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Calculation for Crescent: A Reliable Method

September 28, 2006 by  


By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Ameer of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)

There are some frequently asked questions about the moon sighting. Let me mention those questions and their answers:

1. What about the Qur’anic ayah that says,
“So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting (Al-Baqarah 2:185) Does this not mean that one must see the crescent?

A1. The word shahida does not always mean “to see.” It has four different meanings. It means: a) to see; b) to be present; c) to know; d) to testify and announce.
We cannot translate this ayah to mean “Whosoever sees the month must fast,” because a month is a segment of time and time cannot be seen. Secondly if Allah had said “whosoever sees the crescent must fast,” then fasting would be obligatory on only those who could see the moon. Most of the commentators of the Qur’an have taken it mean “to be present (residing at home, not traveling) during the month.

2. The Prophet (s) said “Fast with its sighting…” and in another hadith he is reported to have said that “Do not fast until you see it.”
Therefore, how can you say that seeing the crescent is not required?

A2: The same expressions are used in the Qur’an for daily prayers “Establish regular prayers with the declining of the sun till the darkness of night…” (17:78), but we do not observe the decline of the Sun or the darkness of the night. We rather use our watches. The same expression is also used for starting and ending our fast, when Allah said, “Eat and drink until the white thread is clear from the black thread and complete your fast until the night.” (2:187), but we use instead our watches to start and end our fasts. This shows that a mechanism can be used to calculate the movement of the sun. If this can be done for the sun, why it cannot be done for the moon? Allah told us both of them move according to set patterns (Ar-Rahman 55:5) and both of them are made to learn counting and to make calendar (Yunus 105).

3. By using calculation, you are going against the “majority of the jurists” (jumhur al-fuqaha).

A3: The jumhur did not forbid the calculation because calculation in this matter was forbidden according to the Shari’ah. They forbade it because they believed that it was not a reliable method. They did not trust the astronomers and some of them thought that astronomers use the same methods of superstition and conjecture that astrologers use. We know that this is not the case and astronomical science is now highly developed.

4. Is this not a bid’ah i.e. innovation in religion?

A4. No, this is not a bid’ah. The definition of bid’ah is “introducing something new in religion.” It is not “introducing something new for the sake of religion.” We are not adding anything new in Islam; we are only using new knowledge to observe the rules of the Shari’ah. It is like using loudspeakers for the adhan. When loudspeakers came and people wanted to use them, some people also objected that it was bid’ah; but now they are used universally without any question.

5. Is this not against the sunnah?

A5. It would have been against the sunnah if we said that we should use solar calendar instead of the lunar calendar or if we said to mix the solar and lunar calendars. It would have been against the sunnah if we said that Ramadan should be in winter only or during summer holidays. We are strictly following the sunnah–actually we can say that by using calculations we are using a more accurate method of following the sunnah.

6. Are you not dividing the ummah by introducing this method?

A6. People are already divided because they cannot agree on one method of sighting the crescent and there are always disputes about who saw it and where and how many etc. Now this is the scientific method and this will help people become more objective and accurate and this will unite the ummah, not immediately but in near future.

7. Watching the moon is easy; calculations are difficult and you are making the ummah dependant on the astronomers.

A7. It is more difficult for people nowadays to watch the crescent. Most people prefer to know about it by making a telephone call or checking through the internet. Easy and difficult are relative terms. Things that were easy are not difficult and things that were difficult at one time are now easy. In the old days it was easy to go out and check the sunrise and sunset for your daily prayers but now using the watches and timetables is easy. No one says that we make people dependant on watches, because watches are easily available.

Similarly, it is very easy to find out today about the phases of the moon through your daily newspapers or by checking through the internet. Those who live in areas where these facilities are not available can use what is easy for them.

8. The Prophet (s) told us that we should make a du’a after sighting the crescent, now how can we say our du’a?

A 8. According to scholars the hilal is not necessarily the crescent of the first night. Some say that the first seven nights of the month are the nights of the hilal. So whenever you see the crescent you make the du’a. Du’a is also recommended. If you did not make du’a by sighting the crescent, your fast is still valid. Du’a is recommended for every month when you see the crescent, not only for the month of Ramadan.

9. Why are you doing this now, why you did not do it 50 years ago?

A9. We have been discussing this for a long time. I have been working with the moon-sighting committee for the past 30 years and most of the time saw Muslims in America divided on this subject. We had to find a solution that can unite us and help us to move forward insha`Allah. May Allah help us.

10. Are you liberal Muslims? Is this a special madhhab that you are creating in America? Will all madhahib agree on this position?

A10. The members of the Fiqh Council are well-known Muslims whose knowledge and services to the ummah are well known. We do not make big claims but we do fear Allah and wish to follow His Messenger’s (s) sunnah to the best of our knowledge and capacity. We are not creating any new madhhab and our members belong to various madhahib, and Alhamdulillah they all agree on this procedure for determining the Islamic dates.

8-40

Comments

One Response to “Calculation for Crescent: A Reliable Method”

  1. A.H.Nazeer Ahmed on August 30th, 2008 8:11 pm

    Assalamu Alaikum

    Sighting the New Moon

    It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a light (of beauty) and measured out stages for her: that ye might know the number of years and the count (of time). Nowise did Allah create this but in truth and righteousness. (Thus) doth He explain his Signs in detail for those who understand.
    Al Quran Sura 10 Ayah 5

    Abu Umair (R.A) relates :
    Due to clouds, we could not see the Shawwal Crescent Moon, so we attained the day as fasting people, when the day was about to end (evening) a trade caravan came to The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and stated that yesterday evening they had sighted the crescent moon and bore witness to this fact; immediately, The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) ordered the people to break their fast and to come to the Eid grounds the following morning to celebrate the Eid.

    Books : Abu Dawood, Ibnu majha, Nissaee, Byhaqee, Tharakuthnee, Al Munthaka, Ibnu Hiffaan, & Ahmed.

    In the above Quran verse, Allah clearly states that He created the sun and the moon to calculate our days; The Christians have taken the Solar Calendar and Allah has bestowed on the Muslims the Lunar Calendar. According to the scientific research, the Lunar calendar is far more accurate than the Solar calendar. The Solar calendar starts from 12 o’clock midnight and the Lunar calendar from Maghrib (at the setting of the sun each day) so, being the case how could it be possible for the 1st of Ramadhan or the 1st of Shawwal or the 1st of any month to be had on three different days or even four sometimes; this is absurd and foolish. It only shows the people’s ignorance and of not having a proper organized calendar.

    When it is the 1st of January in one place, then it is the 1st of January for the entire world; and if its Monday , its Monday for the entire world without any confusion, so also the 1st of Ramadhan will have to be the 1st of Ramadhan for the entire world, without any confusion. The crescent moon is born only once a month and once it is sighted, the Islamic month also begins for the whole world; it is absolutely foolish to say that we have not sighted it so we will not accept it. From the time the crescent is born, it keeps growing till it reaches the full circle and it is not going to be born separately for every different town, city, or country. People will have to be educated to accept the astronomical stations’ broadcast as to the birth of the moon; we should understand that though this station has the clear calculation of the birth of the moon without the slightest of variations to time or place for thousand years and more, they still view the birth of the moon every month to check on any miscalculations or variations, so we could blindly take their calculations to be 100% accurate and format the Lunar calendar in accordance to their perfect calculations; and we would have an accurate universal calendar, Lunar calendar.

    Muhammed (s.a.w) from the above quoted hadees which is very clear, did not dispute in this matter, though the caravan people state that they saw the crescent the previous evening Muhammed (s.a.w) ordered the people to break their fast immediately, though there was but an hour or so to complete their day’s fast, he also stated that it is haram to fast once the crescent (new moon) is sighted, and in accordance, he did not ask as to how far away the moon was sighted or say that the crescent was only for the people who sighted it; he very clearly accepted the fact that the crescent was for the entire muslim community; i.e., for the entire world. Just as we celebrate the Jumma prayer in the entire world with a few hours difference in each nation so also it will be Eid for the entire world with a few hours difference; i.e., from Maghrib or the setting of the sun for each nation. – After sighting the new moon in any part of the world, the 1st of the new Islamic month begins for that country which sighted it and then consecutively it will be automatically the 1st of the Islamic month for every other country from Maghrib (or the setting of the sun ) for each place, just as every country when it reaches 12.00 midnight will start the next day in the Christian calendar – In the Islamic calendar the day would begin from Maghrib, consecutively for each country.

    Today the rotation and revolution of the sun, moon, and the earth is so accurately calculated that we do not go to see whether the sun has risen or whether the sun is at its peak or whether the sun has set. We just go by the hours calculated through clocks and watches and Islam also allows us to go by these accurately calculated time, so also the birth of the crescent moon is accurately calculated to the extent that even a lunar eclipse which would occur five hundred years from now is accurately calculated. We need not go only by the accurately calculated timings; we have today’s modern facilities like the satellite and the electronic telescope which could also verify as to the birth of the crescent. Just as today most of the ignorant Alims make a great hue & cry to this belief of celebrating the Eid on the same day thru out the world, with the difference of a few hours for every nation; they also made the same hue and cry when watches and clock where invented 300 years back; and they insisted that the time of the prayer should be determined ONLY by sighting the sun and its shadow cast, and it’s rising time, peak time, and setting time etc. etc. but today the public are literate in this issue and we see a prayer chart hanging in every Masjid specifying the time of the 5 times’ prayer for the whole year and nobody is looking at the sun anymore to determine the time of prayer, they just go by the clock and watches. We should understand that the ignorance and the lack of knowledge by the Alims of our society in matters of Duniya(worldly knowledge) is amounting to all the present confusion of our Islamic Society regarding the sighting of the new moon and the likes. Insha Allah, a day will SOON come when the dates of our Eid too would be printed and hanging in every Masjid likewise, along with the single yearly Lunar calendar for the entire world and nobody would be looking for the new moon or its birth, they would just go by the precise accurate lunar calendars which would be hanging in every Masjid.

    Once Muhammed (s.a.w) said, “during the time of Dajjal, a day would be a week, a day would be a month, a day would be a year”; meaning that it would take a whole year for the sun to rise and set once. Hearing this, the Sahabas asked “Ya! Rasoolullah will it be sufficient for us then just to observe five times prayer”, meaning for the whole year can we pray just once the five times prayer. To this Muhammed (s.a.w) said, “No, you will have to calculate the timings and pray the whole years prayer”. This Hadees is in Bukhari, Muslim, and many other hadees books. Why I’m quoting this hadees is that Mohammed (s.a.w) has clearly allowed for going by the principles of accurately calculated time in regards to prayer and Eid, fasting, and haj etc. etc. A likely situation today prevails in the Artic and the Antarctic regions of our world where it is six months day light and six months night time. If the people living there were to go by sighting the moon, they would never celebrate their Eid, or fast their Ramalhan fastings, they can only go by the accurately calculated time which Islam PERMITS. And if the Muslims can realize this factor then we could have just ONE accurate Islamic Calendar (Lunar calendar) for the whole world and this would be a far more accurate Calendar than the Christian Solar calendar and Muslims all over the world would be able to celebrate Eid on the same day, but for a few hours difference just as Jummah, New year etc. etc. Please educate your family and the public as to this.

    May Allah guide us to the proper understanding of His flawless religion and enable us to follow it implicitly with ease and comfort with the deepest of eeman in our hearts (ameen ameen ameen valhumdulillahi Rabbil Aalameen ).

    Please forward this to as many Muslims as possible.

    JAZZAKALLAH KHAIRAN
    In case of queries kindly address it to

    Love & regards
    A.H.Nazeer Ahmed

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