Ramadan and the lunar calendar


This year the Ramadan starts on the 9th of July. The month of Ramadan is a month of partial fasting and extra prayers. Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, and that includes not drinking. As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the months migrate through the seasons, moving forward every year by 11 to 12 days. A Lunar calendar is based on the cycle of the lunar phase. Twelve lunar months make up 354,37 days.

Ramadan dates can vary in different countries depending on whether one goes with the calculated time of the new moon, or the actual sighting of the new moon. All countries on the planet will see the new moon within a 24 hour period, starting from the first sighting in the east

The lunar calendar with twelve months, the Hijri Qamari, is the official calendar in Saudi Arabia. Other lunar calendars may include the addition of extra months to synchronise them to the solar calendar and make them better linked to the seasons, and are in fact ”lunarsolar” calendars. Most calendars used in antiquity had some adjustment to bring it in synchronisation with the solar year.

In the hijri lunar calendar it takes about 33 years and five days for the month of Ramadan to migrate through the solar year and end up where it started.

Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month when the Quran was revealed. We know it moves up 11 to 12 days every year, and that it takes 33 years and five days to make the cycle through the solar year, so we could calculate when exactly the Quran was revealed on the Gregorian calendar.
Anybody like to try? Please share the result!


Read more:

The lunisolar calendar

The lunar calendar


22 Responses

  1. I tried to calculate it by using one of many lunar-gregorian converters, but found it mind boggling and frustrating. Then I read on a few Islamic websites that Koran was first revealed on December 22 in the year 609 AD, when Mohammad was around 40, and concluding sometimes in 632 AD, the year of his death.[

  2. No idea. I tried. Eid Muburak in advance though.

  3. I’m wondering if this statement is correct, and what the writer intended: “Muslims fast from dusk till dawn, and that includes not drinking.” In my experience it has been the opposite: Fasting from dawn until dusk, that is all the daylight hours, and that includes not drinking. “Dusk till dawn” are the nighttime hours.

  4. That’s a typo, (thanks for pointing it out, it will be edited) it’s not a conspiracy.
    ”The writer” did not ”intend” anything other than writing a nerdy post about lunar calendars.

    But if you are in to conspiracy theories, there’s a lovely discussion going on at the debate page. Enjoy.

  5. “and that includes not drinking” and not smoking also.

  6. And no sex, but the post was meant to concentrate on the eccentricities of the lunar calendar and it’s interesting migration through the solar year.

  7. drinking as in drinking water, right?

    thanks for keeping the blog going, i got interested in saudi earlier this year and this blog has been most excellent source.

  8. My first rough calculation gets it to late September 621, but I haven’t figured out how to adjust the date based on the change from Julian to Gregorian calendar.

  9. Looking at reference material I am off by a bit less than a year since the day 1 seems to be in July 622. I wonder if that is accurate since it apparently is a Gregorian date.

  10. Jerry, now I come to think of it, didn’t they make an adjustment somewhere in the past? The Gregorian calendar had to be adjusted or something so maybe that’s where the difference lies. I’d have to look it up.

    I just found out, After world war 2 (I think) there was a plan to change the calendar from the Gregorian to a more exact and scientific calendar. But the US veto-ed it, because the religious groups within the US opposed it because they might miss out on a sunday or two…
    Another proof of religion keeping humanity backwards, and primitive. And stupid. Imagine where we would be if there was no religion, we could have solved hunger, disease, we might be flying among the stars. We might be in the Star Trek Universe!
    Instead we have these stupid mindbogglingly primitive ”religions” With their invisible sky-daddies, for which there is not a shadow of proof, and their endless mind shackling tactics of guilt and fear, and they all conspire to keep humanity on a lower level of existence…
    So depressing…

  11. I was just doing a raw calculation without leap years so it just a start the Gregorian/Julian addition in most of Europe was less than 2 weeks. At least our Gregorian calendar is halfway decent. I don’t know why the Muslims eliminated the correction to the lunar year that had been done previously. Certainly a farmer would hate to have months that don’t stay put.

  12. I can’t imagine the confusion of living with a calendar which moves to such a great degree through the year. I never realized it was so very inaccurate. I am amazed such an archaic calendar is still in use in the modern age, without adjustments.

    The Gregorian calendar is pretty good, but we could have had a better one. Pity it was stalled.

  13. I am a very serious birdwatcher and I pull a list of possible birds based on past records. I cannot imagine having to deal with a non-solar year. I can only believe that those who adopted this calendar weren’t farmers. Can you imagine trying to be a farmer under this kind of calendar?

  14. No I can’t. You would have do your agricultural planning outside of the calendar.
    it’s actually quite unusual to have a non-adjusted lunar calendar. Maybe it doesn’t matter in such a hot climate closer to the equator?
    But some of the people from ages past were very good in astronomy, the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, and much later astronomers in predominantly Muslim countries were very good. One wonders why they never made up a better calendar for Islam? I am sure they had the knowledge at some point. I suppose not in Mohammeds area and time period, but certainly later.

  15. Most of the groups in the middle east had lunar-solar calendars (ie: a calendar into which an extra month would be inserted every few years). I understand that the Koran has a verse in it prohibiting the addition of the extra month, but I don’t know the reason for it. I often read things by Muslims who proclaim how scientific the Koran is, but they don’t usually mention the outdated solar calendar.

  16. I was a looking at Wikipedia’s article on the world calendar (the one I assume you were referring too), I cannot imagine it being adopted by anyone today, at least in the US. First of all it would be immensely expensive after the Y2K work to re-write so much software to work with a new calendar scheme.

  17. I agree, we missed a window there.

  18. AA, a non-adjusted lunar calendar can only work (somewhat) for a tropical community that lives by commerce or warfare. As to dawn to dusk, depends on location because days are really long in Norway this time of year and the faithful conveniently ignore Allah’s pure, perfect instructions.

    If I remember correctly, it is Quran 9 that prohibits adding days or months to adjust the islamic calendar to the real world. Worse yet, it seems that Allah can’t even talk about a calendar without calling for hate and violence against nonbelievers. So anybody that adds a few days so that he/she can sow their crops and feed their families is evil.

    The good news is that in May 20874 the two calendars will be the same, having the same year and month, at least for 29 or 30 days.

    The bad news is that Islamic calendars with pinup girls like Miss Safar or Miss Shawal don’t sell very well. It must the the 30 square meters of fabric in the burka.

  19. Jay, I did not know the Quran actually forbids adding days to make the lunar calendar more realistic? I will look it up!

    Besides the difficulties for farmers this wandering through the year makes it rather tough for Muslims who are going through the Ramadan fasting in more northern or southern hemispheres, I know that in the Netherlands sun-up is before 05.00 and sundown is 22.15, the actual prayer times are earlier and later than the real sun-up and sundown,, so that leaves one very little time for some food and drink. Next year I think ramadan will be at the summer solstice, go up further north and the sun will not set at all for a few days!

    On the other hand, if you travel far enough south the sun will only come up a few hours now and Ramadan should be a breeze 😉

  20. That does pose an interesting question: if you live in Alaska which at the moment is 24 hours of sun, when would fasting cease?

  21. A lunar calendar is only supposed to “work” in terms of knowing the date and religious observations. Of course agriculture is seasonal.

  22. katcanfiled, because it is impossible to do the Muslim type of fasting in these regions Muslims either keep to Mecca times, or the nearest geological position which doesn’t make it too impossible.
    In my opinion this practical problem combined with an inaccurate lunar calendar is another proof that religion is man-made, and that any religion has nothing to offer but the limited knowledge (and questionable morals) of the people who made it up at that time.

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