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).
The Texas moon sighting report was declared invalid and unacceptable due to the following reasons:
1. Report contradicted astronomical calculations
According to astronomical data, the possibility of sighting the crescent moon did not exist. The scholars of the past and present have mentioned that if a moon sighting report is in clear contradiction with astronomical calculations, then that report will not be accepted. The only exception to this rule is when an overwhelming number of reports are made.
According to renowned Muslim astronomers, the witness accounts were disqualified based on two reasons, (1) The time they mentioned to have seen the moon was too late for the moon to be visible after sunset and (2) the position of the moon claimed by a witness was incorrect as opposed to the normal position.
2. Report was made on the 28th of Sha’ban
The report from Texas was made on the 28th of Sha’ban, which means there was another day, i.e. the 29th of Sha’ban, remaining to complete the lunar month if the moon was to be sighted. (The scholars at this point take into consideration the possibility of an incorrect sighting for the start of Sha’ban if this report was to be accepted but due to the fact that only one such report was made, it did not satisfy the requirements laid down by the shariah, which is that there have to be various reports in order to correct an error in the previous month or verify a legitimate sighting)
3. Single moon sighting report made across North America
The question that arises when such a report is made is,
“Why weren’t there any other moon sighting reports across North America?”
The scholars have mentioned that a single report, especially in the current situation where it was the 28th of the Lunar month, simply does not merit such a large decision. If there were various verifiable reports across North America, then it would be incumbent on the Hilal Committees to make a positive declaration. Br. Youssef Ismail, a brother who looks for the moon each month writes “Here on the west coast with a large group of Muslims from the San Francisco Bay Area, with 100% clear skies with visibility of nearly 30 miles from the top of Windy Hill Open Space Preserve, no moon was seen on the evening of September 22nd, 2006.”
4. The Imam was not content with the testimony
The Imam who accepted the testimony from the witnesses was not satisfied with it. Upon further investigation by a Hilal Committee, it was revealed that a witness admitted the sighting was not with the naked eye rather a binocular was used. This witness was then unable to describe the orientation of the moon. Since there were a number of witnesses, upon inquiring further to speak to them a second witness was not made available for verification purposes. Due to the uncertainty and contradictory information presented by the witnesses, it was concluded they must have viewed “something else” in the sky rather than the actual moon.