A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, September 2, 2011

Much Ado About Saturn: Did Ramadan End Too Early?

The region's latest teacup tempest is a controversy over whether Ramadan ended a day too soon. It has apparently captured the imagination of Egypt's independent newspapers, to the point that Al-Azhar and the Dar al-Ifta, the source of official Islamic rulings in Egypt, have both stepped in to say that the moon was, indeed, sighted Monday night. It has also inspired the Arabist to some commentary.

Nor is the discussion limited to Egypt; it's apparently preoccupying the Gulf too.

The key question seems to be whether the Saudis, who were the first to announce the sighting of the Shawwal crescent moon, jumped the gun or, as some are reporting, mistook the planet Saturn for the new moon. (I can't imagine how you could do that, frankly.) As one UAE expert notes, the computations are mostly done on computers these days, although there are websites like this one which insist on an actual sighting, and others which go to great lengths to determine when the moon could have been sighted.

Ramadan cannot have more than 30 days, moon sighting or not; the moon sighting  determines whether it has 29 or 30. South Asia generally started the ‘Id on Tuesday night, but from Saudi Arabia westward it started at sundown Monday, catching a great many people off guard who had expected to have to fast another day.

No comments: