When Does Ramadan Begin?
That's a good question! More than 1 billion Muslims around the world celebrate Ramadan, but they do not share a consensus about when the holiday officially begins.
The debate over the start of Ramadan began back in the 7th century, when the prophet Muhammad instructed his followers to begin their fast the morning after visibly sighting the thin crescent moon that marks the beginning of a new month.
Wanting to follow the prophet's instructions literally, religious leaders decided not to rely on astronomical calculations to accurately predict the appearance of the new moon. Rather, they waited until they could see the new moon with their naked eye.
However, differences in geography and even weather conditions meant that not everyone saw the moon at the same time -- which, therefore, meant that Muslims in different parts of the world began the fast on different days.
There have been movements throughout Islamic history pushing for the use of astronomical calculations -- most recently in 2006 by a group of Muslim legal scholars known as the Fiqh Council of North America.
The Fiqh Council succeeded in setting a date for the start of Ramadan in North America, although traditionalists have rebuked that move. And in many parts of the world, Ramadan still does not begin until religious leaders declare that they have personally seen the new moon.
When is Ramadan? Check our Islamic Calendar for dates.
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