HYDERABAD: For the first time in many years, Ramzan, the Muslim month of fasting, began simultaneously around the globe on Thursday. It is also the first time in over a decade that Ramzan began in India and Saudi Arabia, which hosts Islam’s holiest shrines, on a common date.
Islamic Hijri calendar is a pure lunar calendar and Muslims in different countries follow different methods to begin Ramzan and other months. This year, however,Ramzan began on a common day – May 17 – a rare phenomenon given the major differences among Islamic scholars over moon-sighting. It is to be seen whether Idul-Fitr, which marks the culmination of Ramzan, too would be celebrated on same day.
Months of the Hijri calendar begin with actual sighting of the new moon. Ramzan is the ninth month of Islamic calendar and is considered the holiest of all months. Majority of Muslims in India follow the tradition of sighing of the crescent with naked eye to begin the lunar month. A few scholars agree to the use of optical instruments – binoculars or telescope – to sight the new moon.
However, Saudi Arabia follow a different method to calculate the lunar month. Indian Muslim scholars oppose the Saudi system, because of which Ramzan beginning on different days in Saudi and India. Eid is also celebrated on different days – generally a day or two earlier in Saudi.
According to astrophysics, sighting of new crescent with naked eye depends on various factors, including cloudy conditions and atmospheric pollution. The ‘life’ of new crescent is quite small as it sets within a few minutes of appearance in the western skies after sunset. “In some places the new moon is seen with naked eye on second day of the astronomical moon. The third day moon is visible all over the world,” says astrophysicist S Rahman.