An online media outfit published a story on Tuesday 29th July, 2014 in which it claimed that the Sultan’s palace admitted that the moon was not sighted before the Sultan made the announcement. The publication claimed that the Sultan admitted that he made a mistake and that the Moon-Sighting Committee was right.
After painstaking investigation, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) can confirm that the story is false, baseless and without any iota of truth. We spoke with the Sultan to ascertain the truth. His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) reaffirmed his earlier announcement and denied granting such an interview.
MURIC can also reveal that the normal procedure was followed in arriving at the decision to make the announcement. On the 29th of every month of Sha’ban (i.e. the month preceding Ramadan), the Sultanate issues a circular and press statement to all Emirs, Muslim chiefs and Obas in Nigeria, the 85 District Heads in Sokoto as well as leaders of prominent Islamic organizations in Nigeria and the media that Muslims should look for the new Moon.
Many states have their own Moon-Sighting committees and the report of sighting or otherwise in any state is scrutinized before sending it to the Sultanate where a committee of scholars and council members will further screen the report according to the Islamic Shari’a. If found to be credible, the report will be presented to the Sultan who will further cross-check before making the announcement.
The above procedure was also followed this year. We assert that the Sultan took a wise step by making the announcement after seeing the credible testimonies of many Moon-Sighting committees including those of Emirs from several states. The findings of the Moon-Sighting Committee of the NSCIA could have been complementary to those of the state committees without leading to any controversy or public denials.
MURIC also discovered that the Sultan’s announcement was religiously obeyed by approximately 99 percent of Muslims in the North, 98 percent of Muslims in the South East and 48 percent of Muslims in the South West. This shows that the unity of the Nigerian Muslim Ummah remains solid while Sultan Abubakar III still enjoys his usual robust popularity.
We appeal to leaders of Islamic organizations, Muslim dignitaries and all stakeholders in the Muslim Ummah to jealously guard our hard-won unity and to stand firmly behind our committed, energetic and dynamic Sultan. We must not allow division within the Nigerian Muslim Ummah. We urge Muslims to shun violence at all times, to remain calm and law-abiding and to work towards a strong and united Nigeria.
Finally, we reaffirm that the Sultanate did not issue any statement admitting that the moon was not sighted before the announcement was made. We task all stakeholders in the Ummah to join hands with the Sultan in building a virile, progressive and united Muslim community. We charge Muslim leaders to put this incident behind them because there are greater challenges facing the Ummah and the country at large. We must not dissipate energy on the peripheral leaving the tangential to wallow.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)