UK Moon Sighting Conference takes place in Batley (West Yorkshire)
(Adapted from an article published in IMWS Paigaam Magazine; Issue 349, April 2022/Shaban 1443, p.6)
As we approach the month of Ramadan, the annual discussion returns on social media and in mosques: ‘When is Ramadan? Why do UK Muslims celebrate Ramadan on conflicting dates? And how can we unite on an Islamic Calendar in the UK?’
On Sunday 20 March 2022, the ground-breaking ‘UK Moon Sighting Conference’ was held in the PKWA Centre, Batley, to answer these questions. Organiser Maulana Abdullah Ahmed assembled an impressive panel of astronomers, scholars and community figures, including Shaykh Suliman Gani, experienced moon sighters, and astrophysicists from Cambridge University.
The five-hour conference discussed UK Moon Sighting from historical, scientific and religious perspectives. Guest speakers proved that, contrary to popular belief, Moon Sighting is possible in the UK, and proposed an exciting plan to unite UK Muslims for Ramadan and Eid dates.
Some of the reasons why we have had divided calendar dates were outlined. The main cause is that mosques follow the calendar declarations of a number of different foreign countries, such as Morocco, South Africa or Saudi Arabia, based on an incorrect notion that the crescent moon (Hilal) is not visible in the UK.
Experienced crescent observers debunked this myth, presenting five years of UK Moon Sighting data, including picture and testimony evidence. They explained their rigorous procedures for observations, scientific verification and sharia testimony. The audience was left in no doubt: the moon is visible in the UK month in and month out, and a sunnah local calendar is possible.
Most impressively, conference speakers presented a set of newly-issued fatawa from major Darul Ulooms in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The fatawa all stated that: Local Sighting is the original sunnah position. UK Muslims should now work towards implementing it. One of the fatawa (Jamaitul Uloom, Binnori Town) went as far as to say that “If Moon Sighting is possible in your country (Britain), then relying on the sighting of another country will not be permissible”. A complete booklet of the fatawa can be found at the ICOUK website (www.moonsighting.org.uk).
Guest speaker Engineer Qamar Uddin said “It was a pleasant surprise to note that those institutions who have previously advised the UK Muslims to follow foreign countries have now retracted those old-fatawa in the light of new evidence, and are now advising the UK Muslims to adopt Local Moon Sighting. All we need to do now (for a united Ramadan and Eid) is for the public to support our Imams and Scholars to agree on a suitable date to change to Local Moon Sighting, InshaAllah".
Organiser Maulana Abdullah Ahmed said, “For over 60 years we have been divided. It is about time we Muslims of the UK hold onto the rope of Allah together, not be divided (Quran 3:103) and unite under the UK Local Sighting”.
In an audience vote, 90% were in favour of local Moon Sighting. Some attendees expressed disappointment that this problem had persisted for so long. Certainly, with the great efforts of the UK Moon Sighting Conference, perhaps a solution isn’t too difficult to see on the horizon?