Fo­rum sets to re­solve prayer time, qi­bla, moon-sight­ing mis­steps

Daily Trust - - TRUST ISLAMIC FORUM - From An­drew Agbese (Kaduna)

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.

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