World Bulletin/News Desk
Nigeria's Sultan of Sokoto Abubakar Sa'ad II has announced the start of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, on Sunday, amid a confusion about the start of the Muslim feast.
"The new month of Shawwal was sighted in different places within Nigeria and therefore tomorrow (Sunday) is first day of Shawwal equivalent to27 July 2014," the Sultan was quoted as saying shortly after midnight by the state-owned Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
Sultan Abubakar is the president general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and leader of the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), both apex bodies of Nigeria's 80 million Muslim population.
The NSCIA Secretariat, however, insisted that Sunday is the last day of the fasting month of Ramadan.
"Information from the National Moon Sighting Committee indicates the non-sighting of the moon on Saturday. So, Sunday, July 27, is last day of Ramadan," NSCIA chief media spokesman Femi Abass told Anadolu Agency.
The confusion was set earlier Saturday when JNI spokesman Khalid Abubakar said in a statement that Sunday could mark the start of Eid al-Fitr if the new moon was sighted.
The statement runs afoul of an NSCIA statement on Thursday asking people to start looking for the moon only from Sunday - ruling out the possibility of any claim of moon sighting on Saturday.
"It is an indisputable fact that the old (Ramadan) moon will set just before sunset in Nigeria on Saturday, 26th July 2014. Consequently the search for Shawwal moon is on Sunday 27th of July 2014," the NSCIA scribe Professor Ishaq Oloyede said in a statement.
"It can be sighted in Nigeria on Sunday with optical instruments or with some difficulties with naked eyes. Any claim of sighting a moon that is yet to be born is not only false, mistaken or impossible but also ridiculous."
The confusion is a repeat of the controversy that dogged the start of fasting in Africa's most populous country with many in the south - especially the southwest - starting their fast on Sunday June 29 instead of Saturday June 28 announced by the Sultan.
Observing Eid al-Fitr on Sunday means that millions who did not begin fast on June 28 would have observed only 28 days of fast – contrary to the acceptable 29 or 30 consecutive days of fast.
Ignoring the Sultan's announcement, meanwhile, will signal a big crack in the fold of Muslim leadership in Nigeria.
The Nigerian government had earlier announced Eid holiday for Monday and Tuesday.Last Mod: 27 Temmuz 2014, 10:52