UPDATE: Please see the most recent development (2022): Towards Local Moon Sighting (UK) [Read more …]
This paper discusses the basis for a local moon sighting criteria and for the adverse UK weather conditions, it proposes a regional moon sighting zone (Matla/ المطا لع) to include Western European countries (longitude) down to Tropic of Cancer (23.5° latitude), which includes Morocco. The Sharia basis is explained with quotations from Quran and Ahadith and the Scientific basis are explained with related calculations of prayer times and geographical map boundaries. The result is similar to some existing moon sighting criteria, but not the same.
The geographical location of the UK is such that adverse weather conditions persist throughout the year (as it’s an Island between oceans). As a result, it is not always possible to sight the first day’s crescent moon (Hilal) every consecutive month. If the months are completed 30-days continuously, then after six consecutive months, it will result in the future months having less than 29-days, which is not permitted in a lunar calendar system. A coordinated effort by ICOUK members since 2008 has proven that it is possible to sight the Hilal on the UK horizons for a few months in a year. However, it has been a custom for the UK Muslims to borrow foreign moon sighting news throughout the year, which leads to divisions, since foreign news are often contradictory.
This paper proposes a lunar calendar based on local sighting with extension of the UK horizon to nearby countries where reliable moon sighting can or does take place, but excluding any locations that are too far East or West (based on sunset to dusk times) and is above the Equator (to avoid change of seasons). The local moon sighting efforts by ICOUK members, together with news from Morocco over past 8 – 10 years has proven this method to work satisfactorily, which also matches the Fiqh rule of Difference of Sightings (Ikhtilaf al Matali’/ اختلاف المطا لع) and Nearest Latitude (أقرب آل بلد)
3. Local Moon Sighting
The importance of starting the lunar months with local moon sighting are given below:
3.1 The order to begin the month by sighting the Hilal comes from the following verse of the Quran when the Jews of Madinah asked the Sahabah (رضي الله عنهم), why the phase of the moon kept changing? In response to this question put to the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), Allah says:
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new [crescent] moons. Say, "They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj." (Quran 2:189) / http://tanzil.net/#2:189
The Mufassirun (commentators) have stated that there could be two reasons why Allah has used the plural form of the crescent moons (Ahilla/ الاهلة), instead of the singular form (Hilal/ الهلال). It can mean Allah is referring to
(a) every region with their own [phase of the] crescent moons or
(b) all the months of the year with their own crescent moons
The Mufassirun have also stated that based on the above verse of the Quran, it is a communal obligation (fardh kifaya / فرض كفاية) to establish a Hijri calendar based on moon sighting for all 12 months of the year and not just for Ramadan two Eids (as is the common practice in some Muslim communities or countries).
This is highlighted in the following verse of the Quran, where Allah says:
“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year) so was it ordained by Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; " (Quran 9:36) / http://tanzil.net/#9:36
3.2 In the time of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), the Sahabah (رضي الله عنهم) were instructed to start the lunar month by sighting the Hilal from their own horizon. This point is supported by the following Hadith.
Kuraib (رضي الله عنه) reported that Umm Fadl, daughter of Harith, sent him (Fadl, i.e. her son) to Mu'awiya in Syria. I (Fadl) arrived in Syria, and did the needful for her. It was there in Syria that the month of Ramadan commenced. I saw the new moon (of Ramadan) on Friday. I then came back to Medina at the end of the month. Abdullah b. 'Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) asked me (about the new moon of Ramadan) and said: When did you see it? I said: We saw it on the night of Friday. He said: (Did) you see it yourself? I said: Yes, and the people also saw it and they fasted and Mu'awiya also fasted, whereupon he said: But we saw it on Saturday night. So we will continue to fast till we complete thirty (fasts) or we see it (the new moon of Shawwal). I said: Is the sighting of the moon by Mu'awiya not valid for you? He said: No; this is how the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has commanded us. Yahya b. Yahya was in doubt (whether the word used in the narration by Kuraib) was Naktafi or Taktafi. (Muslim/1087) / http://sunnah.com/muslim/13/34