There was confusion on Saturday night over whether the new moon of Shawwal was sighted in Nigeria to mark the end of the Muslim Ramadan fast.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad, who is also the President of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, had around midnight on Saturday announced the sighting of the new moon and therefore the end of Ramadan.
”The new month of Shawwal was sighted in different places within Nigeria and therefore tomorrow (Sunday) is the first day of Shawwal equivalent to 27 July 2014,” the Sultan said in an announcement aired on the Nigerian Television Authority [NTA].
But when contacted after the Sultan’s announcement, the Secretary-General of the organisation, Is-haq Oloyede, a professor of Islamic Studies, said he was not aware that the moon had been sighted.
“I spoke to the Sultan about four times tonight and he did not tell me that the moon has been sighted,” Mr. Oloyede told PREMIUM TIMES. “In any case, any such claim is ridiculous and unscientific. It cannot be right.
“The National Moon-Sighting Committee has not informed us of any credible sighting of the moon. Rather, they said the moon wasn’t sighted. The new moon was only born at 11:45 P.M. tonight (Saturday) and it will take several hours for it to be sighted.
“Is our own sky different? Is our own moon manufactured in Nigeria?”
Professor Oloyede urged Muslims to continue their fast on Sunday and prepare for Eid-Fitri on Monday in line with the verdict of the National Moon-Sighting Committee, [NMC].
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the chairman of the NMC, Hafiz Wali, from Kano, had on Saturday night forwarded the report of his committee to the Sultan and Mr. Oloyede, indicating that the moon had not been sighted.
“Assalamu Alaikum. As expected, the NMC has not received any credible moonsighting report,” Dr. Wali said in a short message report to the NSCIA leaders. “Our team in Gwandu has reported that the Moon has not been sighted.”
Sultan Sa’ad could not be reached as at the time this report was published at 1:56 a.m on Sunday and it is not clear where he got the report that the moon was sighted.
Prof. Oloyede had issued a statement on Friday asking Muslims to look out for the new moon on Sunday and dismissing any possibility of sighting the crescent (of Shawwal) on Saturday.
“… Any information on sighting the crescent (of Shawwal) should be conveyed to the National Moonsighting Committee so that the President-General of the NSCIA, His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, may pronounce the end of fasting,” Mr. Oloyede had said.
“It is an indisputable fact that the old (Ramadan) moon will set just before sunset in Nigeria on Saturday, 26 th of July 2014. The new astronomic moon would be born few minutes before midnight of that Saturday.
“Consequently, the search for Shawwal moon is on Sunday 27th of July 2014. It can be sighted in Nigeria on SUNDAY with optical instruments or with some difficulties with naked eyes. Any claim of sighting a moon that is yet to be born is not only false, mistaken or impossible but also ridiculous.”
The sultan is said to have approved that statement.
PREMIUM TIMES also consulted popular moonlighting website, www.moonsighting.com, which compiles reports of moonsighting all over the world.
In a detailed report Sunday morning, the website said: “Moon is not possible to be seen anywhere in the world” on Saturday, July 26.
“Moon is not expected to be seen in almost the whole world except with difficulty in South America, and with ease in Polynesian Islands, where there are not many Muslims reporting moonsighting. There is small possibility in South Africa but only experienced observers may see it.”
It added, “The Astronomical New Moon is on Saturday July 26, 2014 at 22:42 UT. There is no possibility of moonsighting on that day. On July 27, the moon can be seen with difficulty in South America, but can easily be seen in Polynesian Islands. However, there are not many Muslims reporting moonsighting. On July 28, the moon can easily be seen in almost the whole world, except Northern Asia and Europe.”
Also, a Nigerian and member of the Moonsighting Committee Worldwide [MCW], Kareem Isa, from the Kado estate mosque area of Abuja, was quoted as reporting not sighting the moon.
“It is Ramadan 29 today in Nigeria. It was partly clooudy, and I tried from 19:00 to 19:20 local time,” Mr. Isa was quoted as saying.
The same kind of confusion now trailing the end of Ramadan in the country also marked the commencement of the holy month in late June, with miscommunication within the NSCIA itself.
The Council later apologised for the situation and promised Muslims in the country that it would work hard to avoid a repeat.
“It is in this respect that the NSCIA wishes to remind all Muslims who know, and notify those who do not, that there is an established structure for moon-sighting in Nigeria,” Mr. Oloyede had said in a statement.
“Due to its significance and technicalities, the Council has a National Moonsighting Committee under the leadership of an expert. The Committee is equipped with necessary equipment and technological gadgets that are relevant to the discharge of its assignment.”
Sultan Sa’ad has now announced the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal without recourse to the committee.