Ramadan 101: Five facts about the holy month of Ramadan

Muslims around the world will begin celebrating Ramadan today. Throughout the month-long holiday, they will fast from dawn to dusk. Ramadan is happening at the heart of summer this year, posing a greater challenge than normal for those observing the fast.

The start of Ramadan is determined by the moon

Anjum Naveed/AP
Pakistani Muslims look toward the new moon that indicates the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, Aug 1.

The exact start of Ramadan is often up in the air until just before the holiday begins because it is determined by a sighting of the new moon. Many places still depend on someone seeing the new moon with the naked eye in order to declare the holiday. As a result, Ramadan’s start can vary from place to place because of weather conditions and other factors that affect how easily the moon is seen.

However, countries are increasingly relying on astronomical calculations and observatories, leading to a more uniform start time. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Yemen all declared today the official start of the holiday, according to MSNBC.

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