Riyadh/Dubai/Muscat: Confusion prevailed on Sunday in Saudi Arabia and othe Muslim and Gulf States over the start of the month of Muharram and hence the beginning of the New Year of the Islamic Calendar as there is total silence of the official agencies and local media over moon sighting on Saturday.
In some states, including Nigeria and Muscat, appeals were issued for the Muslims to witness the new moon Saturday corresponding to 29th of Dhul Hijjah October 01, 2016. Later on however ther is absolutely no report about sighting of the moon except Muscat where it is announced that the first day of Muharram will be on Monday October 3, 2016.
"Monday will be the first day of Muharram, the Islamic New Year, according to the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs (MERA)", Times of Oman reported.
"The moon was not sighted on Saturday," MERA tweeted on its official twitter account.
The state also declared Monday a national holiday.
On the other hand, officially there is no announcement about the first day of Muharram by Saudi Royal Court and the Moon Sighting Committees in the UAE and other Arab States. Saudi newspapers and the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) both have changed their calendar to 01 Muharram 1438H today i.e. Sunday October 02, 2016.
If the dates printed on the Saudi Arabia local newspapers and the one displayed on the SPA website are to be beleived, the first day of Muharram in Saudi Arabia is today i.e. Sunday October 02, 2016.
Since, Muslims in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and European countries rely on Saudi moon sighting reports, Sunday i.e. October 02, 2016 is also the first day of Muharram and the first day of the Islamic New Year 1438 Hijri.
However, nothing can be said in full authority till an official statement is issued by the Saudi Royal Court and the Moon sighting committees in the UAE and other Arab states.
"This is quite strange as SPA normally carries announcement by the Saudi Royal Court regarding moon announcement", Abdel Rehman al Sabah, a resident of Madinah, said while talking to ummid.com.
Meanwhile, Moon SIghting Committees in Pakistan, India and Bangaldesh have appealed the Muslims to witness the new moon of the month of Muharram today evening i.e. Sunday October 02, 2016 corresponding to 29th of Dhul Hijjah in these countries.
Based on lunar system, new month in the Islamic Calendar begins with sighting of the moon on 29th of the ongoing month. If moon is sighted on 29th day, new month begins from the next day, else the next day is counted as 30th day and the new month begins a day later.
The Islamic Calendar was started 1437 years before by the second Caliph Omar ibn Khattab. Before that Muslims in their respective provinces, following the Arab tradition of the time, were used to count the days and months – with sighting of the new moon and counting the days thereafter without following any particular calendar or dating system.
After the Islamic State spread beyond Arab land to new areas, the defects in the system began to surface and the need for a better and accurate calendar was felt.
"The Caliph, the Supreme Head of the Islamic State, was used to issue all the Guidelines and Pronouncements to the Governors of various Islamic Provinces from Madinah. Things were actually working fine", Rehnuma, a student of Islamic studies, explains.
"But confusion arose when contradictory orders started reaching far away provinces at the same time. Since these orders were not carrying any date, it became very difficult for the Governors to find out which one of the orders was the latest and supposed to be followed with", she adds.
To overcome the confusion, Caliph Omar finally decided to introduce the Islamic Calendar and asked the people for their opinions and suggestions on the matter.
Consequently, various historical events, including the year when Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was born, the year of the Prophethood, the time of Migration and the time when the Prophet had died, were proposed by the people.
"However unanimity surfaced for the year that coincided with the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) from Makkah as the commencing year of the Islamic Calendar. For, it was the migration of Prophet Mohammad (Peace be Upon Him) from Makkah to Madinah that had resulted Islam nurturing into the new heights and spreading to the whole Arab lands, and also to the surrounding States", Rehnuma says quoting from the history.
"Moreover", she says, "Moharram al-Haram was also associated with many historical events and the month has always been considered as one among the four most respected and sacred months since centuries. These features only added strength to the selection of Moharram al-Haram as the first month of the Islamic calendar".
The Islamic Calendar thus introduced and adopted some 1,437 years ago, soon became popular, and also became part and partial of the calendars in every Muslim household.