Moon visibility curves for Friday, November 12, 2004. Definitely no moon in Saudi Arabia..
The moon would have been visibile Saturday, 13 November..
As I child, I used to listen to the grown ups in our family argue endlessly about when the Eid Al Fitr (marking the end of Ramadan fasting) is supposed to start. Being based on a lunar calendar, Islamic months are more difficult to determine than the Gregorian months. These arguments are repeated in EXACTLY the same manner every year. The same clichÃ©s, the same points and counterpoints. It’s almost like the Groundhog Day movie (where the guy always wakes up on the same day).
Yesterday night the fiasco repeated itself again. Saudi Arabia declared that Eid was Saturday. My wife an I were walking downtown and went into a shop to buy a soft drink when we heard the Jordanian Mufti on a small black and white TV announcing that Eid in Jordan was Sunday. At home later in the evening, my father in-law called from Germany perplexed. Half of Germany ended up celebrating Eid Saturday and the half will celebrate tomorrow.
Just across the River Jordan, in Palestine Eid was celebrated Saturday. What a mess!
I have always been convinced that this is a matter where science can help. Of course, the religious authorities have a million opinions on utilizing science to determine the appearance of the moon. Waiting until they agree can take another century or so.
So to cut a long story short, I did my own Internet research on the matter. Here are the results (I wont go into the details of all the arguments, because, honestly, the whole thing just gets on my nerves):
1. Jordan’s announcement that Eid is on Sunday was correct. TheJordanian mufti said that the moon did not show up, which is in line withthe calculations. At the very least one can be confident that,scientifically, there is NO WAY someone saw the crescent in Saudi ArabiaFriday night. Go to Moonsighting.com and see for yourself. The site’s publishers use a software package called MoonCalc (programmed byUK-based Dr Monzur Ahmed) The new moon, although “born” Friday night, could not have been seen anywhere on earth (with the exception of a possibility of sighting in some Polynesian Islands!!).
2. Just for your general knowledge, a new moon can indeed be seen in one zone of the earth but not another. Remember we live on a rotating sphere. See the screenshots of MoonCalc and you’ll get a better idea aboutthe science of moonsighting.
OK. Now the interesting dilemma for observing Muslims is the following: Who’s announcement to follow. One side of the argument assumes that the “Muslim Nation” is one nation. And when the moon is sighted anywhere in the world by any Muslim, the whole Muslim nation should break the Ramadan fast. Well, that would be great. That would be the end of the endless arguments every year!
Just one note: no claim of a moonsighting should be accepted if it SCIENTIFACALLY IMPOSSIBLE. OK?
That would be the “ideal situation”. But the reality is that the “Muslim Nation” is, in fact, NOT one nation. On the contrary consists of many, many countries and Muslim communities in non-Islamic countries. If a Muslim in Jordan was to follow the announcement of Saudi Arabia that Eid was today, Saturday 13 November 2004, what was she or he to do? Go to Eid prayers alone? Or perhaps visit relatives expecting to be served Ma’mul? Or maybe go and have Eid lunch? HELLO?
I am sure the religious arguments about this issue can go on forever. The two solutions are clear: Either each country (and Muslim community) announces Eid on its own, or, by some miracle, All Islamic authorities agree on a common date (that at least does not contradict science).
Happy Eid everyone!