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Dr. Shabbir
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‘Fasting begins only after moon sighted’

Arab News 23/08/2008

MAKKAH: The Saudi Council of Senior Scholars has rejected the demand that the beginning and end of lunar months should be determined on the basis of astronomical calculations.
“Shariah does not accept astronomical calculations based on mathematical computing as the basis for the beginning and ending of Ramadan,” said Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, grand mufti of Saudi Arabia and chairman of the council.
“If anyone doubts our moon-sighting, fasting and feasting, it betrays his weak faith and defective perception,” the grand mufti, who is head of the Administration of Research in Religious Sciences and Fatwa said. He cited a Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which says, “You start fasting when you see (the moon) and stop it when you sight (the next moon) and when it is hidden by clouds, complete (30 days of) fasting.”
The grand mufti added that it is obligatory on the Muslims to start fasting when any Muslim known for his honesty and healthy eyesight claims to have sighted the new moon. This is the practice in the Kingdom, he said, dismissing suggestion that Muslims may depend on astronomical calculations to begin fasting in Ramadan and celebrate Eid.
It is the Supreme Judicial Council that announces the sighting of the new moon to mark the beginning of Rajab (seventh month of the Islamic calendar), Shaaban (the month preceding Ramadan), Ramadan, and the three months following it, Al-Madinah newspaper reported.
The senior scholars’ council concluded a series of discussions on the issue and came to the conclusion on Tuesday that sighting of the moon should be the basis of a month’s beginning though three of its members supported the idea of depending on astronomical calculations.
Meanwhile, Saudi astronomer Jabar Al-Doussary said religious scholars and astronomers should settle their dispute on the moon-sighting issue.
“Nothing but the astronomical calculations confirm the sighting of the moon in a convincing manner. The calculations are made not for a day or a month but for thousands of years. Even the viewing through observatories is based on such calculations,” the astronomer said.
Khaled Al-Zuaq, member of the Arab Federation of Space Sciences and Astronomy stressed the need for a meeting of astronomers and religious scholars to bring an end to the row over moon-sighting and avoid errors.
“The present method of confirming moon-sighting has created confusion that can be removed easily by adopting scientific methods,” he said. A 15-member panel from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain had decided two years ago to launch an Islamic satellite, which would be used for sighting moon.
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