Muslims around the world are currently fasting for Ramadan – one of the most important parts of following Islam.
Muslims cannot eat or drink anything during Ramadan, and are instead encouraged to reflect on their faith and relationship with Allah.
The dates of Ramadan move each year according to the Gregorian calendar.
Here’s when fasting will take place in 2023, and when the post-Ramadan festival of Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and marks the time when the Quran is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. It is marked with a month-long fast. Its name literally means “scorching heat” in Arabic.
Muslims are required to spend a period of 30 days abstaining from food and drink, including water, smoking and sexual intercourse during daylight hours, as a means of celebrating and reflecting on their faith.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam along with the Shahadah (declaration of faith), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity) and the Hajj pilgrimage.
During Ramadan, there is an increased offering of the Salat, with Muslims giving thanks to Allah, while the fasting ritual allows them to understand the suffering of others.
Those observing the fast are encouraged to read the Quran and the holy text is recited at the Tarawih, special nightly prayers that are held throughout the month.
When does Ramadan 2022 end?
The Muslim calendar is governed by the lunar cycle, meaning the month of Ramadan begins once the new crescent moon appears in the sky, and ends after 29 or 30 days, depending on the moon cycle.
In the UK, Ramadan 2022 started on the evening of 2 April, and is expected to last until 1 May.
The sighting of the next crescent moon will mark the end of the holy month and the arrival of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic Hijri calendar.
The charity Muslim Aid explains: “The Islamic calendar follows the phases of the moon, commonly known as the lunar cycle. As a result, the holy month of Ramadan falls approximately 10 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar.”
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When is Ramadan 2023?
In the UK, Ramadan 2023 is currently expected to begin in the evening of Wednesday 22 March and end the evening of Friday 21 April.
This means Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated on Saturday 22 April.
However, this could change depending on the moon cycle, and when the new crescent moon is first sighted.
How does the moon sighting work?
There is some debate as to whether the idea of a moon sighting should refer to you physically witnessing the moon in your region, which could be hampered by factors such as weather conditions, or whether to defer to sightings in Saudi Arabia – or the nearest Muslim country to you.
Some people argue that technological advancements in astronomy mean that the rising of the new moon can be calculated with unprecedented accuracy, meaning that a standardised start date can be used for all Muslims worldwide, rather than having variations.
Because the festival of Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, the month’s position in the more widely used Gregorian calendar varies.
What is Eid al-Fitr?
Eid al-Fitr is held immediately after Ramadan.
Celebrations can last up to three days, depending on where you are in the world.
Its name comes from an Arabic term that translates as the “feast of breaking the fast”, and although not a public holiday in the UK, it is in many Muslim countries.
Eid al-Fitr is one of two major festivals celebrated by Muslims each year, the other being Eid al-Adha, which falls later in the summer and honours Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah.
It is seen as a spiritual celebration of Allah’s gift of strength and endurance. It is also a time for charity, known as Zakat al-Fitr, when people are expected to give and show kindness.
Fasting is forbidden on the day of Eid, in contrast to the 30 days that came before.
Eid celebrations will begin with prayers at dawn, which usually take place at a mosque, although lockdown restrictions might affect the number of people allowed in a place of worship.
The holy day is heavily focused on family and friends, with many in the community meeting up to share food and stories.