Muslim countries announce start of Ramadan in shadow of Gaza war | Religious news

This year's observance was marred, for many, by Israel's war on Gaza.

Saudi officials have spotted the crescent moon and declared Ramadan the holy month of fasting for many of the world's 1.8 billion Muslims.

Officials sighted the moon on Sunday night, making Monday the first day of the fasting month, Saudi state television reported.

Muslims abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset during this month as they reflect more deeply on their faith and hold family gatherings. This year's observance was marred, for many, by Israel's war on Gaza.

After authorities in Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia spotted the moon, several Gulf Arab states, including Iraq, Syria and Egypt, followed suit with an announcement confirming the start of the fast on Monday.

However, some Asia-Pacific countries such as Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore said they would start Ramadan on Tuesday after failing to sight the crescent moon.

Oman, on the eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, similarly announced the start of Ramadan on Tuesday. Jordan will also start Ramadan on Tuesday.

Ramadan works on lunar calendar. And moon sightings often vary between countries, meaning some countries announce the start of the month earlier or later.

Following the Ramadan announcement, Saudi King Salman referred to the war in Gaza.

In light of the attacks our brothers in Palestine are suffering, this year's Ramadan is painful for us, and we stress the need for the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to prevent these heinous crimes and provide safe humanitarian access. and relief lines,” Raja said.

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Saudi Arabia is urging its citizens to look at the sky from Sunday night in preparation for seeing the crescent moon.

In Iran, which considers itself the global leader of Shia Muslims, authorities usually start Ramadan a day after Sunnis do. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office announced that Ramadan will begin there on Tuesday, state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Palestinian women in Gaza offer food to families fleeing Israeli attacks and taking refuge in Rafah, March 10, 2024. [Jehad Alshrafi/Anadolu Agency]

During Ramadan, observers eat a pre-dawn meal, or „suhoor,” to sustain themselves during daylight hours, then break their fast with „iftar,” often a large meal.

During the month, Muslims try to avoid conflict and focus on acts of charity. However, Israel's war in the Gaza Strip looms large for many Muslims. There was hope that a ceasefire agreement could be reached between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas before the start of Ramadan.

According to Palestinian health officials in the besieged territory, the Israeli assault on Gaza has killed more than 31,000 people, and aid agencies have warned of famine in parts of the Gaza Strip.

Hasuna Tabib Hassan, a dentist displaced from Gaza City, north of the besieged Gaza Strip, told AFP news agency: „We were looking forward to Ramadan. [we] It is clear that we will remain in our homes, but unfortunately we will live in displacement, pain and oppression.”

Meanwhile, Israel's restrictions on Muslims praying at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site, could further fuel tensions in the region.

Palestinians walk past shops lined up on a street in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on March 10.
Palestinians walk past stalls set up on a street in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on March 10, 2024, as Muslims prepare for the holy month of Ramadan. [Mohammed Abed/AFP]

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