MILLIONS of Muslims across the UK have begun to observe the holy month of Ramadan by fasting during daylight hours to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
Those taking part in the month-long fast abstain from eating or drinking between dawn and sundown but come together each evening at sunset for a meal called Iftar.
What time is Iftar today in the UK?
Iftar times vary across the UK according to sunrise and sunset.
Here are the key timings for Maghrib in London throughout Ramadan 2020, Iftar should be eaten after:
- April 23: 8.14pm
- April 24: 8.16pm
- April 25: 8.18pm
- April 26: 8.19pm
- April 27: 8.21pm
- April 28: 8.23pm
- April 29: 8.24pm
- April 30: 8.26pm
- May 1: 8.28pm
- May 2: 8.29pm
- May 3: 8.31pm
- May 4: 8.32pm
- May 5: 8.34pm
- May 6: 8.36pm
- May 7: 8.37pm
- May 8: 8.39pm
- May 9: 8.40pm
- May 10: 8.42pm
- May 11: 8.43pm
- May 12: 8.45pm
- May 13: 8.47pm
- May 14: 8.48pm
- May 15: 8.50pm
- May 16: 8.51pm
- May 17: 8.53pm
- May 18: 8.54pm
- May 19: 8.55pm
- May 20: 8.57pm
- May 21: 8.58pm
- May 22: 9.00pm
- May 23: 9.01pm
- May 24: 9.02pm
When should Iftar be eaten elsewhere in the UK?
- Birmingham: 6 minutes later
- Bradford: 8 minutes later
- Cardiff: 12 minutes later
- Glasgow: 40 minutes later
- Leeds: 4 minutes later
- Liverpool: 9 minutes later
- Manchester: 7 minutes later
- Middlesbrough: 14 minutes later
What happens at Iftar?
Muslims must fast between sunrise and sunset every day in Ramadan.
However, they are able to enjoy one meal "pre-dawn" and one after sunset each day.
Iftar is the meal eaten after the fourth prayer of the day, the Maghrib, which happens just after sunset.
In Arabic, iftar means 'break of a fast', and fatoor means 'breakfast'.
It is the second meal of the day during Ramadan as those taking part in the fast must not eat or drink anything during daylight hours.
The Suhur is consumed in the morning, and can be as early as 2.30am.
The Iftar is considered a blessing, often enjoyed as a community.
It is thought not eating during daylight hours, as well as not drinking, smoking or indulging in sex will lead to greater "taqwa" or consciousness of God.
The time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship is thought to teach followers how to be more self-disciplined and have empathy for those less fortunate.
But with lockdown measures in place, gatherings will need to be kept according to government guidelines.
When does Ramadan end?
This year, Ramadan began on Thursday April 23 and will end on Saturday May 23.
The fast is 30 days long and the beginning and end are determined by the lunar Islamic calendar – meaning it depends on when the new moon is sighted.
Hilal, the crescent, is usually a day or more after the astronomical new moon.
The "night of power" or "night of decree" is considered the holiest night of the year, as Muslims believe the first revelation of the Koran was sent down to Muhammad on this night.
It's thought to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last ten days of Ramadan – the 21, 23, 25, 27 or 29th.
The first day of fasting begins on April, 24, 2020 and the final iftar should take place on the evening of May 23.
The holiday of Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month.
This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
A common greeting is Ramadan Mubarak, which means "have a blessed Ramadan".
How to practice Ramadan & social distancing?
Many of the traditions around Ramadan involve gathering together, community work and charity, which has to be compromised due to social distancing restrictions.
The coronavirus pandemic has curbed large gatherings for prayers and public iftars, or meals to break the fast.
Islam's holiest sites in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem have been largely empty of worshippers as authorities are forced to impose unprecedented restrictions.
In a rare occurrence in Islam's 1,400-year history, Mecca's Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina – the religion's two holiest locations – will be closed to the public during the fasting period.
Prayers from inside the mosque at Mecca on the first evening of Ramadan on Thursday were restricted to clerics, security staff and cleaners, in a ceremony broadcast live on television.
New guidance released by The Muslim Council of Britain has outlined how Muslims can practise their faith during the holy month while keeping safe from coronavirus.
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