Dilemma About Determining Islamic Dates

QA sister wrote the following: Assalamualaikum, I am quoting Ustaaz Ayub A. Hamid explanation in Soorah An-Nisaa tafseer:

"This is an Ummah that cannot even agree on celebrating Eid on one day, what else can be expected from them."

Yes, we are in dilemma again as to start the Ramadhan 1426. With reference to URL: http://www.moonsighting.com/faq_ms.html the birth of the moon is on 3/10/05 but the starting of Ramadhan in most countries will be on 5/10/05. In the same website the explanation is given with daleel and Hadith but I am still confuse.

Could ustaaz Ayub enlightened me on this matter as I noticed that Soorah 2:189 has always been quoted by others in relation to the sighting of the moon while Ustaaz Ayub tafseer only refer to Hajj which I think is appropriate.

Is there any other Soorah which specifically mentioning sighting of the moon before we could start fasting.

Thank you very much.

Sister Maria

ABismillaahi walĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu ‘alaa rasoolillaahi

Wa Alaykumussalaam wa rahmatullaah,

Sister Maria, Sister Karima has referred your query to me for response. My response is as follows:

The Qur-aan does not contain any command that Muslim must see the new moon to start a month. And there was no need to do so, because it was an established practice of the society that people determined the beginning of a month by the appearance of the new moon. So much so that “new moons” was even used to indicate months, as mentioned by me in that teachings instalment in reference to which you have asked the question. People were already doing a right thing so there was no need of a new command or even comment on that matter. That is why none was made.

Such established practices that are acceptable in Islam are called Ma‘roof and Muslims are expected to follow the Ma‘roof of the society.

When Islamic obligation such as fasting and Ĥajj required correct determination of dates, a question arose that if on the end of a month, it becomes cloudy and people cannot see the new moon, what should they do? The Prophet set it straight by telling them that they should fast when the new moon is seen, and stop fasting when the new moon is seen again according to the ma‘roof of the society and only means available at that time for this purpose. However, when it becomes cloudy on 29th day of a month, they should make it a thirty-day month, because there was no other way of knowing if the new moon has appeared or not. Thus a question of moon’s invisibility due to clouds was settled.

At that time, that was the only way for common people to determine the start of a lunar month. Now with the advancement of technology, do we need to rely on visibility or can we go by the birth of new moon even if its not visible, or can we determine the visibility according to calculations, are questions that need to be answered. Our Ummah has not arrived at a consensus opinion on these questions. Hence in the meantime, the best course of action for all Muslims is to follow the Masjid closest to your place of residence. Whatever the leadership of that masjid announces, please follow it without arguing about it or fighting over it. If you have strong reasons against the position of your local management, please meet with them and present your evidence to them in a nice manner, but do not separate yourself from the community on this issue.

Personally, I believe that the technology is so advanced and precise that we should use it to compile multi-year calendars in advance indicating when various months would fall. It is possible and practical. If we can use calculations for determining our prayer times, we should use calculation for determining our dates and months as well. The only question is: should a month start from the birth of new moon or from its visibility? Both can be calculated to a dependable precise level. But Ummah as a whole needs to come to a consensus on whether it will be birth or visibility. My past 15 years’ observation have indicated, that stealthily, Middle Eastern governments are already using birth of new moon to determine their calendars, but they pretend as if they are following visibility by witnesses who actually see the moon. That is why sometimes in the past, the appearance of moon was announced even when new moon was set before their sunset on the day of its birth, and hence, was impossible to be seen.

Now coming to the point of unity of Ummah, it is neither necessary, nor practical to have Eid on the same day all over the world. That is not the issue of the unity of Ummah. But it definitely becomes ridiculous when in the same little city, we have three different starts of Ramadhaan and three different days of end of Ramadhaan. Or when Muslims of a locality start fighting with one another on this issue.

My comment about this issue in Soorah Nisaa commentary was meant to indicate a complete lack of willingness, trust or goodwill among Muslims to obey a common leadership even on as insignificant, simple issue as when does a month start.

In case you are wondering why well-meaning Muslims fight over these matters; this is because of the wrong concept of Deen. Islam is a religion of goals and objectives. People have made it a Deen of rules, regulations, forms and appearances. Thinking that the rules are the essence of Deen, instead of just being the tools to help in the achievement of Islamic objectives, most of them are sensitive about them and feel that Deen is endangered at any variation in rules. The problem will continue until we bring the Muslims back to the goals and objectives that are the real essence of the Deen.

I hope this clarifies the point. In the meantime, please follow your local Masjid and let it not distract you from the goodness and Taqwa that you should be achieving in Ramadhaan. (For full discussion on this topic, please refer to “Moon Sighting and Islamic Dates” under Islamic Practices tab of Reflections section.)

Wishing you the best of Ramadhaan, Ayub

Sept 27, 2005


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