The precise start of the holy month of Ramadan has been a matter of debate for Muslims across the world.

But for more than three million Muslims in the U.S. and Canada, the start of Ramadan is set by a group of scholars affiliated with the Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North America.

“The Islamic calendar is based on a lunar calendar,” said Faryal Khatri, communications director for the Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North America

The Fiqh Council uses science to determine when the moon is in just the right spot in the sky at sundown, Khatri said.

Holy month is here: Why are Muslims fasting? What you need to know about Ramadan

“The Astronomical New Moon is on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, at 11:47 Universal Time,” the Fiqh Council said in a proclamation declaring the official start of the holy month.

“On that day, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean at sunset, the elongation is 8 degrees and moon is 5 degrees above the sun. 

“Therefore the first day of Ramadan 1439 is on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, insha’Allah. First Tarawih prayer will be on Tuesday night.”

Ramadan is a time when Muslims prove their faith by not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. They abstain form smoking, sex and vices while they increase their prayer and devotion to God.

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Call Star reporter Vic Ryckaert at (317) 444-2701. Follow him on Twitter: @VicRyc.

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