up for it by fasting later in the year or, like rower Sbihi, provide many meals for the poor.
Muslims are allowed to defer their fasting for a few reasons, such as being ill or travelling.
“It was a really difficult decision because I've fasted all my life for Ramadan - it’s incredibly important to me. But if I fast, it will be impossible to stay in peak condition and perform at my highest level in the Games. I believe God is forgiving, and I'll make up for every single day I’ve missed.” - Discus thrower Abdul Buhari, on the Olympic Games told The Guardian.
In 2009, the International Olympic Committee’s nutrition working group investigated the impact of fasting on sports performance. A team of scientists, led by professor of sport and exercise nutrition Ron Maughan of Loughborough University, analysed more than 400 articles on Ramadan and sports, and published its findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The report concluded: “Fasting of short duration or intermittent nature has little or no effect on the health or performance of most athletes… Ramadan observance has only limited adverse consequences for either training or competitive performance.”
For those who are not top athletes, Dubai fitness trainer Chrana Iwantha recommended going slow.
“It is better to focus on light cardio exercises, and not put yourself through very high intensity training during this time,” he said, suggesting brisk walks and yoga during Ramadan.
STAYING STRONG IN SPIRIT
Muslims in some countries, like Greenland, face extremely long fasts.
Length of fasting time
(of the first day of Ramadan, according to Gulf News)
Nearly 12 hours
Watch this BBC video for how Muslims in Iceland coped with one of the longest Ramadan fasts in the world, due to the long days caused by early sunrises and late sunsets.
One of them even said of the daily 22-hour fasts: “It’s very easy.”
It was all thanks to his faith.