By Sobhy Mujahid, Ahmed Al-Amoudi, IOL Correspondents
CAIRO —`Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, will fall on Tuesday, October 24, according to astronomical calculations.
“Calculations show that the new crescent can not be seen on Sunday, October 22, because it will go down in most Egyptian cities before sunset,” Professor Ahmed Ismail Khalifa of the Cairo-based al-Azhar University.
He added that the same applies to Arab and Muslim countries making Monday, October 23, the last day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
“The first day of Shawwal and consequently the first day of `Eid Al-Fitr will therefore fall on Tuesday, October 24,” said professor Khalifa.
Mosalam Shaltout, professor of solar and space physics, concurred.
“The Shawwal crescent will be born on Sunday but will go down before sunset in Arab and Muslim countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” he told IslamOnline.net.
Shaltout said Muslim countries which began fasting on Sunday, September 24, would mark `Eid Al-Fitr on Tuesday, October 24, according to astronomical calculations.
The Islamic Crescents Observation Project has determined that a sighting of the new crescent on Saturday is impossible in all states of the world because the moon will go down before sunset and the conjunction will happen after sunset.
It said that sighting the new crescent on Sunday will equally be impossible in all states of the world because the moon will go down before sunset in some regions, or the setting together with the sun in the other regions.
The Project was founded in 1998 and it comprises more than 300 members, scientists and people interested in crescent sighting and calendars.
Despite the astronomical calculations, Muslims who started their fast on Saturday, September 23, would have no choice but celebrating `Eid Al-Fitr on Monday.
“Sighting the Shawwal moon on Sunday would be meaningless as the day would mark the 30th day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan,” Saudi scholar Abdullah bin Salman said earlier this week.
“We will celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr on Monday, October 23.”
Professor Shaltout explained that the original problem is that many countries started the fasting one day ahead of the time set by astronomical calculations for the birth of the Ramadan moon.
Islamic lunar months are either 29 or 30 days. Since Sunday will be the 30th day of fasting for millions of Muslims they would automatically celebrate `Eid the following day.
“No one can have Ramadan or any other lunar month run for more than 30. It just can not be,” said Shaltout.
Scientists in the Washington-based US Naval Observatory had said that the Ramadan moon was signed on Saturday, September 23, and that the Muslim holy fasting month truly began on Sunday, September 24.
Moon sighting has always been a controversial issue among Muslim countries, and even scholars seem at odds over the issue.
One group says that Muslims everywhere should abide by the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia.
A second, however, believes that the authority in charge of ascertaining the sighting of the moon in a given country (such as Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa [House of Fatwa]) announces the sighting of the new moon, then Muslims in the country should all abide by this.