Eid ul Adha 2024 dates warning as expert says 'no chance' on moon visibility

A Midlands moonsighting expert has warned of differences in the dates of Eid ul Adha 2024 and urged people to follow verified reports and try to look for the crescent in their own country. Dr Zahid Nawaz says there is "absolutely no chance" of the new moon being seen on June 6 but fears that inaccurate declarations will cause uncertainty and confusion.

Dr Nawaz, a member of the Roiyat e Hilal (Moonsighting) Board at Birmingham-based Noor TV, an Islamic broadcaster in Aston, says the dates of Eid moonsightings will be out of step because earlier announcements for Eid ul Fitr and previous months weren't in sync.

It's traditional to look for the crescent of the new moon on the 29th day of the month - in this case, Dhul Qadah - but this won't be the same for everyone. Saudi Arabia officials say their 29th day is June 6 but UK officials say the 29th is June 7.

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Dr Nawaz said: "The tracking of each Islamic month is critical as this determines the 29th date of each month on which moonsighting needs to take place. Unfortunately, as some people started the previous month earlier and it was not based on an actual moonsighting, there will be a difference between when the 29th is and when to sight the crescent.

"Those who followed a verified moonsighting would be searching for the crescent on Friday the 7th, whilst others will be making claims of a sighting on Thursday, June 6.

"The reality is that on Thursday there is absolutely no chance of the crescent being sighted by any moonsighting criterion available in the world. On Friday, I am fairly confident that we will see the crescent in the UK. Therefore, I strongly encourage people to enjoy the experience of sighting the crescent on that day."

He added: "Having been involved in this issue for over 30 years, I draw the conclusion that most of the confusion stems from false claims of an actual sighting when it is impossible to do so. Given the chaos this creates, I would encourage Muslim countries and their religious ministries to review their formal statements and ensure that they are ratified by their scientific experts so there is no ambiguity."

Dr Nawaz expressed his gratitude to HM Nautical Almanac Office, a UK Government body providing astronomical data to the Armed Forces, Islamic bodies and calendar/diary manufacturers. It has said the new moon is "not visible" on June 6 in the key locations of Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the UK, but will be easily seen the next evening.

He said the Noor TV Moonsighting Board would be deliberating on Friday, June 7, taking into account moonsightings from across the UK or, in the absence of any verified reports, the official declarations from Britain's nearest Islamic neighbour, Morocco.

People were now much more "scientifically savvy" and will scrutinise moonsighting reports for accuracy according to astronomical information, Dr Nawaz pointed out.

The compilers of Saudi Arabia's Umm al-Qura Calendar have admitted that some earlier declarations of key dates have been based on bogus sightings. They said: "Since 1998/99, several official sighting committees have been set up by the Government of Saudi Arabia to determine the first visual sighting of the lunar crescent at the begin of each lunar month. However, the religious authorities of Saudi Arabia also allow the testimony of less experienced observers and thus sometimes announce the sighting of the lunar crescent on an evening when none of the official committees could observe the lunar crescent or even on an evening when the lunar crescent actually set before sunset.

"This often leads to confusion when the dates of important religious events in Muharram, the month of fasting (Ramadan) or the month of pilgrimage (Dhul Hijjah) are changed. In nearly all of these cases, a retrospective analysis indicates that these extremely early reports of the lunar crescent are impossible and were based on false sightings. Most of these false sightings were probably caused by a bright star or planet (such as Venus) or an airplane contrail viewed near to the western horizon.

"A study of 42 reports of sightings of the Ramadan new moon, as announced by the High Judiciary Council of Saudi Arabia between 1962 to 2001, confirms that more than half of these were too early and based on false sightings of the lunar crescent. A similar result was reached by a later study."