As the holy month of Ramadan approaches, Muslims around the world are preparing for a month of fasting, spiritual reflection, and increased devotion. The beginning of the month varies each year, as it is determined by the lunar Hijri calendar. This year, the first day of fasting is expected to be on Thursday, March 23rd, depending on the sighting of the new moon.
Ramadan holds great significance for Muslims, as it commemorates the revelation of the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago. Fasting from pre-sunrise to sunset, known as Sawm, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and entails abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations during daylight hours. This practice helps Muslims develop a greater sense of “taqwa,” or consciousness of God.
Due to the lunar Hijri calendar, the start of Ramadan moves earlier by 10 to 12 days each year. Consequently, in 2030, Muslims will observe Ramadan twice: first on January 5th and then again on December 25th. This is because the lunar year is shorter than the solar year by 11 days.
Fasting hours vary greatly depending on where in the world you are. Muslims living in southernmost countries like Chile or New Zealand will fast for around 12 hours, while those in northernmost regions such as Iceland or Greenland will fast for over 17 hours. For Muslims in the Northern Hemisphere, fasting hours will decrease until 2031 when Ramadan coincides with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. After that, fasting hours will gradually increase until the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The opposite pattern will occur for those living south of the equator.
Suhoor, the predawn meal, marks the beginning of the daily fast, while iftar, the meal to break the fast, occurs at sunset. In extreme northernmost cities like Longyearbyen in Norway, where the sun does not set between April 20th and August 22nd, religious rulings have been issued for Muslims to follow Mecca’s timings or those of the nearest Muslim country.
Ramadan fasting hours in various cities around the world differ, with the longest hours in places like Nuuk, Greenland, and Reykjavik, Iceland, at 17 hours, and the shortest hours in cities like Singapore and Nairobi, Kenya, at 13 hours.
Muslim-majority nations often have personalized greetings in their native languages for Ramadan. “Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” are common phrases, wishing the recipient a blessed and generous month, respectively.
As Muslims worldwide prepare to observe this sacred month, they will be united in their devotion, reflecting on their spiritual growth and fostering a sense of global community.