Inside the Middle East
July 19, 2012
Posted: 1636 GMT

Ramadan decorations are hung outside a shop in the West Bank city of Hebron on July 18, 2012, to welcome the upcoming Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. (HAZEM BADER/AFP/GettyImages)

Muslims around the world begin fasting on Friday in observation of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam when the faithful abstain from eating food or drinking water from sunrise to sunset.

If, that is, Ramadan actually begins on Friday.

Every year, identifying the start of Ramadan is like a waiting game; Islamic scholars must see the new crescent moon in the night skies before the holy month officially begins.

Unlike the Gregorian (or Western) calendar, the Islamic calendar is based on lunar patterns.  And the lunar month begins with the sighting of a new moon.

This annual – and greatly anticipated – announcement is typically made by Islamic authorities in each country (although many countries in the Middle East follow the moon sightings of scholars in Saudi Arabia).

But with all the technological advancements of the 21st century, why can’t scholars predict the exact date the moon will appear?

They can – astronomers have the technology to actually see the shape of the moon in broad daylight, even with high humidity, pollution, and even sand in the air.

But some Islamic jurists and clerics refuse to announce the arrival of Ramadan until they have seen the new moon with their own eyes.

Additionally, the validity of these high-tech methods is creating a debate among Muslim scholars and jurists, according to astrophysicist and astronomy professor Nidhal Geussoum, of the American University in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

Adding to the confusion: in some countries, like Sweden or Norway, the sun does not set at all in the summer.

Muslims in countries like those have two options, according to Geussoum.  The first, he says, is to go with whatever date is announced in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, considered to be the holiest city in Islam. The second is to begin Ramadan with the moon sighting nearest to them, Geussoum adds.

Here in the UAE, many Muslims are still waiting for an official announcement from the local religious authorities, who will most likely also coordinate with religious authorities in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Many here still don't know when exactly Ramadan will start.  And most conversations around this time of the year all begin and end the same way:

‘So, when does Ramadan start?’

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Filed under: Culture •Egypt •Islam •Religion •Saudi Arabia

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je   July 19th, 2012 4:49 pm ET

when the ramadan starts?

Aidah Karama   July 19th, 2012 4:53 pm ET

when the new crescent moon in the night skies today

nelepa   July 19th, 2012 5:11 pm ET

In many previous years, although the "technology" has supposedly been able to tell when the new moon will arrive, in some years, it has been wrong, hence why the scholars wait for the moon to be sited... by SIGHT

ubaidullah   July 19th, 2012 5:15 pm ET

Asalam o Alikum all Muslims
please tell me when Ramadan kareem starts
i just want to start it with Saudi Arabia because i leave in Pakistan
and you know Pakistan starts Ramadan kareem 1day after Saudi Arabia
Please contact me or send me an SMS at00923448027872
Jazak Allah

Tareq Zaman   July 19th, 2012 5:21 pm ET

Hi , I just want to clarify something regards to the blog . Article says ,
" the holiest month in Islam when the faithful abstain from eating food or drinking water from sunrise to sunset." which slightly wrong because muslim folks don't eating food and drink is not " or " . So bottom line muslim people dont eat and drink anything period of fasting.
The only reason i want to make sure it's say correctly because it's a CNN blog and media needs proper advertise when they are talking about pillar of Islam religion.

othman Florida   July 19th, 2012 5:25 pm ET

We just follow Allah's revelation the Qur'an and what our Prophet Mohammed Peace and Blessings be upon him teaching which is the "Hadith" : That we have to sight the moon with our eyes. We're more happy than confuse that Allah will give us another chance for forgiveness and to enter Paradise Insh'aa Allah

Ted Sebern   July 19th, 2012 5:38 pm ET

It doesn't matter when Ramadan begins in our minds. It's important in a Muslim mind just as the beginning of Easter begins in my rmind.

It's possible that if we all recognize the difference in each religion we may get along better.

Ted Sebern

jauhar zubair kisambira   July 19th, 2012 5:56 pm ET

May ALLAH award them aboundantly

islamicawarenessatumkc   July 19th, 2012 6:04 pm ET

The Prophetsaw said to fast when you see the sighting of the moon and to stop when you see the sighting of the moon. (Sahih Bukhari)

Calculations are forbidden in Islam. We should wait for the sighting of the moon by a sane and reliable Muslim of puberty. So, We will not know until we hear from a Muslim that the moon is seen for the month of Ramadhan,inshaALLAH.

suzie barahmeh   July 19th, 2012 6:18 pm ET

ilive in uk ,ineed to see if we can fast shorter time like 6.30 ,and are wein the north eurob

Rahman   July 19th, 2012 6:22 pm ET

It is already announced in qatar the siting of mon is done and friday will be the first Ramazan.

Yusuf   July 19th, 2012 6:30 pm ET

There is no confusion! We have been ordered to fast when we sight the moon, if the moon is not sighted, the preceding month (Shaban) is counted as 30. That makes it obvious for the literate and illiterate.

Fareed Shariff   July 19th, 2012 6:32 pm ET

I would kindly recommend to include the reasoning behind the scholars wanting to sight the cresent for the benefit of all the non-muslims who read this article. It was the practice of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and as muslims we immitate every practice of our beloved prophet. Islam does not ignore the technology available on hand. The sighting and use of technology go hand in hand. Here in the USA, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) declares the starting and ending of the month of Ramadan based on calculations. Most of the communities follow ISNA and majority of them tend to follow up with the actual sighting to keep the prophetic tradition of moon sighting.

sakib   July 19th, 2012 6:38 pm ET

insha allah tommorow friday

Esswasim   July 19th, 2012 6:49 pm ET

It is messing up with my head now, I am feeling weird since Islam came to unite us and here we are divided in every way. What is wrong with us what can't we just stop asking for technology in religion ? Religion is not dependent on technology , Religion is belief in God , it is Faith, we are supposed to start on the lunar month of Ramadan so if Saudi saw the moon we should all start on same day not wait for moon in our nations.

Esswasim   July 19th, 2012 6:53 pm ET

And for those Muslims who think otherwise don't come up with your shallow knowledge and give lectures everywhere, there is also a Hadith where one man sights the moon and tells to those who didnt sight it and they obeyed and started to fast, we don't have to see moon with our own eyes, if ne Muslim saw it that s enough proof for the month is on.

Dawood   July 19th, 2012 6:55 pm ET

We muslims follow our holy prophet and we never change because there is technology we need to see with our eyes and thats final.All muslims have a pleasant ramadan and ask ALLAH'S FORGIVENESS IN THIS BLESSED MONTH,AMEEN

Abdul Majeed   July 19th, 2012 6:55 pm ET

My brother Tareq Zaman his made it clear the pillars of Islam are very,very
important they are not be play with. And if u a person who joke a lot but is some thing u should not play with no matter how u are be, u should be very,very careful with that tank u all.

sarah   July 19th, 2012 6:58 pm ET

ramadhan mubarak everyone ramadhan is on friday 20th july

Ruxandra Calinovici Frincu   July 19th, 2012 7:01 pm ET

Salam Aleikoum to all the brothers and sisters reading this... It bitters my soul to see that WHENEVER there is an article about Islam in the media, it is almost always written in mockery and with a sort of negative insinuation. This article could have explained more about the beauty of Ramadan however it limits to say " muslims don't eat and drink" and the rest is concentrating on how confusing is the timing of Ramadan.

unfortunately we can't change the world and those people writing it... but we can change our own little world that surrounds us, by being proud of who we are and by stop apologizing for who we are..

And Allah knows best...
Ramadan Mubarak to all

gulam jilani   July 19th, 2012 7:01 pm ET

Inshallah tommorow first ramadan.

Fa-eeda   July 19th, 2012 7:07 pm ET

Reading this article just confirmed that there are real air-heads working at CNN. As usual you guys always jump to write about stuff you don't have any knowledge of. CNN is a JOKE!

uthman nuwamanya   July 19th, 2012 7:19 pm ET

what should we do during the month of ramthan.........

Mohammed Abazz   July 19th, 2012 7:49 pm ET

Below is the news i read this evening when i was worried about when we are starting,but since saudi have started i think we need to join them as well......Asalam

It's official. The UAE moon sighting committee has announced that tomorrow (Friday) is the first day of holy month of Ramadan.

Muslims in the Saudi Arabia will also begin fasting tomorrow as the moon was sighted there as well on Thursday evenin

jabril   July 19th, 2012 7:50 pm ET

insha allah lets keep shathan away from you

kay mcconnell   July 19th, 2012 8:06 pm ET

i am a foster carer of 2 bangladesh boys please can someone tell me the time table of when they can and cant eat thankyou . k

Aman   July 19th, 2012 8:27 pm ET

Assalamu Aliykum.

An announcement about starting Ramadan 2012 has been published on the Makkah Calendar Website. Following are the links of same.

- Aman

Name*Waqas   July 19th, 2012 8:27 pm ET

As sallamu alaikum all Muslim..... I dnt know when is guna b start.. I,m living England some of doing 20 Jully or some 21..........

Name*Waqas   July 19th, 2012 8:31 pm ET

Let me know plz. When is start

Phinas   July 19th, 2012 8:34 pm ET

Insha allah tommorrow

idhi   July 19th, 2012 9:16 pm ET

Allah bless us during the holly month of ramathan. insha allah we are begining tommorow.

Fardous Rahman   July 20th, 2012 12:10 am ET

Allah every body help you ,,

khwaja abraruzzama   July 20th, 2012 9:30 am ET

1.see not what displeases ALLAH
2.speak no evil
3.hear no evil no evil
5.look to ALLAH with fear and hope

Ahmed   July 20th, 2012 11:02 am ET

It is not as if it is an Irreparable problem (i am saying this compared to other religions). Muslims are definitely more united than all other religions. But it is true even one day is also important in order to not break unity, as Islam calls for Universal brotherhood. So ask the Sheiks and they will tell you. Mashaa Allah!

J.K.   July 20th, 2012 11:08 am ET

Is the location for the sighting of the cresent also defined?

RAMDAH YUSSIF   July 20th, 2012 11:10 am ET

We should wait for the sighting of the moon by a sane and reliable Muslim of puberty. So, We will not know until we hear from a Muslim that the moon is seen for the month of Ramadhan,inshaALLAH.

RAMDAH YUSSIF   July 20th, 2012 11:15 am ET

We thank Allah for show us is mouth and let us all down it

RAMDAH YUSSIF   July 20th, 2012 11:18 am ET

Ramdah for Ghana we have beginning it on Friday

siyaj k'ak   July 20th, 2012 12:22 pm ET

so if the sun never sets in Norway and Sweden, when do you break fast in he evening? or start it in the morning? I don't imagine you go the whole month without food

Klouny   July 20th, 2012 3:20 pm ET

In Malaysia, ramadan starts this saturday ( 21st July 2012). Happy Ramadan y'all

Holly   July 21st, 2012 3:20 am ET

Dear Ms. Kay McConnell -

To answer your question -

The boys (if they choose and are willing) to participate in this month's fast will be eating well before the morning prayer is called (around 4:30 – though prayer times will gradually change as the month goes on – the prayer times are based on the sun – you can find the times for the prayers at I would suggest waking them up around 3:30 to prepare them for suhur (the morning meal). It should be a wholesome breakfast with lots of protein and water – try to stay away from sugary, starchy foods that won't fill them up all day. They will be able to eat or drink until the call to prayer is called (if you have a computer download the Islamic Finder so you can always track and hear the times to let them know when to start and stop their fasts)

If they are adolescent boys they should be ok with fasting the whole day, but if they are 13 and is sometimes ok if they fast half a day – just to get an idea of what it would be like to fast for the whole day when they get older. In Islam nothing is forced...only positive wholesome things are encouraged.

During the day encourage them to read the Quran and. Encourage them to think about others who are less fortunate and hungry in the world...encourage them to be patient. Ramadan is a reminder to Muslims to be thankful. Also encourage them to do good deeds. Though they shouldn't do anything super strenuous (like playing basketball or other demanding sports), they should still be productive and help around the house or go about their normal paced activities. They do need time to rest in the afternoon. Some people take naps before iftar (the nighttime meal).

The boys will do the ritual 5 daily prayers throughout the day (if they know how to do them or are old enough or were taught...), and will break their fasts at the call to prayer for the evening time (around sunset...again check the time with for your area..probably around 8:29 but they should break their fasts at exactly the time it is called). Usually the fast is broken by saying a prayer (silent or mouthed)...and with eating a date and some water...

I hope this helped!!! Ramadan Kareem to the boys!

Umm_Karimah   July 21st, 2012 7:02 am ET

@ Kay McConnell.. what age are the two boys you care for? Fasting is not obligatory until the age of maturity (puberty), however some parents like to train their children from a younger age. When my daughter began trsaining her children they were 5 and 6 years of age. They began with fasting on the weekends throughout Ramadan. and Monday and thursday thoughout the rest of the year. The children were never forced but encouraged to do their best to fast. is a link that may be useful to you.

Quran Academy   July 24th, 2012 10:46 am ET

My Quran Lesson is an easy way for you and your kids to learn the Holy Quran. All you need is a PC, headset with a microphone and a broadband internet connection.

Skorpio   July 24th, 2012 2:10 pm ET

In theory, Ramadan is a time for self-restraint and moderation. In practice is a time of excesses: stores sell more food ...and alcohol !!!, people gain weight, even monarchs have more children ...9 months after. Almost every night is party time. Muslim monarchs and leaders should be role models and restraint to ONE spouse ONLY, not hundreds of concubines, they should give back to their people all the monies, wealth they steal from their countries natural resources (oil), They should give up their absolute power, abuses and excesses. Unfortunately, as long as Islam is preserve, maintain and impose these guys will keep their wealth, sexual pleasures and absolute power.

skipper Sam   July 30th, 2012 3:55 am ET

Ok ok cut to it.

1) Is there a Ramadan bunny ?

2) Do we get toys or gifts ?

3) Do we get Monday off ?

sharif   August 1st, 2012 9:22 pm ET

We should spend Ramadan reflecting on what has happened to our religion. For centuries, we held the moral high ground and treated other religions with respect. We wished them to find the true path to Allah, but we determined that they must find their way and answer to their maker for their decisions. It could not be forced upon them through intimidation. Now, we have let the fundamentalists that curse every religion dominate our thought. We are known for violence, religious purges, destruction of other cultures. This is not Allah's will and it was not our gift to this world. Let us use this time not to find fault with others, for there are plenty, but to look inward and purify ourselves of the selfish human behavior of using religion to justify that which is hateful. If someone insults our religion or violates it, the shame and punishment is on them. Allah does not need us to act as his hitmen. If someone treats a woman disrespectfully or as less than an equal, the shame is on them. We do not need to cover them in tents and deny them all equality. Etc, etc. Joy to all this season and wishes for success on the above.

mamun   August 4th, 2012 8:05 am ET

tajudeen seidu   August 4th, 2012 4:50 pm ET


Aman   August 6th, 2012 7:49 pm ET

Assalam Aliykum,

As per Makkah Calendar announcement, Eid Al Fitr 2012 should be celebrated on Sunday, 19th August 2012. Following is the detailed announcement about same.

- Aman

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Annie   September 19th, 2012 6:54 am ET

amazing article, Amena! I was confused about the exact date too.
p.s. i like the decorations!

Just Live in Peace   October 1st, 2012 1:03 am ET

All this mid eastern hate ....vengeance is for your God to decide....are you all God Like...????

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