Moon spotters prepare for Ramadan
The moonsighting committee in the UAE is set to meet tonight to confirm the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
The committee, chaired by Sultan bin Saeed Al Badi, Minister of Justice, will convene after Maghrib prayers to witness the first sighting of the crescent moon.
7DAYS spoke to Dr Humaid Majol Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Science and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Sharjah for Academic Affairs, who explained how it works.
“The Islamic calendar is lunar-based, with each month coinciding with the phases of the moon and lasting either 29 or 30 days,” said Dr Al Nuaimi.
“Traditionally, one marks the beginning of an Islamic month by looking at the night sky and visibly seeing the slight crescent moon [hilal] that marks the beginning of the next month. This is the method which was followed by the Prophet Mohammed.”
Dr Al Nuaimi added: “Throughout much of Islam’s early history, sighting the new moon was a relatively simple endeavour. Muslims would make naked eye observations of the sky By Nawal Al Ramahi and determine the start of Ramadan together with their local communities based on these sightings.
“Many Muslims have continued to maintain these traditions while others resort to astronomic calculations along with traditional ways.
“A panel composed of a number of experts is assigned by the Ministry of Justice every year. The panel members use the naked eye and telescope.
“There will be setting times of the moon according to the sun tonight. It is worth noting that, in the history of tracking the moon, 29 minutes is the least time required for the setting of the moon after the sun sets to be able to see the crescent.
“However, it depends on the weather conditions.”
Sharia courts have been called on to look out for the crescent moon and notify the committee. Discrepancies sometimes arise between committees, resulting in some countries observing Ramadan earlier than others.