As you might have already noticed, the date for the commencement of the month of Ramadan falls on a different date on the Gregorian calendar every year. If you’ve ever wondered why this is so, then these answers will help you get to the bottom of the issue.
To begin with, we must understand that the difference here is based on two types of calendars; namely the lunar and solar calendars.
The beginning and the end of the solar calendar is based on the movement of the sun and it has a total count of 365 and a quarter days.
The lunar calendar, which is based on the appearance and the disappearance of the moon at the beginning and the end of the month, has about 354 days.
The two calendars (solar and lunar) are similar to each other with regard to the number of months, but they differ in the number of days. The lunar calendar is ten to eleven days shorter than the solar calendar.
The widely used calendar in the west, the Gregorian calendar, is based on the solar year, whereas the Hijri calendar that Muslims use is based on the lunar year. As a result, the date for Ramadan shifts ten to eleven days every year.
For Muslims, the lunar calendar is the calendar that must be followed, because Allah the Almighty says:
It is He Who made the sun a shining thing and the moon as a light and measured out its stages, that you might know the number of years and the reckoning (Younus 10:5)
The sun defines day and night only. According to Ibn Katheer, the sun determines the days, meaning from the sun the days are known, and from the phases of the moon the months and years are known.
This year, the first expected date for Ramadan was on May 16. The first day of Ramadan is observed according to the local visibility of the new crescent moon. However, with the absence of a new moon on the evening of May 15th, Muslims had to start their fasts on Thursday May 17th instead. Next year that commencement date is expected to be around May 6th, subject to the sighting of the moon.