ABU DHABI // Ramadan will start at sundown on July 9 with fasting beginning at sunrise on July 10, according to UAE astronomers.
Hasan Al Hariri, chief executive of the Dubai Astronomy Group, said he was confident the moon and the sun would set together on July 8, meaning the Ramadan crescent would first be seen on July 9.
This triggers the start of Ramadan, he said, in accordance with the Saudi Arabian Umm Al Qura lunar calendar.
"It's not a matter of reliability – it's science. It's mathematics," Mr Al Hariri said. "And science today has become so beautiful, so simple and so interesting. Anybody with a smartphone can download Google Sky, hold their phones to the moon and see it for themselves."
Mr Al Hariri said most GCC countries followed Saudi Arabia's announcements, including the UAE.
He attributed this to the kingdom's greater span of landscapes to observe from.
"We can't have Ramadan and Eid falling on three separate days in three separate countries. Pakistan, the UK or India might have different days, but we believe the GCC should be unified. That is the spirit of Ramadan – to be unified, bring people together and to love one another," he said.
Mr Al Hariri said Islam and astronomy were complementary.
"Religion tells us to look to the west to observe the crescent, astronomy tells us how we should observe the crescent," he said.
Mr Al Hariri said that based on astronomical calculations alone, Eid Al Fitr would fall on August 8. But he emphasised that Muslims must physically observe the moon before announcing the end of Ramadan.
The Minister of Justice, Dr Hadef Al Dhaheri, has set up a moon-sighting committee for Ramadan, which requires all Sharia courts to observe the crescent moon and report back. It will hold a meeting after maghrib prayer on July 8 at Abu Dhabi's Judiciary Department.