Anticipating renewed disunity on the start of Ramadan, a leading Bahraini astronomer has called upon religious authorities to rely on accurate scientific and astrological calculations for the sighting of the moon to determine the beginning of the holy month. ( GN )
"I urge decision-makers in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to resort to astronomical calculations before they announce the start of the holy month based solely on sighting by witnesses," said Waheeb Al Nasser, vice-president of the Bahrain Astronomical Society.
"I also urge the religious authorities in Bahrain, Iraq and Iran not to take into consideration any claim of sighting the lunar cycle on Saturday August 30 because the moon will not be visible before 10.58pm,," he said in a statement two weeks ahead of the start of holy month.
According to Al Nasser, who teaches applied physics at the University of Bahrain, the sighting will be on Sunday August 31 and Ramadan will start on September 1. Eid will be on October 1. The start of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar-based Islamic calendar, has been a source of heated debate among Muslims frustrated by how Muslim countries are claiming sightings on different dates and starting the month on different days.
The clash is mainly between conservatives who insist on seeing the moon with the naked eye, in line with a literal interpretation of Islamic principles. Their stance contrasts with those who call for the use of astronomical calculations to predict the start of the month.
For sightings with the naked eye varying geographical and weather conditions mean that people in different locations cannot see the start of the cycle, making Muslims around the world fast on different days.
However, the strict interpretation of the visibility stipulation is increasingly becoming a source of national and social divisions, defeating the call for unity preached by Islam during the sacred month.
A Tunisian engineer at Nasa, Mohammad Loucet Ayari, has invented an electronic telescope that is set to end the debate over the determination of the beginning of the lunar cycle. However, his invention will be only be commercialised in 2010 following trials.