THE POLITICS OF MOON SIGHTING By Sanni Kay Yusuf
THE POLITICS OF MOON SIGHTING
SANNI KAY. YUSUF
“Ramadan will start on Tuesday.” “No, it will begin on Wednesday.” “What are you talking about, Ramadan can only commence on Thursday!” Such conflicting, confusing statements only come up in Nigeria, and perhaps countries like her. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a body of professionals responsible for the study of the moon as it naturally matures. The said body reports its findings to the government on a monthly basis, after which announcement is made for compliance by all. Muslims in the UK, USA etc. equally do as usually done the KSA. This is why there is uniformity in their yearly fasts. In Nigeria, unfortunately, an act that is supposed to be singular has become proliferated and polarized, regrettably beyond a panacea. Rather than work progressively with the supreme body of the muslims to sail the affairs of Islam, everyone wants to be the sailor. How possible?
The Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) is the muslims’ umbrella body recognized by the government. It has the National Moon Sighting Committee (NMSC) which is saddled with the study of the moon on a monthly basis, the report of which goes to the NSCIA headed by the Sultan of Sokoto – Alh. Sa’d Abubakar. Aside that of NMSC, the NSCIA has records of moon sighting (Muharram – Dhul Hijja) for past years on its webpage. It usually intimates the muslim ummah of the sighting or otherwise of the moon every month.
As obtained in other countries, the Sultan makes a special announcement for the start and end of Ramadan where he physically appears on television – usually the NTA. For me, this is enough a standard for all sincere muslims to comply with. It is enough a good gesture for everyone to embrace. But it baffles that rather than make things work as such, our people worsen them.
If jingoism, tribalism can be eschewed from our ideologies, the yearly argument about when to begin and end Ramadan in Nigeria will become a thing of the past. The leagues of imams across Yoruba land should sheath their swords and pledge allegiance to the body recognized by the federal government. This is where lies our unity and formidability!
As for 1439AH/2018, the NSCIA has declared Wednesday May 16th as the 29th day of Sha’baan. This therefore, means that Ramadan will commence on Thursday May 17th if the moon is sighted or on Friday May 18th if not sighted. And this is in tandem with the Hadeeth of the Prophet which which orders that fast be respectively commenced and/or ended if the moon is sighted.
On the authority of Abu Hurairah, the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘aleihi wa sallam) said: “Commence fast when the moon is sighted, and break it when the moon is sighted. Where it is not clear, make Sha’baan 30.” Agreed upon.
Fixing up a date for the start and end of Ramadan is not just an innovation, those who do so are invariably claiming to be ignorant of Islam. They are ridiculing themselves to zero.
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