Those who want to decide the beginning of the month
a “Shahadah” must know that for Ramadan the Shahadah
came from Nigeria on Nov. 4. Libya also started
Ramadan on Nov. 4.
we have to decide by the Shahadah/Khabar then
Muslims in Nigeria claimed seeing Shawwal crescent
on Dec. 3 to have Eid on Dec. 4.
Please remember that there is a simple test for
accepting a “Shahdah”. If the Muslims located west
of the place from where the Shahadah was received
did not see a crescent moon the same evening then
the claim has to be rejected. Often, Muslims are
told that Saudi witnesses have SEEN the crescent
moon (as they did on Dec. 4 for Shawwal this year)
and no crescent moon is seen from Saudi Arabia to
Hawaii 10-12 hours later.
Shahadah has to be tested for authenticity. The
A’rabi Hadith is no excuse to accept bogus claims.
Some insist that the news of moonsighting from
anywhere (mainly from Saudi Arabia/Egypt, Yemen,
etc.) are enough to start the lunar months.
Khabar like Shadah can easily be tested for
accuracy. The news may be correct but the those who
accepted the Shahadah ignored the ‘authenticity’
criterion if the sighting was not confirmed from
places west of them.
the “First sunset after conjunction” is used as a
criterion, then Ramadan had to start on Nov. 5 from
eastern US (excluding St. John, Canada). From New
Zealand to St. John, Canada Ramadan was to start on
Nov. 6 (Two solar dates) For Eid, Muslims from the
longitude of Brunei to Hawaii would pray on Dec. 5,
and the rest on Dec. 6.
the conjunction (New Moon) occurs at all times of
day and night, the modification of the “first sunset
after Conjunction” will result in extending or
reducing the days of the month arbitrarily.
Moon set after the sunset
we use the Saudi/Egyptian criterion of the “Moonset
after the sunset” then Ramadan starts from St.
Johns, Canada westward on Nov. 5, and from New
Zealand to Europe and Africa on Nov. 6. (Also keep
in mind that the old “lunar month” is not complete
in St. Johns, Canada, but the moon is setting eight
minutes AFTER the sunset.)
Eid al-Fitr date from Brunei to Hawaii was Dec. 5
and eastward of Brunei to New Zealand on Dec. 6 (Two
solar dates, and the problem of moonset after the
sunset, and yet the old lunar month not completed).
Moon’s Altitude/Angle of
Separation from the Sun
Any criterion based on the altitude and angle will
have the same problems for the calendar.
For example, if we calculate the moon’s altitude of
5 degrees at the sunset (Turkish), Ramadan was to
start on Nov. 6 as the moon’s altitude was less than
5 degrees on Nov. 4 all over the world.
Eid al-Fitr in Americas was on Dec. 5, and in
Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe on Dec. 6, as the
moon’s attitude was above 5 degrees only in north
and south America on Dec. 4.
Moon’s age and time lag is also often presented as a
criterion for starting an Islamic month.
For example, if we take 15 hours as the age when the
new lunar month should begin, then Ramadan was to
start on Nov. 6 from middle part of India, and from
New Zealand to the rest of India on Nov. 7.
Similarly, Eid was on Dec. 5 from Texas to Hawaii
and on Dec. 6 from New Zealand to Florida.
is obvious that none of these criterions solve the
Most of them do not meet the ‘Hilal’ criterion of
the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
There is no fixed lunar dateline.
ever-changing dateline makes every month 29 and 30
2.1 Criterion for a global Islamic Calendar
Islamic calendars in use by various Muslim countries
and communities are imperfect, cumbersome, and
extremely inefficient. They do not adhere to any one
criterion, including the ‘lunar visibility’ - often
claimed to be the basis for determining important
Islamic religious dates. Lunar visibility from the
surface of the earth is difficult to calculate.
Besides, a strictly visibility-based global lunar
calendar will cut through national and regional
boundaries and show each month simultaneously of 29
and 30 days long in different regions. What the
Muslims have to do is simplify and rationalize their
criterion if they wish to unify the Islamic dates
globally and eliminate the confusion.
Let us start from basic facts:
The earth is not flat. It is a globe (1).
The sun and the moon take 24 hours to be visible
over the globe.
But their visibility differs considerably.
The sun is visible over half of the globe all the
time, but the moon disappears on the 27th night.
After 1 or 2 nights, it appears again as a crescent
after the sunset.
The sun is visible at a north-south longitude, but
the crescent’s visibility starts at a point, and
extends west, north/south-west in a parabola. See
*The place of crescent’s first visibility changes
every month. Not only it moves west, but north and
south as well. In March the crescent may first
become visible as far north as south of Alaska,
Mongolia, or Nova Scotia. By August it moves as far
south as Madagascar, New Zealand, etc.
The moon has no light of its own. It is like a dim
mirror when it reflects the sun’s rays.
The moon’s surface is uneven. The mountains and
craters block the sunlight from reflecting.
The crescent formation starts after it has moved
some 7+ degrees away from the sun (2)
The moon completes its synodic monthly cycle (New
Moon to New Moon phase) in 29 days 12 hours 44
minutes and 2.9 seconds that results in some months
being of 29 and others 30 days long.
The New Moon is completely dark ( 0 ). It is not
visible from the surface of the earth.
NASA photograph of the New Moon in 1971 from 100+
miles above the surface of the earth proved
non-existence of the moon's crescent at the
conjunction. Any claim of sighting before the New
Moon phase or immediately after it must be rejected.
The New Moon phase can be very precisely calculated.
calendar day/date starts from a fixed point of time.
We cannot make an Islamic calendar on the basis of
the New Moons: They occur at all times of the day
and night. An Islamic day / date starts at sunset.
The solar date starts from midnight, at the
international dateline. The two cannot be identical
The New Moon becomes visible as a crescent usually
18-25 hours later if its angle from the sun and its
altitude above the horizon are high enough for the
surface of the moon to reflect the sun’s rays. It is
not necessary that a crescent will always become
visible after the moon's age is 15+ hours. Sometimes
you cannot see a 60 hours old moon in South Africa,
Germany, England, Alaska or southern Chile, etc.
1 What the Quran says?
The Muslims in N. America, like the Muslims all over
the world are seen starting Ramadan and celebrating
Eidain on 2, or even 3 different dates. Every Muslim
organization and all Muslim countries claim that
they strictly follow the Quran and Hadith to
determine the beginning of Ramadan and for Eidain
dates. They quote the same Ayat and Ahadith.
know that there is only one moon for our earth. Once
its crescent is visible after the New Moon phase it
becomes visible over most of the globe within 24
hours. Then why is this confusion and chaos? Let us
try to find some answers.
blame the crescent-sighting for the mess. But the
real culprits are human errors, prejudice, lack of
understanding, and wrong interpretation of certain
The most quoted aayat of the Qur’an about the
moon-sighting controversy are:
crescents) are the determinants of time ... and for
the Hajj. (2:189).
..(He) fixed stages for it (the
moon) that you might know the number of years and
the count (of time) ... (10:5)
...The moon, We have fixed for
it positions (phases) till it goes back to the
(thin) shape of an old dry date-stalk. (36:39)
The sun and the moon are on
exactly computed courses. (55:5)
The usual interpretation of
theseAyat favors the crescents (Ahillah) as
determining the beginning of an Islamic lunar month.
3.2 How the Sunnah
The Messenger (S) determined
the beginning of an Islamic month by observing the
earliest crescent or after completing thirty days of
the month in case the horizon was hazy or cloudy.
The most famous of these traditions is:
“Do not fast unless you see it
(the crescent), and then do not stop fasting until
you see it (again)...” (Bukhari, Muslim and others)
3.3 How the Ummah
The Khulafa al-Rashidun, the
companions and early Muslims followed the Sunnah of
determining the beginning and end of Ramadan by
observing the crescent. The famous Hadith of 'Kuraib'
makes it quite clear. If a crescent was not seen on
a clear horizon then the news from another place,
account of the witnesses, or even completing thirty
days of Ramadan was not enough to begin the next
month. Fuqaha are also unanimous on the point that
the crescents determine the beginning of an Islamic
As the complicated calculations
needed for accurately predicting the earliest
visibility of the crescent were not available till
1980s the Fuqaha tried to resolve the questions of
how and what of the 'crescent's visibility'
according to whatever information was available to
them. How many witnesses are sufficient, whether the
news from another place should be taken into
account, what if 30 days are complete and a crescent
is not visible, should the predictions of the
star-gazers (Munajjimeen) be given any weight, etc.
were discussed at length. Conflicting rulings
hardened into Fiqh positions, each group trying to
support its statement with as much as it could
The problems started surfacing
when the distances were reduced and communications
4.1 Basic Calendar
a. An Islamic day begins from
after sunset and ends with the sunset next day.
b. An Islamic lunar month
begins from the earliest visible waxing crescent
moon and ends with the next earliest visible
crescent, except that it cannot be more than 30
c. A global Islamic calendar
date must always begin at a set point on earth, from
a set point of time.
Local Islamic calendars were
easy and straightforward to make. The average lunar
month was approximately 29 ½ days, thus making
months alternately 29 and 30 days long. The mean
length of a lunar month is shorter by 0.0306 days
(44 minutes 3.8 seconds) than the actual length, the
calendar month ends a little earlier than the
synodic month. So the beginning of the lunar
calendar month gradually begins to lag behind the
New Moon. This difference accumulates to about 11
days 18 minutes 43 seconds in 30 years.
For civil needs, an easy
solution was to make the last month of the year –Dhul-Hijja,
30 days instead of 29 in the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 10th,
16th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 26th, and 29th years of a 30
year cycle. This gives an average month of
29.5305555…days and average year of 354.3666…=354
and 11/30 days.
The Ottomans used this formula
to fix their civil calendar. However, for religious
purposes, the Muslims in general adhered to the
‘visibility’ criterion, often fasting or celebrating
Eidain on two days in towns hardly a few miles
apart. As the means of communications reduced the
distances among the Muslim countries, the confusion
about these dates intensified. Various Muslim
countries adopted standards in the name of unifying
these dates within their domains (3).
4.2 Causes of Confusion
The scientific advances in the
lunar visibility theory made significant advances
between 1977-1990 (4). The credit goes to both Dr.
S. Kamal Abdali and Khalid Shaukat for their
methodical rigor and meticulous efforts. Yallop,
Doggett, Imad and Schaefer also contributed. With
their help the Committee has maintained significant
accuracy in predicting moon's earliest visibility in
many part of the world. Unfortunately, the official
calendar-makers in various Muslim countries closed
their eyes, and continued harping on the "unity of
Islamic dates", instead of searching for solutions
of complicated Islamic lunar calendar problems (5).
5.1 Some Suggestions
We cannot adopt the conjunction
(NM) as the criterion for obvious reasons. Most
Muslims would also like to keep some sort of moon’s
earliest visibility as the criterion for global
1. The solar international
dateline (IDL) should also be adopted as the lunar
international dateline (LIDL). It appears most
practical for obvious reasons.
2. Makka Mukarrama as the focal
point for determining the crescent’s visibility.
3. If the conjunction occurs
at, or before Makka then the date following the New
Moon date should be the first date of the Islamic
lunar month from IDL at sunset.
Example: On April 5, 2000 the
conjunction occurs approximately 13.5 hours before
IDL. The Islamic month will begin on April 6 from
4. If the conjunction occurs
after Makka then the first date of the Islamic month
should be two dates following the New Moon date.
Example: On July 1, 2000 the
conjunction occurs approximately 12 ½ hours after
the IDL. The Islamic month therefore will begin on
July 3 at IDL.
This solution may not fulfill
the strict ‘lunar visibility’ conditions for all
places on the globe, and may require some minor
adjustments yet it appears the most practical. Other
variations like “ moon’s age=12+ hours at Makka” may
be appealing to some but they create more
complications, especially for areas east of Makka.
Without a fixed Lunar
International Dateline at IDL the lunar month will
always be 29 and 30 days long simultaneously, making
a unified calendar an impossibility..
1. (‘Wahdat-i Matla’ position
assumes that the earth is flat, and that once a
crescent is seen anywhere it is seen instantly over
the whole world. It is a fact that a place only a
few miles east of the initial lunar sighting could
not see it on the same date. The moon will be
visible there next day after 24 hours when it will
appear again on its horizon. Ikhtilaf-i Matali'
position is equally invalid. It assumes that every
village on the surface of the earth will see a
crescent on a different date. Most of the world will
see a crescent within 24 hours.)
2. Other factors, especially
the glare on the lower horizon further hinders
moon's visibility. Generally the Moon should be 10
degrees above the horizon at sunset to be visible in
the next 12-25 minutes. Remember the moon is coming
down and will be only 4-5 degrees above the ground
by the time you see it after 29 days. A crescent
after 30 days will be higher and brighter. Many
mistake it for being two days old.
3. At present very few Muslim
countries use the visible crescent for determining
Ramadan and Eidain dates. Their own criteria of
determining the beginning of an Islamic month
violate clear guidelines of the Quran, Sunnah and
Fiqh (that tell of a 'visible crescent' (Hilal).
Some commonly used criteria for fixing the first
date of an Islamic month are:
a. The day / date of the New
Saudi Taqweem Umm
al-Qura is based on the New Moon (not the visible
(The New Moon is not a crescent
(Hilal) of the Quran and Sunnah. It is completely
dark, and it occurs at all times of day or night.
Saudis do not convert the New Moon dates given in
almanacs into the local dates in S. Arabia. Their
calculated first date of an Islamic month, based on
the New Moon may be two days/dates ahead of the
actual sighting in S. Arabia. Gulf states generally
follow Saudi Arabia's lead.)
b. The date following the New
Moon (Conjunction) date.
(Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria,
Tunis, etc. prepare their calendars on this
The crescent will not be always
visible on the assumed date.)
c. The Moon is setting 1 to 5
minutes after sunset.
(Egypt follows this criterion.
Hence Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr dates in Egypt
sometimes differ from S. Arabia. )
(The moon’s surface is not
flat. A crescent cannot be visible the instant the
moon becomes New. If the purpose is to wait till the
New Moon becomes a crescent then waiting 1-25
minutes do not qualify for a visible moon. In many
months the moon may set 1-5 minutes before the sun
in most of Egypt, but one minute after the sun in an
small area. The moon may also set after the sun
before the New Moon phase. What to do in these and
similar cases? )
d. The moon’s altitude was 5
degrees or more.
(Turkish Islamic dates are
fixed by this criterion except for Eid al-Adha when
Saudi fixed Hajj date is used to determine Eid al-Adha
d. The Moon’s age is 15 hours
(The moon is not always visible
when its age is 15 hours. Often a 35 hours old moon
is not seen. But many accept claims of frivolous
e. The moonset is 30-50 minutes
(A moon setting an hour after
sunset is sometimes not visible in a country like
England or South Africa. The age of the moon or the
time lag between the sunset and the moonset are
least important factors for its visibility.)
4) The Moon's visibility from
earth is no longer important for astronomers and
observatories. When a Muslim asks them about Islamic
dates he is asking a wrong person a wrong question.
He should ask: When would the moon be visible in his
town? He will be amazed by their reply. Most of the
astronomers have no idea what you are asking about.
They look to any calendar and see the NEW MOON date
marked on it. They guess a crescent should be
visible soon after the moon is NEW (which is not
true) and tell you so.
Some astronomical experts have
taken a keen interest in moon's earliest visibility
since 1986 after attending an IIIT seminar in
Virginia. They are doing excellent work on various
aspects of moon's visibility. But a mad race is also
going on for spotting the youngest moon among
amateurs who are trying to break the record of the
earliest visibility. In recent years several claims
were made which later proved to be bogus, or very
marginal. Remember that a crescent will NOT ALWAYS
BE VISIBLE at the record-breaking point of (age,
time-lag, angle or altitude). Many other factors
determine a moon's visibility.
A global lunar Islamic calendar
involves lots of complicated issues which the Muslim
Ulema and calendar experts have yet to cipher out.
Many Muslim 'astronomical' (?) experts confuse
others by taking positions like: a) the New Moon is
Hilal (S. Arabia); 2) The New Moon is visible
(Egypt); 3) the New Moon will become a crescent
somewhere in the world on the same solar date
(Turkey), or something else which they believe is a
possible solution for complicated lunar calendar
problems. Every effort to bring the Ulema and the
Muslim calendar experts together has so far failed
mostly because of the lack of communication, and the
biases of the sponsors of international conferences.
Often they were organized to pass resolutions of
‘unity of Islamic dates’ rather than for finding
solutions to complicated problems.
Observation Data 1995-2005
The conclusions are obvious:
a) Saudi Taqweem follows the
New Moon date blindly.
b) The witnesses who claim
seeing a crescent there on the New Moon dates are
not correct. There is no other explanation for a
consistent behavior of Saudi eye-witnesses. Once in
a while one may mistake some other shiny object for
a crescent (though it is improbable on mostly clear
skies in S. Arabia). But they are doing it for 25+
years since 1971 when CFCO started keeping records.
If the members of Saudi Majlis al-Qada al-A'la and
Egyptian Religious Council have eyes then from their
palaces they can easily see that there is no
crescent on the horizon on the dates they accept 'Udul'
witnesses. An analysis of Saudi Taqweem dates for
1973-2019 proves that their witnesses can see a
crescent six times every year before the conjunction
and in the other six months within 1-10 hours of the
New Moon phase. Obviously, these dates do not match
the visible crescent which occurs there one or two
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21. Taqweem min 1409 hatta 1440
1408 Madina al-Malik Abd-Aziz lil-Ulum wa al-Taqniya