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To See or Not to See: The Moon Sighting Controversy in Islam - Jamal Badawi & Abdul Rafaa Ouertani

Saudi star-gazers accused of bungling dates of Ramadan - By Jerome Taylor, Idependent Newspaper Religious Affairs Correspondent Tuesday, 6 September 2011

When is a moon not a moon? That is the question vexing Islamic astronomers after accusations that Saudi Arabia had jumped the gun in declaring the festival of Eid ul-Fitr because they mistook Saturn for the Moon.

The festival is the most joyous moment in the Islamic calendar and celebrates the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. But every now and then celebrations are marred by bickering between competing Islamic authorities over when Eid starts. This year's row is over whether the festival should have begun last Monday or Tuesday.

Where once Muslim communities relied on local committees of star-gazers to locate the new moon – known in Arabic as the Hilal – a growing number of mosques around the world now look to the Saudi authorities to decide when Eid celebrations can begin. Last week Saudi scholars declared that the end of Ramadan began on Monday evening and gave the signal that Eid celebrations could commence. But others were not so sure. In Indonesia, which often disagrees with the Saudis over the Hilal, the official religious authorities insisted that celebrations could only begin on Tuesday evening.

Some astronomers in the Gulf suggested that the object the Saudis claim they saw in the sky on Monday night was in fact Saturn. The accusation has infuriated the Kingdom's notoriously authoritarian scholars who have begun preaching against those who claim they made a mistake.

According to the Arab News website, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Asheikh condemned the lunar naysayers at Friday prayers, accusing them of being "motivated and deviated people with foul mouths that cast doubt on our religion and should be silenced".

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-stargazers-accused-of-bungling-dates-of-ramadan-2349805.html

http://www.multifaiths.com/pdf/ramadan2012.pdf

 

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