By BASHIR ADEFAKA
Yesterday marked the commencement of 1435AH Ramadan fast across Nigeria. The announcement, which heralded the commencement, was not without hitches as it came at midnight.
But the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islam Affairs, NSCIA, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, in an exclusive session with Sunday Vanguard in his palace in Sokoto, yesterday, said it was a little unusual development that should not cause disaffection among the adherents of Islam in the country.
In a chat which lasted almost an hour, the Sultan said leaders of the Muslim community in the country, including the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi; the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II; the Emir of Bauchi, Alhaji Rilwanu Adamu; the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari; the Baba Adini of Lagos, Sheikh Hafis Abou; and the Secretary-General, NSCIA, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, made efforts to ensure hitch-free consultations.
“We have an understanding among us that, once it is 9am and no information about moon being sighted anywhere, we shall conclude our consultations and announce that Sha’aban be counted to 30 days, which was what we did,” he said, adding that the information that changed the earlier position generally agreed upon came at about 10pm.
“I heard people talking about Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirate and North America not having sighted the new moon and thereby declaring commencement of fast to be on Sunday. If you ask me, I would say we should follow Saudi Arabia in the matter of moon-sighting being that it is the home of Islam in the world and it determines the month and day of Hajj and Arafat.
But this is Islam and the religion has laid down rules that guide how Muslims should practise it. Even Saudi Arabia had declared new moonsighting, about three times, and keep were wrong. They then said later that people should fast one day to pay back.
“I think the issue of yesterday (Friday) bordered on miscommunication and by the time the information came, which was already later than we had expected, we had to start the process afresh which led the committee that had earlier closed process to re-sitting, screening and, thereafter, I asked the Chairman of the National Moon Sighting Committee, Professor Sambo Wali, to brief the press.
Even the Emir of Bauchi called me and said until he heard my voice he would not believe in what he was hearing after we had agreed and when I told him Professor Wali that spoke to the press spoke on my behalf, he agreed and promised to comply.
“It was the first time it was happening in four years. We had to start calling the Emir of Kano, the Shehu of Borno, the Emir of Ilorin, who conveys information to the people of the South-west, the Baba Adini of Lagos and other leaders before we sat again and then spoke to the press.
That was it. So, I would urge Muslims all over Nigeria not to allow it to affect their commitment to the leadership because it was nothing done out of negligence but out of the carefulness to ensure that no avoidable mistakes occurred.”
He said all that happened pointed to the fact that Muslim leaders in Nigeria would need to sit down and decide which means to use in determining the beginning of fast. Abubakar III regretted that the late announcement, which resulted from miscommunication by people that sighted the moon, had dragged the Ummah back to square one because, according to him, Muslims in the North and South of Nigeria had moonsighting announcement not later than NTA network news period in the last four years.