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Why do the dates of Ramadan change every year?

Ramadan has just started this Saturday, April 2nd. And like every year, the date of this holy month for Muslims varies according to precise criteria. So how is defined this famous day that marks the beginning of the month of fasting in Islam?

Ramadan extends over a period of four weeks each year. A holy month in the Muslim calendar which is one of the five pillars of Islam, the duties that Muslims are required to perform. This pious month invites believers to fast, pray and share moments of conviviality. But every year, the mystery remains around the first day of the month of Ramadan. A scientific enigma that we will try to explain.

A lunar calendar, calculated or observed?

The calculation methods differ according to two methods. Indeed, the Muslim calendar is based on a lunar calendar fluctuating between 29 and 30 days per month. The Night of Doubt, an unavoidable Muslim ritual, is used to precisely define the first day of the new lunar month. On this night, specialists observe the appearance of the first crescent of the new moon in the sky, which defines the beginning of Ramadan the next day. Thus, from the Arabian Peninsula to the Maghreb, some advocate the astrological calculation of the new moon, while others prefer to rely on the words of the Prophet Muhammad, who is said to have said, “Do not fast until you see the crescent moon, and do not break the fast until you also see it.”



The need for consensus

Although astrological analysis can provide an earlier indication of the beginning of the fast, observation is still the most common method. Thus, the precise date of the beginning of Ramadan can only be revealed a few days in advance. However, based on observation alone, it is possible that the crescent moon will be seen in one country and not in another. This is why, traditionally, many countries follow the date indicated by the Saudi religious authorities, whose country is the guarantor of the main place of worship, Mecca.

The French Committee of the Muslim Cult also opts for this solution, prioritizing the fact that Muslims begin Ramadan in unity and serenity. This year, Ramadan began on April 2 in France as well as in Saudi Arabia and in most of the world. As an exception, Oman declared the month of Ramadan open only on April 3.