Most Muslims wait until the ninth crescent moon has been sighted above Mecca before they commence Ramadan, but if there is too much cloud, this could be later than anticipated.
Other Muslims choose to observe Ramadan when they see the ninth crescent moon in their local area, and some begin their fast based on astronomical predictions, regardless of cloud coverage and moon visibility.
If you’re wondering ‘when is Ramadan 2022?’ or need more information about important dates in the month, visit our Ramadan page.
Why is Ramadan Observed on the Ninth Month?
The teachings of Ramadan were first imparted on the ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) year, and it was this same month some years earlier that the angel Gabriel made his first visit to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and revealed the first foundations and teachings of the Qur’an.
By abstaining from eating/drinking and all impure thoughts and activities during the ninth month of the year, Muslims are able to strengthen their bond with Allah (SWT) at the time He first imparted His guidance onto humans through the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). That is why Muslims fast and recite the Qur’an during Ramadan.
Who Observes Ramadan?
It was earlier noted that not all Muslims are able to observe Sawm and therefore are exempt from fasting during Ramadan. Those who are exempt include:
- Pre-pubescent children
- Women who are menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding
- The elderly and frail
- People who are on medication or who are physically unable to fast
Everyone else is expected to fast during Ramadan.
What Happens if You Break the Fast?
If you unintentionally break the fast (e.g. you forget that you are fasting and accidentally drink some water, or if you start menstruating during the fast) your fast is still valid. Should you accidentally eat during the fast, you may resume as normal once you realise. If you become pregnant, start menstruating or start breastfeeding, or if you become unwell over the course of Ramadan, you must halt your fast and make up the missed days at a later stage. If you are unable to make up the days, you may make a Fidya payment for each day you have missed. If you are in one of the exempt categories, you must pay Fidya also.
Fidya is a charitable donation that usually totals around £5 per day. If you miss three days of fasting, you should pay three lots of Fidya (£15). This will cover the cost of giving someone who does not have free access to food nourishing and sustainable meals.
If you break your fast intentionally and do not have a valid reason to do so, you must undertake a 60-day continuous fast. If you do not fast for 60 days, you must pay Kaffarah which is the value of feeding 60 hungry people each day.
The third pillar of Islam is called Zakat which is a charitable donation that all qualifying Muslims should make. It can be paid at any time of the year, but many choose to donate it during Ramadan – especially during the last 10 days – as it is believed the rewards for donating at this time are far greater than at any other time of the year.
Zakat is not to be confused with Zakat ul-Fitr which is a compulsory donation all Muslims, regardless of age (except those living in extreme hunger), must make. It is usually less than £5 per person and must be paid before the end of Ramadan.
Breaking the Fast
Muslims are permitted to eat between sunset and sunrise. The meal before sunrise is called Suhur, usually consisting of energising breakfast foods, and the meal after sunset is called Iftar, which is similar to dinner. It is customary to break the fast before Iftar with dates as this is what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did.
Once the 10th crescent mood has been sighted, the Ramadan fast is broken with Eid al-Fitr celebrations which consists of lots of food, gifts, prayers and time spent with family and friends. If a Muslim has missed days of fasting, they cannot make them up during Eid as it is forbidden to fast during this time.
Find Out More
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