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According to a surprise last minute statement, bringing forward by one day of the beginning of the month of Dhu Al Hijja, issued by the Supreme Judicial Council in Saudi Arabia late on Wednesday night, the Islamic month of Dhu Al Hijja began on Thursday, December 21, and therefore Arafat day will fall on Friday, December 29, and the first day of Eid Al Adha on December 30 (instead of the expected December 31).
This is causing widespread problems to pilgrims who had prepared their pilgrimage to Mecca, Hadj, based on the earlier announced, and for once almost undisputed, date.
Note that this early sighting of the moon crescent is mathematically and astronomically almost impossible, as on the night of December 20, the Moon over Mecca set at 17:30, only 29 minutes after the New Moon, and 13 minutes before sunset. To observe a crescent of the Moon on that date, an observer would have had to look straight in the direction of the Sun and distinguish a Moon crescent that was only 0.002% visible (so, when we say almost impossible, above, we are being kind). This type of premature reporting is common, as the religious authorities of Saudi Arabia also allow the testimony of less experienced observers and thus often announces the sighting of the lunar crescent on an evening when none of the official committees could observe the lunar crescent. In nearly all of these cases, a retrospective analysis indicates that these extremely early reports of the lunar crescent are impossible and are based on false sightings ((http://tinyurl.com/ya4fy5)). A study (Kordi, 2003) of 42 reports of observations of the Ramadan new moon, as announced by the Saudi Justice Minister between 1962 to 2001, confirms that most of these were too early and based on false sightings ((http://tinyurl.com/ydtf9y)).
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