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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 07:28 GMT
Moon sightings split Ramadan start
Muslims praying during Ramadan
Ramadan is a time of intense prayer
Britain's Muslim communities are preparing to start the holy month of Ramadan on different days because opinions are divided about the sighting of the new moon.

About half the country's Muslims will begin fasting on Friday morning, while the other half will delay the start until Saturday.

It is a similar story across the Muslim world, despite efforts each year to reach agreement.

The start of Ramadan begins when the new moon is sighted, according to Islamic texts from the age of the Prophet Mohammed.

Modern astronomy can calculate it more precisely and says the new moon arrives on Thursday evening.

Clerics in Birmingham are among those who have declared they will observe the astronomical times and fast from dawn on Friday.

But many other British Muslims will wait for the first physical sighting in Saudi Arabia to be relayed to London.

Overcast skies could delay this happening until Friday night, which means fasting will not start until Saturday.

See also:

09 Nov 01 | South Asia
Ramadan: Tensions raised in holy month
01 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bombing to go on during Ramadan
24 Nov 00 | UK
Wired up Ramadan
26 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Ramadan action not ruled out
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