Which Hilaal (Islamic Crescent) to Follow ?

Reasons for Islamic dates confusion and their solution Insha'Allaah

Dr. Salman Shaikh; s.shaikh@ieee.org; salman@lucent.com; salman7861@juno.com ; +1-732-801-4590; +1-732-949-8948; +1-209-633-5900Fax www.jas.org.jo/hilaal

Alhamdulillaah. WaSalaatu WasSalaamu Ala Rasoolillaah. Aooothobillaahi MinasShaytaanirRajeem. BismillaahIrRahmaanIrRaheem. RabbishRahli Sadri Wa Yassirli Amri WahlulUqdatan Millisaani Yafqahoo Qauli.

Abstract

There has been considerable confusion and bitterness about the dates of our Islamic festivals, especially for Muslims living in non-Muslim countries, where different approaches result in Eid etc. in the same town and sometimes in the same Masjid to be celebrated on two or even three different dates! This paper investigates the facts including important information from the Ulema and Astronomers of Saudi Arabia, and presents an approach to reach accurate dates acceptable to a very broad consensus of Ulema Insha’Allaah. It treats Astronomical Calculations and Physical Sighting as complementary and not contradicting, by supporting those calculations which predict "Hilaal visibility by naked eye" such as Shaukat/Durrani/MoonCalc (http://www.starlight.demon.co.uk/mooncalc/), and not just the birth of the Dark Astronomical "new moon". These calculations could be verified by the ordinary Muslim masses by their own local "group" naked-eye Hilaal sighting which remains the dominant criterion, closer to the Sunnah. The paper recommends procedures for accurate Islamic dates for "religious" purposes as well as proposals for "Civil" use Hejiri Calendar. It also outlines steps to resolve the issue in North America as well as all over the world Insha’Allaah.

Motivation

For a long time, many Muslims in many parts of the world have experienced considerable confusion and bitterness about the dates of our Islamic festivals, which should really be occasions for happiness and getting together. The celebrations of the Eids, and the fasting of Ramadaan have been marked by emotional and sometimes "un-brotherly" exchanges, devoid of mutual understanding, contrary to the very spirit of our Deen. This is especially true for Muslims living in non-Muslim lands like North America, where different Muslim groups tend to follow different approaches resulting in Eid etc. in the same town and sometimes in the same Masjid to be celebrated on two or even three different dates!

First of all, let me clarify that Insha’Allaah for all of us, the goals are the same: We would like Muslims to be united, and celebrate the Islamic occasions including start of Ramadaan, 27th of Ramadaan, EidUlFitr, EidUlAdha etc. together correctly Insha’Allaah. But often the approach to "Unity" is that "I am right, I won’t listen to you, and just follow me". I humbly feel that honest search, open communication, mutual understanding, and trying to obtain the facts is an essential pre-requisite. And most importantly, we should sincerely make du’a that Allaah (SWT) forgive, guide and help us all. Aameen. All that is required from us is sincere & proper efforts & du’a. The results are in the hands of Allaah (SWT).

Background

I recall since the 1400s AH / 1980s G, when I was a student in New York city, there were two main behaviors in the American Muslim community regarding Hilaal sighting and Ramadaan & Eid dates:

The first behavior, which was common among many immigrant Muslims was to follow their "own" Muslim countries rather than local sighting in North America. Some suggested that Muslims in North America had not yet matured to organize our own local sighting. With time there was a realization that Muslims in North America have made a good effort Alhamdulillaah, to do local sighting, especially with the coordination of ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), ICNA, American Muslim Society and al-Ummah Community, which together formed the Islamic Shoora Council of North America Alhamdulillaah. Most people then gave up on following their "own" countries. But still some insisted on following the announcement from Saudi Arabia, which was often ahead of sighting (including my personal sighting) in America, and also almost always one or often even two days ahead of sighting reported from countries east of Saudi Arabia e.g. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Others said that it was incorrect to fix any particular place (e.g. Saudi Arabia) for deciding the date worldwide, as there are only two opinions of the Ulema – Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Multiple Horizons / every place do local sighting) and Wahdat AlMatale (Single Horizon / sighting in one place suffices for all). This second opinion means that sighting anywhere in the world e.g. USA / India / Libya / Nigeria etc. should be as valid in establishing the date worldwide including Saudi Arabia as the sighting in Saudi Arabia. Thus we can’t fix Saudi Arabia as the only sighting place for worldwide decision.

The other behavior was based on the idea that it was sufficient to follow the calculated dates while others insisted on actual physical Hilaal sighting in conformance with the Sunnah. Further, there were many "types" of calculations. I got into contact with good practicing Muslim astronomers like Dr. Mohib Durrani and Br. Khalid Shaukat, and learnt that first of all one has to do the calculations for the Visible Crescent, and not the calculations for the dark invisible astronomical new moon, which is typically one day before the Hilaal. Similarly Moonset after Sunset does NOT mean that the Hilaal will be visible. The main criterion for Hilaal visibility is the angluar separation between the Sun and the Moon at sunset. There are excellent models for predicting naked-eye visibility of Hilaal now available Alhamdulillaah including Shaukat, Durrani, Yallop, Ilyas, many on MoonCalc by Dr. Monzur Ahmed (http://www.starlight.demon.co.uk/mooncalc/). Also, there are about 20% cases when the calculation would not give a definite answer as the point of observation lay within the "zone of uncertainty" and then physical sighting would be the only recourse. My own sighting experience in America always confirmed the predictions of Br. Mohib and Br. Khalid. But usually the Saudi announcements were at least a day ahead of the predictions.

So the natural question was – is there some problem in the Saudi Announcement ? If the Saudi sighting is correct, then the Hilaal should be more easily seen in USA where the sunset is several hours later and hence there would be no conflict regarding the Eid date in America. Also, how come at times the Saudi announcement indicates sighting of Hilaal when the moon sets before sunset there, and even before the birth of the dark invisible astronomical new moon! Further, even the following simple reasoning cast doubt in Saudi dates: The world being a globe, any place round the world (on the same latitude), should over time be equally likely to be the first place to sight the Hilaal. Hence for some years, the sighting in USA should be before sighting in Saudi Arabia. But if every year the Saudi announcement is ahead of the sighting in USA, the question arises: Are there some errors ?

Stay in Saudi Arabia

Against the backdrop of these questions, Allaah (SWT) gave me a chance to work and stay in Saudi Arabia for about 5 years (1416-1421H / 1995-2000G). I wanted to use my stay to find out about the system for Hilaal sighting there, and to check my personal sighting attempts there. I also wanted to find more about the "UmmUlQura Calendar". First, as was perhaps expected, I found that most local people had no idea of any mistakes in the Saudi announcements for Hilaal, and an extremely small percentage of my local Saudi practicing Muslim friends had ever attempted to sight the Hilaal in their life. Then Alhamduilillaah I was able to meet some Astronomers and also find that the UmmUlQura Calendar is designed in KACST – the prestigious King Abdul Aziz University for Science and Technology in Riyadh.

UmmUlQura Calendar

The local Astronomers brothers I met were very warm and welcoming. I found that there has been a major change in the UmmUlQura Calendar computation criteria starting 1420H. Before that year, the UmmUlQura calendar was based on Greenwich and not Makkah. Also it was based on the dark invisible Astronomical new moon being born. Thus it was totally different from the actual Hilaal observation. Starting about 1420H, the new criterion is that the Moonset be after Sunset in Makkah (even by one second). Starting 1423H Insha’Allaah it will again change slightly to directly take the astronomical new moon (conjunction) also into account. But the main input I got was that the UmmUlQura calendar was for CIVIL use only, and NOT for predicting the Hilaal for religious dates. The Astronomers were well aware that the moonset needs to be after sunset by a long time, and not just one second (along with other factors) for the Hilaal to be visible. But the point was that the UmmUlQura calendar neither attempts nor claims to predict the Hilaal. It is merely used for the official dates in the Ministries, schools, Saudia Airlines, and indeed all over the country Alhamdulillaah. Also, the local Astronomers were very well aware that there were a LOT of errors in the Saudi announced dates.

Official Saudi Hilaal Sighting Committees

Further, I was found that due to the Saudi Government becoming aware of the complaints of errors in the announced dates, around 1419H, the ruling council ordered the formation of Hilaal sighting committees. Each such committee includes:

one member of Qada (Islamic Scholar/Justice department),

one member of KACST/Astronomer,

one member of Imarah (ruling council of the city), and

volunteers.

As of 1421H / 2000G there were six such committees in Saudi Arabia - near Makkah, Riyadh, Qassim, Hail, Tabuk and Asir. While they may carry a telescope with them, the official sighting of the committee is with naked eye only. Saudi scholars like Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) are against use of telescopes. Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) for example indicated that using telescopes increases the "Takalluf" (Burden) on Muslims, which Allaah (SWT) does not want.

These official committees seemed to be a wonderful news and excellent solution Alhamdulillaah. So why should there still be a problem ? Well, the answer is as follows:

Variance of Results

The problem is because even though these 6 official Hilaal sighting committees exist, the Justice department still accepts the witness of "any" Muslim and not just the 6 official committees mentioned above. Thus, often the new month is declared while NONE of these 6 official Hilaal sighting committees saw the Hilaal. In fact, most people, including scholars are unaware of the existence of these official committees. In the case of EidUlFitr 1420H, I myself went with the Makkah committee to a sighting point on a hilltop of Shamesi outside the city of Makkah Mukarramah on Thursday evening. Neither we, nor the other 5 committees sighted the Hilaal. But we came back to the Haram Shareef and were astounded to hear the announcement that EidUlFitr was next day (Friday). In fact moonset was before sunset in Makkah for Thursday evening. In this case the error was quite brazen. Later I learned that Sheikh Yusuf AlQaradawi issued a Fatwa indicating that Muslims who celebrated Eid 1420H on Friday following the Saudi announcement should make up one missed Ramadaan fast. (See Illustration 2). Further, the Solar eclipse of Feb 5, 2000G also proved the mistake in Eid date, according to Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH)’s Fatwa on Solar Eclipse which implies that if there is a solar eclipse anywhere in the world after sunset in your city, then next day is not the 1st of lunar month for your city. The solar eclipse implied that if the Saudi announcement for EidUlFitr 1420 was correct, then Shawwal 1420 would be 31 days which is impossible. (See Illustration 6). I also learned that apparently it is the same few people at certain locations (in Tabouk, Hareeg and Hawtah Sudair ?), reporting on those occasions when the claims are extraordinarily early in Saudi Arabia, year after year. Wallaahu A’alam! I wondered if the presence of numerous objects in the sky today could cause errors. (E.g. see Airplanes, wisp of clouds, crescent of planets, satellites, or even a white hair in the eye, etc.). I was also told by more than one knowledgeable local brothers that there have been some claims to journalist of Hilaal sighting BEFORE Maghrib from one of these regular extraordinarily early Hilaal sighter! Wallaahu A’alam!

Thus while Saudi Astronomers are quite aware of the problems, there seemed to be negligible awareness in the community at large. But then I was surprised to see that Saudi Press began limited discussions on the errors. I saw an excellent article in Arab News of February 11, 2000G about the inaccuracy of EidUlFitr 1420H (See Illustration 1). Subsequently I also saw nice articles in Arabic in AdDawah magazine, 6 Shawwal 1420H etc., and the article of Sheikh AlManea (of Makkah AlMukarramah) in AlJazeerah, December 12, 1999. So while the coverage was still limited, at least there was some acknowledgement of the errors, though not officially.

Views of Islamic Scholars of Saudi Arabia

I started writing letters to a lot of the respected Ulema of Saudi Arabia, mentioning in particular the EidUlFitr 1420H error as proven from the Solar Eclipse also (even without reference to calculations), and I attached the Fatwa of Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) about Solar Eclipse and Hejiri dates. I mentioned that these days there are so many artificial objects in the sky that it is possible for Muslims to mistake other objects for Hilaal. Hence the people who want to sight the Hilaal should accompany one of these official Hilaal sighting committees which include scholar, astronomer, and local official. This would help check the testimony and reduce the errors Insha’Allaah. Most scholars seemed to be totally unaware of the problem. Some scholars, however like Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) and Sheikh AlManea (of Makkah AlMukarramah), we found have a broad knowledge in this field. We did not get much response to the scores of letters we sent. But then Alhamdulillaah we managed to get a meeting with Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH)!

Meeting with Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) in Unayzah

Alhamdulillaah Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) welcomed us at his big Masjid in Unayzah after the Friday prayers on 15/02/1421H (date per UmmUlQura Calendar) and gave us a special private audience after the ‘Asr prayers. We found that Alhamdulillaah Sheikh AlOthaimeen was himself aware of some of the errors from other complaints. But he indicated it would take time for most scholars to understand and fix the problem. He asked us to write a letter to the Majlis AlKabair AlUlema (Council of the Senior Ulema), which I believe meets twice a year in Taif. I personally did send a letter, but somehow did not receive any response. I also learned that scholars like Sheikh Abdullaah bin Sulaiman AlManea (Makkah Mukarramah) support using calculations to reduce errors.

Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) supports Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Multiple Horizons / Local Sighting) for all 12 months (including DhulHijja)

I mentioned to Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) that for Muslims in America, the error in Saudi date announcements causes big problems, since some Muslims follow that, while others follow local sighting, thus resulting in multiple Eid celebrations in the same city, if not the same Masjid! I learned that Sheikh AlOthaimeen supports Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Multiple Horizons / Local Sighting) - Muslims outside Saudi Arabia should do their own Local Sighting (instead of calling Saudi Arabia). This is already published in the book: Fatawa Islamiya (Sheikh Bin Baaz, Sheikh AlOthaimeen & Sheikh AlJibreen, published by DarulWatan LilNashr, Riyadh – see Illustration 4). Sheikh AlOthaimeen also writes that Sheikh Ibn Taimiya supported Ikhtilaaf AlMatale. In fact Saudi Arabia itself practices Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (e.g. they did not follow Yemen’s earlier sighting in 1420H). I mentioned that while most Muslims in America agree to local sighting for 11 months, some want to follow the Saudi announcement for EidUlAdha. Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) indicated that he supports Ikhtilaaf AlMatale for EidUlAdha also, and that the sighting process for all the 12 months should be the same (Thus Muslims outside Saudi Arabia should do their own Local Sighting for EidUlAdha also, instead of calling Saudi Arabia). He immediately wrote a Fatwa on this and gave me the original paper, while keeping a photocopy for his records (see Illustration 5). Thus in his opinion, Muslims in North America should not have multiple dates for Eid etc. and just go by local sighting, unaffected by the errors in Saudi announcements including Eid UlAdha. I learned that there are also other references from Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) supporting local sighting for EidUlAdha. (See http://www.ummah.net/moonsighting/fatawah/saudalim.htm). Also see at http://www.ummah.net/moonsighting/fatawah/isnaqa.htm that the Annual Session of Fiqh Academy, held in Jordan, October 11-16, 1986 attended by more than 100 outstanding scholars of Shari’ah adopted a resolution recommending that all Muslim countries should determine all the lunar months including Dhul-Hijjah on the same basis for both EidUlFitr and EidUlAdha. Also available on the website is the Fatwa of Mufti Taqi Usmani from Pakistan supporting Ikhtilaaf AlMatale for EidUlAdha as well.

Later I also found the following very illustrative Fatwa of Sheikh Al Uthaimeen (RH) Ref: Al-Aqalliyaat Al-Muslimah - Page 84, Fatwa No.23, supporting Ikhtilaaf AlMataale from the Qur’aan, Hadith, and Qiyas (Analogy).

Question: Should we fast and end our fast according to the sighting of the new moon in Saudi Arabia or should we do it according to the sighting of the new moon in the country where we are?

Response: There are as many as six different opinions amongst the scholars concerning this issue. However, there are two main points of view. The first is that everyone should sight the moon in their own country and those countries where the moon rises at the same time should follow them. The reason for this is that the time at which the moon rises, varies from place to place. The second opinion is that the beginning of the new month need only be confirmed in any one of the Muslim countries. If the sighting of the new moon is confirmed in any Muslim country, it is then obligatory for all Muslims to use that sighting to begin the fast of Ramadhaan or end it. According to this last opinion, if the new month is confirmed in Saudi Arabia it is obligatory upon all Muslims, in all parts of the world, to fast if it is the beginning of Ramadhaan and to end their fast if it is the beginning of Shawwaal. This is the most common opinion held by the followers of the madhhab of Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.

However, the first opinion is more correct because of the evidence in the Qur.aan, Sunnah and because of analogy. With regards to the Qur.aan, Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala) says:
{The month of Ramadaan in which was revealed the Qur.aan, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever witnesses the month should fast it...}, [
Soorah al-Baqarah, Aayah 185].

This last sentence is a conditional sentence, and the ruling contained in a conditional sentence is established for whomever the condition applies to and it is annulled for anyone for whom the condition does not apply. So the sentence:
((Whoever witnesses the month should fast it)) implies that whoever does not witness it does not fast it.

It is well known amongst astronomers that the time the moon rises differs from place to place. The moon might be seen in one place and not in another. Therefore, according to the verse, whoever does not see it is not obliged to fast.

With regards to the Sunnah, the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) said:
((If you sight it (the new moon of Ramadaan), then fast and if you sight it (the new moon of Shawaal),then end the fast. And if it is obscured from you, then complete thirty days (of Sha'baan))).

He (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) said:
((If you sight it)). He therefore linked the ruling to the sighting and if a ruling is linked to an effective cause, then that ruling is annulled in the absence of that cause.

With regards to analogy, we say that in as much as the times for beginning the fast and breaking the fast every day vary from place to place so, in the same way, the times for the beginning and ending of the monthly fast also vary. We here in Riyadh, for example, begin our fast every day before the people in Al-Hijaaz and we also break our fast before they do. It is, therefore, obligatory upon us to start fasting while they are still eating. On the other hand, at the end of the day we are eating while they are still fasting. If, therefore, each place has its own ruling due to the variation in the time that the sun rises and sets, the same also applies due to the variation in the time that the moon rises and sets.

Therefore, the answer to the question is clear. It is obligatory for you to follow the sighting of the new moon in the place where you are.

Shaykh Ibn 'Uthaymeen
Ref: Al-Aqalliyaat Al-Muslimah - Page 84, Fatwa No.23

 

Following Saudi Arabia for EidUlAdha is neither Ikhtilaaf AlMatale, nor Wahdat AlMatale

Further, even those scholars who support Wahdat AlMatale, say categorically that one cannot fix any one point on earth (e.g. Saudi Arabia) for worldwide decision on date. Thus, sighting in USA / India / Yemen / Nigeria / Fiji etc. should be as valid in establishing the date worldwide including Saudi Arabia as the sighting in Saudi Arabia, if one follows Wahdat AlMatale. Thus to "Just follow Saudi date" is neither Ikhtilaaf AlMatale, nor Wahdat AlMatale, and hence should have no daleel / basis in Shariah.

Also, we find in Tirmidhi: Reported on the authority of Ibn Umar (RA): Rasulallah (SAW) lived in Medina for ten years and made sacrifice each year. (Tirmidhi). Thus the EidUlAdha was instituted in the first year of Hijrah - several years before Hajj became obligatory in the sixth year of Hijrah (see lam'at commentary on Mishkat).

Further, even after the 6th year of Hijrah, there is no evidence from the Sunnah that the Prophet Muhammad SAW made any attempts to synchronize the EidUlAdha in Medinah etc. with the Hilaal sighting in Makkah, even though 10 nights and 9 days were enough to send a messenger between Makkah and Medinah. Ofcourse the Salaah of Eid-ul-Adha is not wajib (incumbent) upon the Hujjaj.

For centuries, the Muslim world had no way of knowing the date of Hajj in Saudi Arabia until the Hujjaaj came back, perhaps months later. Muslims celebrated EidUlAdha by local sighting. According to Mufti Taqi Usmani, this itself implies that it is not obligatory according to Quran or the Sunnah to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to Saudi calendar. Had this been so, Muslims would have tried their best to find the exact date of Hajj in Saudi Arabia. However, no jurists have ever stressed that such information be collected in order to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to Saudi dates. Further, if it is held that the real intention of Quran and Sunnah was to link the celebration of Eid al-Adha with the Saudi dates, as a mandatory provision for all Muslims in the world, it means that the Shari'ah has stressed a principle which was not acceptable for 1300 years. Is it not against the Quranic declaration that Allah does not make a thing mandatory unless it is practical for the human beings ? If it is argued that the celebration of Eid al-Adha was not linked with the dates in Makkah in the past but it has become a mandatory requirement of the Shari'ah now, then the question arises, who has abrogated the previous principle and on what basis? There is no provision in Quran or the Sunnah which orders the Muslims to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to their local dates up to a particular time and to link it with the dates in Makkah thereafter.

Further, using sighting in Saudi Arabia for North America can force us to ignore our earlier local Hilaal sighting. (The world is round - for certain years, e.g. North America should see Hilaal one date before Middle-East– e.g. see Illustration 5). Clearly wouldn’t this violate the hadith of fasting on seeing the Hilaal and breaking on seeing it ? (Compiled by Bukhari 3-124: Abu Huraira (RA) has narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said: "Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadaan) and give up fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwal) and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it) complete thirty days of Sha’ban"). So shouldn't "Just follow Saudi date" be obviously incorrect in the Islamic Shariah for people living far from Saudi Arabia It can lead to Eid al-Adha being celebrated in North America on 8th or 9th of Dhul-Hijjah, and people also performing the sacrifice before its correct time.

WahdatAlMatale is impractical for countries East of the first sighting point

In any case following a sighting from Saudi Arabia to decide the date, is too late for people east of Saudi Arabia e.g. Indonesia or Japan, where it may be too late in the night or even past Sohoor (Dawn) time by the time the news reaches them. It also makes us prone to the frequent errors in the Saudi Dates Decisions.

Astronomy supports Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Multiple Horizons / Local Sighting)

Since the world is round like a globe, the First Hilaal Sighting ("Lunar Date Line" for a month) can occur anywhere Around the Globe. Programs like MoonCalc of Dr. Monzur Ahmed (obtain software from http://www.starlight.demon.co.uk/mooncalc/) can predict the first Hilaal sighting curve (see Illustration 8). Thus we see that Astronomy supports Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Multiple Horizons / Local Sighting) since areas outside the "Lunar Date Line" Curve see the Hilaal on the Next day (Cross International Solar Date Line). Hence we should aim towards EidulFitr & EidUlAdha celebration around much of the world in about 24 hours (But Two "Solar Dates" because of the Artificial International Solar Date Line). We should NOT force an effort to artificially make the worldwide Lunar date coincide with a solar date. Also, note that at any ONE given moment of time, one part of the world has one solar day/date while another part of the earth has the NEXT solar day /date! E.g. at the exact time of my writing this sentence, it is Wednesday evening in USA, but Thursday morning in China / Japan! So we should focus on e.g.: Eid prayer around the globe in about 24 hours rather than one SOLAR date. Local sighting for Eid is as natural as local timings for prayer. After all, New York does not pray Fajr by Tokyo time!

Prof. Muhammad Ilyas of Malaysia, a pioneer in the calculations of Hilaal prediction, Masha’Allaah has hence proposed for civil use, a Tri-zonal Hejiri calendar: dividing the earth into 3 zones: Americas; Europe-Africa-West Asia; Asia-Pacific and calculating Hilaal visibility separately for each region. This Tri-Zonal Calendar concept has also gained support in the Jordanian Astronomical Society (Mohammed Odeh and others) and elsewhere Alhamdulillaah. Please see http://www.starlight.demon.co.uk/ildl/zone3 for details. Thus for example, sometimes Hilaal sighting in North America can be One Date Before Hilaal sighting in Saudi Arabia, e.g. see projection from MoonCalc in Illustration 8. Also see http://www.ummah.net/moonsighting for more details.

Note that if earth was Flat (instead of spherical) - WahdatAlmatale (Single Horizon) would be valid – we would then see the hilaal at the same time everywhere !

But since earth is more like a globe, the countries east of the place of first hilaal sighting (which shifts every month), have to wait till the next day before their hilaal sighting.

Use Astronomy to negate Erroneous sighting, but not to replace sighting

As Muslims, we believe that all knowledge is from Allaah (SWT), who is the ultimate source. Thus we find that the Qur’aan has no contradiction with established facts of science. In fact the description of the embryo in the womb of the mother, the stability provided by the mountains, the hydrology / water cycle, composition of living matter mostly with water, origin of the universe and the movement of both the sun and the moon are among the amazing examples of how accurately the Qur’aan revealed over 1400 years ago describes scientific facts discovered recently. The Qur’aan states in Sura ArRahmaan #55,Verse 5: (Yusuf Ali translation): The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed. Thus I was happy to learn that several scholars including Sheikh AlManea (of Makkah Mukarramah) support using calculations to negate erroneous sightings. Similarly, historically, great Islamic Scholars like Imam Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d.1355 GC) and others have also supported using Astronomy to negate erroneous hilaal sighting, comparing sighting report to "Zan" (with doubt), while calculation (when confirmed) as "Yaqeen" (without doubt). Imam Taqiy Al-Deen Al-Subki said in one of his rulings on the subject: "Calculation provides certain and confirmed information, while testimony based on sighting provides only probable information. What is probable cannot counterbalance what is certain, let alone be preferred to it. Evidence is accepted only if what is testified for is possible physically, logically and legally. If we assume that calculation indicates with certainty the impossibility of sighting, then a testimony of sighting must be rejected because it testifies to what is impossible. Islamic law does not make impossible requirements." (Source: Arab News, 05 November 2002). Also, Sheikh Ibn Taimiya has written on how long it takes for the Hilaal to appear after the "old moon" (seen at Fajr) disappears. Of course, none of the Saudi scholars I know, support calculations to completely replace sighting. Even those scholars worldwide who support using calculations to assist Hilaal sighting, mostly do not agree to calculations completely replacing actual sighting, supporting that actual sighting is the Islamic law.

Further I learned from reliable sources that that last Eid UlFitr (1421H), several "early witnesses" in Saudi Arabia were turned down due to the Solar eclipse. This is perhaps the first time I hear of "witnesses" being turned down in Saudi Arabia due to contradiction with basic scientific facts. Insha’Allaah this seems to be a new and good trend in Saudi Arabia, but there may not be a Solar Eclipse every time! (There is a Solar Eclipse on 29th of Ramadaan 1422H though). There should also be an investigation into the reasons for the errors. Perhaps the presence of numerous objects in the sky today could cause errors. (E.g. see Airplanes, wisp of clouds, crescent of planets, satellites, or even a white hair in the eye, etc.). Also, if Insha’Allaah all who wish to sight the Hilaal in Saudi Arabia should accompany one of these several existing Official Saudi Hilaal Sighting Committees which include Scholar, Astronomer & Government representative, the errors should be reduced considerably Insha’Allaah.

Thus as a "guide" to reduce errors, we should use Astronomical Calculations for Naked Eye Hilaal Sighting Criterion e.g. Dr. Durrani’s results or Br. Shaukat’s or Yallop’s criterion in MoonCalc. As mentioned before, however, it is important to use the correct calculations – not calculations for the astronomical dark new moon, or simply moonset after sunset, but calculations for naked eye visibility of the young crescent Hilaal. The time after astronomical new moon birth is NOT the best determining factor for hilaal visibility. Instead the angular separation between moon and sun at local sunset must be at least 7 or 8 degrees for Hilaal to be visible. (7 degrees is the theoretical minimum "Danjon limit" agreed by Astronomers). For different months this could lead to different minimum time between sunset and moonset for Hilaal to be visible by naked eye.

The calculations related to the position of moon, earth and the birth of the astronomical (dark) new moon are extremely precise. But due to the variations of atmospheric optics, as related earlier, there are certain cases (about 20%) when the calculations for Hilaal visibility would not give a definite answer as the western part of our Matala (e.g. California for North America) lies within the "zone of uncertainty". Thus actual physical local naked eye sighting definitely has a role to play even from the point of view of Astronomers, and is of course closer to the Sunnah, which is very important. Practically speaking this means that Insha’Allaah for about 80% of the cases, the dates for Eid etc. would be predictable, while for about 20% of the cases the date could be one of the two days given by the Astronomers, who may also indicate which of the two dates is more likely. Latest research in Atmospheric Optics, such as that by Br. Mustafa Helvaci should be used to further reduce the "zone of uncertainty" and increase the predictability beyond the current 80% of the times Insha’Allaah.

Second Islamic Astronomical Conference, in Amman, Jordan, October 29-31, 2001

I presented a paper based on much of the material presented here, in Amman, Jordan, at the "Second Islamic Astronomical Conference", October 29-31, 2001. This conference was jointly organized by the Arab Union of Astronomy and Space Sciences (AUASS), Jordanian Astronomical Society (JAS) and the Jordanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Participants were from all over the world, including several from Saudi Arabia and Alhamdulillaah my talk was very well received with unanimous agreement about the errors in Saudi Arabian dates announcement.

Alhamdulillaah some Excellent resolutions were passed at this Amman conference, which support the position of the Fiqh Council of North America / ISNA, including:

-- REJECTION OF THE CLAIM OF SIGHTING THE CRESCENT, IF IT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE CONDITIONS FOR A POSSIBILITY OF SIGHTING THE CRESCENT.

-- Verification of the meticulousness and the honesty of the witnesses to a sighting of the crescent, and not only the honesty.

-- Collaboration with the legal Muslim scholars and their participation in the dialogues and astronomical researches.

-- Consultation of an astronomical adviser in every committee being entrusted with the determination of the beginning of months in the Islamic countries.

-- Providing the Muslim scholars of the fundamentals of sighting the crescent, as well as providing the astronomers of the information about sighting the crescent from Shari'a perspective.

-- Encouraging the Muslims in different countries of the world to do a monthly observation of the crescent.

-- Support of the Islamic Crescents' Observation Project (ICOP), headed by the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, and the Jordanian Astronomical Society.

-- Emphasize on the recommendation of the First Islamic Astronomical Conference, being held in the year 1999 in Amman, with regard to the carrying out of studies of evaluating the percentages of errors in the determination of the beginnings of Hejric months in the Islamic states during the past decades.

-- Inclusion of astronomical scientific subjects in the [teaching] programs of the faculty of Shari'a for a general spreading of an astronomical education, because of the direct relation it is bearing to the sciences of Shari'a.

Alhamdulillaah Jordanian Astronomical Society (JAS) is doing a great job in educating the Ummah on this issue. Please see their website www.jas.org.jo/icop.html which clarifies that it was not possible to see the Hilaal on the evening of February 12, 2002. Please read the Official Statement of the Arab Union of Astronomy and Space Sciences about Dhul-Hijja 1422H start Insha'Allaah:

-- In Arabic at: http://www.jas.org.jo/hej22s.jpg

-- In English at: http://www.jas.org.jo/hej22s.html

-- In Arabic, as it appeared in Al-Ra'i Jordanian Newspaper at: http://www.jas.org.jo/hej22sr.jpg

Use Group Sighting, and support the Official Saudi Hilaal Sighting Committees

Insha’Allaah we should encourage the Sunnah of Naked-Eye Hilaal Sighting. After seeing the Hilaal, the recommended du’a is: "Allaahu Akbar, Allaahu Akbar, Allaahu Akbar. AlHamdulillaah Aladhi Khalaqani Wa Khalaqaka, Wa Qaddara Laka Manazil Wa Ja’alalaka Ayatna Lil Aalameen" (Translation: Allaah is the Greatest, Allaah is the Greatest, Allaah is the Greatest. Praise be to Allaah who created me and you and decreed for you the phases and made you a sign for the universe).

Thus we should replace "Hilaal-Fighting" with Hilaal sighting! Also, we should use "Group Sighting" to reduce errors. Research shows error in reports of (honest) solo observers. Further, we observe from the times of our Pious Predecessors the following incident: It was puzzling when Hadrat Anas (RA) (very old age) claimed to have seen a crescent moon when everybody else, at the same location could not see the crescent moon. Then on removing the white hair from the eyebrow of Hadrat Anas (RA), he was asked to see again. Now he could see no ‘crescent moon’. (See Aujaz al Masalik v.5, p.21, Tantawi’s Irshad p.154, Bain al- Sunnah wal Ijtihad by Nimr p.50 etc. Similar cases where Qadi rejected the claim of sighting/Shahadah of very prominent people only because others did not see any crescent from the same location. (Shuraih, etc.)". Many of the Ahadith referring to Hilaal sighting also apparently indirectly imply that it was a group of Muslims who did the sighting.

Following the same principal, for improving the process in Saudi Arabia too, Insha’Allaah, I suggest that we write to the Ulema, Ambassadors, WazaratulAdal, the Crown Prince, Majlis AlQada AlAala, Masjlis AlKabair AlUlema etc. of Saudi Arabia, and support that all who wish to sight the Hilaal in Saudi Arabia should accompany one of the several existing Official Saudi Hilaal Sighting Committees which include Scholar, Astronomer & Government representative, and thus use group sighting to reduce human errors Insha’Allaah.

Use Naked-Eye Sighting

As mentioned before, scholars like Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) support naked eye sighting rather than using telescopes. He indicated that using telescopes increases the "Takalluf" (Burden) on Muslims, which Allaah (SWT) does not want. Thus even though the Official Saudi Arabian Hilaal committees may carry a telescope, the official witness is only on naked eye visibility. Other scholars also cite Surah Al Baqarah, verse 189 which refers to the Hilaal as a definite

sign that ushers in each new Islamic lunar month and a sign is something that is visible to a common person. This also makes Islam easy for ordinary Muslims, no matter where, since the ordinary Muslim does not have a telescope. If the telescope criterion was used, the majority of Muslims would be effectively excluded from the Hilaal sighting process. Using a telescope may result in seeing the Hilaal one day earlier on many occassions. (See illustration 8 – Areas between Curves C and D would see Hilaal only by telescope. Naked eye visibility for this area would be next day). Using naked eye sighting also appeals to the logic that whatever criterion we use today should back calculate to the same dates that were likely decided at the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Thus for example Br. Yaser ElMenshawy, Chairman of the Majlis AshShoora (Council of Masajid) of New Jersey, USA, supports naked eye sighting, as this would result in the Hilaal (Islamic New moon Crescent) being typically One Day After the Astronomical new moon (Dark moon / Invisible / No moon) and thus makes 13,14,15 of month as "white fasts" (full moon) as mentioned in Seerah. Please see the Illustration 7 and also refer to http://www.moonsighting.com/ and http://www.columbia.edu/~mnd/ for more details. Of course I personally do not equate eye-glasses to telescopes. Since eye-glasses are meant to correct the vision, and make it equivalent to the normal naked eye. Further, the use of correctional eye-glasses does not introduce the "Takalluf" / burden (as referred to by Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) above). Rather I feel that dis-allowing eye-glasses may introduce a burden. The unaided (naked eye) sighting has proved to be a method that is, straightforward, pure and not complex, used successfully and correctly by overwhelming majority of the Muslim Ummah Alhamdulillaah year after year (including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia which comprise about 70% of the entire Muslim population).

 

Summary of the Saudi Arabian Process

This document threw some light on Reasons for Islamic dates confusion and their solution Insha'Allaah, based on first hand information on the Saudi UmmUlQura calendar, which is not calculated to predict the Hilaal, but for "Civil" purposes only, (NOT for determining religious dates). Also as we have found, the Official Saudi Hilaal Sighting Committees (which include Scholar, Astronomer and Government Representatives) differ from "Official" Saudi announcement of dates. Some Saudi Ulema (Sheikh AlOthaimeen RH etc.) and some Saudi Press are aware of errors (e.g. Arab News article February 11, 2000G about the inaccuracy of EidUlFitr 1420H, AdDawah magazine 6 Shawwal 1420H etc.; AlJazeerah December 12, 1999G). But it may take some time to fix the problem there.

Conclusions for Islamic Hejiri Dates for Religious Use

Insha’Allaah we all share the objective to Unite Muslims towards Correct Dates for Islamic Occasions. As explained earlier, for Muslims living outside Saudi Arabia, "Just follow Saudi announced date" should have no basis in Shariah, since it is neither Ikhtilaaf AlMatale, nor Wahdat AlMatale (which means follow the first report of Hilaal- no matter which country it comes from). Saudi scholars like Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) support Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Multiple Horizons / Local Sighting) for both EidUlAdha and EidUlFitr (& Saudi Arabia itself follows Ikhtilaaf AlMatale). Astronomy also supports Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Multiple Horizons / Local Sighting). Also, scholars like Sheikh AlManea (Makkah Mukarramah) support using calculations to negate erroneous sightings, while Saudi scholars do not support calculations to replace sighting. The Hilaal, as seen by the naked eye, is typically one day after the Astronomical new moon (Dark moon / Invisible / No moon). This makes 13,14,15 of month as "white fasts" (full moon) and thus brother like Br. Yaser ElMenshawy, Chairman of Majlis Ash-Shoora of New Jersey supports naked eye sighting (No telescopes). Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) is also against use of telescopes. He indicates that it increases the "Takalluf" (Burden) on Muslims, which Allaah (SWT) does not want.

Thus I believe in order to unite Muslims towards correct Islamic dates Insha’Allaah, we should use Local Sighting as supported by Astronomy and recommended and used by Saudi scholars (e.g. Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH), also referring to Sheikh Ibn Taimiya) & others for both EidUlFitr and EidUlAdha etc. Insha’Allaah. Hence Alhamdulillaah the joint decision of ISNA, ICNA, American Muslim Society and al-Ummah Community (Islamic Shoora Council of North America) is an excellent one Insha’Allaah: Use Validated Local sighting in contiguous America (except Hawaii & Alaska) + Canada for both EidUlFitr & EidUlAdha, unless proven impossible by Astronomy i.e. (Less than 7 degree geocentric angular separation between sun & moon at local sunset implies impossible to sight Hilaal- Danjon Limit). These dates would also be completely predictable about 80% of the time, when the naked eye sighting criterion is used.

I believe that perhaps the best procedure in the world is already established in Saudi Arabia – the Official Hilaal sighting committees near Makkah, Riyadh, Qassim, Hail, Tabuk and Asir, each of which include an Islamic Scholar, an Astronomer and a Government Official in addition to any volunteer. But the results of these committee are often different from the official Saudi announcement. May Allaah (SWT) help in resolving that properly. Aameen.

A similar method (Hilaal sighting committees) is also adopted in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan (with over 400 Million Muslims just in these 3 countries), where Alhamdulillaah year after year, the correct date is reached.

May Allaah (SWT) help in establishing similar appropriate efforts all over the world. Aameen.

Conclusions for Civil use Hejiri Calendar

If there is a need for a Hejiri Calendar for Civil use in North America, calculations by Br. Khalid Shaukat or Dr. Mohib Durrani for prediction of Hilaal visibility by naked eye, should be the best Insha’Allaah. For the roughly 20% of the cases, these dates may different from the actual naked eye Hilaal sighting.

For world wide civil Hejiri calendar purposes, the Tri-zonal calendar of Prof. Muhammad Ilyas of Malaysia seems quite good Masha’Allaah – doing 3 separate calculations for hilaal visibility for 3 zones of the earth: Americas; Europe-Africa-West Asia; Asia-Pacific (see http://www.starlight.demon.co.uk/ildl/zone3 for details). This Tri-Zonal Calendar concept has also gained support in the Jordanian Astronomical Society (Mohammed Odeh and others) and elsewhere Alhamdulillaah. These calculations may be done by any of the excellent existing models on MoonCalc for naked-eye criterion Insha’Allaah.

The UmmUlQura Calendar should Insha’Allaah also be updated to reflect the best calculations for naked eye visibility of Hilaal, and not just the moonset after sunset (even by one second). Note that the single major factor in predicting Hilaal visibility is NOT the time after astronomical new moon birth, nor the moonset – sunset lag. Instead, the single biggest factor is that the angular separation between moon and sun at local sunset must be at least 7 or 8 degrees for Hilaal to be visible. Good models (including Br. Shaukat’s) are now available on MoonCalc.

Action Items

In North America we are Insha’Allaah implementing the decision of the Islamic Shoora Council of North America: Local sighting in North America unless proven impossible by Astronomy i.e. (Less than 7 degree geocentric angular separation between sun & moon at local sunset implies impossible to sight Hilaal- Danjon Limit). We should also educate (with Hikmah) and encourage Muslims in other countries to adopt similar local sighting criteria validated by the Danjon astronomical impossibility limit Insha’Allaah. Alternatively, Hilaal sighting committees such as those in Saudi Arabia (which are not used fully yet) should be established for decision making in every countries. Such committees are used very effectively Alhamdulillaah in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan (with over 400 Million Muslims), where Alhamdulillaah year after year, the correct date is reached.

For improving the process in Saudi Arabia Insha’Allaah, I suggest that we write to the Ulema, Ambassadors, WazaratulAdal, the Crown Prince, Majlis AlQada AlAala, Masjlis AlKabair AlUlema etc. of Saudi Arabia, and support that all who wish to sight the Hilaal in Saudi Arabia should accompany one of the several existing Official Saudi Hilaal Sighting Committees which include Scholar, Astronomer & Government representative, to reduce human errors Insha’Allaah.

We should also write to the UmmUlQura Calendar brothers to encourage an update to their model to reflect the best calculations for naked eye visibility of Hilaal, and not just the moonset after sunset (even by one second). Even though the UmmUlQura calendar is for "civil" use and not "religious" use, it sets the expectations, and makes it difficult in many cases for us to tell the Saudi authorities that their decision was Astronomically impossible. As mentioned before, the single biggest factor in predicting Hilaal visibility is NOT the time after astronomical new moon birth, nor the moonset – sunset lag. Instead, the single biggest factor is that the angular separation between moon and sun at local sunset must be at least 7 or 8 degrees for Hilaal to be visible. Alhamdulillaah good models (including Br. Shaukat’s) are now available on MoonCalc. At the very least UmmUlQura calendar should be updated Insha’Allaah to use the absolute minimum agreed by Astronomers – the Danjon limit - 7 degree geocentric angular separation between sun & moon at local sunset implies impossible to sight Hilaal.

We should also encourage Muslims Worldwide to Sight the Hilaal and report it (e.g. to ICOP - Islamic Crescent Observation Project of Jordanian Astronomical Society http://www.jas.org.jo/icop.html or CFCO (Br. Omar Afzal), and compare results to refine existing models towards increased confidence Insha’Allaah. (Similar to full confidence in calculated Salaah - Prayer Time). Latest research in Atmospheric Optics, such as that by Br. Mustafa Helvaci should be used to further reduce the "zone of uncertainty" and increase the predictability beyond the current 80% of the times Insha’Allaah. We should Continue Efforts AND Du’as for correction. (But please note: those going for Hajj must still follow the Saudi dates for Hajj, and not make "fitna", for that can be worse – please confirm with your Ulema). We should also encourage dissemination / posting of information such as this essay Insha’Allaah, especially to the decision-makers / Muslim leadership throughout the world Insha’Allaah. Please obtain this article and illustrations from http://www.jas.org.jo/hilaal/ for forwarding / posting / publishing in Muslim newspapers / magazines / websites worldwide Insha'Allaah. For further details, I may be contacted at s.shaikh@ieee.org Insha’Allaah.

A point for the sake of unity Insha’Allaah

Another point for the sake of unity Insha’Allaah: Those who somehow still believe that the early Saudi Announcements for EidUlAdha are correct can still delay and pray Eid on "their second day" Insha’Allaah, since the Eid prayers are permissible on any of the 3 days. This way, Insha’Allaah at least their Eid Prayers would be together with the people who follow the correct date which is typically a day later.

Finally but most importantly, we should make du’a that Allaah (SWT) forgive any mistakes and help, guide & unite us all. May Allaah (SWT) open our hearts and give Ikhlas, Barakah, Hidayah, Mutual Understanding, Mutual Respect and Cooperation between all Muslims, no matter which organization or Islamic movement they work through – whether ISNA, ICNA, Jamaat Tabligh, MSA, Islamic Ministries, Local Masajid / Islamic School or any other sincere one. Aameen.

SubhanAllaahi Wa Bi Hamdihi. SubhanakAllaahumaa We BiHamdika Nashhadu AlLaa ilaaha Illa Anta, Nastghfiruka Wa Natoobu Ilayk. Aooothobillaahi MinashShaytaanirRajeem. Subhana Rabbika Rabbil Izzati Amma Yasifoon Wa Salaamun AlalMursaleen WalHamdulillaah RabbilAalameen. Aameen.

 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Illustration 1: Article in Saudi Arabian Newspaper:  Arab News, February 11, 2000,  about the inaccuracy of EidUlFitr 1420 date.

 

Sheikh Qardawi: Friday is the completion of the holy month of Ramadaan.

Taking the confirmed astronomical calculations, Sheik Yousof Al-Qardawi has casuist that Friday, Jan 7th is the 30th day of the holy month of Ramadaan. And that the Muslims in the countries that announced Friday to be the first of the Eid like Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Qatar, UAE, and others. They should start Eid on Friday, and fast a day later instead of it. Previous astronomical calculations have confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that sighting the crescent on Thursday was impossible. Consequently, if the calculations showed that there is no Moon to be seen, people should not be asked to fetch it, and no testimony of sighting it should be accepted. Sheik Qardawi has manifested that if a country should announce a day as the first of Ramada or Shawwal, then it is held responsible. And the citizens of that country must oblige to that. Because there shouldn't be two parties in the same country, one is fasting, the other is feasting. If it's hard or impossible for the whole nation to meet on the same feasting day, then it's not hard for the people of one country to do so. Finally Sheik Qardawi stated" He who believes in the credibility of the astronomical calculations and feasted on Friday, should fast a day instead of it".

Illustration 2: Sheikh Yusuf AlQaradawi’s  Fatwa:  Those who followed Saudi announcement for Eid 1420H should make up one missed fast.

Illustration 3: Arab Union of Astronomy & Social Sciences (AUASS) on error in Saudi decision of EidUlAdha 1420H date.

 

 

 

 

And this is for sure a strong argument to use, based on proof (daleel) and strengthened by viewpoint and qiyas (analogy).

AlShaykh Ibn Othaimeen

Chapter: Rules of starting and ending a month and the sighting of Hilaal

Book: Fatawa Islamiyah: AbdulAziz Bin Baaz, Muhammad Bin Saleh Bin Othaimeen, Abdullah Bin AbdurRahmaan AlJibreen; Darul Watan Publishers

Illustration 4: Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) supports Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Local Sighting); also says Sheikh Ibn Taimiya supported Ikhtilaaf AlMatale.

BismillahIrRahmaanIrRaheem

Respected Sheikh Muhammad bin Saleh AlOthaimeen                 May Allaah protect you.

AsSalaamu Alaykum w.r. w.b.

We have observed the Fatwa from your respected self, in the book “Fatawa Islamiya” relating that the sighting of Hilaal in one country does not obligate all other countries to abide by (it’s date). Is this also applicable to Hilaal sighting for EidUlAdha (month of DhulHijja) ?

Please benefit us (explain to us). May Allaah (SWT) reward you.

Jazakum Allahu Khayr AlJaza

 

BismillahIrRahmaanIrRaheem

Wa Alaykum AsSalaam w.r. w.b.

For Hilaal the Matale (sighting) are different from one place to other – for Ramadaan as well as other months. The same rule for Hilaal applies for all the months. However I view that the people should agree on one thing, and follow the resolution of the Ameer of the Islamic society in their non-Muslim countries. Since this matter is wide (multiple views) Insha’Allaah. i.e. some scholars say: once the sighting of Hilaal is confirmed in any one Islamic country or state, it obligates all Muslims in all Islamic states to abide by (its date).

 

This is written by

Muhammad bin Saleh AlOthaimeen on 15/02/1421H

 

BismillahIrRahmaanIrRaheem

Saudi Aalim Asks Muslims in N. America NOT to pray Eid on Day after Arafah

 (Famous Saudi Aalim and Faqih, Sheikh Mohammad Ibn Salih Al-Uthaimeen tells Muslims about the correct date of Eid al-Adha in N. America to be on 10th Zul-Hijja of North America, and not the day-after Arafah in Makkah, as some claim.)

From: Abdulrahman bin Abdallah Al-khalidy (Ithaca, NY)

Al Hamdulillah wa salatu wa salamu ala rasulillah,

I was troubled when I read the e-mails regarding the discrepancies in deciding the first day of Dhil-Hijjah which would mean that we will have to accommodate two separate dates for the Day of Arafah and the Eid. I called Sheikh Mohammad bin Uthaymeen and asked him about this particular situation and his position has relieved me; wal Hamdulillah.

Q: Should we abide by the local sighting in determining the Eid-al-Adha or should we follow the pilgrims' schedule, knowing that North America sighting of crescent may come a day before Saudi Arabia's sighting?

A: "You should abide by the city you're living in."

Q: This means that we will fast the 9th of Zul-Hijja of North America and pray Eid on 10th Zul-Hijja of North America!

A: "Yes, and this is what you should do without any (Haraj) or mental anxiety."

Any questions regarding this conversation? Contact oa12@cornell.edu

Wish you good luck in fulfilling the Ibadah, fasting on the 9th Zul-hijja based on your area moonsighting and celebrating Eid-al-Adha on 10th Zul-hijja. Those who do it this way, they would have followed the Sunnah of the Prophet. May Allah bless you all.

WalHamdulillahi RabbilAlameen                                                       [Ref: CFCO] http://www.ummah.net/moonsighting/fatawah/saudalim.htm

 

Illustration 5: Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) supports Ikhtilaaf AlMatale (Local Sighting) for all 12 months including DhulHijja (EidUlAdha).

 

In the name of Allaah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Sheikh Muhammad bin Saleh AlOthaimeen Fatwa on Eclipse & Dates

The question:- AsSalaamu Alaykum WaRahmatullahi WaBarakaatuhu. If the solar eclipse happens fully or partially after the sunset in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and this eclipse was witnessed in the region west of the kingdom, what is the ruling of the following day for this country in which the solar eclipse happened? Is this the completion of the 30th day of the month? If the following month started on that day through calculation or sighting of Hilaal, what is the ruling? Presenter: Abdul Aziz Sultan Almar’esh, General Manager responsible for watching Hilaal at the department of Astronomical research at King Abdul Aziz City for Science & Technology.

 

BismillahirRahmaanirRaheem Wa Alaykum AsSalaamu WaRahmatullahi WaBarakaatuhu.

If an eclipse takes place after sunset in any place on earth, it becomes impossible to have a new month the next day. This is due to the fact that scholars and experts are of the same opinion that the physical reason for the eclipse is the presence of the moon between the sun and the earth.

It is also a common fact to the scholars and the public that a new month would not start without the sighting of Hilaal, some time after sunset.

If that is the case, then a new month would not possible in the same night where eclipse has taken place after sunset. This is impossible based on the norms that the Almighty Allah set for the rotation of the sun and the moon.

The Almighty Allah stated in the Glorious Qur’an, (Sura Al-An’am 6:96): He makes the night for rest and tranquillity, and the sun and moon for the reckoning (of time): Such is the judgment and ordering of (Him), the Exalted in Power, the Omniscient.

And (in Sura Ya-Seen 36:38-40): And the sun runs his course for a period determined for him: that is the decree of (Him), the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing. And the Moon,- We have measured for her mansions (to traverse) till she returns like the old (and withered) lower part of a date-stalk. It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).

And (in Sura AshShams: 91:1-2): By the Sun and his (glorious) splendor; By the Moon as she follows him;

This verse indicates that the moon in the night of the Hilaal, follows the sun. Therefore, if the moon follows the sun, it is consequently coming later than the sun and not possible for it (e.g. the moon) to be in the middle between the sun and the earth. So how would it jump in order for it to be between (the sun) and the earth ?

Furthermore, a person who observes the movement of the sun and the moon, notices that the moon always lags the sun in its movement. Thus, you can see the moon in the first night of the month- for example the moon would be two or three meters away from the sun. The second night, the moon would move further away from the sun. The third night, the moon would still get further and further, and so on until the middle of the month. At that time, the moon would be on the opposite side of the horizon from the sun. Thus between them would be like between the East and West.

Therefore, if a person claims that the month began in the same night when an eclipse took place after sunset, is like a person who claims that the moon would be in a full-moon position in the same night when it is born. Or, like the person who claims that the sun would rise before dawn, or like a baby will show up before he gets out of the womb of his mother. All these things are impossible according to the rules & behavior that the Almighty Allah has ordained for this splendid universe, in its precise system.

As for the belief in the power of the Almighty Allah, there is no doubt that the Almighty Allah is Capable to do anything. And He is also capable to combine the two moons, and to separate them and to dim them or to make them shining in their light at any time. As He stated in the Glorious Qur’an.:

(Sura Al-Qiyama 75:7-10): At length, when the sight is dazed, And the moon is buried in darkness. And the sun and moon are joined together,-

That Day will Man say: "Where is the refuge?"

But the rules that the Almighty Allah laid down concerning the sun and the moon of this world are fixed, and do not change, except in case of a miracle for a Prophet or in the honor of a Wali (closely befriended man to the Almighty Allah).         This is written by Muhammad AsSaleh AlOthaimeen 30/1/1412H.

Illustration 6: Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH)’s Fatwa on Solar Eclipse and Hilaal dates.

 

Illustration 7: The visible Hilaal is usually  a day after the invisible astronomical new moon birth (when sun, moon and earth are in a straight line).

 

Illustration 8: MoonCalc from  http://www.ummah.net/ildl/mooncalc.html Areas outside the “Lunar Date Line” curve see hilaal next day

 

ISNA's (earlier) Eid al-Adha Evaluated by A Renowned Scholar

By: Maulana Mufti Muhammed. Taqi Usmani - Deputy Chairman, Islamic Fiqh Academy – OIC (Jeddah) ; Vice President & Professor (for over 25 years) of Religious and Arabic Sciences, Fiqh and Hadith at Darul Uloom (Karachi); Chairman, Shariah Council, Accounting & Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (Bahrain); Judge, Shariat Appellate Bench, Supreme Court of Pakistan; Shariah Advisor, HSBC Amanah Finance, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Al Baraka Group, Citi Islamic Investment Bank, Dow Jones Islamic Index, First Islamic Investment Bank, Saudi American Bank, and others.; Author of several Islamic books and Editor of several Islamic magazines, including Albalagh International.

Responding to ISNA Fiqh Council's claim, "Element of place is dominant in Eid al-Adha," Maulana Mufti M. Taqi Usmani, a renowned scholar of Darul Uloom in Karachi wrote the following: (May 2000)

I have gone through the article of ISNA and with the utmost respect for their sentiment for Muslim unity, I am forced to say that the view expressed in the article (Eid al-Adha on next day of Arafat) is in total disagreement with the teachings of Quran and Sunnah, and with the Shari'ah position recognized throughout the centuries. This is an unprecedented view which has never been adopted by any of the Muslim jurists during the past 1400 years, and it has a number of intrinsic defects and anomalies, some of which are summarized here.

1.             The article admits that the celebration of Eid al-Fitr should be tied to the sighting of the moon in each country and should not be linked with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, however, the article calls for celebration of Eid al-Adha according to the Saudi Calendar regardless of the local dates, which means Eid al-Adha will be celebrated in North America on 8th or 9th of Zul-Hajjah. It is thus clear that the theory proposed in ISNA's article is impractical.

2.             The article has laid much emphasis on the concept of unity of the Muslim Ummah, which no one can deny. At the same time, however, one must appreciate that unity does not mean that the entire Muslim Ummah throughout the world should perform their acts of worship at one and the same time, because it is physically not possible. It is evident that when people in Saudi Arabia are performing their Fajr prayers, those in North America may still have not completed their Isha prayers of the previous day. Similarly, when Muslims in Los Angeles offer their Fajr prayers, those in India and Pakistan are offering their Maghrib or Isha prayer of the same day.

If it is made obligatory on all the Muslims in the world to offer their acts of worship at one and the same time for the sake of unity, such unity can never materialize (because of the time differences). It is, therefore, obvious that offering one's acts of worship at different times do not affect the concept of Muslim Unity.

What does the Muslim unity mean? It means that all Muslims should treat each other with brotherly sympathy and affection and should not spread disorder and dissention among them. Nor should they invent new ideas foreign to the teachings of Quran and the Sunnah which may lead to division and conflict among Muslims.

It is also astonishing that the article views the celebration of Eid al-Adha on different days as being against the concept of Ummah while in the matter of celebration of Eid ai-Fitr, this concept is dispensed with. If the celebration of Eid al-Fitr on different days does not affect the concept of unity, how can it be said to harm unity in the case of Eid al-Adha?

3.             It is true that Eid al-Adha falls immediately after the day of Arafat in Saudi Arabia, but it is not necessary that the Muslims in every country should follow the same dates in their respective areas. Hajj, no doubt, is tied with a particular place but the celebration of Eid al-Adha is not confined to that place alone. It is celebrated everywhere in the world and cannot be tied to the Saudi calendar.

4.             The article admits that the celebration of Eid al-Adha in other countries was never linked with its celebration in Saudi Arabia throughout the past 14 centuries. This, the author's claim was because of a lack of communication facilities. With vastly improved communication today, they argued that everyone almost anywhere can find out the day of Hajj, and should celebrate Eid al-Adha based on Saudi calendar.

There is a clear admission in this argument that it is not obligatory according to Quran or the Sunnah to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to Saudi calendar. Had this been so, Muslims would have tried their best to find the exact date of Hajj in Saudi Arabia. It is not correct to say that it was not possible in those days for people living outside Saudi Arabia to know the exact date of Hajj, because this date is normally determined on the first night of Zul-Hijjah. There is a nine day period until which is more than sufficient to acquire this information. However, no jurists has ever stressed that such information be collected in order to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to Saudi dates.

Further, if the argument of the article is accepted and it is held that the real intention of Quran and Sunnah was to link the celebration of Eid al-Adha with the Saudi dates, as a mandatory provision for all Muslims in the world, it means that the Shari'ah has stressed a principle which was not acceptable for 1300 years. Is it not against the Quranic declaration that Allah does not make a thing mandatory unless it is practical for the human beings.

If the authors argue that the celebration of Eid al-Adha was not linked with the dates in Makkah in the past but it has become a mandatory requirement of the Shari'ah now, then the question arises, who has abrogated the previous principle and on what basis? There is no provision in Quran or the Sunnah which orders the Muslims to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to their local dates up to a particular time and to link it with the dates in Makkah thereafter. Whoever considers this and similar questions arising out of this unprecedented theory advanced in the article can appreciate its fallacy.

5.             Finally, I would like to inform you that the question of sighting the moon for each lunar month including Zul-Hijjah was thoroughly discussed at the annual sessions of the Islamic Fiqh Academy (held in Jordan, October 11-16, 1986) attended by more than a hundred outstanding scholars of Shari'ah. The academy adopted the resolution recommended that all Muslim countries should determine all the lunar months including Zul-Hijjah on the same basis for both Eid al-Fitr as well as Eid al-Adha.

This resolution represents the consensus of Muslim jurists throughout the world. The proposal contained in the ISNA article, however, goes totally against this consensus - (see note below).

Before parting with the subject, I would like to emphasize that such unprecedented proposals can never advance the cause of Muslim unity. Rather, they may create a new point of disunity and dissention among Muslims. Before venturing such opinions as definite "Fatwa", these should be discussed at some responsible international forum of contemporary Muslim jurists like the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah.May 2000.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Since the publication of the above ruling, ISNA held a conference in November 2000 and subsequently have changed their position - to follow local moon sighting news, instead (Alhamdulillah!).                       http://www.ummah.net/moonsighting/fatawah/isnaqa.htm.uk>

 

 

Justification for Islamic Shoora Council of North America (ISNA, ICNA, WDM, NC) Hilaal Sighting Process

               Synchronizing EidUlAdha worldwide with Hilaal sighting in Saudi Arabia is NOT Appropriate because:

           It is neither IkhtilaafAlMataale (multiple horizons/local sighting), nor WahdatAlMataale (single horizon - follow first report of Hilaal- no matter from which country. Thus it should not have a daleel / basis in Shariah.

           Even after the Hajj became obligatory in the 6th year of Hijrah, there is no evidence from the Sunnah that the Prophet Muhammad SAW made any attempts to synchronize the EidUlAdha (which was instituted in the 1st year of Hijra) in Medinah with the Hilaal sighting in Makkah, even though 10 nights and 9 days were enough to send a messenger between Makkah and Medinah. The Salaah of Eid-ul-Adha is not wajib on the hujjaj. 

           According to Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) Fatwah, and other scholars, DhulHijja determination is no different from other 11 months and should be by local sighting (IkhtilaafAlMatale).

           Using sighting in Saudi Arabia for here can force us to ignore our earlier local Hilaal sighting. (The world is round - for certain years, e.g. North America should see Hilaal one date before Middle-East).

           It makes us prone to the frequent errors in the Saudi Dates Decisions.

 

               IkhtilaafAlMataale (& using Astronomy to negate false sighting; Not replace naked eye sighting) is appropriate because:

           WahdatAlMatale is impractical for countries East of the first sighting point

           IkhtilaafAlMatale is supported by Ulema like Sh. AlOthaimeen (RH) & Ibn Taimiya & practiced in Saudi Arabia.

           Most of the Fuqaha also support and practice IkhtilaafAlMatale

           IkhtilaafAlMataale is supported by Astronomy. The "Lunar Date Line (Curve)" (which shifts every month) divides the world into two parts which see the Hilaal on different dates. Thus IkhtilaafAlMatale is as natural as praying Fajr by Local time. (If the world was Flat, IttihaadAlMatale would be valid i.e. the whole world sees the Hilaal on the same day).

           It leads to better accuracy and is predictable about 80% of time (for naked eye sighting criteria).

           For about 20% of the time Astronomy can NOT predict with certainty and thus sighting IS necessary.

 

               Thus ideally we should Insha'Allaah have EidulFitr & EidUlAdha celebration around much of the world in about 24 hours (if there are no errors), but Two “Solar Dates” because of the Artificial International Solar Date Line.

               At any ONE given moment of time, one part of the world has one solar day/date while another part of the earth has the NEXT solar day /date! E.g. now, if it is Saturday evening in USA, it is Sunday morning in China / Japan!

               Those who somehow believe that the early Saudi Announcements for EidUlAdha are correct can still delay and pray Eid on “their second day” Insha’Allaah, since the Eid prayers are permissible on any of the 3 days. This way, Insha’Allaah at least their Eid Prayers would be together with the people who follow the correct date which is typically a day later.

               For more information, please see www.moonsighting.com and www.jas.org.jo/hilaal  and download the MoonCalc program from www.starlight.demon.co.uk/mooncalc/ Insha’Allaah.

 

May Allaah (SWT) forgive any mistakes and help, guide & unite us all regardless of race or Islamic Movement – ISNA, ICNA, American Muslim Society, Al-Ummah Community, Jamaat Tabligh, MSA, Ikhwaan etc. Aameen.