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Special Article:

Global Hijri Calendar Proposals


Every now and then, the Muslim astronomical experts suggest a "global Hijri Calendar", often without clearly spelling out their “criteria.” CFCO has responded to almost everyone who suggested a local or "global” Hijri Calendar since 1986. But the vacuous discussion continues because the Muslim experts do not agree on the basics:

1. Is your calendar based on Lunar Visibility or it is NOT required?
2. If your dates are calculated on the basis of visibility what is your criterion?
3. Is your lunar visibility “LOCAL” or “global”?
4. Does it require naked-eye, land-based visibility or space-based instrumental observation as well?
5. Where is the Lunar Dateline for your calendar dates?
6. If there is NO Dateline, then how do you divide the time into dates and months?
7. Is the Dateline FIXED or it REVOLVES every month with the earliest visibility?
8. Does your date EXTEND WESTWARD from the point of earliest visibility or goes BACKWARDS also?
9. Is the length of the Lunar month same for all regions of the globe or it differs by LOCAL visibility?

Apparently many miss the significance of each of these points. Some (Saudi Ummal-Qura, ISNA Fiqh Council, European Council for Fatwa, etc.) have dropped the lunar visibility Qur’anic requirement altogether. Some have replaced it by Imkaan (Slightest possibility). Some take "later" visibility (hours after the sunset, even on the next solar date) to start the “local” date instantly. Some (tri-zonal or bio-zonal calendars) move the dateline every month. As a result, each Islamic month is 29 and 30 days long simultaneously for different visibility regions.

The most naïve are those who "INSIST on LOCAL VISIBILITY" but see no logical contradiction when they extend it. (“36-48 miles: East, West, North, South”; or “to the cities located at the same latitude”, or “the "nearest Muslim country"; or “Caribbean for Canada, South Africa for UK; or “All Arab countries that share the night”, etc.).

It is a fact that two towns only 10 miles apart but on the two sides of the visibility parabola do NOT SEE the Hilal in the same evening of the solar date. The moon is NOT SEEN by country, continent, longitude, or latitude. Its visibility starts from a different place on the globe and extends in a parabola. The moon may become first visible as far north as Alaska and as far south as New Zealand, depending on the season.

Hijri Calendar Complications

The “Earliest” Lunar Visibility and “day /date” division of the “time” further complicate lunar calendars.

For Muslim and Jewish calendars, the day/date starts from the sunset. The Muslim date/day start from the sunset after the Hilal is confirmed SEEN "locally". The Jewish date starts from the New Moon BEFORE Jerusalem or 2 1/2 hours past Jerusalem (plus some more adjustments). The Muslim calendar-makers never specified where the Islamic date begins except that it is “by the “local visibility.”

Is it valid to begin the "local" Islamic day/date/month from any location X in the expectation that the Hilal might become visible hours later at location Y (even on the next solar date) somewhere on the globe?

Try to implement this rule in Makkah Mukarramah. Can they start Ramadan from the evening of the Conjunction date in the hope that Ramadan Hilal will become VISIBLE 12-23 hours later somewhere? Even the "solar date" will change in Makkah by the time Makkah Muslims get the confirmation of the actual sighting.

To by-pass this hurdle, the definition of the Islamic “Hilal” – the earliest visible waxing crescent moon - was changed to “the moonset after the sunset” on the conjunction date. The conjunction occurs at all times of day and night. Therefore some went to the extreme of calling a “CCD image” of the moon at the Conjunction a Hilal.

Initial Lunar Visibility

The earliest visibility and "initial point of visibility" further complicate the Islamic calendar. No local or global calendar can be made on the base of strict lunar visibility. A look at the visibility maps of any two consecutive months on the Conjunction (solar) date, and the next two dates will convince anyone about this fact

1. Lunar visibility (by any criterion, from Yallop to Ilyas) takes 3+ solar dates to cover the entire globe;
2. The visibility curves of any two consecutive months show a westwards movement (almost 6-8 thousand miles). In other words, the previous month would be 30 days for this zone and only 29 days for the rest of the globe.
3. The visibility results in 3-4 parallel “local” Hijri calendars. (3-4 dates for the same "solar" date everywhere)

Where would the Islamic date (for example 1st of Ramadan) start by the earliest visibility criterion?

Let us take the Saudi Ummal Qura calendar. The moonset, for example, is one minute AFTER the sunset on the Conjunction date in Makkah. Will the month of Ramadan start from Makkah westwards or from where the Hilal will become visible 20+ hours later in the Pacific? Assuming that the black lunar disk at the Conjunction is the Islamic Hilal just ONE SECOND later then what about Taif and all regions EAST of Makka in Saudi Arabia? Should they start Ramadan with Makkah? What about Yemen, Pakistan India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia? Should they start with Makkah or wait till the next sunset? What if the Conjunction is with or one minute BEFORE the sunset at Makkah?

Contemporary Muslim Practices

Recent Muslim practices for fixing Ramadan, Eidain, etc. dates include:
- The “precise calculation of the lunar Conjunction “BEFORE dawn” (Libya)
- The moonset after sunset in Makkah on the New Moon date (S. Arabia, ISNA, ECFR, 2007)
- The Conjunction before 12:00 Noon GMT (a variation of #2: Khalid Shaukat for ISNA Fiqh Council 2006)
- CCD imaging or any other instrument-generated diagram of the moon at Conjunction (Martin, Odeh)
- A visible Hilal anywhere in the world.
- A “visible Hilal” at 180E (International solar Dateline), or 30W as the Intl lunar Dateline (Details follow)
- The new moon before midnight at the International Date Line.
- etc.

Chaos in the Islamic Dates

The present chaos about the Islamic dates is a result of some LOCAL (declared or kept secret) practices:

1. Saudi (Ummal Qura), ISNA (Khalid Shaukat) Calendars are calculated by: “the Conjunction (NM) +moonset AFTER sunset in Makkah.” (The Hilal CANNOT be seen in Makkah on those dates.)
2. Libya uses the “Conjunction before Dawn” to count the following sunlight hours as the first day (for fasting).
3. Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Turkey, Bosnia, Tunis, etc. calculate their first Islamic date by the lunar altitude of 2-5 degrees at sunset. (Never SEEN there)
4. European Fatwa Council (ECFR) and some Muslim organizations all over the world follow S. Arabia.
5. Some UK Muslim groups follow “Morocco” or “South Africa” sighting for UK.
6. Toronto Council (Canada, 2007) goes by a sighting in the Caribbean. (Some in New York, Buffalo also follow it).
7. The Shari’ah Boards (Chicago, New York, etc.) accept all claim of sighting. For them, Calculations showing non-sighting or non-sighting of the Hilal on the West Coast are “Not valid Shari’ah argument” to reject a claim.
8. Connecticut Council of Masaajid decides the dates strictly by “local” (Connecticut USA) sighting.
9. Locally sighted Hilal is the criterion in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Oman, Morocco, S. Africa, etc.

Islamic Calendar Solutions

There is no dearth of Muslim and non-Muslim “experts” suggesting “local” or “Global” Hijri Calendars.

1. Suggestion:
“If minimum Luni-solar Geocentric Elongation, anywhere in the world, at the moment of Fajr Sadiq at Makkah, is 10 degrees then the coming “day” is the first day of the new Islamic month and preceding night is the first night”

[Explanation: The night (sunset to true dawn) in which Hilal is observed, is counted as first night of the new Islamic month and the coming day (sunlight hours) is the first civil (solar) day. So Islamic solar and lunar dates fall globally on the same day, sharing common sun light hours.]

Naked-eye observation of a Hilal, which satisfies this criterion, is quite sure somewhere in the world, ensuring appearance of Young Crescent (Hilal) in the sky before Fajr Sadiq on International Date Line (180o E regarding MPM). The region of possible Hilal observation with naked-eye can be determined by precise calculations in certain computer programmes.]

2. Suggestion:
Decide local dates by Hilal Visibility curves, in addition and applying Hilal visibility in a city to all cities with equal or lower probability of sighting

[Explanation: Lunar visibility in each city + 48 miles being one Matla (Shafii Madhab) makes sense.]

3. Time & Strategy (following Khalid Shaukat):
"The new moon occurs before midnight at the International Date Line. The moon would be visible somewhere on the earth on that day."

[Explanation:“the visibility criteria applied "locally" to the IDL that results in a non-sighting, allows for the possibility of the application of the same visibility criteria to points west of the IDL to result in sighting the Hilal within a shared 24 hour time period.”]

4. Sharing the common sunlight hours
5. Sharing the same night.

These and many other “solutions” fail the validity tests or satisfy the two basic conditions of a lunar calendar. All ideas or conceptual assumptions about natural phenomena have to be discarded when systematic empirical observations can no longer support them.

The Muslim calendar experts should continue looking for alternative solutions that a) fulfill the “Observed Hilal” condition; and b) Calculate the beginning of the month precisely.

CFCO Calendars for N. America

We at CFCO Intl. are open to any "reasonable" solution that creates a unified Islamic Lunar calendar “locally” or globally. At present there is NONE as you have found above.

For North America CFCO, in the absence of a better alternative, still follows the consensus developed in 1966:

“The Islamic month begins by a verifiable Hilal (seen after the sunset) anywhere in 48 contiguous US states”

CFCO practice of “48contiguous states” often elicit the response that CFCO also extends the lunar visibility. Please keep in mind that:

1. "Broad-regional” or strictly “Local” visibility-based Islamic calendars for N America result in two or three Hijri dates for each solar date every month in different regions.
2. The Hijri dates for Canada add further chaos. Southern Canada may have distinct dates not only from the USA but also from Northern Canada
3. The dates may be further complicated each month when adjusted for "local" cloudy conditions.

These were the main reasons that the "48-contiguous states" rule was adopted in 1966 for N. America. CFCO’s practice is "IMPERFECT "but it is the only practical solution and essential as an "administrative" necessity.

Those who insist on strictly "local" visibility are seen discarding their own rule by extending the visibility to "not-visible" areas in the name of "Qasr" distance, "a state or area governed by a Hakim", "Seen in the East" (Fatwa), “Seen on the same longitude (the recent decision to accept Caribbean sighting for Canada), "Seen in a nearby Muslim country", “Will be Seen on the same latitude”, etc.