The start of Ramadan in New Zealand tomorrow has been declared following the sighting of the waxing Moon.
"The new moon has been sighted and tomorrow is the first day of fasting in New Zealand," said Sultan Eusoff, chief executive of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.
The start of Ramadan will bring armed police back outside mosques and other places of worship.
An Islamic moon-sighting or Hilal committee convened this evening to declare the start of Ramadan upon spotting the thin crescent of the new moon.
Police withheld details of their arrangements for deployment and security, but mosques and Islamic centres spoken to by the Herald confirmed police had told them armed officers would be at the gates for the duration of the holy month.
Ramadan, where fasting is the central feature, will run until June 4, and a higher than normal participation of its rituals at mosques are expected from non-Muslims this year following the events of Christchurch.
A police spokeswoman said it did not have information to suggest any specific risk to public safety.
"Our advice to the public continues to be that they should remain vigilant and to report any suspicious or concerning behaviour to police," she said.
"We continue to have staff at potential risk sites where appropriate, carrying out a range of security and visibility measures."
These sites also included churches, synagogues and major events.
"Armed police are still patrolling the scenes of the two Christchurch mosques until further notice," she said.
The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand said the Hilal committee, consisting of religious leaders, a scientist, an engineer and a technology specialist would determine the start of Ramadan.
According to the Religious Diversity Centre, the definition of fasting included the abstinence from eating, drinking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset.
Observing Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam that is obligatory for every Muslim.
"In NZ this year is about 12 hours from about 5.30am to 5.30pm, with days to shorten [with the winter hours]," it said in a statement.
In the evenings, many worshippers head to mosques for evening prayers and gather for a communal breaking of fast.
The centre called on employers to consider changing working arrangements for Muslim employees, such as an early start and early finish or allowing them to work through lunch and leave early for fast-breaking.
"Fulfilment of the duty entrusted by an employer continues to be a spiritual concern in this spiritual month," the centre said.
"Fast-breaking time is the culmination of the spiritual day, the moments before the fast-break are the reflection and supplication to God. Dates, nuts and fruits are the common snacks for fast breaking."
Overseas, Ramadan has already started in some countries with the United Arab Emirates officially confirming that the Ramadan crescent was sighted on Sunday.
Ramadan will end with the annual festival of Eid-al-Fitr, which is traditionally a three-day celebration.
• What is it?
For Muslims, it is considered their holiest month. For 30 days, they fast from dawn to dusk and gather for nightly prayers to break the fast.
• When is Ramadan?
It officially begins after the crescent moon is visible to the naked eye on the 9th month of the lunar Islamic calendar.
• Who needs to fast?
All Muslims except for children under 13 who haven't reached puberty, and the sick and elderly.
• How do Muslims break fast?
Typically, they sip water and eat dates and nuts before performing evening prayers. An iftar meal is then shared. Mosques often host communal iftar meals for the public.
• Do you say "Happy Ramadan"?
Muslims don't usually wish each other, but non-Muslims may wish someone "Happy Ramadan" by saying "Ramadan Mubarak", "Ramadan Kareem" or simply "Have a blessed Ramadan". For Malaysian and Indonesian Muslims, an appropriate greeting would be "Selamat berpuasa".
• What happens at the end of Ramadan?
A three-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. Feasts are shared and gifts are exchanged.