Education - April 20, 2023

Eid al-Fitr: How the Muslim holiday date is determined by sighting the crescent moon

Eid al-Fitr: How the Muslim holiday date is determined by sighting the crescent moon.

Eid al-Fitr, the significant religious holiday that culminates Ramadan, brings together Muslim families worldwide for the “feast of breaking the fast”. However, determining its exact date, despite being a major global event, is surprisingly intricate.

Eid al-Fitr, a momentous occasion celebrated by Muslims across the globe, marks the culmination of the sacred month of Ramadan, during which Muslims observe a fast from dawn until dusk, eschewing sustenance and other bodily needs.

The sighting of the crescent moon, which heralds the onset of the new lunar month of Shawwal, determines the date of Eid al-Fitr. The Hilal Committee, a team of adept observers entrusted with the task of validating the sighting of the new moon, is deployed in several countries, including Saudi Arabia.

The moon sighting process is a centuries-old tradition and involves scouring the sky for the crescent moon right after sunset on the 29th day of Ramadan. The declaration of the first day of the new month of Shawwal and the commencement of Eid al-Fitr follows suit if the moon is spotted.

However, identifying the moon can be an arduous task, as clear skies and favorable weather conditions are prerequisites for this task. The thin crescent moon is prone to concealment by clouds, thereby rendering it difficult to sight.

This year, astronomers have proclaimed a rare ‘hybrid eclipse’ on Thursday evening, which could impede the sighting of the crescent moon. Nevertheless, Hilal committees augment the chances of spotting the moon by employing a blend of advanced technology and conventional methods.

One of the traditional methods employed by Hilal committees is the deposition of credible witnesses who have sighted the crescent moon. These witnesses, often prominent members of the community like religious scholars and accomplished astronomers, must provide a meticulous account of the location, height, and luminosity of the crescent moon, in addition to the time and date of the sighting.

In addition to witness accounts, Hilal committees also rely on modern technology to aid the moon sighting process, including telescopes and other sophisticated equipment that can facilitate the detection of the crescent moon in the sky. Nevertheless, the efficacy of technology can be influenced by various factors, including atmospheric conditions.

Once the Hilal committee validates the sighting of the crescent moon, the news is disseminated to the public, and the festivities of Eid al-Fitr ensue. Muslims worldwide congregate with their loved ones to offer prayers, exchange gifts, and revel in a sumptuous feast. It is a time of felicity, gratitude, and spiritual rejuvenation as Muslims contemplate the blessings of Ramadan and the edifying lessons imparted during this sacred month.

In conclusion, the sighting of the crescent moon is a pivotal element in determining the date of Eid al-Fitr and is a time-honored tradition that is steadfastly observed to date. Despite the challenges and intricacies that underpin the moon sighting process, the Hilal committee remains resolute in ensuring the accurate and reliable sighting of the moon, thereby enabling Muslims worldwide to commemorate this occasion in unison.

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