The Ramadan crescent moon has been sighted in Saudi Arabia, meaning the holy month will officially begin on Friday, according to an official announcement from the Kingdom’s Supreme Court.
The sighting of the moon was confirmed by a team of astronomy observers in Saudi Arabia’s Hautat Sudair, a small village located at an intersection between Riyadh, Sudair, and Qassim, 140 km north of the capital Riyadh.
Muslims follow a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days. Sighting a crescent moon heralds the start of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
More than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world will mark the month, during which believers abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and having marital relations from dawn until sunset. They also try to avoid evil thoughts and deeds.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is also one of the five pillars of Islam. It is followed by the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
As Muslims follow a lunar calendar, Eid al-Fitr starts when the new moon is spotted in the sky at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
This year’s Ramadan is markedly different as many Muslims will not be able to experience the communal traditions of Ramadan due to the restrictions on movement and social gathering imposed in Islamic and Muslim-majority countries across the world following the coronavirus pandemic.
While Muslims are still expected to fast between sunrise and sunset, religious authorities in key Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE have ordered that prayers be done at home to prevent the virus from spreading via communal gatherings in mosques.
Ramadan is sacred to Muslims because tradition says the Quran was revealed to their Prophet Mohammed during that month. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is also one of the five pillars of Islam.