In a brief statement on Monday carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the court said that September 15 will be the first day of Dhu Al Hijja, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar based on the moon.

Between two and three million will congregate in Makkah in western Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage rituals between the eighth and the 13th days of the month.

All able-bodied Muslims who have financial means are required to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lives.

The Saudi court made its decision based on the fact that no one had reported sighting the moon marking the start of the month.

Several astronomers had predicted that Muslims would be celebrating Eid Al Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, on September 23.

The Muslim community has often been engaged in heated debates on how to determine the beginning and end of lunar months, particularly Ramadan, the month of fasting.

Under the traditional approach, people look to the sky and seek to sight the slight crescent (hilal) that marks the beginning or the end of the month.
If the hilal is sighted, the next day is declared the first day of the new month.

However, questions have been raised over the traditional approach, including whether the start or end of the month should be declared if the hilal is sighted in only one part of the country, or if the hilal could not be sighted because the location was overcast or cloudy.

Calls to adopt the astronomical calculation approach have been invariably resisted by followers of the traditional method.

The divisions have often resulted in marking the beginning or end of Ramadan for instance on two, and at times, three different days.

The sighting of the crescent marking the start of Dhil Hijja, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, is not as controversial as Ramadan since Eid Al Adha comes one day after Muslim pilgrims stand on Mount Arafat in the outskirts of Makkah in western Saudi Arabia as part of the pilgrimage.