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First Islamic satellite to go into orbit

The first Islamic satellite to be used in crescent sighting will go into orbit in 15 months’ time, an Arab ad hoc committee said Tuesday, December 21.

The committee, comprising a host of Arab scholars and representatives of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Muslim World League, has already invited tenders to start manufacturing the new satellite in March in cooperation with Cairo University’s Space Studies Center.

“The satellite will fly at a low altitude and beam crescent images to ground stations,” President of Cairo University Ali Abdul Rahman told reporters at a press conference on Sunday, December 19, which was also attended by Egyptian Mufti Ali Gomaa and committee members.

“The satellite will overall cost $8 million collected through public subscription by the Egyptian Darul Ifta (religious edicts authority) on the form of shares held by willing Muslim countries,” Abdul Rahman added.

Abdul Rahman further stressed that the satellite could also be used in locating places of space pollution, clouds congregation, locust swarms as well as studying natural phenomena.

The satellite is the brainchild of the Egyptian Darul Ifta, dating back to 1997. It was then given the go-ahead by a majority of Arab and Muslim countries save Tunisia, which argued that astronomical calculations were enough.

Moon sighting has always been a controversial issue among Muslim countries, and even scholars seem at odds over the issue.

While one group of scholars sees that Muslims in different countries should follow one sighting as long as these countries share one part of the night, another states that Muslims worldwide should abide by the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia.

A third, however, disputes both views, arguing that Islam is against division and disunity since Muslims, for instance, are not allowed to hold two congregational prayers in one mosque at the same time.