Ramadan to start on Thursday, religious leaders say

Ramadan to start on Thursday, religious leaders say
The start of Ramadan varies somewhat among Muslim majority countries, as moon sighting is used to determine when the holy month begins.
2 min read
Boys attending a Quran reading class in Baghdad [Getty]
Millions around the world will begin the fasting month of Ramadan on Thursday, according to religious leaders in various Muslim-majority states.

Saudi Arabia and other large Muslim nations, including Indonesia, declared Ramadan would not begin on Wednesday based on a customary moon-sighting methodology. That means the dawn-to-dusk fasting is expected to begin on Thursday. 

Muslims shun food and even water during the month, which this year falls on especially long summer days for those who live in northern countries. 

Fasting is meant to bring the faithful closer to God and remind them of those less fortunate. 

Fasting is considered one of the five pillars of Islam. During the day, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, sex, gossip and cursing, and are encouraged to focus on meditative acts like prayer, reading the Quran and charity. There are exceptions to fasting for children, the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and people travelling.

Because Muslims follow a lunar calendar, countries often declare the start of Ramadan a day or two apart. Traditionally, countries announce if their moon-sighting council spots the Ramada crescent in the evening before fasting begins. The news of Thursday's fast was made on Saudi state TV and in other countries. 

In many Muslim majority countries, the wealthy distribute food and money to the poor, with mosques and volunteers passing out drinks and foods to passersby in need of aid or simply to break their fast. 

Ramadan is also a time for feasting with family and friends. Nighttime is buzzing in many Muslim majority countries in Ramadan, and millions watch Ramadan television specials. 

Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

Click on our Special Contents tab to read more on Ramadan 2018 around the world.

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