This week, Muslims around the world will be keeping an eye out for the New Moon, which will mark the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan. The start date of the holy month is determined by a sighting of the first faint crescent of the New Moon and the astronomical predictions for this year are for it to be Thursday, March 23.
According to Timeanddate, the sighting of the Moon’s crescent after New Moon typically determines the timing of Muslim months and holidays. However, the precise date of Muslim holidays cannot be ascertained because the Moon’s visibility depends on clear skies and a number of other factors.
A holiday may fall on a different date depending on a country’s longitude and time zone because the Moon is never visible in all parts of the world at once and current local dates can differ from one country to another. So, based on their country or region of origin, some Muslims may observe a holiday one day earlier than others.
In the Middle East, the sighting of the moon will get underway today (March 21). Since the UK doesn’t have a national moon-sighting board, some look to Morocco or Saudi Arabia instead or attempt to get verified sightings in British skies.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is also the month the Quran was revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Royal Museums Greenwich said the Islamic calendar for example is a ‘lunar visibility’ calendar, where a month begins with the sighting of the new crescent Moon.
How to sight the new crescent Moon for Ramadan
The Royal Museums Greenwich said they will host Ramadan moonsighting on Wednesday (March 22) as they scan the evening skies over Greenwich with their telescope for a glimpse of the new crescent moon.
Director of the New Crescent Society Imad Ahmed and Royal Observatory astronomer Jake Foster will host the broadcast, covering topics including the links between astronomy and Islam, the Islamic calendar, and how you can sight the new crescent Moon for yourself.
People can tune in to their livestream on their website from 6.30pm, or watch the stream on YouTube or Facebook.
How long is the fasting period in the UK 2023?
This year, Muslims will observe the fasting month of Ramadan in the springtime as opposed to summertime like in previous years. Therefore, they will fast for shorter periods of time, typically between 14 and 15 hours a day.
For instance, some parts of the UK will start fasting at 4.28am, at the start of Fajr (a prayer from the moment of dawn) until 6.27pm when the sun sets. As the days become longer, the fasting period will also become longer.