Forum sets to resolve prayer time, qibla, moon-sighting missteps
Astro-Quiblah Initiative, a forum of concerned Muslims, was established in 2013, after some persons, concerned about the bid by Muslims to ascertain the right prayer (sallah) times, the actual position to face while praying (qibla) and the issue of moon sighting.
Since July 2013 when the initiative was formally registered with Malam Salihu S Abubakar, a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, as its chairman, the organisation commenced enlightening Muslims in Nigeria on the three aforementioned areas.
JaafarAbubakar,thesecretarygeneral of the organisation, told our correspondent that the three issues are quite fundamental to Islam, adding: “We want Muslims, anywhere they find themselves, to be able to understand the right prayer time for the five daily prayers and how they will know the end of each lunar calendar and where to start looking for the new Islamic calendar.”
Other leaders of the organisation also explained that it is important that wherever a Muslim finds himself, he should be able to locate the correct qiblah.
One of the members of the board of trustees of the initiative, Malam Simwal Usman Jibrin, said many people don’t know the correct qiblah, which is simply referred to in Hausa as “gabas,” meaning east.
“But when you draw a straight line from Nigeria towards east, it will not lead you to qiblah because you will have left the qiblah over 1, 000 kilometers away,” he said.
He explained that since the east is calculated on 90 degrees formula, the tendency is that if one continues going in that regard to find direction, he may end up facing between Ethiopia and Somalia, whereas, he said, the qiblah is located in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
The group observes that more than 100 years ago, most of the mosques built in Nigeria, despite limited technology then, were able to locate the right qiblah, unlike now.
Jibrin added: “They used stars and other traditional methods in getting correct qiblah. But most of today’s mosques are facing 90 degrees some 95 degrees. In fact, there was a mosque we visited that was facing 123 degrees, completely outside the scope of the qiblah.”
He also said that the organisation observed that some call prayers 10-15 minutes before, time especially with regards to Asr and Isha’i prayers.
He said moon sighting has also become problematic in Nigeria, hence, the need to harmonise its processes.
He said it’s not only during Ramadan that the issue arises as the Islamic lunar months are not fixed.
“Since they are not fixed, we have to know when Muharram stars and ends before Safar begins and then come down to the 9th month which is Ramadan. Since we don’t keep track of this, people just base their assumption on what they see in the print media or lunar calendar.’
He said to harmonise the issues, the Astro Quibla Inititiave has produced its own calendar.
“We know that if it is not a leap year, we have six 30 days and six 29 days but some calendar producers will just roughly estimate and give Muharram 29 and Safar 30. It is not fixed and a lay man gets the calendar and makes reference to it,” he said.
He said another problem is that some people listen to news from outside Nigeria, explaining that the moon sighting in Saudi Arabia or Iran cannot determine the moon sighting in Nigeria because of geographical differences.
“But when it comes to the months of worship - Ramadan, Zul-hijjah, Shawwal and Muharram - they use the naked eye sighting. Nigeria does not have a system where everybody that produces calendar will have same date, this would have avoided confusion.”
He said one of the reasons for the confusion about sighting the crescent is that some people think that the shape of the crescent is permanently fixed, while it’s not so.
“It changes, depending on the season and direction it is facing. We have incidences when some people will come to say they sighted the crescent whereby, in that particular month, the crescent is supposed to appear on the right side of the sunset. So the first question you ask the person is the side of the sunset because if you want to sight the new month, definitely, you have to be there before sunset.”
Jibrin said some people claim to have sighted the crescent 30 minutes before sunset, adding: “During an international conference I attended they mocked Nigeria saying that the crescent in Nigeria is different from that of other countries. As far as back as 1997, there was a time that we sighted the moon in Nigeria on the 29th, when the rest of the world sighted it on the 28th.”
Another member of the BOT, Ustaz Muhammad Yakubu, however, blamed the confusion on the media.“I could remember an instance when we saw a man at a mosque during Ramadan, about few minutes to sunset, but he had already broken his fast. We inquired to know why and he referred us to a newspaper. When we checked, we discovered the time was not correct,” he said.
Muslims observe the Eid-El- Kabir prayers in Lagos recently.