Devout Muslims are waiting for the first sighting of the new moon, probably Tuesday night, marking the start of the fasting month of Ramadan 2010. This year's fast will be the first in almost 30 years that corresponds with the hottest days of summer.
This Ramadan, the fasting month whose call on Muslims to act with more charity is challenged by the crankiness brought on by going without food and water during daylight hours, presents one of the stiffest challenges for the devout in 28 years.
For most of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, the fast will begin Wednesday at dawn (though some will delay a day if the new moon isn't sighted by a religious authority they follow). With the Islamic lunar calendar cycling through the solar Gregorian calender that the West uses roughly every 30 years, Ramadan now – and for the next five or so years – will correspond with the hottest and longest days of summer for most Muslims.
And, at least from a short-run perspective, those hottest days have been getting hotter. The mostly Muslim countries of Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq have all recorded their highest ever single-day temperatures this summer. The US National Climate Data Center, using both land and sea readings, estimated that the first six months of 2010 were the hottest on record.
August is not likely to slack off much, making Ramadan's requirement that nothing be consumed during daylight hours that much tougher. In Iraq, Ramadan may even see an increase in violence: US officers there say the start of Ramadan usually means more attacks, perhaps driven by the religious fervor of some of the militants.