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Hilal Determines Beginning of Islamic Month






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Hilal Determines Beginning of Islamic Month          Omar Afzal 9/17/07

 Allah and His Messenger (S) provide clear guidance that:

  •  Hilal determines the beginning of an Islamic month

 CFCO’s calculations and efforts are aimed to ensure that a Hilal has been observed within the United States whereas the calculated dates advanced by the ISNA Fiqh Council are intended to dispense with it. Let us look to what CFCO did and how ISNA and some other Muslim groups decided the date?

 Dr. Zulfiqar Shah (Islamic Horizon, Sep/Oct. 2006 p. 51, para 3) wrote:

“There is no need for the Muslims to resort to actual sighting, if they now have knowledge and access to authentically accurate calculations.”

ISNA Fiqh Council claims: “Reliable astronomical methods are now available …for the determination of Islamic dates of Ramadan and the two Eids.”

Since 2006 ISNA’s calculated dates have given the Muslims the false impression that they can abandon Hilal (the sighted moon) for Ramadan and Eid. For Eid al-Adha it had abandoned the “Sighted in the USA” long ago, and reversed itself again in 2000.

Reliable Method for Determining the Month

ISNA FC should accept the fact that:

  1. There is no reliable method to calculate the Hilal at all locations on earth; and

  2. The New Moon (conjunction) CANNOT be the “Meeqat” of the Qur’an for determining the length of Islamic months as shown below.

The Moon at Conjunction

Besides abandoning the Sunnah of the Messenger (S), the conjunction cannot determine the beginning of the month of Ramadan, as there is no Hilal to see at the instant of the New Moon. Also it cannot end the month by the Messenger’s (S) words: “La tuftiru ...”

  1. The New Moon occurs at all times of day and night whereas the Islamic date/day always begins from the same fixed point of time (the local sunset)

  2. The synodical month based on the New Moon to the New Moon is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.9 seconds long. The Islamic month is either 29 or 30 days long.

ISNA experts appear to be oblivious of the background when the Qur’anic Aayah 2:189 was revealed.

The Jews in Medina followed the Jewish calendar (calculated by the Conjunction at Jerusalem, still in use today), and the Messenger (S) followed the Jewish date of Yom Kippur for Ashura when he reached Medina, and found the Jews fasting. In the coming year, the Muslims recognized that the Jewish months started a day or two before the actual visibility of the moon in Medina. Allah (SWT) revealed to the Muslims that they should follow the easy, and natural phenomenon of “Sighting” – a visible moon, instead of depending on the invisible New Moon. The Messenger (S) put it into practice and asked the Muslims to follow it for determining the length of their month. In case, the horizon is clouded at sunset, then the Messenger (S) instructed the Muslims to complete 30 days of the previous month, because the moon is ALWAYS seen in the 30th evening.

(Please read other articles on this web site ( to understand the complexities of a local or global Islamic lunar calendar.)

 When to Begin a Month?

 The last paragraph of Dr. Shah’s paper: “The Unity of Horizons…” states:

“The new month will start for Mecca and all the localities on the West of Mecca…”

If this is the correct way the Muslims should start the month then simply put, Taif, which is located east of Mecca should start the month next day and not on the same day as Mecca

 We have explained elsewhere why ISNA’s new position accepting the Saudi Taqweem rule of: the Conjunction date + moonset AFTER the sunset” (or ISNA’s earlier position: the conjunction BEFORE 12:00Noon GMT (a variation of Saudi rule) totally ignores the “lunar visibility in Saudi Arabia or the USA.”

Saudi Dates Are Neither Shari’ah nor Astronomy

The Qur'an (2:189) and the Sunnah give very clear instructions of "La Tasumu... wa la tuftiru..." about 1) When to begin Ramadan DATE (and all Islamic dates); and 2) when to end Ramadan (and all Islamic months)?

Official Saudi announcements of Ramadan and both Eids and Saudi Ummal Qura (UQ) calendar ignore both # 1 and #2 above. Despite knowing these facts, the latest decision by ISNA, European Council and other organizations is to follow Saudi fixed dates.

It is well known that Saudi witnesses often claim sighting a moon before the conjunction.

We will use only one Saudi date to prove that Saudi fixed dates are "astronomically" incorrect also for Saudi Arabia or any country in the world.

Saudi Taqweem criteria for fixing the first date of a month is:

  1. The New Moon date and

  2. The moonset AFTER the sunset in Makka.

Let us test Eid al-Fitr 2007 date to see if it is a valid rule. The data shows:

  1. The New Moon (Conjunction) date is Oct. 11, 2007

  2. The moon sets ONE minute BEFORE the Sunset in Makka on Oct. 11

Therefore, Eid al-Fitr date (for S. Arabia, ISNA, ECFR, etc.) is Oct. 13. 2007

Had the moonset in Makka on October 11 been only one minute later at 6:00 pm (with the sunset in Makka at 6:00 pm, instead of 5:59 pm) then Oct. 12 would be the Eid date by Umm al-Qura rule. A difference of one minute makes the difference of a date

  1. In some parts of S. Arabia (not Makka) the moonset might be with the sunset on Oct. 11. By Saudi rule Eid al-Fitr there must be on Oct. 12, instead of October 13 for the rest of the country.

  2. What about the regions east of Makka (from Taif to New Zealand) where the moonset is AFTER the sunset on Oct. 11? In Jakarta (Indonesia), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) Colombo (Sri Lanka), etc. the moon will set AFTER the sunset. Should not these countries have Eid on Oct. 12 (a day before Saudi Arabia by following the Saudi calendar rule) instead of delaying it till Oct. 13 as ISNAFC/ECFR advise the Muslims in Europe and America?

  3. In the countries located west of Makka where the moonset is BEFORE the sunset on Oct. 11  (Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, etc) of course, following the Saudi rule, Eid should be on Oct. 13. But what about western Africa, North and South America where the moon sets AFTER the sunset on Oct. 11? Why should these countries wait till Oct. 13 for Eid? ISNA/ECFR have endorsed the UQ criteria for fixing Islamic dates all over the world and it is fully met in all those countries.

Islamic dates are messed up because Saudis/ISNA/ECFR etc. have abandoned the Hilal of the Qur'an and the Sunnah in their zeal for "FIXED" dates without carefully evaluating the options that satisfy both the requirements of Shari'ah and geophysical facts.

By claiming that the moon’s visibility is not required by Shari’ah, ISNA negates both “What is an Islamic date/day?” and “The point of time when an Islamic month begins and ends.” Obviously, the calendar issues of fixing the day/date and month are more complex than how ISNA Fiqh Council ever imagined. It has no idea why and how the conjunction cannot replace the Hilal that the Ummah has been practicing for 1428 years?

Friday, September 14 Ramadan Date

Dr. Shah has raised the following 4 points to prove that the critics of the Fiqh Council “neither follow the Sunnah of moon sighting nor the acclaimed Ijma’.

  1. "(ISNA FC was) forced to adopt a different criterion because very often the sighting claims were rejected by learned astronomers like you”;

  2. “calculations were permitted to negate Ramadan …(“by CFCO?”)

  3. “You (CFCO) like us (ISNA), have gone against the established Ijma'a of the classical jurists…”

  4. “The Prophet never asked a witness to be verified by calculations…”

We will very briefly mention that:

  1. ISNA FC, since 1978, always wanted a criterion that synchronized the Islamic dates in the USA with Saudi dates. After 30 years it has come a full circle to formally adopt Saudi dates despite knowing that these dates lack support in Shar’iah and violate established calendar rules of day/date and months.

  2. CFCO calculations for N. America are for “local visibility within the USA”, “local date from the sunset”, and “locally fixed length of the month”. We use calculation only to help the moon observers do what the Qur’an and the Sunnah require: See the Hilal. CFCO does not BEGIN and END any Islamic month by “calculation”.

  3. The Messenger (S) did question the witnesses to verify the “fact” of lunar visibility. “Shak-ku fil-Hilal wa araadu an la yasuumu…” and “Ja-a ‘Araabiyun (Anas: ‘Umuumati min al-Ansar…), etc.

  4. From Khulafa (Umar (R) and Sahaba (Ibn ‘Abbas (R) to the Qadis all over the world have used whatever means were available to them to ascertain the fact of “Lunar visibility (at the location, on the date from where claims of sighting were made). That is what we did.

  5. CFCO did not reject Ramadan 2007 witnesses on September 12, 2007 because of the “Calculations”, but because the testimony of a few (3-4 in NYC, 3 in Chicago, 2+2 in Macomb, 1 or 2 in Austin, one in Florida, and two from California, etc.) were clearly contradicted by overwhelming reports of NON-SIGHTING in clear skies from almost all states from NY to California and Illinois to Texas. Thousand of very reliable observers, including prominent Ulema, Imams and community leaders in their area (We e-mailed the partial list to whoever asked for it) testified that the moon was NOT VISIBLE at all at those location and hundreds of more places in the evening of September 12 (Wednesday).

  6. Our decision to reject these witnesses has strong support in the confirmed non-sighting reports from many independent groups (including observant Jewish groups which appear to be very diligent in looking for the Hilal in N. America and reporting their observations on their web)

  7. We strictly follow the consensus of “Jam’un Azeem” as established by three major schools of Fiqh (Reiterated in May 2007 San Jose conference).

Please keep in mind that 1 or 2 witnesses rule was for ONE location only. Imam Abu Yusuf (required 2-3 from each mosque in Baghdad), Imam Jafar Sadiq (required at least 50) and Imam Khalf b. Ayyub (required 150 in Balkh) knew well the recurring mistakes and the Qadis kept on increasing the required number of witnesses to ascertain the fact of sighting a moon at the location. 1/2 rule was not for a whole country or a continent, and there is a sure method of “sighted at other locations west of the initial claim”

We are confident that our explanation contradicts all of ISNA’s basic assumptions.

What is needed is a better understanding of the geophysical facts before ISNA suggests another solution. The proposed criterion should fulfill both the Shri’ah and calendar-making rules, thoroughly checked by strict analytical logic and tested independently.

Through dozens of articles and e-mails to members of ISNA FC these points have been clarified and yet Fiqh Council comes back to the fallacy of "reliability of calculation" for Islamic months. The "Calculation of the conjunction" for the beginning and ending of an Islamic month has no basis either in Shar'iah or Islamic calendar.

 We cannot change the intent of the Qur’an and the Sunnah by Fiqhi reasoning as Dr. Shah and the ISNA Fiqh Council have been doing for decades.