Confusion reigns over start of Ramadan in France


France’s official Muslim body stated in May that Ramadan should start on Tuesday. But with the rest of the Arab world starting on Wednesday, the French faithful have been thrown into confusion.

French Muslims were thrown into confusion on Tuesday after the country's top Islamic authority and officials at the leading mosque in Paris failed to agree on the official start date of the holy month of Ramadan.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), the official Islamic representative body, had insisted that according to its calculations, Ramadan began on Tuesday.

But the theological council at the Great Mosque of Paris said the month of daytime fasting would not start until Wednesday, the same day that many Arab countries are due to begin the observance.

“The CFCM’s decision has thrown everyone into confusion,” said Hassen Farsadou, head of the Seine-Saint-Denis [northern Parisian suburbs] Union of Muslim Associations, which has called on its followers to start their Ramadan fast on Wednesday.

“A very large number of French mosques have taken the same decision,” he told FRANCE 24. According to French Muslim websites, more than 131 mosques, including the Great Mosque of Paris, had followed this lead.

‘It’s ridiculous’

“I’ve never known such a period of utter confusion,” said Nadia, a young Muslim living in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a northern Parisian suburb. “It’s ridiculous.

There are members of my own family starting Ramadan at different times. My parents and most of my brothers and sisters are starting Wednesday, but I had decided to follow what the CFCM told me, so I’ve already started fasting.”

“What’s most annoying about this is that I’m now persuaded that the CFCM got it wrong,” she told FRANCE 24.

“Because of the confusion, the family has decided to follow Ramadan as it is being observed in our country of origin – Morocco – where it begins on Wednesday.”

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to abstain from drinking liquids, smoking and having sex from dawn until dusk. Observing Ramadan is one of the five main religious obligations in Islam.

The CFCM had in May settled on Tuesday as the start of Ramadan based on the expected arrival of the new moon – using the same calculations that are used by Turkish Muslims – which they argued happened a day earlier in France than in Arab countries.

It is the first time that the CFCM body has taken the decision into its own hands and not followed the rest of the Arab World, apparently unaware that French Muslims would be thrown into confusion by the decision.


French Islamic theologians who gathered Monday night at the Paris mosque put off the start by a day, saying the new moon had not been sighted.

“Mosques were calling us yesterday until 1am, the imams were in disarray," Djelloul Seddiki, the head of the mosque's theological council, told AFP.

Dalil Boubakeur, who is both the president of the CFCM and the rector of the Paris mosque, said the change in date had followed an outcry in the community that Ramadan was not starting in France on the same day as in many Muslim countries.

"The calculation was not wrong in theory, but we did not take into account the community dimension – the community had decided it would follow the Muslim countries," Boubakeur told AFP.

‘Shouldn’t have caused such a scandal’

Imam Tareq Oubrou, head of the Bordeaux mosque, told FRANCE 24 that he had chosen to tell his followers to begin their Ramadan fast on Tuesday – but added that “we chose the new method of calculating the start of Ramadan, but the disparity really shouldn’t have caused such a scandal.”

“The CFCM used a perfectly legitimate way of determining the date of the new moon,” he said. “The Turks, who have a much more modern approach to Islam than Arab countries, have been using these methods for a long time. And if we agree that prayer times have to be different from country to country, then why not also the start date of Ramadan?”

He added: “No French mosque is obliged to follow the directions of the CFCM. The most important thing is that Muslims should observe a month of fasting.”

Muslim nations declare Ramadan begins Monday

The Associated Press

July 30, 2011

CAIRO -- Religious authorities in most of the Middle East declared that Monday will be the start of the holy month of Ramadan, a period devoted to dawn-to-dusk fasting, prayers and spiritual introspection.

Ramadan begins around 11 days earlier each year. Its start is calculated based on the sighting of the new moon, which marks the beginning of the Muslim lunar month that varies between 29 or 30 days.

Official statements issued Saturday in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Yemen said the holy month will start Monday.

Some countries use astronomical calculations and observatories, while others rely on the naked eye alone, leading sometimes to different starting times in the Middle East.

Political differences and religious disputes between Sunni- and Shiite-majority countries in the region also sometimes play a role in different starting dates for Ramadan.

During the month, Muslims are expected to abstain during daylight hours from food, drink, smoking and sex to focus on spirituality. This year, the long and hot summer days are expected to compound the already tough fast.

To help those fasting cope with the heat, Palestinian officials in the West Bank and Gaza said they will push back the clock one hour. That gives some psychological relief, making it seem as if the time for breaking the fast is coming an hour earlier and lengthening the evening hours.

The region is embroiled in dramatic political change and protests, which are likely to be affected by the fasting season that slows the pace of life and changes daily routines.

US Muslims Upset by Ramadan Disunity

By Sahar Kassaimah, IOL Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Frustrated by disunity in determining the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and consequently `Eid Al-Fitr, Americans Muslims dream of the day they fast and celebrate together.

"I wish if I could live and see the day when American Muslims start fasting together and celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr," Mohammad Roweida, a Californian American Muslim who owns an Arabic food store, told

"We have the same problem every Ramadan. Some mosques start fasting today, other mosques starts tomorrow or even two days after and others follow Saudi Arabia or Egypt," he added.

"I wish if all American Muslims at least in my city, could fast together and celebrate `Eid together."

The same plea was echoed by Ibtisam Al-Daif, a Californian mother of four.

"It doesn’t matter whether we follow the calculations or the moon sighting, I want American Muslims to be united in this matter," said a frustrated Al-Daif.

"I wish if all the mosques open their doors for the `Eid prayer in the same day because for our kids, they don’t understand why aren’t we united and why some mosques do not celebrate `Eid in the same day."

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) decided to follow the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) which announced Saturday, September 23, as the first day of Ramadan based on astronomical calculations.

However, many Islamic organizations and centers still followed the crescent sighting and Saudi Arabia in determining the beginning of fasting. Others follow moon sighting in any country.


Like every year, American Muslims were divided in starting Ramadan, as they would be in celebrating `Eid Al-Fitr.

Daif opted to follow the majority when starting her first day of fasting.

"I go with the people here. It depends on the majority," she said. "If they fast, I fast with them and if not, I also go with them."

Ruqaya Khan, a mother of two, fasted according to the directions of Tampa Mosque at San Fernando Valley, California.

"My mosque adopts the crescent sighting and as the sheikh there taught us, all Muslims should adopt the moon sighting."

For Maha Wahab, a Californian mother of three, American Muslims should follow the first mosque or organization that announces the beginning of Ramadan.

"I call all the mosques in my city on the night of moon sighting," she said.

"And I go with the mosque that first announces the beginning of fasting. I live at Woodland Hills, but I do not follow the closest mosque to my house because I hate to follow a particular mosque.

"It happened once that I saw the moon with my eyes and I told one of my friends to look at it to start fasting," said Wahab.

"She refused just because she is following a particular country or mosque and she wanted to go with it even if the crescent is there. I think Muslims should rather follow the first Muslim country that starts fasting," added the Los Angeles resident.

Others disagree and believe Muslims should follow Saudi Arabia in starting Ramadan, since Muslims follow the kingdom in other rituals.

"I believe all Muslims should follow Saudi Arabia in deciding the first day of fasting," said Adel Al-Gohari, an Egyptian-born American Muslim accountant.

"When Muslims perform hajj, they go to Saudi Arabia. `Eid Al-Adha should only be announced by Saudi Arabia because the Day of Arafat is there," he said.

"So if we have to follow them in hajj, Arafat and `Eid Al-Adha, why don’t we follow them in Ramadan and `Eid Al-Fitr as well?"

It so happened that those who follow Saudi Arabia have also started Ramadan on Saturday along with those who follow astronomical calculations.

For Sheikh Mohammad Al-Hanooti, a professor of Shari`ah, Muslims should adopt astronomical calculations rather than sighting the moon because Islam always adopts certainty.

"When we follow calculations we are certain and calculations are matters of certainty. As when we follow sighting the moon that is a matter of speculation and speculation is different from certainty. It is assessment but not certainty. In fiqh, when we have certainty and we have speculations, of course we adopt certainty," he told IOL.

Hanooti believes that the calculation criteria could easily unify people in Ramadan and `Eid.

"By adopting the calculation way we are going to unify people more than unifying them in the state when deciding moon sighting."

Umbrella Body

Some American Muslims believe they should follow American organizations rather than following different Arabic and Islamic countries.

"The most important thing for me is the unity of our umah (nation)," said Intesar Hasoon, an Iraqi-born American Muslim.

"Especially for Muslims living in the West, they need to look united in front of non-Muslims to reflect a good picture of our religion."

Hasoon believes that following a particular Islamic body could help Muslims be united.

"I always follow the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). It is the mother of most of the Islamic American organizations and most of us trust their decisions.

"I think that ISNA’s decision to follow calculations and to join FCNA’s decision in starting Ramadan is a very successful step towards unity."

Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqi, FCNA Chairman, said American Muslims still do not have one Islamic body to decide the crescent issue for them.

"American Muslims do trust ISNA generally," he asserted.

"But they have come from different countries and they are of different backgrounds. In America, Muslims have not yet developed a mechanism to have one body to decide the crescent issues and all people agree to follow its decision. Local imams and various other organizations also play their role in giving their opinions in this matter."

Dr. Hamid Al-Ghazali, adjunct professor at the Islamic American University and Chairman of Muslim American Society Council Islamic Schools (MASCIS), insists that uniting all American Muslims is impossible.

"We cannot unite all Muslims on one issue, but we could get the majority of people and join them," he told IOL.

Al-Ghazali, an imam for the last 25 years and Superintendent of Iman Academy School, believes Islamic organizations should be more inclusive in order to unify the majority of American Muslims.

"Our Islamic organizations such as ISNA and others should be more inclusive and as many organizations will accept what they say if they get as many Islamic organizations as possible into the Shura Council," he said.

"There are many organizations that are not included in the shura council. These organizations should be included and then the decision made between all these organizations and sheikhs will represent the majority and will be easier to follow."

Dr. Siddiqi wishes the new method adopted by FCNA and supported by ISNA could unite the majority of American Muslims.

"It is indeed the spirit of Ramadan and `Eid that Muslims be united and celebrate these blessed occasions together. This is what FCNA is trying to do and I am pleased to see that ISNA is leading this unified approach."


Why Muslims go with Lunar Calendar (based on climate)
By M.B. Brimah.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Unlike Jews, Christians and Hindus who have a solar year, so that the time of their fasting always falls in the same season, Muslims follow purely Lunar Calendar hence the Ramadan, does not fall in the same season, so says a Muslim cleric, Sheikh Al-ameen Yahaya, also known as Mallam Yahaya.

Speaking to the ADM on why Muslims go with lunar calendar, the Muslim cleric said the planet on which we live has not the same climate everywhere.

Man, he said, suffers from every kind of excess, be it of heat or cold, adding, “the season’s of heat and cold are only relative from one region to another.”

For instance, Mallam Yahaya explained that winter is a pleasant season in Mecca, but not so near the poles (in Canada and Northern Europe).

Summer, he also said, is the best season near the poles, but not all so near the equator and in sandy deserts.

Sheikh Al-Ameen pointed out that spring may be midway, “but many countries near the equator in South India, for instance do not know the spring. They only know winter, summer and the rains.”

Therefore, for a world-wide religion, “If we fix some season for fasting, it will be either a perpetual ease for some and a perpetual hardship to others, or inconvenience in some way to the inhabitants of certain regions of the earth”, Mallam Yahaya said.

“But if the seasons are regularly to change for the fasting period, ease and hardship will alternate, and nobody will feel dissatisfied with the law-giver”, he stated.

The Muslim cleric explained further that this change of season in the matter of fasting means also that one becomes accustomed to fasting in all sorts of seasons, and this habit and capacity to abstain from food and drink, both in the chilly winter and the burning summer, gives the faithful an endurance power in the adversity of different occasions.

Mallam Yahaya further stated those who have traveled outside of their homeland know that seasons are not alike everywhere at the same time. He said the seasons above and below the equator differ, pointing out that “when it is winter in the Northern hemisphere, it is summer in the Southern one”.

“If Islam had ordered a fast, say in January of every year, it will be perpetually in winter for some Muslims and in summer for others. Or, if Islam had ordered a fast say in winter, some will fast in January, others in July. And this will either be a perpetual hardship or absence of unity,” he concluded.