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Ramadan 2018 announcement - When does it start and has there been a moon sighting in Saudi Arabia?

Birmingham Mail logo Birmingham Mail 16/05/2018 David Bentley

a large crowd of people standing in front of a building: Credits: AP © AP Credits: AP Muslim officials in Saudi Arabia and the UK have now confirmed the date of Ramadan for 2018.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic year but the date isn't decided until shortly beforehand because the calendar is based on sightings of the moon.

This is the holiest month in the calendar and is a time of fasting from early in the morning through to sunset.

Before fasting begins, worshippers have a morning meal called sahur, suhur or suhoor. After the end of the daily fast, an evening meal called iftar is consumed.

During the fasting, Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking, sex and all 'sinful behaviour' such as swearing, insults and telling lies.

So when does Ramadan start in 2018 and how is it decided? Here's all you need to know.

When is Ramadan 2018?

Ramadan timetable 2018 - the key times for prayers, fasting, suhoor and iftar meals

The first day of the month of Ramadan has been officially announced as Thursday, May 17 - although Muslim days run from sunset to sunset so Ramadan actually begins on the evening of May 16.

The moon was not sighted in Saudia Arabia on Tuesday, May 15, so the current month then goes on for another day.

Many mosques and Muslim groups had expected it to start on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, even though astronomers did predict the new moon would not be visible.

Green Lane Masjid in Small Heath, Birmingham, confirmed the Thursday date with its own Ramadan announcement.

It told worshippers: "The moon has not been sighted therefore Ramadan will begin on Thursday 17th May..

"Taraweeh prayers will begin tomorrow, Wednesday 16th May, at 10.45pm.

"Please arrive early as the Masjid is likely to be very busy and park appropriately."

Ramadan is due to be finished before the longest day of the year.

But it still falls within the long, warm days of summer so there will be extended periods of daily fasting, lasting almost 19 hours.

Islamic Calendar 2018 - all the main Muslim events this year

As the Islamic months move back through the Western calendar, Ramadan is set to begin in April by 2020, in March by 2023 and in February by 2026.

That means the daily hours of fasting will get shorter, offering some comfort to those who struggle to go without food and drink for such long periods.

Why does the date change each year and how is it worked out?

Muslim dates are determined by the cycles of the moon.

This means they move back each year by around 11 days within the sun-based Gregorian calendar used by most of the Western world.

As the calendar is based on lunar cycles, the date of Ramadan is subject to confirmation by a moon sighting close to that time.

Each month begins following an official sighting of the first crescent of the new moon.

This is when the Ramadan and Eid moon sightings will be in 2018 according to UK officials

As with the dates for all Islamic months, the moon has to be seen at Mecca in Saudi Arabia on the 29th day for the month to end that day.

If it's not seen, the month goes on another day and lasts 30 days.

However, some Muslim organisations, including the Saudi government, stick to astronomical charts instead so they can plan ahead for events and activities rather than wait for a moon sighting near the time.

When does Ramadan end?

Based on the astronomical charts, Ramadan ends on the evening of June 14.

The first day of the next month, Shawwal, is expected to be on June 15, once again subject to confirmation after an official sighting of the new moon.

The first day of Shawwal is also the date of Eid al-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast that took place on every day of the previous month.

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