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Moon Sighting Dispute: Sokoto Cleric Defies Sultan, Leads Eid-El-Fitr Prayer

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Sheikh Musa Lukwa, a prominent cleric based in Sokoto State, on Tuesday, defied the directive of the Sultan of Sokoto and president-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), by leading his followers in observing eid-el-fitr prayers.

This followed a contentious debate over the sighting of the crescent moon, which marks the beginning of the month of Shawwal and the end of Ramadan.

The NSCIA, led by Sultan of Sokoto, His Emminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, had announced Wednesday, April 10, 2024 as the official Eid day and first of Shawwal in the Islamic lunar calendar, citing the absence of the crescent moon on Monday. This decision followed a declaration by Saudi Arabian authorities that Ramadan fast should continue on Tuesday being the 30th day of the holy month.

However, Sheikh Musa Lukwa conducted the Eid prayers at his Juma’at mosque at about 8:30am on Tuesday. Lukwa justified his action by claiming that the new moon had been sighted in neighbouring Niger Republic on Monday, April 8, signifying the end of Ramadan on Monday.

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“There were reports of sighting of the new crescent in many places, including here in Nigeria, but the one that we were sure of is that of Niger Republic,” the cleric stated.

“We have a verified video clip of their Council of Ulamah authenticating the report after which the country declared Tuesday as Sallah day. So it is now binding on us to observe Eid on Tuesday because this is what the teachings of the Holy Prophet say,” he emphasised.

Sheikh Lukwa further argued that since Niger Republic is geographically closer to Nigeria than Saudi Arabia, whose moon sighting is generally accepted, there should be no reason to disregard the sighting from a neighbouring country.

“I am not saying all Nigerian Muslims must observe their Eid prayer on Tuesday, but we have no moral justification not to observe our prayer on Tuesday because the new moon was sighted by our neighbours,” he insisted, adding that, “And remember there is no fasting on Sallah day, it is prohibited.”

The disagreement over moon sighting is not uncommon within the Nigerian Islamic community, where various nations and sects often have differing opinions on the matter.

In Islam, Eid-El-Fitr day typically marks the end of Ramadan, falling on the first day of the new month of Shawwal.

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