File image: Only 135 days left for Ramadan 2023 Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: The countdown for Ramadan, the month of fasting and spiritual detox, has begun with only 135 days left for the holy month.

According to astronomical calculations, the holy month will fall on March 23 (Thursday) and ends on April 20. (Thursday).

Ibrahim Al Jarwan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Emirates Astronomy Society, a member of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences (AUASS), expected that Ramadan will begin on March 23, 2023, and last for 29 days.

The fasting hours will reach approximately 14 hours, and vary about 40 minutes from the beginning of the month to the end.

He clarified that the new crescent moon of Ramadan will be seen on Tuesday, March 21 at 21:23 pm. Al Jarwan expected Eid Al Fitr to fall on Friday, April 21.

On the first day of Ramadan, UAE residents who observe Ramadan will fast for about 13.30 hours, while they will fast 14.13 hours on the last day of the holy month.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is regarded as the holiest month of the year as it was the month in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) on the night of Laylat Al Qadr, one of the last ten nights of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the month of piety, charity and blessings. During Ramadan, capable Muslims are required to abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. Such fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam.

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The UAE follows an official announcement in this regard from the moon-sighting committee in Mecca, as it is considered the holiest city in the Islamic world

Like other months, Ramadan too begins at the first sighting of the new crescent moon and lasts 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the next crescent. The UAE follows an official announcement in this regard from the moon-sighting committee in Mecca, as it is considered the holiest city in the Islamic world. It is the birthplace of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and also the location where he had his first revelation of the Quran.

The Islamic calendar has 354 days. Hence, Ramadan arrives 11 days earlier in every subsequent year of the Gregorian calendar. People greet each other by saying 'Ramadan Kareem', which means 'Happy Ramadan'.

How is Ramadan observed in the UAE?

The Ramadan traditions in the UAE start mid-Shaaban (the month preceding Ramadan). This day is known as Hagg Al Layla. Emirati children dress in their best clothes and go to houses in the neighbouring areas reciting songs and poems. The neighbours welcome them with sweets and nuts, which is collected by children in traditional cloth bags.

There are two main meals in Ramadan: Suhoor and Iftar. Suhoor is consumed early in the morning before sunrise, just before fasting hours start. Iftar is the meal to break the fast. Following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, fasting is broken with dates and laban (buttermilk) throughout the Islamic world.

On the first night of Ramadan, the family gathers at the house of the male head of the family, usually the grandfather, for their first Iftar. In the UAE and the other GCC countries, dates are considered as the 'bread of the desert'. Gars, a bread-like crumble with dates and cardamom, is a popular Emirati sweet dish during Ramadan. Other common dishes are Harees and Threed.

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Midfa Al Iftar, or firing the canon, signals the moment when Muslims can break their fast

Firing the cannon (Midfa Al Iftar) is an integral part of the Islamic culture and takes place in many regions across the country. It can be heard around 8-10 km away. It signals the moment when Muslims can break their fast. This tradition is known to people since the rule of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founder President of the UAE. Children wait for the sound of the big bang. To them, Iftar cannon is the most fun thing that happens during this month, apart from the sweets and other special meals and activities arranged for them. Members of the UAE military carry out this tradition with appropriate safety precautions.

Those who suffer certain barrier such as illness or pregnancy are not obligated to fast as per health professionals' advice. Those who were travelling may fast later. Children are not required to fast until they have reached puberty, although many still do out of choice. In addition to abstaining from eating, drinking and smoking, Muslims also should refrain from sinful speech and behaviour.

In addition to the regular 5 daily prayers, Muslim men and women perform Tarawih prayers daily after Isha prayers in mid-evening. During the last ten days, many devoted Muslims spend the whole day in mosques, praying and reciting the Quran, in anticipation of the Laylat Al Qadr, the night of the first revelation of the Quran. Reciting different chapters each day from the Quran is appreciated throughout the month of Ramadan. Observing Ramadan provides a spiritual experience. It is the time for Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy for the less fortunate. It encourages generosity and charity.