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Islamic Lunar Calendar
Assalam 'alaikum wa rahmatullah 

While it can be argued that "seeing the hilaal" is a method used to determine the beginning of the Islamic lunar months, The Fiqh Council of North America concludes that it is not the only method to do so. Hence, after careful research, deliberations and discussion The Fiqh Council of North America has adopted a new position regarding the determination of the beginning of the Islamic lunar months. This position is based primarily on the following Fiqhi premises:

  1. Sighting the Hilal (ru’yah) is not an act of ‘ibadah in itself; it is rather a means to know with certainty about the beginning of the new month related to Islamic ‘Ibadat. 
  2. Ru’yah as a means was indicated and used by the Prophet –peace be upon him- because he himself said that the Ummah at that time was not literate and did not know how to write or to calculate (complicated astronomical data).
  3. Some classical jurists were willing to accept the calculations.
  4. Some classical jurists refused to allow calculations in this matter because in their time astronomy and astrology were not quite distinct sciences. Jurists were suspicious that astronomical predictions may not be based on exact science but on whims, conjectures, magic etc.
  5. During the last century an increasing number of Muslim jurists indicated that calculations could be used to negate erroneous reports of crescent sighting. Some jurists were of the opinion that calculations could also be used as a positive method to determine the new Islamic lunar months.
  6. There are now many Muslim astronomers who have been working for many years to develop a global lunar Islamic calendar. Fiqh Council particularly appreciates the efforts of its consultants Dr. Imad ad-Dean Ahmad, Dr. Khalid Shaukat, Dr. Muhib Durrani and Dr. Ahmad Salamah. 
  7. Dr. Salah Soltan and Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah also presented scholarly papers to give thorough evidence from Fiqh Perspective that the use of calculations is not against the Sunnah of the Prophet –peace be upon him.

The Fiqh Council of North America considered the following factors in making its decision:

  1. Use of calculations in determining the Islamic date is not against the Sunnah.
  2. Sure astronomical methods are now available to determine Islamic dates of Ramadan and the two Eids.
  3. Shari’ah is based on ease and considers the convenience of people.
  4. Announcement of Islamic dates ahead of time will reduce a lot of hardship, chaos and confusion that happen every year at the time of the beginning of Ramadan and the two Eids.
  5. Announcement of Islamic dates will help Muslims to plan their activities, to take day off from their work, students can take day off from their schools and many other benefits will result from this.
  6. Announcement of these dates will also remove unnecessary financial burdens from the Muslim community in North America.
  7. Muslim of America will become more united in their celebrations.
  8. Muslims of America can also work to have their Islamic holidays officially recognized.
  9. The Muslim community of North America will lead a way towards the development of a unified global Islamic calendar for the whole Muslim world.
  10. Fiqh Council will continue working with the Imams and scholars of the communities to develop a consensus in this matter. It is, however, hoped that whether some of us agree or disagree with this position, we shall all recognize the validity of ikhtilaf in this issue and that the Ummah should be united in brotherhood despite any legitimate fiqhi differences.

Brief Explanation:

  • Discussion of a number of research papers led to the conclusion that the use of calculation both in negation as well as affirmation of the beginning of the new Islamic Lunar months has a firm basis in the Qur’an and Sunnah as well as in the opinion of some classical and contemporary jurists.
  • The new moon (i.e. time of conjunction) is when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun closest to the Sun-Earth line. This time of conjunction is precisely predictable by astronomical calculation.
  • The conjunction before 12:00 GMT would give enough time to the new moon to be visible somewhere on the globe before the end of the night in North America.

Related Links:
Conference and Decision
Article on Astronomical Calculations by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah (doc)
Article on Moon Issues by Salah Soltan
Article on The Unity of Horizons or Variety of Horizons - by Dr. Shah (pdf)
Explaining the Fiqh Council Position (pdf)
Astronomical Calculations - Response to Some Critics by Zulfiqar Ali Shah
Reading, Sighting and Calculating - Louay Safi
Moon Sighting and Calculations - Muneer Fareed


        

 
Disclaimer
 
 
The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the position of the Fiqh Council of North America. In case of differing views the author may be contacted directly. The Fiqh Council encourages healthy and sound discussions in order to arrive at the best possible viewpoint based on the correct interpretation of the Quran and the authentic Sunnah of Rasoolullah SAS