Makkah/Riyadh: In a statement issued late in the night Tuesday the Saudi Royal Court announced that the month of Ramadan this year will start from Thursday May 17, 2018 as it did not receive moon sighting report from any part of the Kingdom.
The Ramadan Moon Sighting Committees in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) followed with a similar statement declaring that the first day of Ramadan 2018 will be Thursday May 17, 2018.
“In the event of not receiving any testimonies about sighting of the Ramadan crescent on Tuesday evening, Ramadan fasting will begin on Thursday," the Saudi Royal Court said in the statement.
The Saudi Supreme Court held its meeting on Tuesday evening and reviewed the reports received from different courts that showed that nobody have come up with testimonies of sighting the crescent after sunset on Tuesday May 15, 2018 corresponding to 29th Shaban 1439.
“In line with the Saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to complete 30 days of Shaban if the crescent was not sighted, the court decides that Wednesday, May 16, will be Shaban 30 and Thursday will be the first day of Ramadan this year,” the Saudi Press Agency reported quoting the statement.
The announcements by the Saudi Royal Court and UAE were made after a much delay and hours later than other GCC states like Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Syria, Turkey and also the moon sighting committees in Indonesia, and Malaysia as well as in Russia, Australia, France, Singapore, Japan and South Korea had declared start of Ramadan 2018 on Thursday.
As millions of Muslims around the world anxiously waited for the Saudi Supreme Court to officially announce start of Ramadan 2018 – the Holy Month of fasting, a UAE daily quoting Arabiya reported that the Ramadan moon was not sighted in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and hence Ramadan will start on Thursday.
The report was misleading as it was based on the statement by a Saudi expert associated with an observatory one of the Kingdom’s university. His statement was speculation based on astronomical calculations. Te report in Arabic and Urdu was published on Tuesday aftrenoon - hours before moon sighting after sunset followed by Maghrib prayer.
Astronomical calculations, though can be helpful, but not valid to decide the start of Ramadan or any month of the Islamic Calendar. A month starts in the Islamic calendar only after sighting of moon.
The report created confusion which was cleared only after the Saudi Royal Court followed by the moon sighting committees in UAE officially announced the start of Ramadan 2018.
A new month in the Islamic Calendar begins with sighting of moon on 29th of the prevailing month. If the new moon, Crescent, is sighted, the next day is counted as first day of the next month. If not, the next day is counted as 30th day of the prevailing month and the new month begins thereafter.
In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries, the new moon of the month of Ramadan, also called in the region as Ramzan, will be sighted today on May 16, 2018 corresponding to 29th of Shaban in the region.
If the new moon is sighted today then the Holy month of fasting Ramdan will begin in India, Pakistan and Bangaldesh on Thursday May 17, 2018. In case the new moon is not sighted, then Ramadan in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries will begin on Friday May 18, 2018.
More than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world will mark the month, during which believers abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and having martial relations from dawn until sunset. They also try to avoid evil thoughts and deeds during the holy month. Ramadan is sacred to Muslims because tradition says the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) during that month. It is followed by the Eid al-Fitr festival.
This year, Ramadan falls on long summer days for Muslims in the Northern Hemisphere. For Muslims who live in regions where Islam is not the dominant religion, challenging fasts are believed to come with greater blessings.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five obligatory pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, annual charity -- known as "zakat" -- and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah.
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