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Ummal-Qura Calendar

 

 

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Ummal-Qura Special Rules

 Saudi Arabia’s Ummal-Qura calendar doesn't rely on a visual sighting of the crescent moon to fix the start of a new Islamic month. Since several decades Saudi Arabia and most neighboring Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, have employed a lunar calendar that systematically begins each Islamic calendar month one or two days ahead of actual visual sighting of a crescent moon in those countries, while the majority of the Muslims everywhere else continued relying on the moon’s visibility in their own countries.

 Around Ramadan and the month of pilgrimage (Dhul-Hijja) Saudi/Egyptian officially approved Islamic Hijri calendars cause much confusion when Muslims around the world attempt to determine the correct dates for observance of numerous rituals including the beginning of the fasting month, Taraweeh and Eidain prayers, fasting on 9th day of Dhul Hijjah and ritual sacrifice (Udhiya) on the 10th days after Eid al-Adha prayer.

 A large number of Muslims all over the world believed Saudi Arabia fixes its Islamic observance dates after the visual sighting of the lunar crescent (Hilal). As a matter of fact Saudi religious authorities of Majlis al-Qada al-A’ala strictly followed the Ummal-Qura dates based on invisible moon except on rare occasions when they had to manipulate the dates for specific purposes and ended up 28 days of Ramadan (1988) and Hajj on the 7th day of Dhul Hijja (December 29, 2006).

 

The Ummal-Qura Calendar Before 1420 AH

 The Saudi Hijri calendar passed through three phases. For years up to the end of 1419AH (16 April 1999) Saudi Arabia used a lunar calendar in which each month started on the day of the astronomical Conjunction based on the meridian of Greenwich. The rule was:

 If the Moon’s age at sunset is 12 hours or more after the [astronomical] New Moon then the Islamic month starts from the PREVIOUS sunset date since the Islamic day starts at sunset, and the night comes before the daylight.

  This rule implied that every lunar month started in the evening when the Moon at sunset was either less than 12 hours old or less than 12 hours away from the time of New Moon. The consequence was that in about 50% of all cases the lunar Islamic month began before the astronomical New Moon and in about as many cases moonset occurred before sunset. In all cases, the lunar crescent would have been absolutely invisible to the naked eye on the first evening of the lunar Islamic month.

 

From 1420 AH to 1422

 Starting at the beginning of 1420 AH (17 April 1999) the Institute of Astronomical & Geophysical Research at King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) adopted a slightly different rule for the Ummal-Qura calendar. It stated that:

On the 29th day of an Islamic month, if the sun sets in Makkah before the moon, the next date will be the first of new Islamic month. If the moon sets before the sun, the next date will be the last (30th) of the current month.

 By this rule, the month started on the first evening when moonset occurred after sunset at Makka, (or al-Masjid al-Haram). In most cases (c. 85%) the lunar crescent was still too young to have been visible with the naked eye on the first official Saudi evening of the month. About once in every two years the Saudi month would commence before the New Moon.

 Such cases indeed occurred in 1421 AH and 1422 AH. The anomaly is caused by the fact that the Sun and the Moon do not set perpendicularly at the latitude of Makka. When the Moon is near its most northerly ecliptic latitude moonset can occur after sunset even before the Sun and the Moon are in conjunction.

 

Saudi Taqweem After 1422 AH

From 1423 AH (15 March 2002) onwards, the Institute of Astronomical & Geophysical Research (KACST) has modified its rules for the Umm al-Qura calendar as follows:

 The Islamic month starts from the sunset of the conjunction date at Makka if:

1. The geocentric conjunction occurs before sunset on the 29th of the lunar month; and

2. The Moon sets after the Sun. Otherwise, the current lunar month will last 30 days.

 

 First Day of Lunar Months by UQ

 According to the new Ummal-Qura calendar the first days of the Islamic month for 1427- 1429 AH for Saudi Arabia are calculated as follows:

Month

1427

1428

1429

Muharram     

31 Jan 2006 Tu

20 Jan 2007 Sa

10 Jan 2008 Th

Safar               

1 Mar 2006 We

19 Feb 2007 Mo

8 Feb 2008 Fr

Rabi I              

30 Mar 2006 Th

20 Mar 2007 Tu

9 Mar 2008 Su

Rabi II            

29 Apr 2006 Sa

18 Apr 2007 We

7 Apr 2008 Mo

Jumada I        

28 May 2006 Su

18 May 2007 Fr

6 May 2008 Tu

Jumada II         

26 Jun 2006 Mo

16 Jun 2007 Sa

5 Jun 2008 Th

Rajab              

26 Jul 2006 We

15 Jul 2007 Su

4 Jul 2008 Fr

Sha’ban       

25 Aug 2006 Fr

14 Aug 2007 Tu

2 Aug 2008 Sa

Ramadan     

24 Sep 2006 Su

13 Sep 2007 Th

1 Sep 2008 Mo

Shawwal       

23 Oct 2006 Mo

13 Oct 2007 Sa

1 Oct 2008 We

D. Qa’da           

22 Nov 2006 We

11 Nov 2007 Su

30 Oct 2008 Th

D. Hijja 

22 Dec 2006 Fr

11 Dec 2007 Tu

29 Nov 2008 Sa

(Note: The crescent moon will not be visible the previous evening and start the month at sunset on the dates calculated above is at least one day ahead of actual visibility.)

 

Ramadan & Eidain Dates 1425-1431

The following table lists the Gregorian dates of New Year, the beginning of Ramadan, the date of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, according to the Ummal-Qura.

Year

1 Muharram

1 Ramadan

1 Shawwal

10 Dhul-Hijja

1425

21 Feb 2004 Sa

15 Oct 2004 Fr

Nov 2004

21 Jan 2005 Fr

1426

10 Feb 2005 Th

4 Oct 2005 Tu

3 Nov 2005

10 Jan 2006Tu

1427

31 Jan 2006 Tu

24 Sep 2006 Su

23 Oct 2006

31 Dec 2006 Su

1428

20 Jan 2007 Sa

13 Sep 2007 Th

13 Oct 2007

20 Dec 2007 Th

1429

10 Jan 2008 Th

1 Sep 2008 Mo

1 Oct 2008

8 Dec 2008 Mo

1430

29 Dec 2008 Mo

22 Aug 2009

20 Sep 2009

27 Nov 2009 Fr

1431

18 Dec 2009 Fr

11 Aug 2010

10 Sep 2010

16 Nov 2010Tu

 

Visibility of the Crescent Moon in Saudi Arabia

Strictly speaking, Taqweem Ummal-Qura (TUQ) is intended for civil purposes only. Makers of TUQ highlight the fact that the first visual sighting of the lunar crescent (Hilal) can occur up to two days after the date calculated in the Ummal-Qura calendar.

Saudi Majlis al-Qada al-A’ala repeatedly proclaims that it does not fix Ramadan, Eidain and Hajj dates by the Ummal-Qura calendar and that for Islamic dates the only criterion is reliable (Adil) witnesses, or completion of 30 days of the previous month. However, they readily accept all sorts of claims, blatantly false by any astronomical standard. Attempts, by local Saudi professional observers and the Ulema from all over the world have failed to persuade the Majlis to evaluate the claims and reject them for obvious contradictions.

 

Official Saudi Sighting Committees

 Since 1419 AH (1998/99 CE) the Saudi government has set up several official Hilal sighting committees to determine the first visual sighting of the lunar crescent. However, the religious authorities (Majlis al-Qada al-A’la) allow the testimony of dubious, and outright deceptive observers.  They announce sighting of the lunar crescent on dates when none of the official committees could observe a visible moon anywhere in the Kingdom.  The Majlis unhesitatingly accepts visual sighting of a moon on the 29th date of the Ummal-Qura calendar, starting a lunar month before the conjunction. Sometimes, it moves the calculated 29th date of the Ummal-Qura a day ahead making the actual sighting two days later. It has occurred for Dhul-Hijja of 1426 (January 2006) and 1427 (December 2006).

 The Majlis also commences Islamic month if the crescent moon was not seen on the 30th date of the Ummal-Qura calendar. It is a well-known fact that a moon is always visible in the 30th evening. If it is not seen then certainly it is not the 30th day of the lunar month but 29th or 28th day and hence a moon was not visible..

These Saudi practices lead to great confusion. Fistfights in Muslim communities all over the world may be seen when the dates of important religious events, especially, Ramadan Shawwal or Dhū ’l-Hijja are changed. In nearly all of these cases, a retrospective analysis has indicated that these extremely early reports of the lunar crescent were impossible and based on false sightings.

 A recent study (Kordi, 2003) of 42 reports of observations of the Ramadan crescent moon as announced by the Saudi Majlis al-Qada between 1962-2001, confirms that almost all of Majlis announcements were too early and based on false sighting claims.

 Odeh (1999) also reached the same conclusion after analyzing 1954-1998 Ramadan and Eidain dates in Jordan (also all over the Middle East).