Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and recognised by Muslims across the world as the month of fasting, and it is upon us.
The Islamic calendar is lunar and this means that Muslims won’t know when Ramadan officially begins until the new moon is sighted.
To determine the beginning of Ramadan, the UAE’s moon-sighting committee search for the new moon and if a new crescent moon is seen, Ramadan is declared to begin the following day.
On Tuesday evening a new moon was not seen and Ramadan was declared on Thursday by default.
Historically, Oman’s religious authority call Ramadan independently of the rest of the Gulf. The UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia tend to start fasting on the same day.
When will Ramadan begin in the UK?
The first day of fasting has been officially announced as Thursday in the UK — however Muslim days begin at sunset and so, Ramadan will technically start on the evening of Wednesday May 16.
It will finish after 30 days, with Eid al-Fitr — the festival that marks the end of Ramadan — likely falling on Friday June 15.
What is Ramadan?
The annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
The month lasts 29-30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.
The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, which means scorching heat or dryness.
All adult Muslims are expected to fast except those who are ill, travelling, elderly, pregnant or physically unable to otherwise.
Fasting throughout the month of Ramadan was made obligatory during the month of Sha’ban, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina.
Muslims avoid eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations while fasting from dawn until sunset.
They are also expected to refrain from sinful behaviour such as cursing, lying and fighting.
Muslims do not starve during the course of Ramadan, however, and typically eat a pre-fast meal called the suhur every day before dawn.
After stopping a short time before dawn, Muslims begin the first prayer of the day, Fajr.
By sunset, families eat a fast-breaking meal known as ifthar, with dates usually the first food to break the fast. Muhammad is believed to have broken the fast with three dates.
They will then adjourn for the Maghrib prayer, the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served.
In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran and do good deeds for charity.