Astronomer Threatened with Lawsuit for Doubting Eid Moon Sighting

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Md. Humaidan / Arab News

MoonSighting

JEDDAH: A number of conservative scholars have threatened to sue Saudi astronomer and scientist Khaled Al-Zaaq for doubting the testimony of citizens who reported to the Hilal panel (moon sighting committee) that the Shawwal crescent was visible on Ramadan 29 (Aug. 29).

After confirming the veracity of the sighting by the people who had reported to the panel, the committee declared the end to the fasting month of Ramadan and signaled the advent of Eid Al-Fitr the next day (Tuesday).

The threats of action came amidst an ongoing debate between Muslim scholars and astronomers about the possibility and probability of sighting the moon on Aug. 29. The astronomers claim the moon could not be sighted on that day as it had eclipsed before sunset.

According to the Islamic calendar, the Arabic months can be either 29 or 30 days long. On many occasions, Eid has been celebrated after only 29 days of fasting.

But this year the debate turned heated after Al-Zaaq was widely quoted by local press and electronic sites that there was no way to sight the crescent on the night of Ramadan 29, thus casting doubts on the testimony of those who claimed to have seen it.

The purists said the astronomer should not have cast doubts on the testimonies of the people who sighted the moon because their antecedents are checked before their word is accepted. Those who call in after sighting the moon are known for their integrity and straightforwardness.

A number of Saudi astronomers had issued press statements claiming that the moon could not be sighted while renowned Islamic scholars defended the testimonies of the people who sighted the moon and said Eid came at the right time.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Asheikh in his Friday sermon at Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh described those who doubted the moon sighting as “motivated and deviated people with foul mouths.”

“There are unjust pens and foul tongues that cast doubt on our religion which should be silenced. We are strictly following the Sunnah of our Prophet in fasting and marking Eid days,” he said, accusing the doubting astronomers of trying to impose their opinions on the nation.

The mufti said the Shariah was clear in the procedures of moon sighting and added that Muslims would never give up the Sunnah for false opinions.

The moon was very clear the next day and was seen in various areas on Tuesday night. This supported the stand of those who said they had sighted the moon on Monday evening.

A number of citizens in the western Al-Ais area said they were able to sight the moon on the night of Monday for half an hour. Their testimony contradicts the claims of the astronomers who said that the moon could not be sighted.

13-37

Another Angle on the Moon

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Despite ISNA’s endorsement of the moon calculations performed by the Fiqh Council of North America, the debate in the Muslim community over the necessity of physically sighting the moon continues, and an interesting contribution to that debate has been made by Mr. Nabeel Tarabishy, of Goodsamt, LLC.  Mr. Tarabishy spoke Saturday night at the Islamic Cultural Association before a small gathering on the subject “The Moon and the Islamic Calendar.”

Mr. Tarabishy’s speech delved into background issues concerning the astronomy of moon sighting, and then described his own approach to the issue in relation to the ongoing debate.
He began by exploring the Qur`anic Ayas concerning seeking knowledge, pointing out the important issue that Allah in Holy Qur`an said that the intercalation of the months that had been done by the pagan Arabs before Islam was not just wrong, not just kufr, but was “excessive kufr,” thus showing the importance to Allah of our seeking to understand and abide by the underlying structure of the universe determined the Almighty.  “We can’t change the facts of the universe according to our desire, we must accept facts, and truth,” he said.

Allah Himself divided the year into 12 months, the week into 7 days.

Tarabishy also pointed out that no world civilization has existed without a calendar, and he explored the history of the Christian Julian and Gregorian calendars.  He explained that the lunar year is 11 days shorter than the solar year, and he spoke about the intercalation done by the Jewish and Chinese calendars–which he explained is done in a “less chaotic” fashion than was done by the pagan Arabs before Islam.

Then Tarabishy explored the physical dimensions of the lunar and solar progression through the seasons and months and years, and described the physical positions of those three astronomical bodies over the year.

Then he introduced his argument that the Islamic calendar–as a window to our history and culture and more–should be made as predictable as the solar calendar, arguing that it should be possible to plan travel to coincide with any specific day of the Islamic year, thus calculations will be necessary.  He listed extremely prominent Muslim theologians who he said had endorsed calculation, including most notably Imam Shafi’i.

His chief requirements of such a calculation-based Islamic calendar were that “false positives” and “false negatives” contradictory to the physical sightings of the moon should be avoided or excluded.

To learn more, please visit  his website, goodsamt.com.

13-32