France’s Muslims mark the end of ‘holiest month’

France’s Muslim population, which is the largest in Europe, will end on Monday its holiest festival of the year: Ramadan. However, the date is not without controversy due to the unique way the annual rite’s duration is chosen.

France's Muslims mark the end of 'holiest month'
France's Muslims will mark the end of holiest month on Monday. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP

French Muslim’s will observe Eid al-Fitr on Monday night, which is the celebration that marks the symbolic close of their month-long fast done in honor of their holiest festival of Ramadan.

The announcement of the closing date came on Sunday for France’s roughly five million Muslims and was issued by the French Council of Muslim Faith (Conseil français du culte Musulman).

“In accordance with the data that the Muslims countries transmitted today, we have unanimously decided Eid al-Fitr will be held tomorrow, Monday,” Dalil Boubakeur told reporters at Paris’s Grand Mosque.

What it means for Muslims is the end of dawn to dusk fasts as well as the heavy meals they have been sitting down for before sunrise and after sunset. But it’s also the end of the annual rite intended to remind people of their faith, but which also serves as a purification ritual where believers also refrain from things like cursing, sex and gossip.  

However, as it was this year, the dates of Ramadan can be controversial because they are chosen according to the beginning and end of lunar cycles. Thus the date of the festival is different every year and open to some interpretation.

The start of Ramadan was controversial in 2014, with the French Council of Muslim Faith opening the fast on June 29th for its estimated 3.5 million faithful. While several hundred mosques and Turkish groups had asked their members to start the day before.

Despite the initial disagreement over the beginning of the fast, the various French Muslim groups were able to see eye to eye on the date of the close. Because the duration of Ramadan is either 29 or 30 days, there is a some wiggle room when determining the dates.

To mark the close of the fasting there will be prayers at the Grand Mosque in Paris and across the country and Muslims traditionally will visit family and friends to wish them good luck and prosperity.  And of course, there will be plenty of food. 

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