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Winter Ramadan ushers in ‘cool’ comforts

12 Mar 2024 Winter Ramadan ushers in ‘cool’ comforts By ANIRBAN RAY

Muscat – For the first time in many years, Ramadan is being observed in March at the end of the winter season in Oman and most parts of the region. Based on the lunar calendar, the beginning of the holy month gradually changes every year determined by sighting of the crescent moon.

In recent years, the faithful have endured the challenge of fasting during long, hot days at the peak of summer. This year, however, fasting at the end of winter is going to make the experience considerably comfortable and pleasant.

“The shorter days of winter significantly reduce the fasting hours, allowing us to break our fast earlier,” said Rashid Khan, a salesman based in Ghubra. “This change is greatly appreciated, as it lightens the physical burden of fasting. Also, the cooler weather enables engaging in outdoor activities during iftar and after.”

Mohammad Amri, a taxi driver from Muttrah, echoed Khan’s view on fasting in cooler months. “The lower temperatures and shorter days ease the practice of fasting, particularly for those of us who cannot always stop for iftar due to the nature of our work. The pleasant weather not only makes fasting less daunting but also improves our overall well-being, making the spiritual journey more engaging and fruitful.”

Commenting on the many advantages – both in term of spiritual upliftment and social engagement – when Ramadan is observed in cooler months, bank employee Khalid Rashid said, “The confluence of spiritual reflection and favourable weather makes winter Ramadan a uniquely enjoyable experience. The nights will be particularly lively, with traditional decorations and treats drawing more people outdoors than in the hotter months.”

In Oman, the tradition of hosting iftars in mosques and tents has been popular for many years but disrupted following the COVID-19 pandemic. With milder temperatures, there’s a heightened sense of expectation for outdoor iftars, enhancing communal dining experiences for families and friends.

Explaining the shift

The Hijri calendar, which Muslims follow for marking religious events and rituals, is a lunar calendar based on the phases of the moon. This results in the Hijri year being ten to 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, causing Ramadan to begin ten to 12 days earlier each Gregorian year. Approximately every 33 Hijri years, or 32 Gregorian years, the start of Muharram, the first month of the Hijri calendar, aligns with the early days of January, illustrating the cyclical shift of Ramadan through the seasons.

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