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Eid al-Fitr to start for Sunni Muslims while Shiites wait

April 21, 2023

Large parts of the Muslim world have marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan, with Eid celebrations starting on Friday. Some countries with a predominantly Shiite Muslim population will celebrate on Saturday.

Muslim worshippers performing the last night of Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan around (Kaaba), the holiest shrine in the Grand Mosque complex in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca
While Muslims like those seen here in Mecca will begin Eid al-Fitr on Friday, others will wait until SaturdayImage: Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques/UPI Photo/Newscom/picture alliance

Saudi Arabia, the country with Islam's holiest city of Mecca, has announced that this year's Eid al-Fitr will start on Friday, marking the end of Ramadan.

"Tomorrow, Friday, is the first day of Eid al-Fitr for this year," with Thursday the last day of the holy month of Ramadan, the official Saudi Press Agency said on its Twitter account, citing a royal court statement.

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and Sudan also announced Eid al-Fitr will start on Friday.

In Indonesia, the country with the largest population of Muslims globally, the start of Eid al-Fitr will fall on Saturday, as announced by the country's religious affairs minister. Pakistan and Oman also mark the start of the three-day holiday on Saturday.

Indonesian Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud urged Muslims to be respectful of each other's celebrations. As some will still be fasting on Friday, he has asked those who break their fast to do so at home.

Why are the dates different?

The start of Eid al-Fitr is determined by sightings of the new moon, which can be different according to a country's location on the globe.

Some countries rely on astronomical calculations and not physical sightings to determine the start of Eid al-Fitr. 

In countries like Saudi Arabia, trained observers confirm the sighting of the new moon — if the moon is sighted on the 29th day of Ramadan shortly after sunset, the next day is announced as the start of Eid al-Fitr.

Shiites observe the crescent moon to determine the start of the tenth Islamic month of Shawwal, which marks the end of a month-long fasting of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid al-Fitr festival in Najaf, Iraq
Islam follows the lunar calendar, with moon sightings used to determine the start of the 10th Islamic month of ShawwalImage: Anmar Khalil/AP/picture alliance

Once the sighting is verified, Eid is declared at mosques, on media channels and by national authorities.

How do Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr?

Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the "festival of breaking the fast," and mark the end of a month-long Ramadan fast.

The holiday is usually marked by gatherings with family and friends. During Eid, people greet each other with "Eid Mubarak," meaning "Blessed Eid," among other greetings. 

Children often receive new clothes and gifts during Eid, and Muslims also give money to charity or those less fortunate.

vh/sms (AFP, AP)