Q: Muhtaram Mufti Saheb; Assalaamu Alaykum
One of the dynamics of Islam is its consistency as regards time. The moon plays an important role in that regard as the Muslim’s calendar is based on the moon’s movements and sighting. Many Islamic functions depend on it, especially, commencing and terminating of Ramadhaan, the Hajj, Zakaat, etc. Kindly provide us with guidelines based on the below questions:
1. Should Muslims begin Ramadan or Celebrate Eidain on dates fixed by calculation totally disregarding the Hilal (crescent) of the Qur’an, the Sunnah and Fiqh?
2. If Hilal is seen by one Muslin male through binocular or telescope is enough to start the Islamic month? Keep in mind, the same Hilal was NOT visible through naked eye.
3. Some Muslim calendars have fixed the dates of Ramadan and Eidain on the New Moon (conjunction) dates. The Hilal cannot be seen in the evening of those dates or even next day (in many cases). Should Muslims follow these dates?
4. Kindly comment on the reports of Hilaal sighting from neighbouring countries and overseas particularly Saudi Arabia?
For centuries, the moon has played a pivotal role in many aspects in the life of man in general. Traditionally, full moons were associated with temporal insomnia, insanity (hence the terms lunatic and lunacy) and various magical phenomena such as lycanthropy. The new moon signifies the beginning of the month in lunisolar calendars such as Hebrew, Budhist and Chinese calendars. Chinese Budhists observe a vegetarian diet on the new and full moon of every month. Neopagans hold a monthly ritual called an Esbat at each full moon, etc.
Islam, being a religion that appreciates the role that traditions and customs play, has retained the significance of the moon and its phases, however, contextualising it. In the Holy Qur’aan, Allah Ta’ala declares and enshrines the importance of the moon and its phases, ‘They ask you (O Muhammad [sallallaahu alayhi wasallam] ) about the crescents. Say, these are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for pilgrimage.’ (Surah Baqarah Aayat189)
Islam has, however, retained an observational definition of the new moon, marking the new month when the crescent moon is actually seen, and making it impossible to be certain in advance of when a specific month will begin.
Taking into cognisance the bearing that the moon, its phases and the lunar calendar have on the spiritual life of a Muslim (obligatory fasting, Hajj, Zakaat, etc. which are all dependant on the lunar calendar), it is imperative that extreme caution, prudence and proficiency be exercised in determining the new month and its respective number of days.
Deliberate attempts to alter the months and negligence in this respect is the cause of severe censure and rebuke from Allah. Allah states: ‘The postponing (of a sacred month) is indeed an addition to disbelief, thereby, the disbelievers are led astray for they make it lawful one year and forbid it another year in order to adjust the number of months forbidden by Allah, and make such forbidden one’s lawful. The evil of their deeds is made far seeming to them. And Allah guides not the people who disbelieve.’ (Surah al-Tawbah Aayat37)
Henceforth, we embark on an endeavour to outline the phases of the moon, procedure of taking testimony, the role of astronomical data, the Saudi Sighting, Ikhtilaaf-e-Mataali’e and the Issue of Neighbouring Countries.