Picture for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: XPRESS/Ador T. Bustamante

Manama: Ramadan is expected to start on July 20, a Kuwaiti astronomer has said.

“According to calculations, the first day of the month will be on Friday, July 20,” Salah Al Ajairi said. “Muslims will fast for 15 hours and 18 minutes on the first day and the fasting period will decrease gradually until it reaches 14 hours and 33 minutes on the 30th and last day,” he said, quoted by Al Aan news site.

The lunar month is decided in most Muslim countries upon the sighting of the crescent, and not on astronomical calculations. Most Muslim countries follow a lunar calendar and adopt the premise that fasting should begin when one new moon is sighted and end when the next is sighted.

However, Muslims have disagreed whether the sighting should be with the naked eye or based on astronomical calculations.

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from sunrise to sunset and focus instead on their relationship with God.

The month is used by devout Muslims to donate to charity and increase benevolent work. However, the authorities in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, keen on avoiding misuses of financial donations, often warn charitable trusts against collecting cash during Ramadan.

Religious groups regularly report an increase in the number of people who embrace Islam during the month.

Last year, a Kuwaiti association said that 195 people embraced Islam in the first five days of Ramadan in Kuwait.

“The number of foreigners who declared that they embraced Islam was 195 in the first five days of the sacred month,” Jamal Al Shatti, the head of the Committee to Promote Islam, said.

“We believe that many more people will announce their conversion before the end of the month,” he said.

Kuwait is a predominantly Muslim country, but thousands of non-Muslims, mainly foreigners from Asian countries, live in the country.