CAIRO: “Shaaban [the month before Ramadan in the Islamic calendar] is 30 days and Ramadan will begin Sept. 1, Dr Salah Mohamed Mahmoud, head of the National Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics, told Daily News Egypt.
Mahmoud said that they will not be able to sight the Ramadan crescent as it will set before sunset on Shaaban 29 in most Arab and Muslim countries, therefore it will be impossible to see it.
“However, we are sending seven teams around Egypt in places like Salloum [on the border with Libya], El Wahhat, and Abu Simbel in Luxor with portable telescopes to confirm our studies that the moon will not appear on the evening of Shaaban 29, he added.
Regarding the annual disagreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia concerning the sighting of the moon, Mahmoud said, “Saudi Arabia depends on regular eye sight, but in Egypt, we rely on accurate scientific and astrological equipment for moon sighting to determine the beginning of Ramadan.
Mahmoud added that the total solar eclipse witnessed in China and Siberia two days ago, coincided with the beginning of Shaaban, and proves the correct astrological calculations conducted by the institute, as solar eclipses always take place with the birth of the new moon.
“We usually send our results to the Mufti who also sends his own teams, and then he decides when the beginning of Ramadan will be, said Mahmoud.
Three months after Ramadan, when it is time for the next Islamic celebration, Eid El Adha and the Hajj (pilgrimage), Mahmoud said that Egypt would follow the Saudi calendar (based on regular eye sighting of the lunar cycle), whether or not it agrees with the astronomical calculations.
Since the Hajj is in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the Saudi lunar sighting takes precedence. In previous years, these differences have led to confusion in Egypt and other Muslim countries. Egyptians would sometimes discover that the country had officially skipped a calendar day or added one to the ongoing month of Zu El Heja, the month in which the Hajj and the Eid fall.