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Ramadan: Moon-sighting officials announce start date for Islamic holy month

Saudi Arabia announces Ramadan will start on 11 March, marking the start of the Muslim fasting month
An observatory officer looks for the new moon at sundown to mark the start of Islam's holy fasting month of Ramadan in Indonesia, on 10 March 2024 (AFP)

Moon-sighting officials have declared the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, on 11 March.

Saudi Arabia's two holy mosques issued a statement, saying "the crescent of Ramadan 1445/2024 has been sighted in Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, Ramadan 1445/2024 begins tomorrow, March 11, 2024. Taraweeh Prayers will begin in the Two Holy Mosques after Isha Prayers."

Around the world, moon-sighting officials spent 10 March seeking to sight the moon in order to gauge when the start of Ramadan, which is based on the lunar calendar, is set to begin. 

The Islamic Society of North America, the Fiqh Council of North America and the European Council for Fatwa and Research all follow the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia. 

Other countries, including Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are also set to start the holy month on 11 March.

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Dates may vary for other communities that have their own rules in place. In the UK, where there is no nationwide moon-sighting system or officials, some follow Saudi declarations while others try to spot the moon in Britain's skies.

Some will wait for news from the nearest or a neighbouring Islamic country, such as Morocco.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is the most sacred period of the year for Muslims. 

During this period, worshippers will abstain from all forms of food and drink during the daylight hours, breaking their fast at sunset.

Muslims believe that through fasting they are able to strengthen their relationship with God. Time is spent participating in acts of worship, such as praying, reading the Quran and giving to charity.

Abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours allows Muslims to practise willpower and focus their energy on working on their faith.  

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