One of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan commemorates the Quran first being revealed to the Prophet Muhammad; a moment honoured with abstinence from food and water, cigarettes and sexual activity during daylight hours.
But for many muslims, Ramadan also means being asked the same silly questions about fasting by well-intentioned but clueless friends and colleagues. Non-Muslims have an uncanny knack for reacting awkwardly when they hear that someone sat next to them is fasting and are prone to wildly over-apologising for slights, gaffes and insensitivities they often haven’t actually committed, making matters worse when all they needed to do was chill out.
So why does Ramadan fall on a different date every year?
The Islamic calendar is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar and the date of Ramadan therefore shifts each year.
The start and end date of Ramadan, which marks the celebration of Eid, is meanwhile determined by the sighting of the moon.
How do you know when sunset is?
The best way for Muslims to check the precise timing is with their local mosque. Or, you know, just google it.
Jokes aside, this is actually a good question. The sun sets at marginally different times across the country – a minute later in Newcastle than in Sunderland and a whole half an hour earlier in London than Edinburgh.
This is important because breaking the fast even a minute too early could render the day invalid, so it’s vital for hungry families who are counting down the minutes to know precisely when the moment comes.
Aren’t there health risks to consider?
Fasting is not supposed to hinder your health, so anyone with a pre-existing medical condition likely to fall ill as a result of the fast is not expected to adhere to it.