Given that the Muslim world still follows their lunar based calendar, will this year’s Ramadan be the longest duration fast for those living in the northern hemisphere?
By: Ringo Bones
Since it began back in June 6, this year’s Ramadan fast could be the longest in 33 years for Muslims living north of the equator because the holy month has been scheduled according to the Muslim calendar which is lunar based – and it lasts until July 6 for this year’s scheduled Eid-al-Fitr. Over the last few years, the scheduled observance of Ramadan have crept up until this year that it coincided with the height of the summer season in the northern hemisphere.
By this year’s summer solstice, June 21, Muslims observing Ramadan in Denmark would have to fast for 21 hours because daylight hours could last that long in those latitudes during the summer solstice while Muslims in London will have to fast for 19 hours during the height of summer. While Muslims residing in major metropolitan areas of the southern hemisphere, like those in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Buenos Aires, Argentina will only have to fast for 9 ½ hours this coming June 21 because it is winter in the southern hemisphere. Given that the majority of dry land on planet Earth Is located in the northern hemisphere, more Muslims will be observing Ramadan in the backdrop of the summer season. The scheduling “conflict” is largely due to how the Muslim calendar got established.
The formation of the Muslim calendar could be traced back to the Era of the Hegira – i.e. the Muslim Era - which began on July 16, 622 AD, after the flight of the prophet Muhammad from Mecca. The year 2016 of the Gregorian calendar is the year 1437 of the Muslim Era. Before the time of the prophet Muhammad, who died in AD 632, the Arabs had a lunisolar calendar, using lunar months with intercalations something like those of the Jewish calendar. It is believed that the abuse of the old calendar led the prophet Muhammad to eliminate the added months and use a typically lunar calendar. In this system, whose year one is A.D. 622, the day and the synodic period of the moon are the only natural units used, the seasons not being taken into account. The lunar month was used as 29 ½ days and the year had 12 months of 29 or 30 days alternately. In a cycle of 30 years the final month had 29 days in 19 of the years and 30 in the other 11. The Muslim calendar is used extensively throughout the Near East and Middle East, though in 1925 Turkey abandoned it in favor of the Gregorian calendar.