CAIRO - Muslims in North America will welcome the holy fasting month of Ramadan on July 20, according to astronomical calculations.
"[The] first day of Ramadan is Friday, July 20, insha'Allah," the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
Quoting FCNA statement, the umbrella Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) said the new moon of Ramadan will be born on July 19 in the holy city of Makkah according to astronomical calculations.
"First Tarawih prayer will be on Thursday night," the statement said.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
The statement said that the last day of the dawn-to-dusk fasting month will be on Saturday, August 19.
"Therefore, first day of Shawwal, i.e., Eid al-Fitr is Sunday, August 19, insha'Allah."
Both FCNA and ISNA recognize astronomical calculations as an acceptable method for determining the beginning of lunar months, including Ramadan and Shawwal.
The first day of Ramadan and moon sighting have always been a controversial issue among Muslim countries, and even scholars seem at odds over the issue.
While one group of scholars sees that Muslims in other regions and countries are to follow the same moon sighting as long as these countries share one part of the night, another states that Muslims everywhere should abide by the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia.
A third, however, disputes both views, arguing that the authority in charge of ascertaining the sighting of the moon in a given country announces the sighting of the new moon, then Muslims in the country should all abide by this.This usually causes confusion among Muslims, particularly in the West, on observing the dawn-to-dusk fasting and celebrating the `Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of fasting.