Cape Town Muslims start Ramadaan on different days
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Some Cape Town Muslims plan to start fasting for Ramadaan today but the majority intended to do so tomorrow (WEDNESDAY), said the city’s religious leaders yesterday.
Ramadaan is the ninth Islamic month and obligates Muslims to stay without food or drink from sunrise to sunset throughout the month. The local difference regarding the starting day of the month is a matter of science versus tradition.
Muslims who start fasting today say they base their calendar calculations on a scientific lunar method.
Sheikh Ismail Keraan of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cape Town said its “academic scholars recently embarked on an investigation to determine the viability of a universal lunar calendar using proven scientific methods”.
“The need came about as a result of the current inefficiency in the process of lunar sightings,” he said.
Keraan said “if the need arose” those who started fasting a day earlier would delay the Eid-ul-Fitr celebration by a day though. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadaan and is a day when Muslims gather with their families.
“In keeping with unity amongst our communities and families it was decided that the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr will be deferred and celebrated with the rest of South Africa whose observance is in line with lunar sighting,” said Keraan.
He added: “It remains the individual’s choice to follow the approach which they deem to be appropriate.”
Imam Rashied Omar, of the Claremont Main Road Mosque, said his congregation would also start fasting today. He issued a statement on the “latest lunar crisis” to “conclude with some concrete proposals for a way out of our current confusion”.
“The current lunar crisis is not new but first came to light in the late eighties. These progressive proposals which were made twenty five years ago have fallen on deaf ears and have now come back to haunt us,” said Omar.
Islamic months are calculated according to the cycle of the moon. Each new moon sighting signals the start of a new month.
Omar said they used a “scientifically determined lunar calendar to provide both accuracy and predictability in the religious affairs of Muslims”.
“We believe that this scientific approach will eventually prevail. According to this view an astronomer, as well as anyone else who believes in the veracity and correctness of the astronomer’s calculations of the beginning of the new moon, may personally fast and break their fast according to astronomical calculations.”
The Crescent Observers Society meanwhile gathered at Three Anchor Bay near Sea Point shortly before sunset yesterday to determine whether the new moon could be sighted.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), which governs the majority of Islamic affairs in the Cape, had earlier in the day already indicated that the new moon would not be sighted yet.
It is tradition though that thousands of Muslims gather annually to sight the start and end of Ramadaan.
MJC president Moulana Ihsaan Hendricks said they “wish our community well for the month of Ramadaan”.
“We pray that our sincere efforts towards pleasing Allah during this great month will be accepted and that we may in unity of purpose be of benefit to mankind,” said Hendricks.
Hendricks added: “Ramadaan is a month wherein we revive ourselves spiritually… through deeds that benefit mankind and thus strives towards perfecting his inner and outer state.”
Muslims are encouraged to accompany their fasting with charity, extra prayers and acts of kindness.