Local Ramadan 'spotters' wait for the signal in the sky

Cherri Gregg
May 14, 2018 - 8:51 pm
A man looks through a telescope to determine the sighting of the new moon to mark the start of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Xinhua/Sipa USA

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A handful of "moon spotters" will be perched with their eyes to the skies, looking for the sign that kicks off the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast, reflect and show gratitude, starts on the night after the new moon, or hilal.

But the actual start date is still in question: A group of imams will be on the lookout Tuesday evening for the signal that the holy month has begun.

The Islamic calendar is based on the moon. According to the Quran, the month of Ramadan begins at the sighting of the new moon, which is referred to as the "hilal," meaning crescent.

"We've actually been sighting the hilal for the last 35 years," said Amin Abul Aziz, who has been part of the Moon Sighting Committee for the Majlis Ash Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley for 35 years. "According to the tradition, we actually have to see that hilal."

He said the universal moon sighting — which is based on the Saudi Islamic calculations — is what most use to start Ramadan, but many Philadelphia mosques are traditional and wait until they actually see the moon.

"Our local sighting is what we go by," he added.

Moon-sighters will be in place at sundown and will put out the call if the moon is seen. Inclement weather is expected, however, so area spotters may have to rely on sightings outside of the city.

"If we don't see it Tuesday, we'll look Wednesday and announce Ramadan to be Thursday," Aziz added.