|The sun sets on Ramadan 2017, Sea Point, Cape Town.|
IN SPITE of cold weather, thousands gathered at Three Anchor Bay, Sea Point,
to look for the new crescent marking the end of Ramadan 2017. With the moon
13. 5 hrs old and with a lag of 42 minutes for sighting, the crescent was not
seen. For the moon to be seen it has to be at least 16 hrs old with a sighting
time of at least 45 minutes after sunset.
The moon was only visible in parts of western US and South America, in
spite of countries like Nigeria, Australia and Saudi Arabia voting to celebrate
'Eid ul-Fitr, the festival day marking end of the Holy Month. In the Qur'an
it states that Muslims should begin the month with the sighting of the crescent,
and conclude it with the sighting of the crescent.
The Crescent Observers Society, which has been sighting the moon in Cape
Town for over 60 years, is the authoritative South African body for crescent
observation. Qualified moon-sighters - or "maankykers" - also go to sight the
moon in other parts of South Africa and report to the Hakim, Shaikh Seraj
Hendricks, in Cape Town before a decision is made for the whole country.
The moon-sighting for the end of Ramadan in Cape Town - unique because
of the crowds it attracts - is a major media event, covered by radio, television
and print internationally. Moon-sighting to determine the lunar Islamic
calendar is a practice dating back to over 360 years in Cape Town as Muslim
slaves and political exiles were sent to the tip of Africa by the Dutch East India
Company in the 17th century. It is said that the colonialists and the apartheid
authorities could ban or restrict a host of practices, but not looking at the sky.