The sighting of a new moon and the beginning of Ramadan in the Muslim world
When will the holy month of Ramadan start? It depends on where you are and who you ask.
The Muslim countries of Burundi, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Oman were the first to declare the sighting of the new moon (as was expected, according to the astronomical forecast).
Following these announcements and in a surprising turn of events, the Saudis, who have a lot of religious influence in the Sunni world, decided to join the party and announce that the new moon was in fact seen in Saudi Arabia too, off the shores of the Persian Gulf. This means that in Saudi Arabia, the month of Ramadan will begin tomorrow (on Saturday).
Immediately after their announcement, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and the Sunnis in Iraq aligned themselves with the Saudis and announced the sighting of the new moon as well.
The Iranians, on the other hand, chose Sunday as the beginning of Ramadan (for them, and for all Shiites across the globe). Despite being a majority Sunni country, Jordan surprisingly chose Sunday as well.
Egypt, which like the Saudis has a lot of religious influence over the Sunni world, chose to align itself with the Saudis and declare that Ramadan in Egypt will begin tomorrow (Saturday) .
Waiting for the decisions from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and despite initial reports claiming that the new moon wasn’t seen from Al-Aqsa, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem decided to align himself with the Sunni world and declare that the new moon was indeed seen. Ramadan for the Palestinians will begin tomorrow (Saturday) as well.
In Lebanon, the situation is even more amusing:
According to the Sunnis, Ramadan will begin tomorrow (like in Saudi Arabia). According to the Shiites, Ramadan will only start on Sunday (like in Iran). And all of this is based on the sighting of the new moon in Lebanon…
This is what happens when politics is more important than astronomy.
The Palestinian Astronomical Observatory casts doubt on the Jerusalem Mufti’s decision that today is the first day of Ramadan
The Palestinian Astronomical Observatory published today the first pictures of the new moon, taken this morning (Saturday) in the West Bank, wondering out loud why it was decided that the new moon was observed in the Palestinian territories 20 hours before these pictures were taken.
In its statement, the Palestinian Observatory wondered – if this is how the moon looks like today (Saturday), then how did it look like yesterday (Friday)? And why those claiming to observe the new moon yesterday didn’t publish pictures to back their claims?
The Mufti of Jerusalem is in a bit of a pickle. If the new moon was in fact only observed today (Saturday) for the first time, then the first day of Ramadan needs to be Sunday. But one has to stay aligned with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
In facts versus politics, politics wins.