The first day of fasting for the holy month of Ramadan is likely to be Saturday, April 2.
To establish the beginning of Ramadan, which is determined by the sighting of the new moon, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries rely on the testimonies of moon sighters.
This year will see the return of pilgrims in full numbers for the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina after two years of COVID-19 restrictions, as Saudi Arabia lifted most restrictions just ahead of Ramadan.
Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are all expected to follow Saudi Arabia’s sighting of the new moon.
Other countries have independent sightings, but Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco and Syria are also likely to begin fasting starting Saturday, while countries further east and west will commence as the moon is sighted.
When can we see the new moon?
According to Crescent Moon Watch, a moon tracker run by the United Kingdom’s Nautical Almanac Office, Ramadan’s new moon will arrive on April 1 at 06:24 GMT. On that day, the moon might be visible in parts of North, Central, and South America. On April 2, the moon will be easily visible in most parts of the world.
The actual visibility of the crescent will depend on factors such as atmospheric conditions, cloudiness and the distance between the sun and the moon on the horizon.
The moon phases of Ramadan
Lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the new moon on the 29th night of each month. If the new moon is not visible, the month lasts 30 days.
Why is Ramadan holy?
Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month in which the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago.
Throughout the month, observing Muslims fast from just before the sunrise, or Fajr, prayer to the sunset prayer, Maghrib.
The fast entails abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual relations to achieve greater “taqwa”, or consciousness of God.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca if physically and financially capable.
In many Muslim-majority countries, working hours are reduced, and many restaurants are closed during fasting hours.
Languages from various Muslim majority nations have a personalised greeting in their native languages. “Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” are common greetings exchanged in this period, wishing the recipient a blessed and generous month respectively.
Last year, fasting across the world ranged from 10 to 20 hours a day.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr. In Arabic, it means “festival of breaking the fast”.
Depending on the new moon sighting, Eid al-Fitr this year is likely to fall on May 2.