Related: Importance of Moon Sighting | First day's moon on UK horizon [download pdf]

It is well-known amongst Muslim scholars and moon sighting experts that a lunar month is either 29 or 30 days long. It is never less than 29 days or more than 30 days long.

According to Islamic tradition, Muslims always look for the crescent moon (Hilal) on the 29th lunar date and if it’s not sighted then 30 days of the month is to be completed. This method works well with equatorial countries/locations where clear skies are the norm and cloudiness is an exception.

Perhaps, what is not so well-known is the fact that a lunar year has about 6 months that are 29 days long and all others are 30 days long, making a lunar year of 354 days long approximately, which is 11 days shorter than a solar year (hence Ramadan rotating through all the seasons).

The normal moon sighting practice of equatorial countries does not work in the case of the UK due to the prolonged adverse weather conditions throughout the year. These persistent adverse UK weather conditions are caused by the high and low pressures of the surrounding oceans.

Therefore, if the UK Muslims keep on completing 30-days month (as per tradition) then after about 6 months, the month length will become less than 29th days, which is not allowed in an Islamic (Hijri) Calendar system.

Similarly, if the month is prematurely ended on 29th day due to human errors (or by accepting erroneous foreign news), the future months are likely to be more than 30 days long, which is also not allowed. It is either 29 or 30 days and not less than 29 or more than 30 days.

Furthermore, the Fiqh scholars have stated that the Hilal must be seen on the 30th day (in clear sky) otherwise the start must have been wrong and if that's Ramadan then a Fast must be kept on the 31st day. In the case of the Hilal being sighted on the 28th date, a Qadha fast must be kept after Eid (see references).

Therefore, it is necessary for the UK Muslims to look for the Hilal on both 29th and the next day (30th or 1st) to minimise errors, especially in adverse weather conditions of the UK.

Besides, the above data may inform if it’s possible to rely totally on UK moon sighting reports or not in the future, without borrowing conflicting foreign news, as is the present practice.

Note that the Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent (where most UK Muslims are from), usually start Ramadan/Shawwal almost every year after sighting a 30+ hours old moon in clear sky conditions, hence it is easily seen by the naked eye.

Any sighting of a moon less than 24 hours old, especially in cloudy weather will require the help of optical aids (e.g. binoculars), which has been permitted by many UK scholars.

References (from Maulana Yakub Qasmi, 2000):

  1. Al Taqreer Ul Rafee, by Allamah Ibn Abedin Ash-Shami, Vol.2, p.146
  2. Al-Fiqh Ala Al-Madhahib Al-Arba Ah by Abd al-Rahman al-Jaziri, Vol.1 p.552
  3. Maraqi Al Falah by Allamah Tahtawi, p.359
  4. Nur al-Idah by Imam Shurunbulali, p.283

 Checked by Mufti Zakariya Akudi

This article was written for Ramadan 1437 Hilal and has been updated for Ramadan 1439 Hilal

1439g 09aThe crescent visibility maps on ICOUK website shows that on Tuesday 15th May 2018, the Ramadan 1439 AH crescent moon (Hilal) will not be possible to be sighted in the UK/Morocco region by the naked eye (RGO/Yallop Code F).

However, many people will be looking for the Ramadan Hilal on that date (29th Shaban/ Ummul Qura) to confirm if the moon can or cannot be sighted by the human eye.

This confirmation will ensure that the decision to complete 30-days of the month (for Ummul Qura followers) is based on negative sighting reports and not entirely based on visibility maps or scientific data.

Therefore, it is important to report negative sightings, just as it is important to report positive sightings, which will help remove any erroneous sighting reports, i.e. if hundreds of people could not sight the moon (in clear sky), how can a few people claims to see it (implying those hundreds of people are all blind!)?

The Quran states that the moon goes through stages (36:39) and the Tafsir [1] explains there are visible phases of the moon when it can be seen and there are invisible phases of the moon (Mahaq) when it cannot be seen (for 1 or 2 days in each month).

The predicted crescent visibility maps and related scientific data, simply confirm the visible and invisible phases of the moon, which is consistent with the teaching of the Quran and Ahadith.

Compare the use of Google maps calculation to measure the distance when the prayer of a traveller becomes shortened (Qasar/قصير). Would you consider it is against the Sunnah to use Google maps?

What about using a car to travel to the Masjid for prayers or an aeroplane to go to Hajj/Umrah? Would you consider them to be against the Sunnah too (instead of riding a Camel)?

Therefore, it is not against Sunnah to use the Crescent Visibility Maps. In fact, it is commendable to do so, because the intention of the Shariah is not to start a month in doubt [2], but with certainty which the visibility maps help to achieve.

Furthermore, the visibility maps help the Hilal Committees to determine the veracity/accuracy of the witness statements. So, it does not at all go against the Sunnah (as it is not used to determine when Ramadan should start or end) but rather it is one of the many factors the Hilal Committees can take into consideration when accepting any witness statements.

Related: Hidden Phase of the Moon | Visibility Maps


References:

[1] { وَٱلْقَمَرَ قَدَّرْنَاهُ مَنَازِلَ حَتَّىٰ عَادَ كَٱلعُرجُونِ ٱلْقَدِيمِ }
"And [as for] the moon - (read wa’l-qamaru, in the nominative, or wa’l-qamara, in the accusative; and it may be in the accusative because of a following verb that governs it) We have determined it, with respect to its course, [to run] in phases - twenty eight phases in twenty eight nights of every month; it becomes concealed for two nights when the month has thirty days, and for one night when it has twenty nine days - until it returns, during its final phase seeming to the [human] eye, like an aged palm-bough, in other words, like the stalk with a date cluster when it ages, becoming delicate, arched and yellowish." [Ref: Tafsir Jalalyan, Quran (38:39)]

[2] Ammar bin Yasir (ra) narrated, "Whoever fasts the day of doubt he has then disobeyed Abu al-Qasim (the Prophet)." Related by the five Imams, and Ibn Khuzaimah and Ibn Hibban graded it as Sahih. [Ref: http://sunnah.com/urn/2059010]

Checked by: Mufti Amjad Mohammed

[This article from ISNA website from May 2000 is included for academic interests only - Editor]

ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA
Fiqh Council of North America's Position for Eid-al-Adha
Element of Place Is Dominant in Eid al Adha

In studying the question of determining the dates of the Eid celebrations, the Fiqh Council of North America considers a number of factors from the Shari‘ah perspective. Chief among these is the concept of unity. Allah Most High said: This is your Ummah. It is one Ummah; and I am your Lord. So worship Me! (21:92). From this verse the concepts of unity and group worship are clearly shown to be at the core of the din of Islam. Thus, regardless of how circumstances may change with the passing of time, Muslims must do their utmost to maintain their unity. On the continent of North America, where Muslim unity is closely linked to Muslim identity, this factor is all the more important.

We ask Allah to bestow His mercy on all who stay at home. And we ask all Muslims to heed Allah in respect of the hajj performed by the hajjis, and to show consideration for the unity of this Ummah, and not to spread dissension. Likewise, we ask Allah to show us the truth as the truth and falsehood as falsehood, and to protect us from all evil.

Allah Most High has replaced the many festivals practiced by the Arabs during the period of ignorance with two Eids for Muslims. Each Eid is linked with an essential act of worship. About the end of fasting, Allah said: Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. He wants you to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance you shall be grateful (2:185). About the end of hajj He said: Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and again circumambulate the Ancient House (22:29)

The first of these two verses is considered the legal basis for the Eid al Fitr. The Eid al Adha, on the other hand, was established as a celebration for completing the rites of hajj and the move from Arafat. Allah said: So when you have accomplished your holy rites, celebrate the praises of Allah (2:200).

The classical jurists determined that the two Eids, Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha, are determined by factors relating to time and place, with the difference that the element of time and place, with the difference that the element of time in the Eid al Fitr is the dominant element, whereas the element of place is the dominant element in regard to the Eid al Adha, which is linked to the place of hajj (the sacred places in Makkah, Mina, Arafat, etc.) In both celebrations there are two kinds of celebrants; those who celebrate their having performed acts of Ibadah, and those who celebrate the ibadah performed by others. In the case of the Eid al Adha, the dominant element is place, and during this Eid those celebrating their own performance of the ibadah are located in the sacred places. Therefore, those Muslims who are not themselves at the sacred places at that particular time are actually sharing in the celebration of this great act of ibadah, and, as such, should follow the lead of those who celebrate it for themselves in the sacred places. Of course, in the past Muslims outside the sacred places had no way of knowing when the celebrations were held in the sacred places, and had to rely on their local calendar. With modern communications, however, this is no longer necessary.

The classical jurists of Islam have held that once the dates for the pilgrimage have been established, they may not be disputed. Some scholars have stated that if someone is certain that he/she has sighted the crescent, and is convinced that the announced dates for the pilgrimage are incorrect, that person may not publicize or announce his sighting and thereby spread dissension among the pilgrims. This is because such behavior will lead to disruption between the hajjis, and to the negation of their hajj, which is haram.

Among the great scholars of the past to subscribe to this view were al Imam Muslim, Ibn Taymayah and al Imam al Nawawi. Some scholars have even stated that the person who announces a correct but contradictory sighting should have his/her hajj negated. Rather, they opine, such a person should remain silent about his/her conviction about the error.

We would like to take this opportunity to remind all Muslims that the hajj is one of the pillars of Islam, an example of the equality in which Islam holds all humankind, and a symbol of the unity that binds the entire ummah together as one.

In view of the above considerations, the Fiqh Council requests all Muslims in the United States and Canada to celebrate the Eid with the hajjis on the same day that they stand in prayer in the masjid al Heef at Mina, celebrating the praises of Allah for the bounty that He has granted them. In this way our prayers may include them, and their prayers may include us. [May 2000]


PLEASE NOTE: The above ruling was changed in a ISNA's conference (on Moon Sighting) in November 2000 to actual moon sighting, but subsiquesntly changed back to following Saudi Arabia for Eid.

Related: ISNA's Eid al-Adha Evaluated by A Renowned Scholar (by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani)

Related: How does Morocco do Moon Sighting? - Interview Part 1Should the UK follow Morocco OR any Other Country - Interview Part 2

It is not always possible to sight the youngest crescent moon (Hilal) every month on the UK horizon due to the continuous adverse weather conditions. Therefore, we have requested clarifications of the Moon Sighting process in Morocco on behalf of some UK scholars. A copy of the ICOUK letter sent and the response received from Morocco are shown below, together with their English translations.

icouk MoroccoLetter2-English icouk MoroccoLetter2-Arabic AwqafResponse1-6 web AwqafResponse2-6 web AwqafResponse3-6 web AwqafResponse4-6 web AwqafResponse5-6 web AwqafResponse6-6 web

Translation:

From: The Kingdom of Morocco
Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs
Dated: 19th January 2016

To: Islamic Crescent Observation for the UK
Regarding: Information on the moon sighting method
Reference: Your letter dated 11th December 2015

As-Salamu ‘Alyakum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh

Following your letter as detailed in the above reference, in which you have requested to know the methodology and practices of moon sighting in Morocco.

It is my honour to provide you with the attached response that contains all the details as well as the answer to your enquires; and similarly the astronomical results of the moon in London for Jumada Al Ula 1437 AH.

With Best Regards
Wa As-Salamu ‘Alyakum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh

Stamp: The Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs
with Authorisation of the Director of Islamic Affairs

Signed: Kostas Ahmed
  1. How many Hilal sighting zones do you have and how many sighting points are there under each zone, which adds up to 278 points mentioned in your faxes?

    The process of crescent moon (Hilal) observation is carried out by the [Ministry of] Islamic Affairs that are spread [across the country] according to the [16] administrative regions of the Kingdom [of Morocco]. Each branch has observation points in accordance with the size of the area the branch covers. The observation points were chosen based on the topographic, geographic, and meteorological conditions that gives the best possible Hilal observation experience. [There are 16 zones with a varying number of observation points in each (see Regions/Zones Map) – Editor].

  2. How do you receive the Hilal sighting report from each point (e.g. by fax, email, phone call etc.) and how do you verify the reports from different sighting points?

    On the 28th day of each Hijri month, the Ministry [of Islamic Affairs] issues an initial announcement broadcasted via the national media channels which is aimed to assist the periphery branches (Islamic Affairs, Awqaf trustees, etc) and the Royal Armed Forces in the Southern Region as well as the public to participate in the observations. The announcement reminds them of the date and time of conducting the observation and asking them to relay the results [to the Ministry].

    The Central Hilal Committee based at the administration Headquarter of the Ministry manages this process and receives the results via all means (phone, fax, email, etc) from all the [regional] branches. The regional branches collect the reports from the observation points under their administration, signed by all the observation members. The [final] report is sent by fax to the Central Hilal Committee at the administration Headquarter of the Ministry. The sighting report contains detailed information about the result, together with the astronomical and meteorological conditions. The same is done by the Royal Armed Forces unit in the
    Southern Region.

    Each [regional] branch has two representatives appointed by the Adjudicating Judge as members of each Observation Committee. Their task is to complete the legal document containing the result of the observation (positive or negative) which is then signed by them and by the Adjudicating Judge. This report is then sent to the Central Hilal Committee, as mentioned earlier.

  3. What Hilal sighting criteria do you use to determine if a sighting report has met the Shariah requirement (e.g. number of witness)?

    All the observation reports received [by the Central Hilal Committee] are signed by all the members of the observation committee as well as many Justices selected for participation in this activity.

  4. What Hilal sighting experiences do the regular observers have and do new observers receive any Hilal sighting training before their claims are accepted?

    All the members of the observation committee (observers) are very religious and are employees of the Ministry [of Islamic Affairs] who have tremendous experience in this regard. This beneficial experience is shared with the new observers who join the committees. Furthermore, we have other courses (on Mawaqit/Timing) which are delivered in training programmes at the University of Muhammad VI in Rabat, to train Imams and female Alimas.

  5. Do you require a large number of witnesses in clear sky conditions and if so how many witnesses are required?

    The number of observers are in the hundreds in each month and so we never thought of having a count, regardless of the sky is clear or not.

  6. When it’s cloudy, do you wait for reports from all the sighting points before making a decision and how long after sunset does it usually take to reach a decision?

    If the sighting conditions are difficult as indicated by the astronomical calculations, then we wait until we receive the last report from the last observation point [location]. Our requirement is that all the reports we receive are negative before we decide that the Hilal was not sighted. We also wait for the moon to set at the last observation point [location] within the Kingdom [of Morocco], which takes between an hour to hour-and-half, depending on the astronomical seasons.

  7. When there is a positive sighting report from one location, do you wait for other reports from all the remaining locations before making a decision?

    If a positive sighting report was received from one of the locations, then we do not have to wait for reports of other locations before reaching a decision. This does not prevent us from requesting all the later reports for the purpose of documentation and other beneficial use in future.

  8. Do you use the possibility of crescent visibility (Imkan Al-Ruyah) based on astronomical calculations to verify sighting reports and if so, what are the lunar parameters?

    No sighting claim is accepted when the astronomical calculations indicate impossibility of such sighting. For example, if [astronomical] calculations indicate that the moon sets before the sun, then no sighting claim is accepted. However, note that we have never received such a [impossible] sighting claim in the past.

    Enclosed with this letter, an example of these calculations for Tuesday 9th February 2016 for London. (click here for calculations)


It is clear from the above answers (and from the personal visits by some UK scholars) that Morocco has a robust Moon Sighting procedure in place that is most reliable for UK to follow (after exhausting all efforts to sight the moon locally on the UK horizon), inshaAllah. See related link: Morocco Faxes (access via login)

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to email us via our on-line Contact Us form.