Home Opinion The strange case of phantom Shawwal crescent sighting in Niger Republic

The strange case of phantom Shawwal crescent sighting in Niger Republic


By Dr. Tijjani Umara

It is no longer news that the authorities in Niger Republic (our neighbours) have declared crescent sighting of Shawwal and are to celebrate Eid today being Wednesday 12th May 2021. This is truly strange and beats common knowledge and more so Niger is the only country to do this in the world!

We all know that there 12 months in the Islamic Lunar calendar with only one moon. It is this moon that is constantly orbiting the earth with its phases and stations, that goes into hiding and at the end of every month to appear as a new moon (with a new name).

The moon hides for 1 day in a 29 day month and for 2 days in a 30 day month.

For the new moon to be sighted there must be conjunction (literally, the birth of the new moon). This conjunction takes place only once every month and at any time within 24 hrs. The only difference is the difference in timing between countries.

This means that no moon can be sighted whether with the naked eyes or with the most powerful telescope (with all the CCD cameras and all) unless Conjunction occurs. Mind you the new moon is invisible at conjunction talkless of before it, and in the Nigerien case (it was sighted) at least an hour before the conjunction.

The Sighting of Shawwal as at sunset yesterday in Niger republic was nothing but a hoax unless if there exists (exclusively) a separate ” Nigerien moon”. It remains indelible and an axiomatic truth that there was no moon to see above the horizon as at sunset in all the countries 60⁰ North and south of the equator!
It also means that the moon was “sighted” in Niger republic at the time of it’s disappearance (aiyamul mihak) which beats common sense! This is a fact that cannot be contested even in the most infinitesimal proportion!

However, it is no surprise at all because this is not the first time a country declares sighting on a day it is practically impossible to do so and when in the whole world, no other country did.
Nigeria had suffered the same fate in those years of inadvertent Sultanate affirmation of unconfirmed moon sighting claims to a maddening extent that for several decades Nigeria was almost always the first to start Ramadan fasting and also always the first to celebrate Eid el Fitr, (before 2010).

In the years 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008, Nigeria was the first and only country to celebrate Sallah in the whole wide world on the days the country declared Eid. All other countries celebrated a day or 2 after Naija.

This was mainly attributable to false sighting claims during the period of the disappearance of the moon (aiyamul mihak) and before it’s birth as earlier mentioned. (We may have the best visual acuity of all races, to fondly say 🙂).

It may help to mention at this point that Insha Allah at the full moon in this Shawwal (day 14, equivalent to 26th May) there will be Lunar eclipse in some parts of the world. Lunar eclipses occur at full moon. This means Thursday will be more correct being 1st Shawwal than Wednesday. (you can do the counting). This may be a simple check.

Insha Allah gone Are the days when Nigerians would be taken for such wild ride of uncertainty as far as activities related to moon sighting are concerned.

The NMSC is doing an excellent job aimed at sanitizing the system and Alhamdulillah, as seen this year, there was widespread sensitization and relative acceptance of some of the dynamics of moon sighting.

As for those who find it difficult to accept Astronomical calculations, all we can say is that change is the only constant thing in life although the acceptance of this change may be in piecemeal as typified by these historical events:

1.Translation of Quran in any other language was prohibited by Fatwas till about 1000 AD.

(2) 300 years ago, when clocks and watches were invented; the use of those devices for prayer times was not allowed by Ulamaa’.

(3) 120 years ago, in Indian subcontinent, calculated Prayer Times were not acceptable by Ulamaa’.

(4) 50 years ago, taking pictures for ID or passports especially for women was considered Haraam, per Fatawa by Ulamaa’.

(5) Up until 2006, the use of loudspeakers for 5 daily Prayers was considered Haraam, as per Fatawa by Ulamaa’ from Bombay, Bareli, Lahore & Faislabad.

(6) For decades and even now Muslims think telescope sighting is not valid, but many ulama accept it now. We have seen yesterday how powerful and possibly “frightful” telescopes were deployed in Saudi!

It takes decades, or even centuries for some Ulamaa’ to accept this change. But Insha Allah it will certainly come.

𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝘄𝘄𝗮𝗹 𝗰𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗿 𝗯𝗶𝗴 𝗼𝗻 𝗪𝗲𝗱𝗻𝗲𝘀𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴?
What we know is that the Conjunction (birth) of Shawwal crescent was at 8 pm Kano time Tuesday. By sunset on Wednesday (today, 6:41 pm) the moon must have been at least 22 hrs old and will set after sunset (7:23pm) by at least 42 minutes.

So even if it appeared a little bigger, it’s not a surprise at all because:

1.The orbit of the moon is elliptical, meaning it is not a perfect cycle (Wato kamar ka sa yatsu biyu cikin robali ka ja, zaka samu two farthest ends da kuma 2 closest ends) assume the earth is in the middle of that imperfect cycle and the moon going round the earth on that imperfect cycle.

When the moon is on the farthest end of the orbit it would appear smaller even if it is at an advanced age, and when it is at a position closer to earth on it’s orbit it will appear bigger even at a small age from its conjunction.

2. We only see the surface of the moon that reflects the sunlight. So the larger the surface that reflects sunlight the bigger the moon will appear to be to the eyes. And this depends on the angle that separates the moon from the sun which increases daily and is probably the single most important factor that determines the moon’s visibility with the naked eye! (Angular separation)

The first day you see the moon at sunset is the first night of the new month. We cannot say “this moon is not today’s moon” even if we knew the conjunction took place the previous day. It is today’s moon and the following day will be the first of the new month.

Wallahu Aalamu


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