Muslims in Tower Hamlets began fasting on Monday for the holy month of Ramadan.
This borough has the second largest Muslim population in London with 124,400 people. Only Newham has more with 148,800, according to London Datastore.
This spiritual event is an opportunity for 1.8 billion muslims across the world to dedicate their time to growing closer to their God, Allah.
They achieve this by performing prayers, stopping bad habits and giving to charity to earn religious rewards from God.
Muslims also fast during this month as it is one of the five pillars of Islam. Other pillars are praying, giving to charity, performing pilgrimage and a confession of faith.
Muslims also consider this their holiest month, as they believe that the Quran, their religious book, was revealed during Ramadan.
ELL approached residents at East London Mosque to find out why they fast.
Bilal Hafiz, a Metropolitan University accounting and finance student, said: “It helps me to get closer to God in a month which is regarded as a blessed month. Not being able to eat allows me to feel how others in the world go through and it humbles me.
“It’s a sense of achievement when going through the whole day without eating. It’s also very good for your health as athletes fast as well”.
Hamza Patel, a City University law student, told ELL:
“Fasting helps me cleanse myself of my bad habits. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy, but that’s the point of fasting and that’s what makes it so pure. It gives you a chance to rid yourself of toxic traits that we struggle to deal with”.
They prepare for their fasts by waking up for a pre-dawn meal, known as suhoor. They then break their fast with a late evening meal, known as iftar.
Different cultures have their own customs during this month such as the type of food they cook. Traditions involve inviting friends and family for iftar time, sharing food with neighbours and praying Taraweeh.
This is an additional night prayer Muslims perform, along with their five daily supplications.
Bashir Patel, trustee of the Ilford Muslim Society, told EastLondonLines “This prayer is only performed during Ramadan after the last holy prayer. It’s done in pairs of two, four times. Our prophet did it, so it’s encouraged that we do it too, but it’s not obligatory”.
For many Muslims that worship following Saudi Arabia’s prayer time, their fasts began yesterday on Monday and ends 3 June.
Ramadan lasts about 29-30 days but as it is based on the lunar cycle, the start and end date of Ramadan depends on the new month’s moon sighting.
If the moon is not visible on the day 29, then the fasting period lasts a full 30 days.
Muslims then celebrate Eid al-Fitr, signifying the end of their religious month.
Mayor John Biggs is encouraging residents of Tower Hamlets to take care of their health during Ramadan. He said: “It’s important to maintain a balanced diet during Ramadan by including a variety of healthy foods in meals, avoiding too many sweets or deep fried snacks and to drink plenty of water prior to fasting.
“I wish everyone observing Ramadan peace, harmony and success. Ramadan Mubarak.”
Mile End Leisure Centre have temporarily extended their opening hours to the early hours, to accommodate to Muslim residents, from 7 May- 4 June.
During this month, many religious events are held by local mosques and charities to teach people about Islam or raise money for the poor.
Future events include ‘The Perfect Union’, before you say “I do” in Islam.
This will be held on May 25-26 at 1:30pm, London Muslim Centre, 46 Whitechapel Road.
Whitechapel will also have kiosks open to the public to raise money for charity.
Asif Uddin, Administrator at Human Aid, told ELL: “there will be a bazaar, so lots of charity stalls behind East London Mosques this month, where proceeds will go to our charity”.
Human Aid is a partnership based, international humanitarian charity, in Whitechapel. They have work in regions such as the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and the UK.