Fasting during Islam's holy month of Ramadan began Tuesday — or did it?
"Because of disagreements over when the lunar-based Islamic fasting month begins, Muslims will start their fasting on different days this year," the Huffington Post reported.
Most American Muslims began observing their fast on Tuesday based on the recommendation of the Fiqh Council of North America, which uses astronomical calculations to avoid confusion.
Some news outlets are reporting that other Muslim organizations throughout the world base the beginning of the fast on the actual sighting of a crescent moon the night before the first day of the fast.
The Hilal Community of Metropolitan Toronto and Vicinity met Monday evening for sighting the moon and deciding the first day of fasting, according to the Brampton Guardian.
“As we go by naked eye, this year we have included the whole of North America from where we will be looking for information about the crescent sighting,” Abdulhaq Ingar, coordinator of the Hilal Committee, told the Guardian on Monday.
Their fast likely began Tuesday, since the Fiqh Council reported such a sighting in California.
Geography and bad weather have prevented uniform moon sightings, which could delay the beginning of the fast until Wednesday or Thursday in some parts of the world, the Wall Street Journal reported from India.
"Even within India there is divided opinion about when Ramadan should start and finish," according to the Journal. "Some Imams only accept direct eye-witness reports of moon sightings, while others will also accept reports of sightings received over the telephone or those seen on television."
President Barack Obama didn't get into the disputed start date of Ramadan in a statement issued Monday acknowledging the significance of the event for the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.
"Ramadan is a time for thoughtful reflection, fasting and devotion. It is also an opportunity for family and friends to come together and celebrate the principles that bind people of different faiths — a commitment to peace, justice, equality and compassion towards our fellow human beings. These bonds are far stronger than the differences that too often drive us apart."
During Ramadan, observant Muslims, if their health allows it, go without eating, drinking, smoking or sexual relations during daylight hours, breaking their fast after sundown either in their homes or at the local mosque. This fasting ritual goes on for 29 to 30 days and is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, or obligations that all Muslims fulfill during their lifetime.