Takeaways from 1444 A.H./2023 Ramadan activities of Sultan of Sokoto

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It started on Wednesday 29th Sha’ban, 1444 A.H. equivalent to 22nd March, 2023 as I boarded an Aero Contractor flight from the Local Wing of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos.

The fear of flight cancellation was not included as I made my way through one of the airline’s airport managers whom I trust a lot and who assured me that flying on 29th Sha’ban would not be an error that usually occurs with flight cancellation or unnecessary delay, knowing the importance of The DEFENDER Newspaper’s assignment in the Islamic leadership’s city of Sokoto same day.

H.E. Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto, announcing the sighting of new moon of Shawwal 1444 A.H. in Sultan’s Palace, Sokoto, on Thursday April 20, 2023. PHOTO: DML

We settled for the apparently difficult-to-bear cost of the flight ticket a day before. To be damn sure he put me on 06:45am Los-Sok (Lagos – Sokoto) flight that was meant to take off from Ikeja, make a first landing in Abuja enroute Sokoto.

On that Wednesday 22nd March I had woken up 3am and by 4am my wife and daughter had escorted me in the thickness of the dark-dawn to pick a drop on the highway of Lagos-Abeokuta to the Airport. I got to the airport in record time to the extent that I had to wait for sometimes before the check-in counter was opened for boarding pass issuance and collection.

By 7am the aircraft flew me along with the VIPs and fellow economy travellers to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. We landed there exactly 7:50am and disembarked to await announcement for arrival of another flight that would take us, the passengers on transit, to the Sultan Abubakar International Airport in Sokoto.

In short, we were not re-boarded on what I found to be the same aircraft that brought us from Lagos to Abuja until around 11am, took off on the second leg of the LOS-SOK air travel at around 12pm and, finally, we landed around 12:40pm to the warm arms of my host (the Sultanate Council, Sokoto) on whose directive a driver permanently attached to me took me, first to a familiar guest house to refresh and then in the evening to the main principal and leader of the faithful, His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, mni, CFR.

I witnessed his handling of moon sighting information gathering, verification processes, interconnection between him, his Sultanate Council’s Moon Sighting Advisory Committee and the National Moon Sighting Committee in Abuja, leading to his nationwide broadcast that heralded the commencement of the just concluded Ramadan fasting.

We finished the commencement process and I returned to Lagos this time on board Arik Air flight that took me from Sultan Abubakar International Airport 12pm to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja arriving at 1pm on Saturday Ramadan 3 equivalent to March 24 but the airlifting of us from Abuja to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos did not happen until 7pm same day only for me to arrive Lagos 7:52pm being the time the legs of my plane touched down in Ikeja. Nigerian aviation authorities must find quick solution to a situation where intra-national Sko-Los flight that takes passengers from Sokoto at 11am will not arrive at or deliver them to their Lagos destination of trip until 7:52pm. Where is it done? That is not to talk of indiscriminate flight delays and cancellations with nonchalance and without compensation, whatsoever.

But while going through that almost endless waiting at Abuja airport, something happened. My fellow Hujjaj with – whom I travelled to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform the pre-COVID era Hajj of 2019 (my first and only such Hajj so far) post-death of my godfather, Alhaji Kola Animasaun – found me while I was at the airport in Abuja. His name is Alhaji Jamilu Al-Hassan. We were airlifted together onboard the FlyNas aircraft amidst smooth, adventurous flight that took us from the Sultan Abubakar International Airport Sokoto at 5pm that year and landed us at the King AbdulAziz International Airport in Madinah 5 hours later (10pm Nigerian time but 12am Saudi Arabian time). Jamilu was awaiting to board a Max Air to Kano and after we both separately did an Appathitis B test at the airport, his flight came and he departed.

New moon of Shawwal

I was also back in town on Thursday Ramadan 29 equivalent to April 20, to witness the Sultan’s concluding exercise and administration of moon sighting process for the start of new month of Shawwal marking the end of Ramadan fasting for the year and declaring the 1st of the Shawwal as day of Eid-ul-Fitr 1444 A.H/2023.

The travels were not just because of The DEFENDER Newspaper but because of my personal commitment and responsibility as unofficial Media Aide to the Sultan of Sokoto being an integral part of his Media Team. As such, the understanding is, anything the Nigeria’s fast growing singularly multilingual newspaper (online) must publish about the leadership, there can be no excuse for error, misquotes or misrepresentations.

For this divine assignment alone to which the Sultan is much committed, it can better be said that anyone, who witnesses the mathematics, logics and wisdom of the moon sighting administration in the Sultan’s Palace in conjunction with cross-country activities of the National Moon Sighting Committee under the national headquarters, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), in Abuja, will never be part of cross-information that purveyors of it could ever tend to peddle, as far as sighting of new moon in Nigeria’s Ramadan exercise is concerned.

Conjunction of the moon had occurred earlier, according to experts in astronomy here in Nigeria. Conjunction of the moon is when the moon, the sun and the earth lie on the same lane especially at the very time crescent of the new Islamic calendar month is being expected and which happened the day Sultan directed Muslims to search for the new moon. That conjunction always brings about the birth of new moon without which it may not be possible to sight the crescent.

According to an astronomical explanation, after conjunction of the moon, there is need for at least a minimum of 18 hours by sunset before the moon can be sighted with naked eye or 14 hours before can be sighted by optical aid.

Note that conjunction usually occurs on the 29th day of every lunar month depending on its lunar circle, it will be impossible to sight the new moon before conjunction. In addition sighting is always done after sunset.

The Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him, did not however say, “When conjunction of the moon takes place” but, “When you sight the new moon or you hear that the new moon has been sighted”, which underscores the importance of moon sighting in Islamic procedure for the commencement and termination of Ramadan fasting.

From the explanation aforestated side-by-side the Islamic traditions that I have cited, I have given an insight to enable my readers appreciate that moon sighting is a serious task and efforts leading to success on it under the Sultan deserve to be commended.

The Nigerian Muslim Ummah leader waohs me as he keeps surmounting challenges involved in the task. All he does is to be certain that a credible moon sighting information is received, verified by Islamic scholars and also, in addition, to consult the Fatawa Committee Chairman Shelkh Sheriff Ibrahim Saleh.

Recall that the Sultan and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has always said that under him as the Amirul Mu’mineen, Muslims will be led with right directives and processing of the Islamic timing and moon sighting information that will be in line with the establishment of their Lord.

The DEFENDER had once reported how he said, “When I announce to you the new moon of Ramadan to commence fasting and that of Shawwal to end the fasting, it is the truth that I have told you. Take it and leave the rest to between me and my Lord because, I will be the one that Allah will ask to explain not you.” Allahu Akbar!

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