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Standardization of Islamic Dates
Research and notes Part 2
by Shah Nawaz Khan, Free Lance Internet Journalist
1. Origin of Islamic Calendar - Part 1
2. Related Verses of Holy Quran and Hadiths - Appendix
3. Facts about the moon - Appendix
4 Difference of Opinions in Interpreting Hadiths - Part 2
5. Fuqaha Positions on Regional and Global Sighting - Part 3
 選khtilaf vs. Ittihad al-Matali 
6. The Excellence of Friday

 Different Points of View
Holy Prophet (sws) laid great emphasis on unity of Ummah but due to different interpretations of the verses of Holy Quran and Hadiths,  Eids are celebrated in different countries, even in the same city, on different days by different communities. And new Islamic months and new year of Islamic calendar begin and end  from and on  different days of week - usually a gap one to three days occurs. On this issue the Muslims are divided in the following broad groups: 

A) Those who believe in moon sighting on 29th of each month in their own region. If the crescent is sighted a new month begins from the same evening, otherwise the month ends in the evening of 30th days whether or not the crescent is seen. Saudi Ulema insists seeing the moon by naked eye, whereas in Pakistan Ulema accept astronomical aids like binoculars..

B) Those who follow the announcements at Holy Kaba. Over whelming majority of Arabs living in other continents than Arabia and people most countries of Asia and Africa follow the announcement at Kaaba. But not the majority in India and Pakistan where regional sighting is deemed necessary and people offer Eids on different days due to difference in point of view.  .

C) Those who follow the printed calendar based on astronomical data for appearance of new moon anywhere on the earth dispensing with the need for crescent sighting on earth by naked eye. 

D) Those who follow the printed calendar based on astronomical data for appearance of new moon at Holy Kaaba and they too dispense with the need for crescent sighting on earth by naked eye or meteorological aid.. 

RESOLUTION NO.16/8-C(IS) ON THE UNIFIED HIJRI CALENDAR FOR THE BEGINNING OF LUNAR MONTH AND THE UNIFICATION OF ISLAMIC HOLIDAYS

The Eighth Session of the Islamic Summit Conference (Session of Dignity, Dialogue, was Participation), held in Tehran, from 9 to 
11 Shaban 1418H (9-11 December 1997) or shall we say 10 to 12 >
Shaban 1418 H according to Pakistani Islamic Taqweem!
 Holy Quran does not require us to actually see the moon but some think that it does! 

The sun and the moon are made punctual. _055.005 
(Now the astronomers can calculate exact time of their appearance.)


They ask thee concerning the New Moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men, and for Pilgrimage. .. _02.189


The underlying principle of Hadiths is also to consult lunar calendar. Viewed form another angle, Hadiths are third party narration and that advice was addressed to the people living in Mecca or Medina who used to determine dates by watching moon, as there were neither printed calendars and nor watches. The concept of minutes and seconds was unknown and people used to determine time by the shadows created by sunlight or hour glasses of sand or water.. 
 

Recalling the previous resolutions adopted by the OIC and the recommendations of the 20th Session of the Islamic Commission for Economic, Cultural and Social Affairs, for the establishment of a Unified Hijri Calendar for the beginning of Lunar months and the Unification of Islamic Holidays resolved among things; 

1) Called upon the Member States which do not observe Friday as the weekly holiday and to use the Hijri date to proceed to do so. 

2) Called upon the member States, the General Secretariat and the Islamic Fiqh Academy to seek the assistance of Islamic jurists and astronomers wit view to reaching an agreement on the unification of the Hijri Calendar. 

It is not known what progress has been made in this regard except touring and talking and talking.  The calendar is already there which coincides with appearance of moon at one place or another on the earth. But do we need to adjust it every month based on moon sighting every month? Holy Quran does not require us to do so but there are Hadiths. 

Is Moon sighting necessary? If yes where? 

Well educated people well versed with Holy Quran and Hadiths opine that Islam is a perfect religion and the fault lies in the bigotry and despotism of our Ulemas in interpreting the Hadiths and Holy verses. They opine that Holy Quran lays down the basis for calendar for our affairs and for Pilgrimage. See verses 002.189, 010.005 and 055.005 that are relevant.  Click here for details.

Holy Quran does not require us to see the moon. The only thing that supports the orthodox view that sighting is necessary are the Hadiths on the basis of which the rituals of moon sighting have been persisting in many communities of Muslim for centuries ever since the means of communications were primitive. The following Hadith from Sahih Bukhari clearly shows for whom the advice of seeing the moon for determining dates was meant. See Volume 3, Book 31, Number 137: Narrated by Ibn 'Umar: 
 The Prophet said, "We are an illiterate nation; we neither write, nor know accounts. The month is like this and this,  i.e. sometimes of 29 days and sometimes of thirty days." 

Another Hadith narrated by Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar is translated as, "Allah's Apostle (PBUH) said, "The month (can be) 29 nights (i.e. days), and do not fast till you see the moon, and if the sky is overcast, then complete Sha'ban as thirty days."

In second Hijri the great Imam Shafi (RA) had ruled that if the moon is sighted at one place in adjoining areas within a radius of 24 Farsaks the ruler can announce the sighting of moon. Apparently that was due to the means of communication available at that time. 

As interpreted by Fatmid Caliphs and Imams in tenth century A.D. the underlying principle of all such Hadiths is to consult lunar calendar. They had observed that the crescent for a new month tended to appear in Spain and Africa a day earlier than Basra, Mecca and Baghdad. And due to vagaries of weather a new month began in Mecca and Medina on two different days of the week and that there are parts of the world where the moon would not be seen at all for many months. By that time Muslim astronomer like Albairooni had perfected Islamic Hijri Calendar  scientifically and it was available for people's use. In that calendar the onset of each new month coincided with appearance of the new crescent somewhere on earth. Muslim astronomers had found that in regions deep in East of Mecca the moon could appear one day late but deep in West of Mecca one day earlier. In order to ensure uniformity throughout the Caliphate, the Fatmid caliphs adopted it. Many  Islamic countries including Bohra community in Pakistan, India and other parts of the world  follow a calendar to avoid uncertainties of appearance of crescent and do not depend on moon sighting  about which disputes used to arise and still arise. 

All such Hadiths (if interpreted with a close mind and without understanding the underlying principle) negate the need for formation of a Central committee in a big country like Pakistan and may require us to leave every city to determine its own dates as is done for prayer timings. 

Some people beleive that verse 2.189 iindicates  that moon sighting is necessary. But the words  "They ask thee concerning the New Moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men, and for Pilgrimage. It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back: It is virtue if ye fear Allah. Enter houses through the proper doors: And fear Allah: That ye may prosper." do not exactly mean that. 

However, in his commentary on this verse, the late scholar Sayyid Qutb mentioned that some reports suggest that the Prophet was asked about the new moon, its appearance as a thin crescent and its growth and shrinkage until it can be seen no more. A report suggests that the companions of the Prophet asked him: "Why has Allah created new moons?" Allah instructed the Prophet to tell his questioners that "the new moons serve as time markers indicating for mankind when to wear the ihraam garments in pilgrimage and when to put on ordinary clothes, when to start fasting and when to finish, how to calculate certain periods of time, such as a woman's waiting period if she is divorced or if her husband dies. They may also be used to calculate different periods of time relating to people's business transactions and loan settlements. Any period of time which relates to matter of religion or human transactions may be calculated by the usage of the new moons.

Apart from this, there is no religious significance to a new moon.  It would be noted that the source of all such interpretation are hadiths and some people contend that the reference to wearing Ihraam indicates its applicability only to Mecca and the underlying principle remains to consult lunar calendar.

The rulings of early Islamic jurists and scholars about regional moon sighting  were apparently based on the means of communication available in their times and are not sacrosanct..

If the Central committee sees the justification of rejecting the moon sighting in Mecca, Emirates etc. how can it impose the moon sighting in Islamabad on people in West Baluchistan who are nearer to Emirates than rest of Pakistan on the basis of Hadiths! 

What is not realized is fact that the underlying principle of Hadiths is also to consult lunar calendar. Viewed form another angle, Hadiths are third party narration and that advise was addressed to the people living in Mecca or Medina who used to determine dates by watching moon, as there were neither printed calendars and nor watches. The concept of minutes and seconds was unknown and people used to determine time by the shadows created by sunlight. 

The Hadiths about moon sighting are not as categorical and detailed as the Hadiths relating to Wadu and prayers timings and number of Rakats, Had it been intended to prescribe moon sighting each month for all times and all places it would have been specified in more detail as prayer timings are. After all we depend on  watches to determine time for Sehar and Iftar whereas the Hadiths defines that in terms of movement of sun. 

 
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