EXCLUSIVE: Sultan’s Palace admits moon wasn’t sighted before Sokoto monarch called off Ramadan in Nigeria

Searching for the Moon.... Nigeria's Sheikh A.A. Ishola at the at the AlBayrouny Observatory in Mecca on Saturday (July 26, 2014)

The committee carried out its assignment between 6:45PM and 7:45PM on Sunday.

The palace of Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar has now admitted that the Sultan made a mistake by announcing the end of Ramadan based on claims by some Nigerian Muslims that they sighted the new moon of Shawwal on Saturday night.

The result of the joint moonsighting exercise undertaken by the Sultanate Moon Sighting Committee and the Nigerian National Moonsighting Committee on Sunday clearly showed that the monarch erred in the pronouncement he made on Saturday prematurely terminating the Ramadan fast in Nigeria.

The Sultan, who is also the President of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs [NSCIA], commissioned the joint moonsighting investigation after his Saturday call triggered controversy, with some of the nation’s foremost clerics as well as the Secretary General of the NSCIA, Is-haq Oloyede, openly questioning his judgment.

The result of the investigation, also endorsed by the Sultan’s representatives, was unambiguous: The claim that the moon was sighted on Saturday was questionable as it was impossible for anyone to see the moon anywhere in the world at that time.

The committee carried out its assignment between 6:45PM and 7:45PM on Sunday.

The report of the joint committee, compiled by Usman Mahmud, a research officer with the National Moon Sighting Committee, reads in part:

“I write to inform you that we (the National Moon Sighting Committee) and the Sultanate Moon Sighting Committee went to the Sighting of Moon today (Sunday, July 27, 2014).

“The moon was not sighted with naked eye or with telescope and binocular. However, we used some programmes and software applications like Skymap, Stellarium and Virtual Moon to get the details of the moon.

“The details of the Moon are: Age: 19H (hour) 05M(minutes); Hour Angle/DE:04H 45M 11S(seconds)/ +12 21’11’; Distance between sun and moon: 3.5′.”

Experts say the result of the investigation suggested that the Sultan erred by declaring the end of Ramadan and beginning of Shawwal even when a new moon had not been born.

“It was a big error,” said Sheikh Abdulrazaq Ishola, a member of the Moonsighting Committee Worldwide, who himself was at the AlBayrouny Observatory in Mecca that Saturday in search of the moon. “The (Sultan’s) announcement embarrassed Nigeria all over the world because in no other place was such ridiculous claim of sighting the moon on Saturday made.

“How can anyone claim that he saw the moon even when conjunction of the moon and the sun had just taken place? That is impossible. In any case, where should we ask people to find a moon that had not been born?”

Mr. Ishola explained that after conjunction takes place, (which he said occurred at 11:47 PM on Saturday), it usually takes about 17 hours for the moon to be sighted with a telescope and between 18 and 23 hours to be visible to the naked eye.

“What happened in Nigeria is disrespect to Islam and Muslims,” the cleric, who is also a a member of the Abu Dhabi-based Islamic Crescent Observatory Project, said. “We are in the 21st century, yet we are still living in the past in Nigeria.”

Sultan Abubakar had around midnight on Saturday announced the sighting of the new moon and therefore the end of Ramadan, making Nigeria the only country in the world which celebrated Eid on Sunday.

“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, told PREMIUM TIMES he was not aware the moon had been sighted.

“I spoke to the Sultan about four times tonight (Saturday) 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?” he said.

Mr. Oloyede’s comment sparked controversy in Nigeria. While some Muslim faithful broke their fast following the Sultan’s announcement, others (especially in the South-West region) proceeded to fast on Sunday and only celebrated Eid-El-Fitri on Monday.


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