Islamic group's health advice over Ramadan fasting

Breaking the fast Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Breaking the fast at the end of Ramadan in 2013

One of the UK's leading Islamic groups says it is concerned that Muslims who fast during the month of Ramadan despite being ill are putting their health at risk.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has issued a leaflet with advice on how to fast safely in the current hot weather.

The date of Ramadan this year means UK Muslims will have to abstain from food and water for up to 19 hours a day.

Muslims who are unwell, pregnant or travelling are all exempt from fasting.

Imam Ibrahim Mogra from the MCB said: "I would be very concerned about an individual who despite the dangers to their health would insist on fasting.

"It would be wrong and un-Islamic, fasting is a gift from God and not a punishment."

Those unable to fast often instead donate money to charities or provide food to the poor.

'I enjoy the struggle'

Ahbid Choudry, 34, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was 13, a condition which left him unable to walk and with a weakened immune system.

Image copyright Asian network
Image caption Ahbid Choudry has been advised not to fast during Ramadan because he has muscular dystrophy - but still does

Despite his illness, he decided to fast with the rest of his friends.

"Doctors have told me not to but they're the same doctors who told me I wouldn't be here at 22, so their opinion doesn't mean anything to me.

"Fasting's supposed to be a struggle and I enjoy the struggle," he said.

Ahbid's family has expressed concern about his wellbeing, deliberately choosing not to wake him for the customary pre-dawn meal known as Suhoor in the hope he will stop fasting. However, the sales adviser remains adamant he will continue to observe Ramadan.

"I believe it gives me wisdom, I believe it gives me strength and I believe that if I was able to do it for more than just one month, I would."

Safe fasting

The UK has a population of 2.7 million Muslims, of whom an estimated 325,000 have diabetes.

They are at higher risk of hypoglycaemia and dehydration during long fasts.

With more than two weeks of the Islamic holy month still remaining, doctors are urging those who are ill and want to fast to seek medical guidance first.

Shamim Iqbal, a GP from Rochdale, said it was important people who are unwell or on medication realise that doctors are there to support them.

She said: "It very much depends on the individual's illness. There are adjustments that can be made and so if you see your GP they can work around it.

"Patches and slow-release medication can be used, where you only need to take it every 12 hours or even every 24 hours."

She added that it was important that those who decide to fast despite being ill shouldn't be afraid of being judged by health professionals.

"They've come to a decision based on their beliefs. We as doctors have to make the best of that situation to make sure it's as safe as it can be for them to fast, even if personally we don't agree with it."

You can hear more on this story on the BBC Asian Network on Thursday 10 July at 17:00 BST or listen back on BBC iPlayer.

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