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ISNA & Saudi Calculated Dates Violate Shari’ah






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ISNA & Saudi Calculated Dates Violate Shari’ah Omar Afzal PhD (Rev. January 2007)

Shari’ah requires ‘visual’ observation of the Crescent moon (Hilaal) to commence an Islamic month from the sunset (of the same solar date) because the night precedes the day in Islamic calendar. ISNA Fiqh Council’s June 10, 2006 position is that “actual moon sighting is not a requirement for Ramadan” (as well as Eidain). Saudi Ummal-Qura Taqweem had abandoned the moon’s visibility in Makka decades ago. Both ISNA and Saudi Taqweem rules for starting the Islamic months undoubtedly violate the Shari’ah as well as astronomical rules of the crescent moon’s visibility.

            ·     Allah says: The crescent moons (Ahilla) are the markers of time (Mawaqeet)…(2:189)

·    His Messenger (S) practiced Allah’s words by watching the moons carefully every month, although he could easily follow the Conjunction-based Jewish calendar as he did on the day he arrived in Medina.

·    If clouds or haze on the lower horizon blocked the moon’s naked-eye observation, he instructed to complete the month to thirty days, as a moon is always seen on 30th evening.

The two texts defined the basic rules to begin the Islamic month.

               1. Local time:      From the local sunset  (La tasumu…wa la tuftiru…(2:189, Bukhari))

               2. Visibility:        Naked-eye local confirmed sighting  (Jaa’a ‘Arabi…(Bukhari))

               3. Local Date       From the earliest visibility of the crescent moon (Fa-hua li-lailatin…(Muslim))

   4. Horizon           Local horizon where the moon was sighted (Kuriab (Muslim))

The Ummah practiced Allah’s order and followed the Sunnah of the Messenger (S) faithfully all these fifteen centuries. It did not matter if two towns, a few miles apart, observed Eid on two different days (Muslim, Tirmidhi, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaiba, etc.). The crescent moon was counted for the evening it became first visible (Muslim); its bigger size or brightness was taken as part of the natural lunar cycle.

Local vs. Extended horizon (Ikhtilaaf vs. Ittihaad al-Mataali) was only a Fiqhi speculation. The maximum distance for the “shared Matla” was the distance for “Qasr” (Reduced Raka’at for travelers). When Imam Abu Hanifa opined that a “sighting in the West obligates fasting on the Muslims in the East” (Ibn Abideen) he did not mean that the Muslims in Kufa fast by a sighting in Baghdad, Damascus or Spain because the means of conveying the news of moon’s sighting at X to Y (located a few miles East) were not available. The earth was assumed flat, and same date lunar visibility was assumed universal. No need was felt to send the news from the place of the “earliest” sighting to nearby places east, west, north or south.

Prevailing use of “Yaum al-Arafah” for 9th, “Yaum al-Nahr” for 10th day of Dhul Hijja or “Ashra” for the 10th of Muharram confirms the flat earth perception of the globe and uniformity of Hijri dates all over the Earth. Readers frequently notice the discrepancy in Islamic records of lunar Islamic dates. Two or three lunar dates are recorded for the same solar day/date.

A workable lunar calendar required 1) Uniformity of dates, and 2) A fixed point on the Universal horizon. The local date must move westward, from the same point on the Earth every month, and cover the globe in 24 hours. For example, the Jewish calendar was calculated from the astronomical conjunction at Jerusalem. The solar date begins at 12:00 midnight on the Solar Dateline. These concepts however never entered into Islamic calendar equations. The Muslims assumed that the local naked-eye visibility in their town marked the lunar date for the rest of the world from their sunset. The lunar visibility at sunset in Makka or some other point on the globe remains irrelevant even now for most Muslim calendar-makers.