Daily Israel Report

Can the Saudis See the Difference between Saturn and the Moon?

The Muslim world is in an uproar over the possibility they celebrated instead of fasting because Saturn was identified as the moon.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 9/4/2011, 10:58 AM

Saturn - or the moon?
Saturn - or the moon?
Flash 90

The Muslim world is in an uproar over the possibility they celebrated instead of fasting because Saturn was identified as the moon.

If the new moon marking the end of the fast days of the month of Ramadan was cited incorrectly, Muslims would have committed the sin of celebrating the start of Eid al-Fitr on a day on which they should have fasted.

The Fars News Agency of predominantly Shi’ite Muslim Iran, which is in a constant feud with the Sunni-led Saudi Arabia monarchy, charged that the Jeddah Astronomy Society made a colossal mistake and caused other Muslim nations to pronounce Tuesday as Eid al Fitr.

“The society had said that people actually saw the planet Saturn and not the crescent moon that marks the beginning of the Islamic month of Shawwal,” the government-controlled news agency reported.

Hatem Auda, director of the National Institute for Astronomical and Geophysical Research, had said that astronomical calculations by scientists of the institute noted that the first day of the Eid was Wednesday, August 31, making Tuesday, August 30 the last day of Ramadan.

It claimed that the Saudi government apologized and will pay citizens money as compensation for the sin of breaking the fast a day early.

However, the Egyptian Fatwa Authority told the country’s Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, "The crescent was clearly seen with the naked eye…

"There are seven committees made up of the finest astronomers that view the crescent… and they coordinate with each other before they take a collective decision, so as to avoid error."

Maged Abu Zahra, director of the Jedda Astronomy Society explained that all astronomers in the Arab world sighting the crescent in Saudi Arabia on the same night would be impossible.