LUNAR observers positioned themselves in strategic areas for moon-sighting Thursday night to determine the day when the fasting month of Ramadan begins.
But the Dharul Ifta, which deployed the moon-sighting teams in coordination with state security agencies amid the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, said late Thursday night that the new moon did not appear visible, so Ramadan starts today, Saturday, for the followers of Islam.
The Ramadan fasting among the Muslims starts this weekend, declared Bangsamoro Grand Mufti Abu Huraira Udasan in Cotabato City.
Alim Abdulmuhmin Mujahid, executive director of the Regional Dharul Ifta (House of Opinion) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or RDI-ARMM, made a similar announcement late Thursday.
Muslims fast daily from dawn to dusk in 29 to 30 days in absolute abstinence from food, drink and from daytime marital sex.
Ramadan is the ninth of the 12-month Hijra lunar-based calendar and is considered the holiest month in Islam, as it was during this month that God’s Revelations in the Qur’an were completed, according to the history of Islam.
Muslims are trained to fast from a young age, as taught in the Qur’an: “Fasting is prescribed unto you, as it was prescribed unto those before you, that ye may learn self-restraint in piety.” (2:128)
Fasting was practiced by biblical prophets and the followers of early Abrahamic religions including Christianity (Acts 13:2, 14:23, I Corinthians 7:5-1, Matthew 6:16-18, Daniel 1:8-14, II Kings 24:13-14).
Mujahid said RDI-ARMM had provided a set of Newtonian reflector telescopes to each of its five provincial offices in the region, as well as to the Dharul Ifta of ulama (scholars) in the Zamboanga Peninsula to aid in the moon sighting.
With the precision of modern astronomical instruments, Mujahid said, the RDI-ARMM hoped to address the conflicting views that Filipino Muslims held in lunar reckoning each time Ramadan was about to start or end.
For centuries, Muslim scholars have hardly resolved the issues on whether moon-sighting should be done merely by the naked eyes or done with the aid of modern scientific instruments.
All four Sunni Muslim Schools of Law (Madhahib) are for the bare-eye observation to produce evidence of moon-sighting.
Sunni school authorities say such rules were established by Sunni Imams prior to the invention of space observatory telescope, and are based on Prophet Muhammad’s teaching: “Fast when the moon is sighted at the end of Sa’ban (the eighth Hijrah month) and end fasting as the moon rises in Sawwal(the tenth month).”
Present-day muftis say even the old schools were open to continuing the learning process through consultation and other means, resulting in the modern-day “Ijma” (consensus).