Which [moon sighting] camp are you in?

In recent history, there are four major moon sighting camps that have evolved in North America or shall we call them the “The four schools of moon sighting thought”? We’ll stick with calling them the four camps for now.

Camp #1: This is the camp of the majority of the traditionalists. They firmly follow the local moon sighting position. The constituents of this camp are none other than the majority of the Deobandi ulama (scholars) and mosques, all the Barelwi ulama (scholars), until recently the ISNA and ICNA organizations (although for the month of Dhul-Hijjah they switched to Camp #2), some Shia, the Zaytuna Institute in California and other traditional leaning individuals and organizations.

Camp #2: This is the Saudi moon sighting camp. Although, they tend to portray themselves as followers of the global sighting position, in reality they only determine their Islamic dates according to the moon sighting announcements made all the way in Saudi Arabia. This group does not accept the moon sighting of any other country except Saudi Arabia therefore in essence they do not follow global sighting because as proven in the past, they have rejected the moon sightings in Morocco, Italy, and even the United States. Also, another interesting point is that Saudi Arabia follows the local sighting position. So let’s say the Saudi’s were in North America, we would place them in Camp #1. It doesn’t get more complicated than this. Actually it does. Read on.

Camp #3: True followers of the traditional global sighting position. I have personally come across only one major scholar from Syria who says he follows this position.  I have yet to see any organized group or mosque in North America follow this position. If you do know of any please email moonsightingdebate[at]gmail.com to inform us.

Camp #4: This is the brand new camp. The latest edition to the world of moon fighting. In an attempt to unite the entire muslim ummah in the whole world and of course little convenient things such as being able to get a designated Eid holiday from the govenment, this camp has declared a five year pre-determined Islamic calendar based solely on astronomical calculations. They have ruled that the actual sighting of the moon which was has been practised by the majority of muslims in the 1400 year history of Islam has to be disregarded.

In a nutshell, the above four camps are leading the moon sighting debate in North America. Each claims to have the Quran and the Sunnah on their side. While the local v.s. global sighting difference is widely accepted as a valid difference, as you can easiy see Camp’s #2 and #4 clearly do not fall into this category therefore one will encounter wide spread criticism of both Camps by reputable traditional Ulama (scholars).

Advertisements

21 Responses to Which [moon sighting] camp are you in?

  1. ibn nadim says:

    excellent post, btw. good reference for people who want a quick summary of the debate.

  2. mizbah says:

    Assalamualykkum ,

    Which of these camps use methods described in hadiths for prayer times,starting and breaking fast ??

    Which of these camps use moonsighting for starting month for all 12 months ??

    Which of these camps use astronomical calculation to reject false sighting ??

    rgds

  3. Wa alaikum assalam,

    Ibn Nadim – JazakAllah khair.

    Mizbah,

    The answer to your first question is “all” of them.

    The second question, all of them too but as mentioned in my post they have different methods.

    In response to your third question, Camp #1 tends to go by the principle if their is overwhelming evidence from astronimical calculations they shall reject any sightings which they also deem false. This particular issue has caused Camp #1 folks to differ in 2005 but insha’allah an effort is being made in North America for that not to happen again.

  4. mizbah says:

    Assalamualaykkum,

    Thanks for the replies .
    Regarding the first answer : Did they watch for movement of sun ,lenght of shadow ,sunset, disappearnce of twilight etc etc ?? Are there people to do this and do they change timing each day ??

    Regarding the second: Who is looking for the hilaal every month ?? Are there appoinyed people ??Or they accept moonsighting by anyone and change the date accordingly ??

    Regarding the third : Is it permissible to reject sighting if there is no possibilty of moon sigthing by astronomy ?? And what is the current status of first camp regarding this ??

    What is the position of each camp regarding the day of doubt :whether to start month or complete 30 if there is no moonsighting on cloudy day ??

    rgds

  5. Wa alaikum assalam Mizbah,

    [1] I believe you are referring to timings for the daily prayers. First of all, that has nothing to do with moon sighting. The timings of the salah are determined according to the Sun. If you mean, if there were people in the time of Rasul Allah (sallalahu alayhi wassalam) or the later geenrations who did this, then Yes there were such people who kept track of the timings. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf menitons that on the sacred astronomy section of the Zaytuna Website. I personally found that quite interesting.

    [2] The hilal committee’s have their own people but they also accept testimony from muslim witnesses with certain conditions.

    [3] The first camp follows this principle.

    [4] Camps 1 to 3 follow this principle as its clearly established from Hadith. It doesn’t matter to Camp 4 because they have already issued a 5 year calendar. There is no one from Camp 4 looking for a moon out there. :)

  6. mizbah says:

    Assalamualykkum,

    What is first camp’s response to the camp4’s decision to get use of astronomy for positive sighting as first camp already agree with the camp4 in rejecting moonsighting if astronomy ruled out sighting??
    Then camp 1 and 4 can come to an agreement if they also adopt astronomy for positive sighting .
    Then try to convince camp 2 and 3 so that all 4 camps can be dismissed and form a single camp :):)

    rgds

  7. mizbah says:

    “Fasting begins on the day you all begin to fast, and Al-Fitr (the ‘Eed) is the day when you all have broken your fasts.”

    At-Tirmithee, after mentioning this hadeeth, said, “And some of the people of knowledge explained this hadeeth, saying that fasting and breaking the fast are both to be done along with the main body and majority of the Muslims.”

  8. Danya says:

    May I ask who this Syrian scholar you speak of is?

  9. assalamu `alaykum Sister Danya,

    The syrian scholar I spoke of is Shaykh Sayyed Muhammad bin Yahya Al-Ninowy, who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. I approached him last Ramadan (2005) after his Aqidah Tahawiyyah lecture in Masjid Hamzah and asked him about his opinion on the moon sighting issue. He said three things which I remember distinctly. First, he said he follows the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa which is if the moon is sighted in any part of the world it is considered, i.e. the traditional global sighting position. Secondly, I asked him about the Saudi sighting, he said he does not hold them in high regard, i.e. the saudis and their method. Thirdly, he said if Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (RA) was khalifa today he would not approve of anything but global sighting.

    I would also like to clarify, that this is just my experience with a scholar who follows global sighting position. I’m sure there are others too.

  10. Danya says:

    Jazak Allahu khair :)

  11. Zaheer says:

    As Salaam Alaikum.

    Camp #4 is actually promoting camp #2. If you study Saudi method, it is exactly same with minor differences. Camp #2 uses Saudi time to calculate birth of new moon whereas camp #4 uses GMT to calculate birth of new moon.

    Camp #2 works because it is enforced by kings. General public or imams have no right to dispute. You lose your freedom if you dispute.

    Camp #4 will face a lot of opposition and possible extinction because it is open to criticism and dispute without any protection from kings.

    Both camp #2 and #4 have no basis on qur’an and hadeeth. There was no such concept of “birth of new moon” and “conjunction” in the Prophet’s pbuh time. At that time nobody used noon time to calculate start of new month. Everybody looked for the new moon on the 29th day at sunset, and if they didn’t see it, they added the 30th day.

    There was no concept of global sighting either. People could only travel limited distance. The one difference of date in Ramadan between Syria and Madina is frequently quoted as an example where no efforts were made to synchronize despite the knowledge of difference.

    It is also recorded that no efforts were made by Prophet, pbuh, to synchronize dates between different cities, specially between Makkah and Madinah after Makkah’s conquest. This was possible for Eidul Adha.

    One simple rule of moonsighting: If moon is sighted at any place, it is easier to sight west of that place as it gets bigger and is higher on the horizon and takes longer to set. It also moves away from sun thereby making it easier to sight.

  12. Dr Khalid Shahzad says:

    It’s a nice effort to summarize the various positions although I may spin it a little different.
    Since there is hardly anybody who is following the camp #3 (world-wide sighting), I would not even mentioned it. As for camps # 2 and #4, to me, they are virtually indistinguishable and, moreover, they are interlinked. Let me explain. It is well established that Saudis have been following the calculations method for years and years, see for example, http://islamicmoon.com/Moonsighting%20Errors.htm. Of course, they try to masquerade and “legitimize” their calcualtions by producing some “eye-witnesses” who saw the moon before it’s theoretically possible! As for ISNA and its cronies, they have long been following Saudis ad nauseam. Thus, the calculations method and shunning of the Prophetic tradition has been a hallmark of Saudis and their buddies. To me the sad part is that many people in the West put too much blind faith in Saudis with a false presumption that just because Islam originated in Saudi Arabia, they must have a prestine and perfectly inhereted methodology commensurate with the Quran and Sunnah. As most people with slight pondering will testify that Saudi regime is a despotic regime which is out there at the explicit favor of US and pushing its own Wahabist and Salafist bidahs at the expenses of denouncing all the mazaib al arbaha (the four leading schools of jurisprudence).

  13. Zolfeghar says:

    I have to say the general impression I have from Muslims (in America at least) is that they are pretty much disgusted and exasperated by the lack of unity among the Ummah (i.e. the Ulema) on this issue. I actually welcome the ISNA position as a step in the right direction. I have never had any respect for the Saudi position on this issue and strongly disagree with the comment that the ISNA policy is simply another version of the Saudi one.

    As a Muslim how can we adhere to announcements from the Saudis that are based on pure and simple deception? If their policy is based on astronomical calculations – then why cloak that by citing fake sightings? Take for example the fact that they announced sighting of the new moon on 10 Jan 2005, when the moon was below the horizon and later had to retract their sighting (during Hajj last year). I also remember that the Saudis claimed a sighting some years ago BEFORE the moon was even born. To be fair – I suspect that many other governments also place politics above their religious duties when it comes to this issue – the Saudis are just the most glaringly obvious is this regard.

    The ISNA position at least is one that is clearly laid out for all to read.

    When the issue of the new moon is causing fitnah and disunity within the Ummah – should we not take another look at this issue?

    Also, for the record – a leading Shia scholar in Lebanon – Seyyed Hussein Fadhlollah has the expressed opinion that astronomical observations are valid for determining the start of the month. He is the only leading Alim I know of (Shia or Sunni) who has this belief. If anyone knows of another I would welcome the info. For a summary of his views you can go to this link:

    http://english.bayynat.org.lb/islamicinsights/ramadan3.htm

  14. javid says:

    Do people who want to follow actual moonsighting use Miswak or toothbrush and toothpaste. if they have given up the tradition of Prophet (pbuh) and use toothbrush and toothpaste may be they should go back to miswak….
    if the idea of using miswak was to clean your teeth, then toothbrush and toothpaste is probably better alternative . In the same manner, if moon sighting is just a way to set up a calendar, then there should be no problem using atronomical data.

  15. USMAN GHUMMAN says:

    I think President Bush should declare the Ramadan and Eid days for the Muslims.

  16. Shah says:

    To Usman…I believe Bush has already some kind of an input into this since it is so messed up. Lets stick to traddition brother and sisters. Look for the moon in your vicinity…see it then fast…see it then break your fast…if not…go 30 days. Let us all try it…by Allah [SWT] it has worked before and it could work again. All we have to do is to agree on the size of the vicitiny by a majority and stick to it.

  17. Kasim says:

    Assalamu Alaykum,

    I agree that there is no difference between camp #2 and camp #4. I agree with calculating, but it should start from “visibility” point of the moon. Therefore, those who accept calculation differ on the point from where you will start the moon, from visibility point or certain age of moon after the birth. Like those who are in differnce from what angle we should calculate Isha time or Fajr time. I don’t see big difference between calculating sun’s position for salat times and moon’s position for start of month. Both are considered in Usul-i figh as asbab, (means), which means in khitab of Sharee Teala moon’s position in certain place (that is visibility) is made sabab for responibility of mulallaf to start fasting. In the past it was known to us by “sighting”, we can now also know it by “calculating”. Allah knows the best. Kasim K.

  18. Qamar says:

    What is the problem with accepting a sighting report from a given location only if according to astronomical calculations the moon was possible to be seen by the naked eye (imkan-e-ruyat) and rejecting it as a mistake if it was not possible to be sighted according to astronomical calculations? Also, what is the problem with one country which shares the horizon (matala) with a nearby country (with similar sun rise/set times) to follow each others sighting report which fulfils the previous conditions? Does these 2 criteria not fulfil the condition of Shariah and Science at the same time without any conflicts? I think some Muslim countries (e.g. India, Pakistak, Bangladesh etc.) are already using these 2 criteria becasue they consistently make the correct decisions which agrees with Shariah and Science. I think our main problem is we are lacking leaders who understand both Shriah and Science of Moon Sighting. How can we educate these leaders – please make some suggestions.

  19. al-muwahhid says:

    If you go to […] they also adopt same opinion as taking global moon sighting, i.e. camp 3

  20. AbdurRahman says:

    As-salaamu `alaykum

    Global moonsighting will not work when the Hilaal is first sighted in Hawaii, since fasting would not be possible for those just on the other side of the International Dateline, even as far west as Saudi Arabia! I mentioned this a long time ago in my article, but the modernists seem to persist in ignoring this sad but scientific fact:

    http://73k.org/islam/globlsighting.html

    Today, I finally finished publishing my data for what Saudi Arabia has been up to for the past 7 years or so:

    http://73k.org/islam/hijri.html

    It’s not the Adab of a Muslim to speculate on why Saudia Arabia has such a poor track record of correctly sighting the Hilaal, but I belive that a international certification program for those trained in the methodology of moon sighting would be the best solution.

    I like Brother Zaheer’s post above. I agree with him 100%.

    wa `alaykum as-salaam

  21. AbdurRahman says:

    Oops! I mistyped the first link. It should be:

    http://73k.org/islam/globalsighting.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: