CAIRO - Millions of Muslims will celebrate the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on Wednesday, July 10, while some Muslim minorities will observe the dawn-to-dusk month a day earlier.
Egypt's Iftaa House said the new moon of Ramadan was not sighted Monday, July 8.
"Therefore, Tuesday, July 9 will be the last day of Shaaban and Wednesday, July 10 will be the first day of Ramadan."
Religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, also said that the fasting month will start on Wednesday, July 10.
Fasting will also start Wednesday in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
The dawn-to-dusk month will also start Wednesday in Jordan, Sudan and Yemen.
The first day of fasting will be Wednesday in Libya and Palestine.
Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia will start fasting on Wednesday.
Muslims in Singapore and Brunei will also observe Ramadan on Wednesday.
The Islamic Society in southern Australia also announced that Ramadan will start Wednesday.
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.
Meanwhile, Muslim minorities in the West will celebrate the first day of Ramadan a day earlier.
Muslims in Nigeria, China and Russia will start fasting on Tuesday, July 9.
The Muslim minority in France will also welcome the dawn-to-dusk month on Tuesday.
Ramadan will also start in Turkey on Tuesday.
Muslims in Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania and Slovenia will also celebrate the first day of Ramadan on Tuesday.
The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) also announced the start of Ramadan in North America on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Muslims in India and Pakistan will celebrate the first day of Ramadan on Thursday, July 11.
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.