Saudi Arabia announces start of Ramadan Friday

King said he is “pained” by pandemic’s restrictions on worship.
Thursday 23/04/2020
A worker cleans and sterilises the Kaaba, ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, April 21.  (Saudi Press Agency/Reuters)
A worker cleans and sterilises the Kaaba, ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, April 21. (Saudi Press Agency/Reuters)

RIYADH--Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest shrines, has announced that the holy fasting month of Ramadan will start on Friday.

“Based on the sighting of the new month’s moon … it has been decided that Friday is the start of the month of Ramadan,” the royal court said on Thursday in a statement cited by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud said he is saddened that Muslims cannot pray at mosques because of coronavirus restrictions.

“I am pained that the holy month arrives amid circumstances that make us unable to perform group prayers and taraweeh – special Ramadan night prayers – at mosques due to precautionary measures to protect the peoples’ lives and health in combating the coronavirus pandemic,” the king said in a statement according to the SPA.

Observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk during Ramadan and usually gather with family to break the fast in the evening.

Ramadan is also a month of prayers during which Muslims traditionally converge in large numbers at mosques, especially at night.

But due to the coronavirus, almost all Muslim-majority countries have closed mosques and asked people to pray at home in addition to imposing curfews to limit the spread of the deadly virus.

Most Arab countries including Syria, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Jordan and Bahrain have announced April 24 as the first day of Ramadan.

Several countries have eased restrictions on the occasion of the holy month with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other countries reducing the duration of the lockdowns.

The start date of Ramadan, the holiest Muslim month, is set by both lunar calculations and physical sightings of the moon which determine when one month ends and another begins.

This year, many Muslim countries reduced physical sighting sessions for fear of the pandemic.

(With news agencies)