I like to think of it as a detox for the soul. Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic lunar calendar, and to fast during Ramadan is the fourth pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It's a month that's celebrated and venerated by Muslims worldwide.
Historically, Ramadan is the month where the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet (Peace and Blessings be Upon him). It is a time of spiritual reflection for all Muslims, it's about self discipline, restraint and empathy. Fasting is merely a physical form of restraint; Muslims are also encouraged to guard their speech, actions and thoughts from engaging in 'despicable acts'.
Fasting also allows us as Muslims to understand the plights of those less fortunate than ourselves and become more appreciative of the blessings we have. It's an opportunity to focus on our actions and spirituality, almost like a 'refresh' for your beliefs.
The month brings people together, across cultural, political and ethnic divides. We are encouraged to forgive and seek forgiveness of others and in doing so build bonds that will continue when the fasting ends. Even the 'Iftar' (breaking of the fast at sunset) provides a platform for sharing and a peaceful tranquillity.
Over the 28 or 29 days, good deeds are rewarded many times over, and the gates of Paradise are open, while the gates of Hell are closed. What better time to reorganise your spiritual affairs?
This Ramadan, I find myself out in the field, working as an oil and gas engineer in regional Australia, with no-one on the rig quite understanding the ritual. It feels strange, not having iftar with the family and heading to the mosque to pray 'Taraweeh', the additional nightly prayers that one can take part in during Ramadan.
It is however, an opportunity to be more mindful about my fast, reflect and pray, away from the distractions of everyday life.
I do small things in my own way to make the month special; buying dates to break my fast with as is tradition, playing Quraan in my room when I'm off-shift, waking up early to lay out the praying mat my mother bought me and pray before the light turns. It isn't the same of course, as being with my family and the community; the shared experience of fasting is absent and the men on the rig generally find it 'crazy'.
"Why would you do that?" they tend to ask, when I explain the reasons I am not having lunch or rehydrating. "It sounds crazy. I'd never do that. Doesn't sound very good for you either."
One or two, will ask for more details. "So what is the point of it?", after which I explain the importance of being grateful, of self-discipline. Some do understand, particularly those who have their own religious identity and it is nice to be able to share the tranquillity that fasting brings.
We are lucky in Australia though, because at the moment the days are short. I imagine it will be quite different on the rigs when Ramadan moves to the summer months.
Perhaps night shift might be the best option!