A unified lunar calendar is urgently needed for the following important reasons:
• Our religious duty demands from us that we work towards unifying the Muslims worldwide by celebrating our Islamic holidays at the same times.
• Present day circumstances dictate that we know before-hand the exact dates of our holidays for timely planning of our schedules.
• The celebration of the religious events by Muslims on different days prevents the U.S. authorities from making these occasions official holidays.
A case in point is the last Eid. It was celebrated by some on Wednesday January 11 2006 rather than Tuesday January 10 2006. The discrepancy arose because the Muslim scholars of Northern California decided to make the first day of the Eid on Wednesday based on the citing of the crescent moon in order to be in compliance with the Hadith which uses the sighting as a means for determining the start and end of Ramadan,” fast on seeing it- meaning the crescent- and break the fast on seeing it.”
To depend on eye sighting alone to determine the religious events is unreasonable and does not fully conform with either the Quran or the Hadith or to the true traditions of Islam. A witness who claims to have seen the crescent moon is relating at best a presumptuous event. However, the scientific instrumentations are relating a certainty. Scientific calculations are conclusive, whereas a witness for an event is presumptuous and presumption may not agree with certainty.
The solution to the perennial problem of starting the fast of Ramadan or celebrating our Eids on two and sometimes three different days can be found in the Holy Quran and the Hadith. Our creator had informed us in the Holy Quran, 55:5, that the sun and the moon run their appointed calculable courses. Also, verses 3 & 4 of the same chapter tell us that God has created man and imparted unto him intellect and articulate speech and the ability to reason. Further, when our prophet ( pbuh) was asked what was his Sunnah? He replied," knowledge is my capital, intellect is the origin of my religion… science is my weapon..." A direct consequence of the above is that knowledge, intellect and science are mandated upon us.
The exact scientific calculations for the new moon gave January 1 2006 to correspond to the first day of the lunar month of Thul hijjah. Furthermore, our prophet says in an authentic tradition that “The pilgrimage is Arafat.” This year, the pilgrims stood at Arafat on Monday which unequivocally makes the first day of the Eid Al Adha Tuesday the tenth of Thulhijjah. This is in complete compliance with the Quran and the Hadith.
Based on the above and the fact that millions of pilgrims stood at the House of Allah (swt) declaring it to be the true Eid, It is definitely improper for a group of Muslims to take an intransigent position which contravenes our most hallowed traditions and lead others to assign a different day for Eid Al Adha. This must not be repeated. It is unethical and plain wrong. Let us pray that we shall all celebrate, from now on, on the same day. This is eminently doable and, with all humility, here is how.
1- It is obvious that our creator’s choice to use the lunar months for His yearly calendar and for the assignment of the religious events, 2:55," The number of months to God are twelve months," is very significant. In this choice, He has made the knowledge of these events accessible to all. Finally, as we shall see, God has graciously shown us in the Quran and through the Hadith of the prophet, that there is nothing that should prevent us from using knowledge and whatever means available, to arrive at a correct determination of the timing of the lunar months.
2- When Allah (swt) directed the Muslims to use eyesight to determine the appearance of the new moon, it was the best means available to the Muslims at the time of the revelation. Since the Muslims, to day, are scattered all around the world, using the criterion of sighting the new moon by direct observation leads to various contradictory outcomes depending on the location of the observer as well as the geographical, topographical and meteorological conditions. This has resulted, in the event being celebrated on different days in the same country! Furthermore, the moon may be geometrically observable in one part of the world but not in a different part of the world on the same day.
3- When the Quran and Sunnah recommended using sighting of the new moon, it did not limit the location of the sighting anywhere around the globe. This is a direct consequence of the universality of Islam. Henceforth, when a Muslim sees with his or her naked eye or with the help of modern scientific instruments the crescent moon in any point on our planet earth, then all the Muslims anywhere in the World must believe in his or her witnessing of the event. History shows us that the Muslims used to follow this principle.
4- One of the Hadiths of the prophet said- from Albukhari according to the son of Omar- that we are illiterate community who do not write nor calculate, and say that the month is so and so…meaning sometimes it is twenty nine days and sometime it is thirty days. The Hafith ibn Hajjar who explained Albukhari, said that what the prophet meant by calculation was the calculation of the planets and their movements. At the time of the prophet it was obvious that the Muslims did not know much about the calculation of the movements of the planets. That was the reason the prophet had linked the decree
Of when to fast and when to break the fast to observation- in order to lift the embarrassment of ignorance from the Muslims who were not able to calculate the run of the moon.
5- Fiqh dictates that cause accompanies the result when it exists and when it does not. Therefore, when the Muslim community emerged from its mathematical backwardness and became aware of the existence of calculable sun and moon orbital movements, then it became incumbent upon the Muslims to use these new methodologies to arrive at the results more accurately and with more convictions, especially when the new methodologies do not conflict with the older modalities.
6- Allah ( swt) has hinted to us in the Quran that these planetary bodies move in a systematic way and their movement is conducive to calculations. We now know that the occurrence of a new moon is universal and occurs on the same day throughout our earthly planet, see below! The criterion to use the new moon as a means to determine a new lunar month would then eliminate the uncertainty and confusion in pinning down the occurrence of a new lunar calendar month in relation to the Gregorian calendar. The new moon is an occurrence at a certain instance in time and therefore is independent of the means of its perception. The new lunar month starts the next day of the visible appearance of the new moon before sunset, that event marks the start of the first day of the new lunar month.
All of the above dictates that once we all agree to use calculation to determine the advent of a new moon, then, we would have once and for all solved the problem of the assignment of a new lunar month and at the same time we are, also, adhering to the Quran and the Sunnah
To give a real example let us take the case in point which is the advent of the Islamic lunar month of Thul Hijjah 1427. This is based on the sun and moon data from the US naval Observatory for the location of Danville, California.
• The new moon was born on December 30, 2005 at 7; 12 p.m. pacific standard time.
• The moon rose on December 31, 2005 at 8:22 a.m. pacific standard time.
• The moon set on December 31, 2005 at 5:40 p.m. pacific standard time.
• The sun set the same day at 4:59 p.m. pacific standard time.
It is therefore clear from the above numbers that, on December 31, the moon was visible to the eye for a period of about 40 minutes. Hence both the application of the Quranic and Hadith criteria as well as the exact scientific calculations all agree with each other completely as they should. The result is that the first day of the lunar month of Thul Hijjah is January 1 2006. This result forces us to use calculations as the preferred means for forming the unified Islamic lunar calendar. For those Muslims who live far away and do not have access to the Islamic calendar can still use the method of eye sighting to follow the Islamic events. We have shown that there is no conflict and the old as well as the new method are compatible, except that the new method is more accurate and hence more reliable.
To demonstrate the uniqueness of the occurrence of the new moon, let us list the time and date of the occurrence for Thul Hijjah, 1426 Hijrah at a few locations around the Globe:
• In Mekkah, The New moon was born on 31 December at 11:12 local time which is 03:12 Universal time on the same date.
• In London, The New moon was born on 31 December at 03:12 Universal time.
• In San Francisco, The New moon was born on 30 December at 7:12 p.m.(19:12) pacific standard time which is 31 December at 03:12 Universal time
• In Honolulu, The New moon was born on 30 December at 4:12 p.m.(16:12) Aleutian standard time which is 31 December at 03;12 Universal time.
Furthermore, the period of visibility of the new moon in Mekkah was 16 minutes, in London was zero, in San Francisco was 40 minutes and in Honolulu was 57 minutes or almost an hour. So the evidence in favor of using the criterion of the birth of a new moon is overwhelming. What is needed is a dedicated effort to bring it to fruition with God's help and blessings.
It is the sincere wish of the writer of this document that the idea of a unified lunar calendar be adopted by the community as it is the best means available that satisfies both the traditional as well as the scientific method for arriving at a compatible and correct calendar. It is hoped that once and for all Muslims, all over the globe, will celebrate and observe their religious events all at the same time wherever they may be.
January 24, 2007 5:39 PM