MUSLIMS across Hampshire are preparing for the start of the their holy month of Ramadan tomorrow.

Worshippers will gather at mosques across the county for special prayers throughout the festival and to provide charity for those who are in need.

One of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, Ramadan starts with the sighting of the new moon, which this year is due tomorrow. The 30-day fast is expected to finish on Tuesday, July 29.

Participants decline food or water during daylight hours for the entire period before breaking the fast at sunset with an evening meal called an Iftar.

Mohammad Khanjee, secretary of Southampton’s largest mosque, the Abu Bakr Masjid in Argyle Road, said: “Ramadan is the time to give. You don’t just go hungry. You feel how others feel. You feel poverty. That’s the time when you are most passionate about giving to others.”

During Ramadan people of different faiths are also allowed to enter mosques during Iftars where they provide food for the homeless.

Rashid Brora, president of the Medina Mosque in St Mary’s said: “It’s tough, but that’s what it is about – being able to control yourself and being able to behave well and courteously to everyone.

“It’s not about the fast, it’s about being nice and fair to everyone.

“This is a very, very important festival. It is the one time of the year when everybody fasts together.

“You will find people who will change their lives in the way they behave during this month, they will be kinder to people or they will visit mosques more often. It is quite a dramatic change.

“It is a time when people give money to charity. Muslims give a lot of their annual incomes away at this time of year.”

The only people who are exempt from taking part in Ramadan are those who are ill or the vulnerable or those travelling great distances.

Ramadan ends with the Eid-al-Fitr – the breaking of the fast festival – with special prayers, processions and feasting.