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When is Ramadan?

Ramadan begins with the first sighting of the new crescent moon at the start of the ninth month in the lunar Islamic calendar. It lasts between 29 and 30 days and ends when the next new moon is seen.


Until the night before it begins, there is always uncertainty about the date of the start of Ramadan. Before astronomy made it possible to calculate the exact start of each new lunar cycle, Mohammad told Muslims to watch for the first sighting of the slim crescent moon in the night sky. And that is exactly what the moon-sighting committee in Saudi Arabia does today; resorting to precise scientific calculations only if a cloudy sky makes it too difficult to see that first thin sliver of moon.

When the date is translated from the lunar calendar to the solar Gregorian calendar, Ramadan begins on a different day each year and can occur in any season.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic year. For Muslims it is a time for studying the Quran and praying, and for being kinder and more generous to others. It’s a time to curb jealous or angry emotions and give up swearing, complaining or gossiping.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars (or duties) of Islam and everyone who is able is expected to take part, fasting each day from dawn until sunset. There is a spiritual and social significance behind fasting. It is a reminder of human frailty and our dependence on God for sustenance; it encourages compassion towards the poor as we too have experienced thirst and hunger; and it removes some of life’s daily distractions enabling us to concentrate on spiritual matters and our relationship with God.

During Ramadan each day begins before dawn with suhoor, a meal full of protein and accompanied by lots of water – this has to last through the whole day until sunset. Then it’s time for the first prayers of the day. During the day, despite having nothing to eat or drink everyone is expected to work, study or get on with day-to-day life as normal.

When the call to evening prayer is made, many people break their fast with a light snack, often water and dates, before going to the mosque or praying at home. The evening meal, iftar, is usually eaten with friends and family.

Once the new moon has been sighted, the month of Ramadan is over and Muslims celebrate with Eid al Fitr (meaning festival of breaking the fast), when families and friends spend time together, praying, feasting and giving presents.

Dates for Ramadan

Why is Ramadan on a different date each year?

For religious matters, Muslims follow the Islamic lunar calendar which is based on the phases of the moon whose twelve months add up to approximately 354 days.

The lunar year is shorter than the solar year and so every year, when the date is translated to the solar Gregorian calendar, Ramadan starts around eleven days earlier than it did the previous year. This means that Ramadan can occur in any season and in some years (such as in the year 2000) it may even occur twice: once at the beginning and once at the end of the year.

When was Ramadan first celebrated?

Muslims believe that in AD610, during the month of Ramadan, the angel Gabriel appeared to Prophet Muhammad and revealed to him the first verses of Islam’s sacred text, the Quran. The night is known as ‘The Night of Power’. Fasting became obligatory in AD624 in the second year after Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina.

Interesting facts about Ramadan

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars (or duties) of Islam. The others are:

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