The month of Ramadan is considered the holiest and most sacred month of the Islamic Hijri (lunar) calendar. Muslims firmly believe that it was during this exalted month that the archangel Gabriel descended from the heavens and revealed the Message to the Prophet Muhammad.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to elevate their level of spiritual and physical submission to God by way of fasting; that is to say, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and also husband-wife intimacy from the breaking of dawn until the setting of the sun.
As we prepare to welcome the holiest of months, here are the dates, calendar and guide to spending Ramadan 2021 around the world.
Ramadan dates and calendar 2021 – when is Ramadan 2021?
The arrival of Ramadan has always been associated with a certain amount of mystique and contemplation. The exact date of the month’s beginning is traditionally determined by religious scholars/authorities under the cover of night as they seek to observe certain sightings related to the appearance and cycle of the moon.
For the UAE, a recent update made by an astronomy center in Abu Dhabi has concluded that the month of Sha’ban has begun on Monday, March 15. This means that Ramadan 2021 will begin either on Tuesday, April 13 or on Wednesday, April 14 2021, depending on the length of the month of Sha’ban.
Many other countries celebrating Ramadan are likely to also observe the Holy Month starting from the 13th of April. These countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, and most non-Arab countries in Africa.
Some countries, the likes of Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia, have begun observing the month of Sha’ban on 14 March, which means that Ramadan is likely to start on the 11th of April.
Ramadan observances around the world
In most Islamic or predominantly Muslim countries, work and school hours are cut short during Ramadan. Hotels remain open as do restaurants within their grounds. All other restaurants are mostly closed during the day with some closed for dine-in only.
For those who do not practice Islam, having meals, drinks and cigarettes during the day are generally viewed as unacceptable. In some countries, it is even punishable by law. Women must also take care to dress modestly and conservatively. Shoulders, necklines and knees are expected to be hidden from view during Ramadan.
Here are some unique Ramadan observances and traditions from around the world.
As the blessings of Ramadan reverberates throughout the Kingdom, the people of Bahrain rejoice in a serene Ramadan atmosphere characterized by feelings of kinship, charity and spirituality. Such kinship and benevolence are particularly observable in masjids all over Bahrain, where free Iftar (breaking of the fast) meals for Muslims and non-Muslims alike are being offered. Prior to the pandemic, it’s estimated these free Iftar meals had been provided for some 12,000 people throughout Ramadan each and every year courtesy of benefactors who wished to remain nameless.
Come Ramadan (or Ramzan, depending on where you’re from), the culinary traditions of the country practically mandate those engaged in fasting to take to the streets and enjoy the open-air buffet. Nearing sunset, people are inexplicably drawn to the allure of these traditional iftar markets of Dhaka and other cities as they serve various shahi or dishes deemed perfect for breaking one’s fast.
Indonesia is a diverse archipelago consisting of thousands of islands and hundreds of ethnic groups. The diversity inevitably gives rise to unique Ramadan traditions practiced by its millions of Muslims. One noteworthy tradition is the cleansing ritual Indonesian Muslims undertake just before Ramadan commences. Men, women and children utter the niyat (intention) and bathe themselves in springs, pools and even their own private bathrooms. They thoroughly wash from head to toe signifying a clean physical and spiritual state to begin their submission to the Almighty for the following month.
One of the more noteworthy Ramadan traditions of Kuwait is the firing of the Iftar cannon in Kuwait City. Children and adults alike gather around the cannon in anticipation of the thundering blast signaling the breaking of the day’s fast. The firing of the Iftar cannon takes place at the Naif Palace while also being broadcasted throughout the country each and every day during Ramadan. The tradition has been practiced since the 1960s.
For the Qataris, Ramadan is also affectionately known and referred to as the month of Ghabga; the month of the midnight feast. The purpose of Ghabga is to gather family and friends so that the midnight feast may be enjoyed in a spirit of togetherness. The youth may have their gathering here, as do the men and women; all uniting in intimacy and love under one roof as they reminisce shared memories and enjoy each other’s company.
During Ramadan, the mosques are decorated beautifully with lights and flowers across Senegal. Religious classes are held almost daily. Muslims flock to their nearby mosques for the Tarawih prayer and to read the holy scripture. Religious songs are also typical of the Ramadan celebrations in Senegal, with several all-night events devoted to these songs being arranged. Many Senegalese even take special training to learn the art of singing the orotarios and performing the adhan in the distinctive African way.
Tunisian Muslims observe the practices of self-restraint and self-discipline during the month of Ramadan. It is common to go on with day-to-day work and rest during the daytime. Once the sun sets, however, people retire to their homes for the iftar and the evening prayers. Typically, Tunisians break their fast with a sip of water and three dates and say “Saha Chribtek” to each other, meaning ‘may it be for your health’.
In Eastern European countries such as North Macedonia, Muslims are among the minority. However, Ramadan is still considered a significant religious observance by both the government as well as its non-Muslim population. Muslim families whip up food not typically served outside of Ramadan, such as baklava, pacha, dates, yogurt all complemented perfectly by the soft and airy somun bread. These delightful cuisines are exquisitely arranged on the sofra, the Turkish word for essentially a table prepared for dining with family and friends.
Unlike in predominantly Muslim countries, there aren’t any particular rules or prohibitions to be observed during Ramadan. Life pretty much goes on the way it always has for the majority of people in North Macedonia.