Sri Lanka’s Muslim clergies association, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema (ACJU) will meet to decide if the country is to celebrate Eid and mark the end of Ramadan possibly early (after the end of 28 days of fasting) as there has been a growing consensus that the moon may not have been sighted correctly to trigger the start of Ramadan.
A special ‘clarification’ was made in Kollupitiya Jummah Masjid, Colombo by Mufti Rizwi on Friday that has startled many people in the country as it would mean that this year’s Ramadan could last only 28 days instead of the requisite 29 or 30 days.
Mufti Rizwi explained during the announcement that all possible channels to sight the moon was done on the 16th May but due to adverse weather conditions only one hour window was available and non of the 35 observatories reported any sighting.
Owing to this by default the Ramadan fasting commenced on Friday the 18th. Neighboring countries like Maldives started the fast as early as Wednesday, prompting many queries from the public.
The Mufti went on to explain that in the event that moon is visible after the 28th Ramadan, then he would instruct Eid to be celebrated the next day, as it was done in the past by the companions of the prophet.
“If an error in sighting the moon to commence Ramadan is confirmed by the visibility of the moon by the 28th Ramadan, then indeed we have to celebrate Eid the next day and make up for the lost fast after Eid. This has happened in the past and Islam is clear on such matters, so there should be no confusions.
Many people reacted to the news with surprise and some disagreement, as a early moon-sighting would indicate a mistake in the start date of Ramadan.
The ACJU also released a press release on the issue.
Although the spectacle could come as a surprise to many, MDWLive investigated fatwas on the matter. Prominent Islamic website IslamQA.info explained the issue as follows
If it is proven by shar‘i methods that the Muslims made a mistake with regard to defining the beginning or end of Ramadan, then they must make up for this mistake and make up the day of Ramadan that they did not fast.
Such a mistake may be established by a number of shar‘i methods, including the following:
1. If they completed Sha‘baan with thirty days, then a trustworthy person comes and testifies that he saw the new moon on the night before the thirtieth of Sha‘baan, and the judge accepts his testimony.
2. If they fasted Ramadan with twenty-eight days, then they saw the new moon of Shawwaal.
Read the full version here.
However, a 28-day Ramadan is not without precedent, as it happened about 30 years ago in 1984 (1404 Hijri calendar), when the start date of Ramadan was incorrectly calculated, admitted the supreme cleric authority of Saudi Arabia to Gulfnews.
How does this affect religious observance? Tradition forbids Muslims from fasting on the first day of Eid, so in 1984 Muslims were encouraged by Saudi Arabian clerics to make up the day of missed fasting by either fasting after Eid, or by feeding 10 poor people.