(Aljazeera) In most Arab nations, the first day of fasting for the holy month of Ramadan, which is determined by the sighting of the new moon, is likely to be May 6 (Monday).
Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court called on all Muslims to look for the crescent moon signalling the start of Ramadan and for those who see it with the naked eyes or through the binoculars to inform the nearest court, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.
Qatar, Indonesia, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and many other Muslim nations are likely to begin observing the holy month starting Monday.
In the United States and Europe, Muslim communities rely on astronomical calculations and are likely to observe Ramadan from Sunday evening, with Monday being the first day of fasting.
Calculations by astronomers say Ramadan’s new moon will be born on May 4 at 22:47 GMT, but it might not be visible.
On Sunday evening, however, the new moon should be visible to the naked eye, making it likely that many countries will observe the first day of fasting on May 6.
The actual visibility of the crescent will depend on factors such as atmospheric conditions, cloudiness and the distance between the sun and the moon on the horizon.
Muslim lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the new moon on the 29th night of each month. If the new moon is not visible, the month lasts 30 days.
To declare the beginning of Ramadan, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries depend on the testimonies of local moon sighters. The Judicial High Court then decides when Ramadan begins.
Saudi Arabia’s official Umm al-Qura calendar marks the first day of Ramadan as May 6, 2019.
For Muslims, Ramadan is the month in which the first verses of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, were revealed to Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago.
During the holy month, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from dawn to sunset. The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the sufferings of the less fortunate.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
In Muslim-majority countries, offices are required by law to reduce working hours, and many restaurants are closed during the daylight hours.
“Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” are common greetings exchanged in this period, wishing the recipient a blessed and generous month respectively.
Last year, fasting hours across the world ranged from 10 to 21 hours.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Eid al-Fitr in Arabic means “festival of breaking the fast.”
Depending on the actual start date of Ramadan and the new moon sighting on the 29th night of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr this year is likely to fall on June 4.