Ramadan, which marks the month long period of fasting for millions of Muslims around the world begins on Thursday.

And if you’re a person who’s always wondered why so many people in the world would subject themselves to a month-long exercise of voluntary thirst and hunger, fret not.

You’re not the only one who had these questions, but is too afraid to ask.

Bounce News has compiled a list of five common questions and queries you may have about the Holy Month.

Hopefully, this will quench your curiosity and you may even appreciate the practice better!

1. Why do the dates of Ramadan change each year?

Ramadan is based on a lunar calendar, which is determined by the position of the moon in the sky.

This means each year the fasting begins around 11 days earlier than the previous year.

Next year, it begins on 5 May, then it moves to April in 2020. By 2023, it will have hit March and by 2026, Ramadan will be in February.

Moon

2. Why is there always a confusion about which day Ramadan would start?

Ramadan starts when the moon is sighted.

It used to be quite easy back in the days when the moon could be seen with a naked eye.

But now there is always a dispute over the sighting of the moon.

Some argue that the whole world should just follow the official moon-sighting decrees of Saudi Arabia.

But not everyone thinks that’s a good idea.

Hence, each year, Muslims around the world get to experience the “moon-sighting fighting.”

3. Is it compulsory to fast?

Fasting is one of the five pillars or duties of Islam. So all Muslims are expected to fast.

However, there are certain groups of people that qualify for exemption.

People that are ill, pregnant or nursing, menstruating, or traveling, children and the elderly do not have to fast.

During Ramadan, Muslims do not only abstain from food and liquids, which is the general idea of fasting, they also fast from smoking, engaging in any sexual activity, chewing gum, jealousy, anger (and other forms of negativity), swearing, complaining, and gossiping.

Some people choose to also abstain from listening to music and watching television.

4. What happens if a Muslim accidentally eats or drinks while fasting?

When a group of friends are together and a plate of chips or glass of iced tea is being passed around; it’s easy to absent-mindedly take a piece or sip.

But what if that person is a Muslim fasting during Ramadan? Does that invalidate their fast altogether?

According to the Quran, if the breaking of the fast is a genuine mistake, it is pardoned.

“Allah says: “There is no blame on you for what you do by mistake, but only for what your hearts have deliberately resolved upon.” [Sûrah al-Ahzâb: 5]”

Again, the Prophet had said if a person forgets they are fasting and eats or drinks, “it is merely that Allah has given him food and drink.”

Ramadan

5. How do I greet Muslims that are fasting during Ramadan?

The greetings Muslims use are “Ramadan Mubarak” and/or “Ramadan Kareem".

These roughly translate to wishing someone a Blessed Ramadan or Generous Ramadan respectively.

Alternatively, you can wish someone a blessed Ramadan in your own words.

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