Barely a week the probable dates for the start of Ramadan were announced by the leader of the Nigerian Muslims, Alhaji Sa’d Abubakar (the Sultan of Sokoto), the Mudeer of Markaz under the shield of a southwestern body of imams and scholars came up with a counter-announcement, thereby tactically nullifying the former. I wasn’t shocked nor moved a second because such is annually habitual of the sheikh.
While all were celebrating Eidul Fitr last year, he together with his acquiescent adherents rather fasted, and the preceding day, they had their unprecedented, record-breaking festival. I saw some scantily lined up for Salatul Eid along Abule-Egba and I could not but burst into a saddening laughter. That would invariably mean that those (the whole country except their sanctimonious selves) who did otherwise must have worshipped to the gallery. That’s unfortunate.
As usual, the Sultan had urged Nigerian Muslims to watch out for the crescent of Ramadan on Thursday the 23rd of April, 2020. If sighted, the commencement of fast would be effected the next day, Friday 24th, and if not, it would start Saturday the 25th. This, no doubt, is the age-long Islamic custom of starting and ending of Ramadan. But because mudeer is habitually hell bent on being disobedient to the authority, he rather announced that Ramadan would start Saturday 25th April and end Sunday 24th May. A repeat of last year’s mockery apparently looms.
Mudeer’s strength obviously lies in astronomical forecasts which are indisputably, imperfectly prone to human errors. Would Allah not get angered if an act of worship as fundamental as Ramadan fast was regulated by fallible human predictions?
Whereas I am not aware of any scholar the world over who had ever berated or ruled against astronomical knowledge or its tools (such as binoculars) being used to aid sighting of the moon. What they said and still say is that the knowledge should only be used to complement the practice of searching for the crescent, not to jettison it as propagated by mudeer and his ilk. To this effect was the effort of the Sultan a few years ago where 6 binoculars – used to search and view a newborn moon – were acquired by him and distributed to each geopolitical zone across the country. The astronomical, technological machines are used alongside the traditional eye-sighting the 29th day of Sha’baan and Ramadan, to start and end fast respectively.
That is the practice in developed countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey etc. Both the traditional and modern methods are used without relying on predictions and forecasts.
The Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) led by the Sultan has a permanent, functional committee of scholars who see to the appearance and disappearance of the moon every month. The National Moon Sighting Committee (NMSC) effortlessly discharges this sacred obligation and reports its findings to the office of the Sultan who announces same to the public. The NMSC has a record of its past findings from Muharram to Dhul-Hijjah.
Although I am pained that this usually occurs every year, but I am not surprised. How would someone who spoke ill of Abu Hurairah have reverence for a mere Sultan?