The Supreme Court in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Sunday called on Muslims to sight the crescent of the holy month of Ramadan on Tuesday evening, March 21, the 29th of Sha’ban.
The sighting of the crescent marks the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims are expected to start fasting from dawn to dusk. In a statement issued on March 19, the Supreme Court called on whoever sights the crescent – either by the naked eye or through binoculars – to report to the nearest court and register their observation.
Alternatively, they can report to the authority of the region’s centre in their area where they sighted the crescent. The Supreme Court hopes that whoever has the ability to and has an interest in this matter join the committees formed in the regions for this purpose.
What is Ramadan?
The month of Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Even though the Islamic calendar has 12 months, being a lunar calendar, it is shorter than the Gregorian calendar – nearly 10 days shorter in fact. This is why Ramadan falls at a different time every year according to the Gregorian calendar. This year it is expected to start on Thursday, March 23. The exact start date of Ramadan may vary by a day, depending on the sighting of the moon – the Ramadan crescent.
Fasting during Ramadan
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Healthy Muslims are required to fast during the month from the time they reach puberty. Those who are exempt from the fast are those who are ill, travelling and women during their monthly periods.
Those who miss days of fasting during the month of Ramadan are required to fast after Ramadan to make up the days of fast. If they are unable to fast after Ramadan, they can feed a poor person for each day of fasting. Islamic fasting hours are from dawn to sunset. During these hours, Muslims abstain from food, drink and other physical needs such as sexual relations for the entire month.
Iftar and Suhoor
There are two main meals during the day in Ramadan. The first is called “Suhoor” which is taken right before dawn and the second is called “Iftar” which is the meal taken to ‘break the fast’ at sunset, with the Maghreb call to prayer. It is Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) to break the fast with dates and water.
Families and friends gather frequently for Iftar or for post Iftar get togethers. In many cultures, special dishes are prepared for the holy month.