Did the Sultan mislead us by starting Ramadhān on Friday? (Part 2)

Shakir Akorede
Apr 27 · 8 min read

Deep-dive fact-finding research on controversies surrounding the commencement of Ramadhān 1441 AH in Nigeria.

Let me start by declaring, ab initio, that the 1441 AH Ramadhān crescent was sighted in Saudi Arabia and a host of other countries, as against the astronomical fiat being peddled around on the internet. It is my prayer that the coming paragraphs would put to rest the rounds of argument on Nigeria’s social media space.

Succinctly, this concluding part of my research will cut to the chase by giving you the final conclusions of independent astronomical centres on 1441 AH Ramadhān crescent on the subject matter.

Of many discoveries, I was particularly confounded to find that astronomers whose scientific projections are being used as a weapon of argument by some individuals in Nigeria — who till date refute that the moon was sighted on Thursday, April 23 — already published a report, stating that the moon was spotted in Saudi Arabia (by their own representative) on that blessed day. It came as no surprise, however, that this report was given a “silent treatment” and was unceremoniously buried by these individuals.

While we are being inundated with arguments that the crescent could never have been seen on Thursday by anybody on the surface of the earth, a claim I have refuted in the first part of this article, let’s see again the astronomical facts from the International Astronomical Center (ICOP).

Voila!

سيحدث الاقتران المركزي (المحاق المركزي) يوم الخميس 23 إبريل/نيسان 2020 الساعة 02:26 بالتوقيت العالمي بمشيئة الله.

إمكانية رؤية الهلال يوم الخميس 23 إبريل/نيسان 2020 ويوم الجمعة 24 إبريل/نيسان 2020 موضحة في الأشكال التالية باستخدام برنامج المواقيت الدقيقة باعتماد معيار عودة، بحيث:

  • رؤية الهلال مستحيلة من المناطق الواقعة في اللون الأحمر بسبب غروب القمر قبل غروب الشمس أو/و بسبب حصول الاقتران السطحي بعد غروب الشمس.
  • رؤية الهلال ممكنة باستخدام التلسكوب فقط من المناطق الواقعة في اللون الأزرق.
  • رؤية الهلال ممكنة باستخدام التلسكوب من المناطق الواقعة في اللون الزهري، ومن الممكن رؤية الهلال بالعين المجردة في حالة صفاء الغلاف الجوي التام والرصد من قبل راصد متمرس.
  • رؤية الهلال ممكنة بالعين المجردة من المناطق الواقعة في اللون الأخضر.
  • رؤية الهلال غير ممكنة بالعين المجردة أو بالتلسكوب من المناطق غير الملونة، على الرغم من غروب القمر بعد غروب الشمس ومن حصول الاقتران السطحي قبل غروب الشمس، وذلك بسبب قلة إضاءة الهلال و/أو بسبب قربه من الأفق.
  • يرجى ملاحظة أن الأشكال أدناه تبين إمكانية رؤية الهلال في المناطق الواقعة بين خطي عرض 60 شمالا و60 جنوبا.
Credit: International Astronomical Center (ICOP)

Translation:

The geocentric conjunction (Geocentric New Moon) will occur Insha Allah on (Thursday 23 April 2020) at 02:26 UT.

The sighting pattern of the new crescent on (Thursday 23 April 2020) and (Friday 24 April 2020) is shown in the below graphs (the picture above) using the program Accurate Times by Mohammad Odeh according to Odeh criterion. Where:

  • It is impossible to see the crescent from the areas located under the red colour because the moon on this day sets before the Sunset and/or the topocentric conjunction occurs after the sunset.
  • The crescent is expected to be seen by optical aid only from the areas located under the blue colour.
  • The crescent is expected to be seen by optical aid from the areas located under the magenta colour. In these areas, the crescent could be seen by naked eye if the atmospheric conditions are superb and the observer is experienced.
  • The crescent is expected to be easily visible by the naked eye from the areas located under the green colour.
  • The crescent cannot be seen from uncoloured areas, even though the moon sets in these locations after the sunset and the topocentric conjunction occurs before the sunset, but the moon is not sufficiently illuminated in order to be seen as crescent even by optical aid.
  • Kindly note that the below graph shows the possibility of seeing the crescent from areas between 60 degrees north of Equator down to 60 degrees south of Equator.

Perhaps the most relevant part above is the second bullet: “The crescent is expected to be seen by optical aid only from the areas located under the blue colour.” A quick check on the map shows Africa as a central part of that region. Why then would anyone say, let alone insist, that the moon can never be sighted on that day by any means?!

That said, please note this message from the International Astronomical Center:

“According to the Universal Hejric Calendar (UHC), which is based on the calculated crescent visibility, the start of this month in the Eastern Region will be on Friday 24 April 2020 and in the Western Region will be on Friday 24 April 2020. Kindly notice that the UHC is a pre-calculated calendar, which adopts a certain criterion to start the new Hejric month. Your country/organization might adopt different criterion to start the new Hejric month. So it is highly advised to read the UHC website before giving any judgment.”

Nigeria is neither in the Eastern region nor the Western part. So, does that re-affirm that any moonsighting effort in the country on Thursday, April 23, is astronomically and Islamically correct? Yes.

Essentiality of moonsighting

In spite of the fact that the Centre had forecasted, based on its astronomical calculations, that the crescent cannot be sighted in Saudi Arabia, the Centre still didn’t fail to search for the crescent on Thursday, April 29 — in line with the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH) — in the Kingdom.

One fundamental message here: it is entirely wrong for anyone to suggest that Muslims should not bother to look out for the crescent on the 29th of Sha’bān, as so ordered by those in the helms at the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, because of astronomical projections.

In fact, what these incidents have rather proven is that astronomical calculations are, to say the least, not infallible. And to avoid that, I suppose that is why ICOP is fond of conditional clauses.

Source: Aljazeera

Let’s assume we can do away with official “claims,” doesn’t it suffice that ICOP sighted the crescent on April 23 in Saudi Arabia? As a matter of fact, I find it utterly disappointing that those leading the vilification of Saudi Arabia fail to project the truth when they realized that ICOP, an organisation to which one of them is Nigeria’s representative for that matter, reported that the kingdom did sight the crescent.

To see for yourself, below is ICOP’s report on Saudi Arabia (find it here in Arabic and here in English under Ramadan Waxing (NEW) Crescent Observation Results section on the website), as reported by their representative in the Kingdom. You can also check other countries.

The report says:

وقت الرصد :قبل غروب الشمس .تمت رؤية الهلال :ذكر عضو المشروع السيد تركي العمري من مدينة السويرقيه في محافظة المهد ان السماء (نسبة الغيم) كانت صافية والحالة الجوية كانت صافية جدا ولم يتم تحري الهلال بالعين المجردة ولم يتم تحري الهلال بالمنظار ولم يتم تحري الهلال بالمرقب وتمت رؤية الهلال باستخدام السي سي دي كاميرا

Translation:

ICOP member Mr. Turki Alamri from As Suwayriqiyah City in Mahd State mentioned that the sky was clear, the atmospheric condition was superb, the crescent was not sighted by the naked eye, the crescent was not sighted by binocular, the crescent was not sighted by telescope, the crescent was spotted by CCD Imaging.

The country representative السيد تركي العمري added a personal remark:

Well, the crescent was reported “not sighted” in Nigeria by ICOP, according to their country representatives, Ustadh Abdul-Rasaq Abdul-Azeez Ishola and Ustadh Qamarudeen Muhammad.

Above is the submission of the two representatives from Nigeria for this particular Centre. The latter is the former Secretary of the National Moonsighting Committee of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). The former, who had disagreed publicly with the NSCIA on the need to look for the moon on Thursday, April 23 — Sha’bān 29 — and even defied the Council on the premise that the crescent was astronomically invisible, is also a member of the committee.

I don’t know if to conclude that the former possibly didn’t conduct any moonsighting at all to have arrived at his own conclusion (there’s no evidence on his social channels that he did so—as he would have published as usual if he had—nor was there any report that he had changed his position that any moonsighting on the day in question is an effort in futility). I also don’t know if his report and that of his colleague couldn’t be taken as the supreme verdict on the whole country when it is a popular knowledge that moonsighting is better carried out in the northern part of the country (especially at such age of the crescent).

What I know is that the International Astronomical Center (ICOP) and other astronomical sources did provide convincing evidence that Africa could spot the new moon with the aid of a telescope on that day.

On this basis, my personal conclusion is that the official announcement by the Sultan remains true, knowledge-based and is consistent with Islamic tradition. This could be further substantiated by previous explanations in the first part of this piece that the crescent could be sighted, as affirmed by astronomical suggestions, and indeed was. What I find exigent is that Muslim leaders in Nigeria must come to a concrete resolution on whether the crescent must be sighted with the naked eye, or through the lens of binoculars, or even combination of both, for the country to start a lunar month.

Ramadhān Mubarak!

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