Most of world’s 1.2 billion Muslims, including Muslims in Australia, have marked the beginning of Ramadan on Monday

Muslims in Australia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey would begin fasting on Monday, as will Muslims in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories as the Ramadan moon has been sighted in these countries.

Millions of Muslims around the world are marking the start of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday a time marked by fasting from dawn-to-dusk, prayers and good deeds .

Ramadan in Pakistan, Iran and other Muslim countries will begin on Tuesday.

Significance of Ramadan

Each day for the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset to focus on spirituality, good deeds and charity.

As prescribed in the Quran, the daily fast starts before sunrise and ends at sunset.

Those who cannot abandon eating and drinking, because of old age, illness or other reasons, are exempted from fasting, but they still may partake in the blessings of this month.

Ramadan is more than abstinence from food and drink during the hours of daylight. It is a time for contemplation, devotion and remembrance of God, especially through the reading or recitation of the Quran.

One of the most significant hallmarks of Ramadan is the Night of Destiny or Value called Lailat al Qadr. The Quran says that on this special night, angels descend from heaven bringing peace and divine presence into the world. It is not specified exactly which night of the month of Ramadan may be the Night of Destiny, therefore people pray all night in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan.

How does fasting impact on health?

Fasting is generally associated with the month of Ramadan. But in recent years, numerous studies have suggested that intermittent fasting – abstaining or reducing food and drink intake periodically – can be beneficial for us.

One of the most well-known intermittent fasting diets is the 5:2 Fast Diet – a plan that involves eating the recommended calorie intake for 5 days a week but reducing calorie intake to 25% for the remaining 2 days – to 500 calories a day for women and 600 a day for men.

According to Dr. Michael Mosley – author of The Fast Diet books – this eating plan can not only help people lose weight, but it offers an array of other health benefits. “Studies of intermittent fasting show that not only do people see improvements in blood pressure and their cholesterol levels, but also in their insulin sensitivity,” he adds.