Every year as Ramadan gets closer, Moroccans like all Muslims of the world engage in a controversial issue: when is the first day of Ramadan?
Tinejdad, Morocco – Every year as Ramadan gets closer, Moroccans like all Muslims of the world engage in a controversial issue: when is the first day of Ramadan?
Since the Islamic months are dated according to the Islamic lunar calendar, determining when a month starts and when it ends is not as easy a task as it is in the Gregorian calendar. To know when an Islamic month starts, Muslims of the world resort to two major methods: either through astronomy or the direct observational method.
The former depends on the timing of the waning moon, which is accurately calculated, while the latter determines the beginning of Islamic months from the moon-sighting on the night of the 29th of the preceding month. Both methods are acclaimed in the Islamic world, though the problem is that sometimes they yield different results. This day also may depend on what part of the globe a person finds themselves.
When does Ramadan begin this year? Friday the 20th, or Saturday, July 21? In Morocco, we don’t know yet. The first day of the holy month is marked by the sighting of the crescent by special committees, usually ones assigned by ministry of religious affairs in various regions throughout the kingdom.
Like in previous years, Morocco will depend on the observational method in line with the Hadith of the prophet (peace be upon Him): «Fast when you see the crescent and break the fast when you see it; if it is not apparent, then make the month of Sha’ban thirty days».
This Hadith provides explicit evidence that the legitimate reason for the beginning of the month of Ramadan is the sighting of the crescent during the holy month. But other Muslims in different countries have different readings, and so consequently adopt other methods to determine the beginning of Ramadan.
According to Moonsighting.com countries that follow local sighting are Morocco, Saudi Arabia, India, Iran, China, Oman to name a few, whereas countries like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, Tunisia and others depend on calculation to determine the beginning of Ramadan.
Muslim communities in non-Islamic countries follow either their home lands or Saudi Arabia, but the majority submits to the statements of Fiqh councils in charge of Islamic affairs in those foreign countries.
In Europe, the executive of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) has already announced that, according to their calculations, the new moon would be visible at the extreme south of Africa and Latin America during the night of July 19.
It is an observation which is sufficient, they said, to determine for the whole world the start of Ramadan as being July 20 but even so the moon will not be visible from France. However, in the U.S., even though the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is also based on astronomical calculations; it does not adopt the same logic as the (ECFR). It takes Mecca as a reference point to their calculations.
These different methods to determine the beginning of Ramadan and other Islamic festivities (Eids) have created various social problems and conflicts among Muslims in the same country.
During the previous years, some Moroccan families started fasting with Saudi Arabia in stark disharmony with their neighbours. These hardliners believe that Muslims all over the world, despite their geographical locations and irrespective of their countries sovereignty, have to respond to the announcement of Saudi Arabia.
This disunity creates conflicts within the same family and may lead to serious complications, which has the potential to undermine the sense of community that the holy month is meant to foster.
To settle such a big controversial issue, we should abide the guidelines of the Islamic scholars who call the people to fast with their state and break the fast with it.
In every Islamic country those who are officially in charge of Islamic affairs is the only body with sufficient authority to announce when to fast and when to break the fast. In Morocco, we are patiently waiting for the piper to play his tuneful melody which marks the beginning of Ramadan. Until then, have a happy and blessed Ramadan!
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