(A perspective from North
of Allah (pbuh) said, "When the month of Ramadan starts, the
gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and
the devils are chained." narrated Abu Huraira (ra) (Al-Bukhari Vol.
3: No. 123).
of the month of Shaban offers a tired old subject to participants in
Muslim events, even informal dinners and celebrations, and Internet
chat groups: the day to start and end the month of Ramadan.
The issue of
moon sighting has become moon fighting no less serious than the issue
of chads and dimples on Florida ballots. In this case, both sides of
the divide are divided over the question that what is really the
‘new’ moon. Interestingly, both sides of the divide base their
arguments on the Hadith:
"Do not fast unless you sight the crescent, and do not break
your fast till you sight the (following) crescent.” (Al-Bukhari,
Shura Council of North America (ISCNA), in consultation with the Fiqh
Council of North America, has adopted the position that a confirmed
crescent sighting report in North America will be accepted as long as
such a report does not contradict indisputable astronomical
information. ISCNA comprises the four major Islamic organizations in
the U.S.: the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA),
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA),
the Ministry of W. Deen Mohammad, and Community of Imam Jamil al-Amin).
The Fiqh Council viewpoint is also supported by the research done by
eminent scholars such as Dr.
Yousuf Al-Qaradawi and Shaikh Mustafa Al-Zarqa.
Shaukat, national coordinator, and moon sighting consultant to ISNA,
expressing his disappointment over the issue, says: “In the present
era of scientific and technological advancement, three decades
after man landed on the moon, some Muslims are still avoiding the use
of scientific knowledge for making an Islamic calendar and get
over with the feuds and having to wait till midnight for a
confirmation of moon sighting.”
stresses, “Today, Muslims have expertise and access to technology to
understand the calculations of when and where the sighting occurs.
Recorded data shows how the science of moon sighting is compared with
the actual observations. The results show that calculations of
sighting and observations have matched every month since 1993.
Calculations of moon sighting and actual sighting are not two
different things for an Islamic Calendar when it was found that they
that the results show that with today’s technology, calculations are
far more accurate than the claims of sighting, which we all have
experienced, that often people mistake other objects for the crescent
points out that calculations for sighting are surety (haqqul-yaqeen),
while claims of sighting may be suspicion (zann) or mistake. He
says that Allah (swt) has
given us the knowledge about the motions of earth and moon, and an
Islamic calendar based on calculations that has proven to match with
actual sighting would enable us to plan ahead of time, while actual
sighting will prove to be confirmatory. This, he says, only meets
the intent of Qur‘an and Sunnah and its benefits greatly
surpass the consequences faced by false claims of sighting and
waiting for a decision until midnight.
misunderstood question is whether the sighting is a means or a
requirement of ascertaining the beginning of an Islamic month. Shaukat
says that the answer to this question is better understood by people
in the Caribbean (Caribbean Islands, Trinidad, and Guyana) where they
have a 6-month long rainy season and sighting is not possible because
of clouds. If they count 30 days for 3 or 4 months in a row, the moon
is then sighted on the 28th or 27th day. This,
he says, is a clear indication that the Sharia did not intend
the sighting as an only requirement but simply as a facility, that was
the sole method available to the Muslims of that era.
of scientific calculations also cite Bukhari, Vol. 3:130, and maintain
that the people at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) were illiterate and
thus physical sighting was the method prescribed by Allah (swt) and
thus cannot be changed. Among this group, there are differences on the
number of witnesses needed for confirming such a sighting.
Council’s view that physical sighting must go hand in hand with
scientific calculations finds numerous grounds in the Hadith. ISNA,
which serves as coordinator of the ISCNA moon sighting program, has
set up a system where people who claim sighting the moon call the
headquarters. The scientists then examine this information and discuss
the various nuances with the reporter to establish the veracity of his
The need for
such dual sighting is only strengthened by the fact that in
contemporary times when the skies are also inhabited by numerous man
made objects that may befool the viewer.