Ramadan: Date, History, Original and Meaning
Photo: Friendly Mobiles

When was Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting, first observed? And how have its practices changed? Here, Remona Aly considers its history and evolution across the world…

When is Ramadan 2021?

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 Tuesday April 13, reported Al Jazeera.

To declare the beginning of Ramadan, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries depend on the testimonies of local moon sighters.

Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are all expected to follow Saudi Arabia’s sighting of the new moon.

Other countries have independent sightings, but Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco and Syria are also likely to begin fasting starting Tuesday while countries further east and west will commence as the moon is sighted.

Ramadan: Date, History, Original and Meaning
Photo: Al Jazeera

When can we see the new moon?

The Qatar Calendar House (QCH) has announced that Ramadan’s new moon will be born on April 12 at 02:31 GMT, according to astronomers. On that day, the moon might be visible in parts of North, Central and South America. On April 13, the moon will be easily visible in most parts of the world.

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.

The moon phases of Ramadan

Ramadan: Date, History, Original and Meaning
Photo: Al Jazeera

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.

What does Ramadan mean?

Ramadan originally meant “great heat,” an image taken from the pre-Islamic solar calendar. This month was sacred in the pre-Islamic Arabic tradition and was a month of truce, Morocco World News cites.

While the month of Ramadan is the month of abstinence, this month is also a good opportunity to question the “basis and the foundations” of Islamic spiritual practice.

Above all, it is a time of solidarity and sharing. Islam is not a dogmatic religion. Ramadan is above all a “vision of the heart” that allows man to return to the center of himself.

The fasting of Ramadan leads man to make a constant effort to fight his weaknesses and passions, to constantly improve, to become totally humanized.

The principle of fasting is linked to self-control. It is the affirmation of man’s will and freedom in relation to himself and his immediate desire to satisfy his basic needs.

It is also a bond of solidarity with the hungry, who must be helped to escape from their situation of destitution and misery.

Ramadan: Date, History, Original and Meaning
Photo: Foreign Policy

Ramadan is the month of sharing, moving towards the other who is not from the same social milieu, origin, or religion as oneself. Muslims break the fast at nightfall, and should not swallow everything they can but break the silence and the bread, share a moment of conviviality with family and friends or in associations, mosques, restaurants, and cafes.

The true meaning of Ramadan

A very special place is given to the intention of the believer: thus, for fasting to be “accepted” and “validated” by God, it must be practiced with seriousness and devotion and not in a mechanical way.

The spiritual meaning of fasting, which aims at purifying, at detaching oneself from material goods, is fundamental.

It is also an opportunity to turn towards others and show love, altruism, and generosity towards those close to us.

Finally, Ramadan is the time when Muslims all over the world are in communion, gather in mosques, and turn their entire being to God, “the Merciful, the Compassionate.”

Muslims celebrate two fundamental feasts during the month of Ramadan: Laylat al-Qadr (“The Night of Destiny”) and Eid al-Fitr.

The night of destiny, usually towards the end of the month, is considered one of the holiest nights of the year and corresponds to the first night of the revelation of the Qur’an by the archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. On this occasion, many Muslims pray part or all of the night and gather in mosques.

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