Here’s why the start and end of Ramadan depends of the sighting of the moon

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 8:49 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 8:50 am
Ramadan is set to begin in the evening of Thursday 23 April and end a month later on the evening of Saturday 23 May (Photo: Shutterstock)

Ramadan is set to begin in the evening of Thursday 23 April and end a month later on the evening of Saturday 23 May.

The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and the dates of Ramadan therefore change each month, subject to the sighting of the moon.

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But what exactly is the Ramadan moon sighting and how does it work?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the moon sighting?

Muslim Aid explains, “The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and as a result of this, the Holy month of Ramadan rotates by approximately ten days each year.

“This year’s Ramadan start date is expected to fall on Thursday 23 April 2020, subject to the sighting of the moon, and is expected to conclude on Saturday 23rd May 2020.”


Sawm, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, will begin a few hours after the sighting of the moon at sunrise and continue until sunset.

The other four pillars are faith, prayer, charity and making the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

However, Muslim Aid adds that, “It is essential to familiarise yourself with the dates and times for Ramadan 2020 with our timetable, as anyone who is still eating their pre-dawn meal (suhoor) following the completion of the call to prayer (Fajr) is disqualified from that day’s fast.”

The day’s fast is then completed at sunset and the Maghrib prayers can begin. It is traditional to end your fast by eating dates before the evening meal with family and friends.

What is Ramadan?

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims take part in fasting, which means that they do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset.

Ramadan is also a time for undertaking charity work, spending time with family and friends, spiritual reflection and prayer.

What is Iftar?

Each night during Ramadan, the fast is broken with a meal named Iftar. This takes place at sunset.

What is Eid al-Fitr?

Eid al-Fitr takes place as the month of Ramadan draws to a close.

However, the date when Eid is celebrated is dependent on the sighting of the new moon - once the sighting is confirmed, the festival can begin.

Eid al-Fitr for 2020 is expected to fall on Saturday 23 May 2020 or Sunday 24 May 2020, but with the start of Ramadan, this is subject to the official sighting of the moon.

Muslim Aid explains that for the date of Eid, “it is always best to check with your local Mosque for confirmation nearer the time.”

UK lockdown and Ramadan

However, for those who observe Ramadan it may feel different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues and the UK currently remains in lockdown.

Muslims typically attend mosques to undertake prayers, but with social distancing measures in place, prayers, charity work and seeing friends and family during Ramadan will move online.

There is now also guidance on fasting for those who are vulnerable to coronavirus, or for those working long hours as key workers, with a sensible approach in place urged by community leaders.