THE moon has a vital role to play in the holy month – which won’t begin until a new crescent is sighted.
This means millions of Muslims will be keeping an eye out on the all-important lunar change. Here’s the low-down.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is celebrated by Muslims worldwide.
Muslims observe Ramadan by a month of fasting and religious devotion, which commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief.
Fasting is obligatory for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, travelling, are elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, chronically ill or menstruating.
Muslims also read as much of the Koran as they can during the holy month, and are encouraged to observe five prayers every day.
Often, people will donate large sums of money to charity during Ramadan and help feed the hungry.
And married couples refrain from sexual intercourse during the day.
What role does the moon have?
Muslims follow a lunar calendar, so the date of the holy month is based on moon-sighting methodology.
Muslims anticipate the end of Shaaban, the month preceding Ramadan, by watching for the absence or presence of the crescent moon, which respectively indicate the continuation of Shaban or beginning of Ramadan.
Ramadan is announced only when the crescent moon is sighted in Saudi Arabia, where Islam is the state religion.
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In 2018, the holy month started a day later than scheduled as bad weather in Saudi Arabia made it difficult to see the moon.
Ramadan shifts every year because of this lunar calendar, which makes the Islam calendar 11 days shorter than the Gregorian one.
As the calendar is based on lunar cycles, the date of Ramadan is subject to confirmation by a moon sighting close to that time.
In 2019, the holy month is due to start on Sunday, May 5 – but this is subject to lunar sightings.
Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with the important festival Eid, which at the moment is due to conclude on Tuesday, June 4.
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