Ancient Ritual Blends Faith, Technology

Muslim holy month starts on sighting of crescent moon
By Jess Kilby,  Newser User
Posted Aug 31, 2008 6:29 PM CDT
Decorations for Ramadan in a Jordan shop.   (AP Photo/Nader Daoud)
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(Newser) – Telescopes are tilted skyward throughout the Muslim world tonight, hunting for the first glimpse of a crescent moon that signals the start of Ramadan. In an age-old mix of science and religion, astronomers and clerics gather each year to monitor the moon and announce the beginning of Islam’s holiest month. The 4 weeks of fasting and celebration will likely begin tomorrow, the Washington Post reports.

"This night of witness is extremely important for we Muslims," said one moonwatching cleric. "It is the night that unifies us all." Countries sometimes choose different start dates based on their observations, which can cause minor squabbles. Egypt has already announced that Ramadan will start tomorrow, concluding from the moon’s no-show yesterday that it will appear tonight. (Read more Ramadan stories.)