MANILA, Philippines - The crescent moon, symbol of the Islam faith, is expected to show up on Thursday, July 19, at around 6 p.m. If the ulama and other Muslim religious and political leaders see the new moon, it will signal the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
"If the new moon is sighted tomorrow, the first day of fasting will commence on Friday, July 20. If it is not sighted, fasting will start the next day, Saturday," according to Dennison Abidin, director of National Commission of Muslim Filipinos (NCMF)-Region 9. "We cannot start fasting if we cannot sight the new moon. That is a tradition," Abidin stressed.
Abidin said this will be the first synchronized start of Ramadan in the Philippines. In the past, Western Mindanao (Region 9) started the observance ahead of the Socksargen area (Region 12) and other Muslim areas.
Abidin formed a moon-sighting committee in Zamboanga. The 8-member team was tasked to coordinate with the ulama and religious groups in determining and sighting the new moon also called "Hilal."
Similar committees were formed in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Cotabato. They will submit their respective reports to the central office. NCMF head Mehol Sadain will then determine the date of Ramadan based on verified ground reports and announce it to the public via TV, radio, print and online media.
"We are appealing to all Muslims to wait for and listen to the official announcement of the start of Ramadan," Abidin said.
Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Hijrah, starts with the sighting of the new moon. Based on the Koran, Hijrah has 12 months that follow the phases and stages of the moon.
During this month, Muslims observe a dawn-to-dusk fasting that involves abstention from food, drinks, sex, gossip and vices, as a form of spiritual cleansing, reflection and repentance.
Muslims in other parts of the world follow various systems of moon-sighting.
In a memorandum, Sadain asked all regional and provincial offices of the commission, cultural and mosque administrators, and concerned experts and individuals to "join the Muslims all over the world for efforts of sighting the new moon."
Pray for national healing
Ustadz Abdulbaki Abubakar, grand mufti (guardian of the Islamic House of Opinion) of Region 9, called on Muslims to observe the month-long fasting and pray for national healing.
The Muslim religious leader emphasized that Ramadan should also serve as a time for Muslims and non-Muslims to converge and dialogue.
Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a 37-year old lawmaker in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said that Ramadan is an opportunity to affirm good governance as a way of life because it extols self-reliance, sacrifice and servitude, values which she said are important in public service.
“It fosters empathy because fasting is an equalizer among the haves and have-nots. It reminds us of simplicity and austerity. Islam should abhor extravagance. [It should uphold] moderation as a way of life,” Tomawis said.
Rogelio Bragra, 32, said: "My work schedule is usually at night, [and] I work with people from various background mostly non-Muslims. I usually ask my boss to change my lunch break schedule for my sahoor (predawn meal)."
On the other hand, 26 year-old Bhen Ezrah Olase Tulawie, an online English teacher, said that during Ramadan, he spends his spare time reading Koran materials online.
“Celebrating Ramadan should always start on the first day by following the teachings of Koran and by being thankful that Allah has granted you [the strength] to fast during the holy month,” Tulawie said.
Jehannie Abubakar-Jalani, a 35-year old government employee and mother of 3, said that Ramadan gives her more time to bond with her children. “The kids are also looking forward to it because they too want to experience fasting,” she said.
On the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the lunar calendar, the fasting among Muslims ends and Eid ul Fitr is celebrated.
By Voltaire Tupaz and Amir S Mawallil
18 July 2012