Ramadan 2017: When will the holy month begin?

Ramadan 2017: When will the holy month begin?
Muslims around the world will observe the holy month of Ramadan on 27 or 28 May this year, a time marked by intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting, and nightly feasts.
3 min read
16 May, 2017
Fasting hours around the globe in Ramadan 2017 [The New Arab]

Ramadan - the holiest month in the Islamic calendar – is expected to begin either on Saturday 27 or Sunday 28 May this year, depending on the sighting of the moon.

Muslim lunar months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. If the moon is not visible on the 29th night of each month, fasting will last 30 days.

Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is shorter than the solar year, Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons, coming 10 to 12 days earlier each year.

The birth of a new moon can be calculated astronomically, but the actual visibility of the crescent depends on factors such as atmospheric conditions, level of cloud cover, and the distance between the sun and the moon on the horizon.

Moon-sighting methodology can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart.

After considering the testimonies of local moon sighters in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries, the Judicial High Court makes the final decision on when Ramadan begins.

Others, such as the US and several countries in Europe, decide when the holy month begins based on astronomical predictions.

Muslim communities in Europe and the US will observe Ramadan starting from 27 May this year.


During Ramadan, Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset.

Children, the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and people who are travelling are exempt from the ban.

Last year, fasting hours across the world ranged between 11 and 22 hours. This year, fasting hours will range between 9 and 21 hours.

Ramadan was particularly tough in 2016 because it was in the period leading up to (and including) the longest day of the year.

In 2017, it will not include the longest day but it will still cover a period of extended daylight hours, so it will still be quite a challenge for those taking part in fasting.

Many break their fast as the Prophet Muhammad did around 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset followed by prayer.

During Ramadan, Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset.

For Muslims, fasting is not an act of penitence, but a method of self-purification, both physical and spiritual, as well as a way of showing solidarity with the less fortunate. For many believers, it is also an asceticism that brings spiritual elevation and the collective affirmation of faith.

In addition, Ramadan is also important in religious terms, because beyond the fast, it is a month during which the Quranic revelation began. It was during the "Night of Destiny" - Laylat al-Qadr - that the Quran began to be communicated to the Prophet.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity and performing the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.

It is generally considered to be uncustomary for non-Muslims or adult Muslims not observing the fast to eat in public during the day in Ramadan in Muslim-majority countries.

States such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, which are home to large western expatriate communities, have even passed laws against it.

Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three-day holiday named Eid al-Fitr, the Arabic words for "festival of breaking the fast".

This year's Eid al-Fitr will fall between 25 and 27 June, depending on the start of Ramadan and the moon sighting on the 29th night.

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