Moon Sighting Revisited

September 29, 2006

by M. Bakri Musa 

This year, as in previous years, Muslims in America and elsewhere are again disagreeing over when Ramadan and Eid should begin. This year, also as in previous years, there will be renewed and earnest declarations to resolve once and for all this recurring issue.

The question is whether the new Muslim month (of particular relevance is Ramadan and Shawal) should begin when the new moon is sighted or go by scientific calculations.

A corollary controversy is over when to celebrate Eid ul Adha, whether to do it at the precise time the pilgrims are celebrating theirs in Mecca or to go by the equivalent local time.

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Why was the moon sighting report from Texas declared invalid?

September 23, 2006

On September 22, 2006, a group of people supposedly sighted the crescent moon north of Dallas, Texas. It has been reported that this group, consisting of four to six people, gave the shahada (testimony) at a Masjid (mosque) in Denton, Texas of sighting the moon. Upon receiving this moon sighting report, the various Hilal committees’ in the United States consulted each other and subsequently declared the report to be invalid according to astronomical calculations and the principles laid down by the shariah (Islamic Law).

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Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s Scholarly Respone to ISNA’s Moon Sighting Decision; ICNA decides to stick with tradition and rules out calculations in moon sighting

September 22, 2006

Subhanallah! This paper is excellent. You can download it from Zaytuna’s Website:


A couple of statements I found interesting:

“This paper advances several arguments and rebuts others in an effort to prove that the only acceptable basis for determining the lunar month is the actual sighting of the dawning crescent. At the root of the problem is a failure to recognize that the crescent moon’s appearance is a legal cause (sabab) determined by God in the Qur’an and through His Prophet’s words. That being the case, no scholar in the history of Islam has ever permitted calculation in lieu of sighting until the modern era.”

“I argue that the actual naked-eye sighting is the standard demarcator for establishing the entrance of the Islamic lunar month based on the fact that the Qur’anic verse, They ask you about the crescent moons; say they are a means to measure your specific times and are also for the commencement of the Hajj (2:189), can only be interpreted literally. This conclusion ensues because the verse is decisive in its evidentiary nature and unequivocal in meaning.”

“Hence, I argue that, far from being an advancement, moving to a calculated lunar calendar is a reversion to pre-Islamic (jahili) custom.”

“In addition to advancing proofs showing that none of our scholars advocated standardizing the determination of the beginning of the lunar months based on calculations, I will show how the opinion of Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id has been misrepresented by the advocates of such calculations.”

“I conclude my argument by presenting the opinion of the four Sunni schools and the Ja’fari Shia school that the norm for establishing the beginning of the lunar month is the actual naked-eye sighting.”

– Shaykh Hamza Yusuf


Another recent development: ICNA released a statement today declaring they will not be siding with ISNA and their Fiqh Council on their moon sighting decision. They said:

“The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) has traditionally adopted the opinion of sighting the moon in North America . On the advice of ICNA’s Scholars Committee, we have decided to continue following our existing approach and will not be adopting a calendar which is primarily based on calculations.”

Outcry against ISNA Fiqh Council Moon Sighting Decision (Part 2)

September 10, 2006

Click here to read the Part 1 of this post.

More shuyukh have spoken against the ISNA Fiqh Council moon sighting decision to base the Islamic lunar month only on astronomical calculations (derived by their own scientists) and disregard the sunnah of sighting the actual moon with the naked eye.

I have obtained the following answers lately (InshaAllah I’ll add others as they come in):

(*) ISNA’s Recent Decision Regarding the 1st of Ramadan and the ‘Id– “… The Ulama Association of North America (UANA) unequivocally declares that lunar months should begin with sighting and not with calculation. This is the ruling of Shari‘ah and we must abide by it. ISNA’s Fiqh Council has created confusion in the minds of Muslims before due to its decisions and we implore that that they avoid doing this.” – Ulama Association of North America (UANA)which comprises of various ulama across the United States, including esteemed ulama such as Moulana Abdullah Saleem (Institute of Islamic Education, Elgin, Illinois), Imam Tahir Anwar (South Bay Islamic Association, San Jose, California), Moulana Khaja Shuaibuddin (Salt Lake City, Utah), Mufti Abdurrahman Ibn Yusuf (Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California) and others.

(*) Islamic Shariah Council of California (USA) refutes ISNA’s fatwa on moon calculation– “The setup of a new criterion for the start of Islamic month that the moon is born before 12:00 Noon GMT is contrary to Islamic sources, practice of ummah and views of the majority of the Islamic Scholars and Ulama throughout Islamic history.” – Islamic Shariah Council of California (Signed and endorsed by the more than 40 plus prominent scholars and imams)

(*) More coming soon.

The Fiqh Council of North America?

September 8, 2006

I sometimes wonder who the qualified muftis of this Fiqh Council are. Qualified being the key word in the previous sentence. Never-mind that, since I don’t think we’ll have much luck on quality, another point to ponder upon is which fiqh do they follow? Does anyone know? Last time I checked, their list of scholars apparently shrank, with the resignation of Dr. Sherman Jackson. In fact, to what extent are all these scholars even involved in making decisions at the council? There are a lot of questions being asked after the latest decision they took on disregarding the need for actual moon sighting in determining Islamic Lunar months.

Isn’t it ironic that people who are making “taqlid” of this “Fiqh Council” lately on issues such as moon sighting, are the same people who don’t make taqlid of any one of the madhabs? (No, I’m not referring to the Salafis here. This is something different) How many of them do you think read the 52 page article by Dr. Shah? Not many. How passionately are they defending this new initiative? Pretty passionately if you ask me.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s talk on Moon Sighting

September 8, 2006

The Zaytuna Institute website has a talk given by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on the subject of sighting the actual moon. Click here to listen. While you’re at it, check out Shaykh Hamza’s article Reflections on the Heavens and the Earth on Sacred Astronomy.

Outcry against ISNA Fiqh Council Moon Sighting Decision (Part 1)

September 4, 2006

As many of you might have heard by now ISNA recently endorsed the Fiqh Council’s justification to base the start of the Islamic lunar month solely on astronomical calculations. They have announced a 5 year Islamic Calendar in advance. This has forced numerous mosques around the country to convene specials meetings to determine if they should follow this decision and of course, there has been intense opposition from various Muslim scholars and scientists. The opponents of this latest Fiqh Council decision in a nutshell are saying Islamic law has made clear the necessity of an actual sighting of the moon to determine Islamic dates, however astronomical data can be used solely to assist and guide in determining the probability of a moon sighting.

The arguments presented by the Fiqh Council are part of a 52 page article written by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah. Following are several answers from traditional ulama (scholars) and non-ulama on this latest issue:

(*) North America Hilal Committee finds the Fiqh Council decision flawed– Signed by a diverse group of ulama (scholars) including deobandis, barelwis and a shi’a scholar (That’s quite an accomplishment – in my opinion – in itself). The ulama (scholars) who signed this statement are as follows: Mawlana Muhammad Nadvi (North American Ulema Council, California), Mawlana Abdullah Kapodrawee (Jami’atul Ulama Canada), Mufti Ruhul Amin (Shar’ah Board of New York), Mufti Mumtaz Qasmi (Islamic Shari’ah Council of California), Mawlana Muhibur Rahman (Ulama Council of America), Imam Ashrafuz Zaman (Ulama council of America), Mufti Hidayatullah Farooqi (Jamat Ahle Sunnat of America), Mufti Muhammad Jamaluddin (Darul Uloom NY), Mawlana Muhammad Tayyab Qasmi (Islamic Shari’ah Council of B.C., Canada), Mufti Noman Vazir (Shari’ah Board of New York), Shaikh Syed Muhammad Rizvi (Shi’a Association of America) and Mawlana Khaleel Ahmad (Hilal Committee of Metro Toronto).

(*) Inaccurate decision of ISNA’s Fiqh Council creates controversy – The ulama of the Chicago Hilal Committee

(*) Answer from Mufti Desai (Full version coming soon) – “We have studied the research of ISNA as prepared by Zul Fiqar Ali Shah of Milwaukee and found it to be flawed from many angles.”Mufti Ebrahim Desai (db)

(*) Axing of Methodology“… I would appeal to my fellow Muslims, that if you have plans of buying a pair of shoes or a diamond ring, then you would do due diligence, before buying. Islam is much more than a pair of shoes or a diamond ring and far greater in consequences, please consult with the scholars and it’s time that you take control of things. Let not one individual or select group individual take you for a ride.” – Dr. Hafiz Abdur Rahman Aejaz (Santa Clara, California) 

(*) Moon Sighting for the month of Ramadan“… it is not possible nor has the Shari’ah allowed the Islamic lunar calendar to be based on calculations.  This has never been permitted and has been the consensus of the Ummah.  Though, this much can be said that Islam does allow using astronomical calculations to aid in moonsighting.  For example, it can be helpful in providing us the approximate timings to when the moon will be most likely visible, or the age of the moon at the time of the setting of the sun, or at what time the moon will set.” – Shaykh Ibrahim Memon, Darul Uloom Al Madania (Buffalo, New York)

(*) I have been informed, a few other ulama are preparing a response. Insha’Allah as soon as it will be made public, I shall post it here.

Part 2