Hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, including hundreds of thousands of Dutch people, will start the fasting month of Ramadan on Saturday. This marks the first Ramadan since the lifting of coronavirus lockdowns across the country.
For a month, observers of Ramadan are not allowed to eat, drink, have sex and smoke from dawn to dusk, and are advised to focus more on charity. Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr on May 1 and 2. Sick people, pregnant women, young children and travelers are not required to fast. Fasting starts every day with morning prayer, or fajr around 5 a.m., just before the sun rises. The fast lasts until evening prayer, maghrib, roughly between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. This is followed by iftar, the meal that breaks the fast.
Turkey has already determined well in advance that Ramadan would start on Saturday. In Arab countries, it depends on the moon. When the first crescent of the moon appears in the sky, the fast begins the following morning. This light was seen on Friday evening, which is why Saturday is the first day of Ramadan. If the moonlight had not been observed, Ramadan would have started on Sunday.
The period of Ramadan is shifting because the Islamic calendar is based on the phases of the moon. A few years ago, Ramadan fell in the middle of summer and in a few years Ramadan will be in the Dutch winter.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Muslims could hardly gather during Ramadan. “The emotional side of Ramadan was there and so was the generosity,” said chair of the Contact Body of Muslims and the Government (CMO) Muhsin Köktas. “But now we can come together again, for communal prayer and during iftar.”
Mosques across the country will be organizing joint iftars in the coming weeks, where everyone is welcome. Refugees who want to eat iftar together can also come to a mosque near their residence, according to Köktas. During the month of fasting, Muslims and Islamic organizations also distribute food parcels in neighborhoods and through the mosque.