Ramadan: Muslims to trace moon on Sunday to avoid confusion over sighting

Muslim faithful converge for the Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Sir Ali Muslim Club, Ngara, Nairobi on April 21, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Chief Kadhi Athman Hussein has directed his officers to trace the crescent moon on Sunday evening in a bid to end confusion over the start and end of Muslims’ Holy month of Ramadan.

Mr Hussein said the first officer to sight the moon will take an oath witnessed by more than two Muslims before the information is relayed to him to announce the start of Ramadhan.

Chief Kadhi, whose office is mandated to declare the start and end of the fasting period, said all his officers across the country will monitor the skies on Sunday evening for the moon.

Over the years, Muslims in the country have differed on the date of the start and end of Ramadhan, which starts after the end of eight months of Shaban in the Islamic calendar.

The confusion, according to Islamic scholars, stems from the orbit of the moon around the earth which takes up to three days for the whole world to see the crescent for the first time

The confusion seems to stem from the fact that it can take up to three days for the whole world to sight the crescent for the first time each month, even when the skies are clear.

However, due to advanced technologies, Saudi Arabia has set the start of Ramadhan on April 10 (today) at Sunset, but Hussein insisted that the crescent must be sighted.

“The fasting begins with the sighting of the crescent moon. It starts the night after a new moon and the exercise is expected to begin on the evening of Sunday 10 March,” said Hussein.

The office of the Chief Kadhi is mandated by Law to officially announce to Muslims the start of fasting for the 30 days of the Holy month of Ramadhan after the sighting of the new crescent moon.

At the Coast, the celebrations known as ‘Mfungo’ where families converge at various picnic sites to enjoy the best Swahili foods, music, and family fun happens before the start of the fast.

During the fasting period, most eateries owned by Muslims close for repair. Other business also slows down as most Muslims remain largely indoors only going to the mosques for prayers.

Food vendors have already taken strategic positions outside mosques and streets to cash in as Muslims break their fast with snacks, coconut juice (madafu), and dates before a big feast.

Mr Abdel Nasser, a street vendor, said traditionally coconuts, madafus, dates, coffee, cold juices, and snacks hawkers witness booming business during the breaking (Iftar) of the fast.

Supreme Council of Kenya (SUPKEM) Coast Chairman Sheikh Mohdhar Khitamy said Muslims build a solid bond with God through fasting, selfless actions, and praying during Ramadhan.

“Let us receive it (Ramadhan) with repentance, seek forgiveness. Muslims should unite, assist the less fortunate, pray for peace and less unfortunate Kenyans,” said Sheikh Khitamy.

He also advised that Muslims should display a high sense of discipline, and humbleness, and fully dedicate themselves to God during and after the holy month of fasting.

The cleric asked the government to provide adequate security to Muslims going to mosques at night to pray and ensure an uninterrupted supply of water and electricity.

“Water, security, and electricity are vital to Muslims at this time. Safety of Muslims offering prayers (Taraweeh) during night hours should be guaranteed also,” said Khitamy.

During Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar calendar, and the most sacred month in the Islamic faith, Muslims fast for 30 days and pray the whole day before breaking their fast at sundown.

Ramadhan is one of the five pillars of Islam along with faith, prayer, charity, and the pilgrimage to the Muslims’ holy city of Mecca.

The period is also a commemoration of the period when the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, a sacred moment honored with abstinence between sunrise and sunset.

“The other months in the Islamic lunar calendar are Muharram, Safar, Rabil ul Awal, Rabil-Thaani, Jamadul awal, Jamadul Thani, Rajab, Shaawal, dhul Qa'dah, and Dhul hija,” said Khitamy.

He pointed out that Ramadhan is also the fifth Pillar of Islam with others being Faith (Shahadah), Prayer (Salah), Charitable giving (Zakah), and the Pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj).

Ramadhan ends with grand celebrations of “Eid Ul Fitri” prayers in open grounds throughout the country.

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