(Adapted from a newspaper report, “When is Eidul-Fitr 2021?” by Eng. Qamar Uddin; dated 20 April 2021)

Introduction

There is a difference of opinions between Muslim scholars if the lunar month should start with the BIRTH of the moon or the VISIBILITY of the moon. Those who follow the BIRTH of the moon (eg. Saudi Arabia) generally will start the lunar month one day (24 hrs) ahead of those who follow the VISIBILITY of the moon (eg. Morocco). This will be the case in almost every month of the year (or at least in 11 out of 12 months).

There is yet another established difference of opinions between the Muslim scholars about Local Sighting (Ikhtilaf Matale) or Global Sighting (Ittihad Matale) criteria. In the earlier centuries (i.e during the pre-telecommunications era) when Muslims were confined to a small area of the Globe, what was considered as Global Sighting then, can now be re-defined as Regional Sighting (eg. the UK to Morocco region), which has been practised by many of the UK Muslims due to the adverse UK weather conditions in the past.

A few of our ICOUK members have asked about the possibility of switching to UK-only Local Moon Sighting criteria, for a United Eid by all groups, so you may wish to consider the following data analysis/proposal.

Possibility of Local Moon Sighting Criteria

The reason we started 2-days moon sightings since 2018, with the “Spot the Moon Photo Competition” was to encourage the UK Muslims to look for the moon when it was scientifically possible to be sighted in the UK (and not just look for it on the 29th date of a foreign country!). Furthermore, one of the main reasons for doing so was to evaluate this very possibility of adopting a Local Moon sighting (or UK-only) criteria. [Ref: Why look for the moon after 29th date?]

The observation data collected over the past 4-years (2018 – 2021), shows that indeed, it is both scientifically and practically possible to sight the first day’s crescent moon on the UK horizon (provided enough people are looking for it) and it also meets the Shariah requirement of 29/30 days long months throughout the whole year. [Ref: View Observation Results]

However, we have consistently faced the difficulties of not having enough people looking for the moon in the winter months (Nov – Feb) or enough area coverage when most people are still at work (during sunset times around 4 PM). This lack of support during the winter months will make the change to a UK-only criteria very unreliable (until we have wider community support) and has the potential for further divisions/disunity.

Proposal for Local Moon Sighting Criteria

The adverse UK weather conditions and the lack of sighters have forced the UK Muslims to borrow moon sighting news from nearby countries with similarities of moonrise times. Indeed, the vast majority of the UK Muslims did agree to follow Morocco for the past 50-years (since 1970’s), based on the well-established Regional Moon criteria for centuries! [Ref: Why Two Eids? By Allamah Khalid Mahmood (RA)]

However, there was an unfortunate event in the 1980’s that led some of the UK Muslims to follow Saudi Arabia which resulted in divided Ramadan/Eid ever since! [Ref: History of UK Moon Sighting]. Nevertheless, if both these groups were willing to leave foreign countries altogether and unite on UK moon sighting (ie the British Isles), then that will be a very commendable achievement, InshaAllah.

Up to now, we have undertaken the role of the public to do Sighting and Reporting (see the ICOUK website). However, when we adopt an independent Local Moon Sighting System, we will need to undertake Testimonies and make Declarations too, very rapidly and accurately (within 1-hour of UK sunset times).

To facilitate a rapid and accurate testimony procedure (acceptable in Hanafi Fiqh), we will need two types of people with specialist skills working as a team in each of the UK Regions. These people must include a few Ulama to take Testimonies (Shahada) and a few IT Admins to facilitate face-to-face and/or remote audio/video links that work flawlessly! [Ref: Hilal Testimony Procedure]

Finally, we will need to provide the necessary training to the above types of people for a few months, followed by a few months of practice with real witnesses before going live from a future date (with a common starting point, e.g. March 2022/Shaban 1443) that is well-publicised for a further few months by all-party Ulama and Community Leaders.

Proposed Time-Scale
  • May – July 2021 (Shawwal – Dhul Hijjah 1442): Formation of UK Regional Testimony Groups (x 12)
  • Aug – Oct 2021 (Muharram – Rabi-I 1443): Training of UK Regional Testimony Groups
  • Nov – Feb 2022 (Rabi-II – Rajab 1443): Practice/ Publicity of UK Regional Testimony Procedure
  • Mar 2022 (Shaban 1443): Switch to Local Moon Sighting on a common date for UK, Morocco, Saudi UQC

If you wish to join the UK Regional Ulama and/or IT Admin groups, please email us via our ICOUK.net website Contact Us form to express your interest. JazakAllahu Khaira!