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Eid Al Fitr 2022 in UAE: How do astronomers determine the first day of the Islamic festival?

This year, Ramadan is expected to last 30 days, with Eid forecast to fall on May 2



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Thu 14 Apr 2022, 11:03 AM

Last updated: Thu 14 Apr 2022, 11:45 AM

The Emirates Astronomical Society recently announced Eid Al Fitr would likely begin on May 2. But how do astronomers determine the first day of Eid?

"By citing the Hilal, by looking at the West and the thin crescent," said Hasan Al Hariri, CEO of Dubai Astronomy Group. "The criterion is that we look for a thin crescent above the horizon after the sunset in the direction towards the West."

The UAE moon-sighting committee will convene to confirm the official starting date for the Islamic festival.

Explaining the process ahead of Eid Al Ftir, which is just a little over two weeks away, Al Hariri pointed out that looking up at celestial bodies, such as the Moon, can elicit feelings of reverence and compel one to contemplate the greater meaning of existence.

“Muslims look towards the western horizon for the new moon on the 29th day of Sha'ban, the eighth month,” he said.

At the end of every month, astronomers look at the Western horizon. Around the 29th day, they search for the crescent, which indicates that the new month will start after that day. "But if we cannot see the Moon, then it will become the 30th day," Al Hariri explained.

For those who fast, Al Hariri said time management is crucial.

"Time, as we know, is one of the most important elements in our life," he said. "Based on the importance of time, everything else can be measured and quantified. Civilisation has flourished because people have started to appreciate the value of time. So, emphasising time and its measurement is one of the most important elements laid down by Islamic Shar'i."

Al Hariri also noted that Muslims look to the Sun for guidance when praying five times a day. "We use the Moon for creating the month and the year. With this, Almighty or Allah has given us certain kinds of rituals or festivals - Ramadan, Eid and then another Eid. All of this is determined by identifying the Hilal moon at the beginning of the month and then counting the (days of the) month."

The lunar month, he added, cannot be 28 days or 31 days. "It must either be 29 days or 30 days," he said.

Followers of Islam fast between dawn and sunset, pray for peace and guidance, and give back to the community in the form of charity or zakat. Engaging in humanitarian activities, such as feeding the underprivileged and introspecting to enlighten one's soul, is also widely observed among Muslims during this month. Thus, fasting teaches patience, restraint and time management.

Speaking about moon-sighting, Al Hariri said the process is "fairly simple".

"If you make a mistake on the first or the second day, one can rectify it on the third day or even later at the end of the month," he said. "We have 28 days to rectify the calendar. So, it's quite easy and the chances of making a mistake are minimal, and one doesn't require many equipment to identify the timing. It's been accurate since the Moon-based calendar was adopted."

Al Hariri underlined that Ramadan is a month of blessings and forgiveness and also offers an opportunity to replenish one's spirituality.

“At the end of the Holy Month, we are pleased to have Eid, which is a time for celebration. These celebrations are connected to our personal lives, to make our lives more joyful and more appreciative of time and what Allah has given us on Earth. God has given us a purpose. When we worship, we cleanse ourselves from the sins," he said.

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The Dubai Astronomical Centre organises discussions about the Ramadan crescent to educate people about moon-sighting and its importance.

"With new technologies and astronomical methods being introduced, an increasing number of people will be able to understand how to search for the Moon," Al Hariri said.

With events such as 'Iftar Under the Stars' and 'Suhoor Under the Stars', the centre aims to help the general public understand how astronomers look for the Moon and the crescent and how to make sense of the process.

"At the same time, (it's about) appreciating what we have - this amazing creation of the Almighty in the sky and how beautiful it is and how important this practice is," Al Hariri said.


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