Determining the dates of Ramadan
Ramadan (pronounced "rom-a-don"; a.k.a. Ramazan) is the
holiest period in the Islamic year. It commemorates the ninth lunar month in the
year 610 CE when revelations began from God, via the angel
Gabriel, to the Prophet Muhammad. These revelations memorized by Muhammad and
were later written down as the Qur'an.
There is no consensus among Muslims around the world about how to determine
the first day of Ramadan.
Determining the starting date of Ramadan:
Ramadan is the ninth lunar month of the year. It begins at the time of the
new moon -- a.k.a. the time of conjunction. This happens when the Earth, Moon,
and Sun are lined up in that order.
The beginning of Ramadan has traditionally been based on Hilal Sightings --
the detection of the crescent new moon by the human eye without benefit of optical
aids. For some Muslims around the world, the sighting of the moon in Saudi
Arabia marks the start of Ramadan. For others, it is the moon sighting in their
own country. For others, sighting of the new moon anywhere in the world triggers Ramadan at their location. 5 Still other countries use astronomical calculations to determine
the actual timing of the new moon.
As a result of this lack of standardization, Ramadan began during 1429 AH
(2008 CE) on:
- AUG-31 in Libya and Nigeria
- SEP-01 in 52 countries, including Australia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UK, and
- SEP-02 in 8 countries, including India, Iran, Morocco, Oman and Pakistan.
- Canada is not included in the above data. The country was unique in that no
consensus was possible. Ramadan began for some Muslims on SEP-01 and for others
on SEP-02. 1
During 2006-JUN, the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)
held a meeting of Muslim jurists, Imams, astronomers and other believers to
discuss whether to use astronomical calculations in the place of visual
sightings. They determined that:
- Sighting the Hilai (the crescent moon) is not an act of 'ibadah (worship).
- Muhammad used ru'yah (sighting of the crescent moon) because most Muslims at
the time lacked the knowledge to calculate the timing of the new moon
- Originally, many Muslim jurists refused to accept astronomical calculations
because "astronomy and astrology were not quite distinct sciences." They
suspected that the predictions might have been based partly on magic and
- During the 20th century, an increasing number of Muslim jurists have
accepted astronomical calculations.
- Calculations are a reliable and accurate method of determining the dates of
Ramadan and the two Eids.
- Adopting this method would:
- Eliminate the problem of erroneous sightings of the crescent moon.
- Allow the dates to be determined far in advance;
- Simplify planning of events;
- Facilitate having Islamic holy days recognized;
- Encourage development of a world-wide Islamic calendar for all Muslims; and
- Improve the unity of Muslims worldwide.
The Council decided that "The new Islamic Lunar month begins at sunset of
the day when the conjunction occurs before 12:00 Noon GMT."
2 This definition covers Ramadan and the other lunar
months in the year.
On 2013-MAY-09, the French Muslim Council (CFCM) agreed to start using astronomical calculations to establish the date of Ramadan and other Islamic holy days. Reuters reported:
"Council President Mohammad Moussaoui said the old method played havoc with French Muslims' schedules for work, school and festivities. France's five million Muslims are the largest Islamic minority in Europe.
"Now all this will be simplified," he said, and promptly announced the Ramadan fast would begin on July 9 this year. ..."
"This is historic. Now all Muslims in France can start Ramadan on the same day," said Lyon Muslim leader Azzedine Gaci." 4
Observances during Ramadan:
- Ramadan has traditionally started at the first visual sighting of the
9th crescent moon of the year by the unaided eye. It lasts for 29 or
30 days, a full lunar month.
- Lailat ul-Qadr (a.k.a. Night of Power) is the anniversary of the
night on which the Prophet Muhammad first began receiving revelations from God.
Muslims believe that this occurred on one of the last odd-numbered nights of
- Id al-Fitr (a.k.a. "Id") is the day which follows the month of
Ramadan. It is pronounced "eed-al-fitter."
It is the first day of the 10th month -- Shawwai. It is a time
of rejoicing. Houses are decorated. Muslims buy gifts for relatives. On this
feast day, Muslims greet each other, saying "Eid mubarak"
(eed-moo-bar-ak), meaning "blessed Eid," and "taqabbalallah
ta'atakum," which means "may God accept your deeds." Many Muslim
communities hold bazaars following prayers.
The approximate dates of Ramadan are listed below from 1938 to 2038. Dates, as
observed in various countries, may be a day or two offset from the following:
In the above table, future dates are estimates.
The abbreviation "H" or "AH"
is used after dates in the Islamic calendar. They stand for "Hegira" or "Anno
base of the Islamic calendar is 622
CE, the year of the Hegira, when the Prophet Muhammad traveled from Mecca to
Medina in what is now Saudi Arabia.
Because Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, it is observed about 11 days
earlier each year. Thus, about every 35 years, it goes through all four seasons. 3
The fast of Ramadan Overview, purposes, discipline, health concerns, activities, etc.
- "Ramadan 1429," Moon Sighting, at:
- "New Way for a New Moon," Islam City, 2006-SEP-22, at:
- The beginning of Ramadan from 1357-1460 Hijri," Ksulaiman1, 2012-AUG-17, at:
- Tom Heneghan, "French Muslims look to science to determine start of Ramadan," Reuters, 1013-MAY-09, at: http://www.reuters.com/
- "The Islamic Calendar," IslamiCity, 2013, at: http://www.islamicity.com/
Copyright © 2001 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2001-NOV-10
Latest update: 2013-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson