Does everyone out there know we still use (except for banks) the Thursday-Friday as a weekend. So for second Eid, the Public Sector got Sunday through Saturday off, a whole week pretty much, in addition to annual leave quota (if you have such a thing).
It also means the town is pretty dead. Everyone who can is off, either camping or out of town. Most of the traffic consists of idiots from the UAE or GCC. Yippee. Is it any wonder we escape? The Dragon too succumbed to the lull of beaches, boats, bikini babes and booze. (In fact, I find most religious holidays are best celebrated in this time honoured way. Look at Christmas!) Hence the lack of posts past 2 days. Can you blame me?
Picture: How the Dragon spends his religious holidays.
The consternation of the masses over the timing of the holidays are the only thing of note. Ibadhi religious holidays are based on the observing the appearance and disappearance of the moon.
Picture: David Ryle at http://www.rylesprocket.com
There is an Official Moon Sighting Committee, tasked with receiving reports from across the land through notarised observers (not just someone stumbling out of the Ruwi Novotel). This is why we never know exactly when the holiday will be until the last minute.
But although one might think modern astronomy could easily determine the timing precisely for everyone, but no:
New Moon is often considered to occur at the time of the appearance of the first visible crescent of the Moon, after conjunction with the Sun. This takes place over the western horizon in a brief period between sunset and moonset, and therefore the precise time and even the date of the appearance of the New Moon by this definition will be influenced by the geographical location of the observer.
Ah hah. Makes planning holidays hard.
But it also meant that if the moon might have been theoretically visible (under ideal conditions) in parts of the Sultanate last week, because it was cloudy the moon went unsighted, and so Oman's Eid (and Islamic calendar date) is on a different day to Saudi's. Saudi you see, did see the moon. Saudi even send planes up to see it if necessary, which is why they can announce earlier with accuracy and religious consistency in their eyes [but then they have a Haj to run, and try having more than 2 million guests arrive on your doorstep at a few days notice].
Not Oman. Also, there can be astronomical differences between the observability of the moon between someone in Oman and in Saudi.
The Islamic calendar has retained an observational definition of the New Moon, marking the new month when the first Crescent Moon is actually seen, and making it impossible to be certain in advance of when a specific month will begin (in particular, the exact date on which Ramadan will begin is not known in advance). In Saudi Arabia, if the weather is cloudy when the New Moon is expected, observers are sent up in airplanes. In Iran a special committee receives observations of every new moon to determine the beginning of each month. This committee uses one hundred groups of observers.
So when the Omani committee confirmed the moon was not seen (when it had been expected), a lot of people were a little miffed, having booked holidays in advance, made plans, Haj, etc etc. I mean, aircraft don't schedule themselves, and modern enterprises also operate on a slightly longer operational timescale.
So the mighty Majlis had to weigh in and check that there hadn't been a cock-up with the whole moon thing. Which they did, and confirmed it was OK (no actual explanation though, your typical 'Because I said So, Trust Me' Omani Government public answer) and announced it in the papers. Oh, and they were careful to point out that other countries in the region agreed that Oman's call on the whole moon-thing was spot on.
Majlis clarifies doubts on Al Hijja moon-sighting
Saturday, December 06, 2008 11:34:49 PM Oman Time
MUSCAT — The Majlis Al Shura has confirmed that the justifications upon which the specialised committee has made its decision on sighting the moon of the month of Al Hijja 1429 were accurate. The Majlis, in a statement issued yesterday, said it has followed up the issue of sighting the moon announced by the specialised committee and pointed out that it has studied the issue with the Council of Ministers, and submitted its views, stressing the importance that moon-sighting should be based on agreement of Shariah and jurisprudence evidences among Islamic nations as well as the advancements made in moon-sighting by using new technologies. The Majlis confirmed the correctness of justification given by the specialised committee in sighting the moon and affirmed that differences in moon-sighting among the Islamic countries and difference in calculating timings is a normal thing. A number of Islamic nations have agreed with the Sultanate’s views on sighting the moon this year as confirmed by renowned observatories, the statement concluded.
'So all you peoples gossiping out there, just shut up! You're so annoying' [Said in accent of King Julian, Ruler of the Lemurs in Madagascar the movie, BTW]
But clearly they didn't quite shut up, so subsequently the ruling Council of Ministers weighed in too, with there own investigation of the investigation of the observation, and their own press release from the official news agency, saying that no, it really really was OK that Oman's Eid was different.
Which is great, as coming from the Council of Ministers it is also a very overtly political statement. It emphasises that in such things, Oman does its own thing, and doesn't look to Saudi or Iran to control their religion. Damn right. You go Oman!
Moon-sighting decision is ‘accurate’, says Council of Ministers
Monday, December 08, 2008 12:08:54 AM Oman Time
MUSCAT — The Council of Ministers affirmed that the decision taken by the Moon-Sighting Committee for the month of Dhul Hijja was accurate.
Celebrating Eid Al Adha by the Sultanate tomorrow was based on the committee’s decision and on what have been studied previously in coordination with the Majlis Al Shura and other state departments for moon-sighting in the Sultanate after resorting to astronomy and hearing of different opinions.
The council affirmed the accuracy of the decision as it was based on scientific facts as confirmed by astronomers in the Sultanate and abroad. The decisions was also based on the Shariah evidences that set the beginnings of the lunar months based on place and region of the moon sighting, it said.
The council appreciated the efforts made by different authorities including the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, the main committee for sighting the moon, the sub-committees in the various parts of the Sultanate, and the Oman Astronomy Association for Sighting the Moon and the evidence provided by them for fixing tomorrow, December 9, as the day of Eid. Saudi Arabia and several other nations celebrate Eid today.
The council extended its Eid greetings to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the citizens and residents of Oman and Muslims all over the world.
I would have preferred if they printed some maps showing the degree of difficulty seeing a new moon (which can be done, see this example for a lunar eclipse) that night, wrt nearby countries, to explain to people why it can be different and sort of bolster their case on the 'no cock-up' part. But even if it was a screw up, it was 100% Oman's right to do so, so take that Saudi! Eid is Tuesday, so there.
Map showing degree of eclipse visibility