MANILA, Philippines – On the night of Monday, July 8, Filipino Muslims – more than 10 million of them – looked to the skies. Will the crescent moon appear?
It did not. This means the Muslim faithful will start their month-long fast, the Ramadan, on Wednesday, July 10, as declared by the mufti or Muslim scholars.
The start of Ramadan depends on the sighting of the crescent moon, which marks the start of a new month in the lunar calendar. Originally expected on Monday night – so it could usher the Ramadan on Tuesday – the crescent moon wasn’t visible.
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) said it tapped moon-sighting committees nationwide to help them confirm and announce the official start of the Ramadan.
Considered as one of the greatest religious observances in Islam, Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar or Hijrah. The calendar has 12 months that follow the phases of the moon.
Since Ramadan depends on the lunar calendar, the date of Ramadan varies every year and on different locations.
Last year, Filipino Muslims synchronized the start of Ramadan for the entire country. Moon-sighting committees were created to monitor the skies.
The celebration of Ramadan in the Philippines in 2012 was supposed to start on July 20 but it was pushed back to July 21 since the new moon was not visible in some areas in the country.
Since the crescent moon was not visible in Philippine skies on Monday night, Filipino Muslims will start Ramadan in concurrence with the rest of the world.
The holy month ends on the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar. This is celebrated as the Eid’l Fitr, which literally means “feast” or “breaking the fast.” The celebration is also called Hari Raya Puasa in some countries.
Eid’l Fitr celebrations for Filipino Muslims will start on Aug 9, 2013.
During Ramadan, Muslims purify themselves from worldly things. They abstain from consuming food, drink, and tobacco from sunrise to sunset.
According to newly-reverted Muslim Mariam, Ramadan is a time for detoxification.
“It cleanses the body, given the specific hours of the day we fast and the precautions we take while doing so,” she said.
More than the physical aspect, however, Mariam maintained that Ramadan is a detoxification of the heart and mind.
“It’s also a fasting of mind and heart. It’s the time of the year to recharge – fast from bad thoughts, words, and actions, and challenge one’s self to a better person for the rest of the year,” she added.
Ramadan is also an extension of the more than 1,000 year Abrahamic tradition of fasting.
Islam in the Philippines
Islam is the widely-practiced religion in some Southeast Asian countries. It is the official religion of Brunei and Malaysia and one of the 6 official religions in Indonesia.
In the Philippines, Islam is the largest minority and the first recorded monotheistic religion.
According to an NCMF report in 2011, there are 10.3 million Muslims in the country. This comprises at least 11% of the total population.
Nearly 60% of the Muslim populace reside in the southern region of Mindanao.