The Islamic holy month of Ramadan has started in the United States and Canada today, Tuesday, April 13. The majority of American Muslims followed the astronomical calculations carried out by the Fiqh Council of North America, according to which Ramadan 2021 was to begin on April 13 in the US and Canada.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and lasts either 29 or 30 days, depending on when the new crescent moon is, or should be, visible. The Arabic term Ramadan connotes intense heat. It seems that in pre-Islamic Arabia, Ramadan was the name of a scorching hot summer month. In the Islamic calendar, however, the timing of Ramadan varies from year to year. This year Ramadan begins in most places on April 13. An Islamic year is roughly 11 days shorter than a Gregorian year.
In Ramadan, there are two main meals; suhoor is served and eaten before fajr (sunrise prayer), and iftar, is served and eaten after al-maghrib (sunset prayer). Typically, these meals are enjoyed in groups.
The holy month is marked by fasting from dawn until sunset and the Taraweeh prayers that Muslims perform daily in the mosque in the evening after salat al Ishaa (what’s this).
Taraweeh prayers are expected to start in the evening of April 12, the day before Ramadan begins. In 2020, the US and Canada began fasting on April 24.
This is the second Ramadan Muslims around the world will observe in the middle of a pandemic. Last year’s Ramadan was also unusual. Muslims globally were forced to perform their prayers at home and no family gatherings were allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eid Al Fitr is expected to take place on May 13. In Eid Al Fitr, Muslims gather in large open spaces (Musalla) or mosques for another special prayer, called Salat al-Eid.
Fatwa on COVID Vaccination
Amid the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns launched by both countries, some may start wondering whether the vaccines invalidate the fast. The British Islamic Medical Association assured the Islamic community about taking the vaccine while fasting in a statement published on January 28.
The association stated: “taking the COVID-19 vaccines currently licensed in the UK does not invalidate the fast, as per the opinion of Islamic scholars. Individuals should not delay their COVID vaccinations on the account of Ramadan.”
The Fiqh Council of North America has also declared the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as Halal. The Council has released a detailed Fatwa on COVID vaccines.
“… after due consultation with our medical experts at Initiative on Islam and Medicine, we at the Fiqh Council consider the above mentioned two vaccines permissible (Halal), and advise the community to receive COVID vaccines with due consultation with and advice of their physicians. We also ask Muslims to play their role in debunking baseless rumors and myths about the vaccine.”