In 2024, Ramadan changes date, as do the times which determine the start and end of daily fasting as well as prayers.

Every year the same question comes up: when does the month of Ramadan begin? And every year the answer changes § Ramadan in 2024 will be no exception to the rule. If a date has already been set by the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM), this must still be confirmed by observation of the sky during the Night of Doubt organized at the Grand Mosque of Paris this Sunday March 10. It is the presence of the first crescent moon in the sky that will determine whether Muslims practicing Ramadan must begin the fast on March 11 or 12.

But why do the dates of the month of Ramadan differ from one year to the next? Quite simply because of the different monthly cycles between the Hijri calendar, used by Islamic tradition, and the Gregorian calendar commonly used in the West. While the Western calendar is modeled on the solar cycle and has months of 30 or 31 days, with the exception of the month of February, the Muslim calendar determines the beginning and end of each month based on the cycle of the moon which does not only lasts 29 to 30 days.

Over a year, the Hijri calendar therefore has between 10 and 12 days less compared to the Gregorian calendar. It is this difference which explains the fact that every year the month of Ramadan begins around ten days in advance of the previous year. If the month of fasting begins around March 11 in 2024, it had started on March 22 in 2023 and April 2 in 2022.

It’s not just the dates of Ramadan that change year after year, the start and end times of the daily fast as well as the prayer times are also different from the previous Ramadan. It’s not about the calendar this time, but still about physics. These are the sunrises and sunsets which punctuate the beginning and breaking of the fast, as well as certain prayers: that of Fajr which must be said at dawn and that of Maghreb scheduled for sunset which marks the breaking of the fast. But depending on the time of year when the month of Ramadan arrives, the hours of sunshine change and logically those of prayers too.

However, the schedules remain more difficult to respect throughout the month of Ramadan, because they continue to change day after day according to the solar cycle. Fortunately, Muslims who are required to fast will be able to rely on a time range. For example in France, the first prayer will shift by a few minutes each day but will always be done between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., while the prayer to break the fast will only be gradually postponed over the months from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. approximately. Note that the times of prayer and fasting for Ramadan change from one city to another, because depending on whether you are in Marseille or Bordeaux, either further east or more west, the sunrises and sunsets will be delayed by a few minutes.