Tomorrow marks the beginning of Ramadan. Dutch people know it's a holy month for Muslims, and that they fast during this period. But how, for example, do Muslims cope with fasting in northern Europe when the sun shines almost all day? And why is Ramadan a holy period?

How do people cope with Ramadan in northern Europe?

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims because it is when the Prophet Mohammed received the Quran from Allah. So, if you are a Muslim who wants to observe Ramadan, and you live in the far north of Europe and it's a time of year when the sun shines almost all day, how do you do that? Well, some people choose to follow the hours of sunrise and sunset in Saudi Arabia. Others opt for those times in another country that's not quite so far north.

Are all Muslims obliged to observe Ramadan?

No, there are exceptions. If you are ill, traveling in a distant country, or having your period, then you don't have to fast. The same goes for pregnant women. But, did you know that you have to make up for the days you miss? If you have a lengthy illness, you may also compensate for the days you couldn't fast during Ramadan by giving money to the poor.

Observing Ramadan can be tough, and you feel really hungry. You can't help but think about other people who are worse off than you, and who are hungry. It makes you feel humble, and you appreciate the things you have much more.

But Ramadan isn't just about food and drink, it's really about controlling your desires. For example, you aren't allowed to engage in sexually activity while you are fasting during daylight hours.

Are there any Muslims who don't fast?

You might expect that all Muslims take part in Ramadan, but that isn't the case. There are some Muslims who choose not to fast because, for example, they find it too difficult.