In most of the Islamic world sun down tonight will start Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim Calendar, a holy period of fasting. The date is calculated by the first sighting of the crescent after the New Moon. Since this can vary in different parts of the world, so can the marked beginning of the month.
A movement to mark the beginning by astronomical observation, rather than by the naked eye thus standardizing the observance is embraced in some of the Islamic world, but bitterly resisted by some traditionalists.
Because it is calculated by a lunar, rather than the western solar calendar, Ramadan floats backward 10 or 11 days each year in relationship to the Gregorian Calendar.
Ramadan was the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
The month of fasting is a period of cleansing as the faithful rededicate themselves to Allah by emphasizing patience, humility and spirituality by an absolute fast observed by all Muslims over the age of puberty each day between dawn and dusk. The observant are also called to be more reverent and fervent in prayer. During Ramadan the entire Qur'an is often read in mosques in 30 installments.
Other customs connected to the observance vary somewhat culturally and between Sunni and Shi'a traditions. In more secular Islamic countries evenings after the fast are often filled with feasting and entertainment, while attendance to evening services following a modest breaking of the fast is customary in more traditional societies. Acts of charity to the poor are encouraged.
The holiday of Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted, 29 or 30 days after the onset of Ramadan. This is the most festive of Islamic holidays marked by the donning of new clothes, feasting, and family gatherings.
The proprietor of this blog sincerely wishes his Muslim friends Ramadan Kareem!