Ramadan starts Friday or Saturday, depending on moon sightingBy Edwin Fernandez
COTABATO CITY, Philippines—Filipino Muslims throughout the country will start the month-long observance of Ramadan on Friday; that is, if the moon is sighted Thursday night by Islamic religious observers.
Uztads Esmael Ibrahim, chairman of the Ulama Council of the Philippines, said, however, that if the moon is not sighted on Thursday due to cloud cover or some such reason, then the holy month of daytime fasting for Muslims will officially start on Saturday.
“If the moon is seen tonight, fasting starts Friday, if not, then it will be on Saturday,” Ibrahim said.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the so-called “five pillars” of the Islamic faith. The four others are belief in Allah, the giving of zakat (alms) to the poor, praying five times a day facing the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia and, for the financially capable, going at least once in a lifetime to Mecca to perform the hajj, or pilgrimage.
Ustadz Jaafar Ali, head of the local Darul Iftah (House of Opinions), said fasting was prescribed by Prophet Mohammad to his followers as a means of inculcating in them the need for self-restraint to achieve harmony with all people regardless of faith and race.
“Self restraint would lead to spiritual perfection,” said Ibrahim, who also appealed to fellow Muslims to refrain from firing their guns to usher in Ramadan.
Traditionally, the start of fasting month is welcomed by some Filipino Muslims with gun fire, ostensibly to drive away bad spirits that could disrupt the religious activities. But Muslim religious leaders belie such claim, saying doing good and sharing one’s blessings with the less fortunate during Ramadan and the rest of the year would drive evil away.
“Religious leaders in different parts of ARMM will all together observe the skies on the night of July 19 to see if the new moon appears. This is in keeping with the tradition started by our ancient Islamic leaders in the Middle East,” Ali said.
Ibrahim, also a member of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said Ramadan is a “holy month” for Muslims when they fast from dawn to dusk for one lunar cycle, or about 30 days as a religious obligation.