Standardization of Islamic Dates
Research and notes Part 4
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
 ‘Ikhtilaf vs. Ittihad al-Matali 
6. The Excellence of Friday

National and Provincial Sighting
There is no consensus of opinion among the Muslim scholars in Pakistan as well as in many other countries on when and  how  to determine the beginning of the Holy month of Ramazan (or indeed any other month) in their own province/area. Of course,  most of them follow the traditional method, mentioned in the some Hadiths, i.e. to look to the sky and visibly sight the slight crescent  (hilal) but some believe that evidence of sighting the moon in nearest country like Afghanistan, Iran or UAE should be accepted as they are closer to them than many parts of Pakistan like Karachi or Lahore.

Differences among Ulema of North Western Frontier Province and the majority in rest of Pakistan have been there for many years. Like quite a few times before, in the year 2006 the NWFP Provincial Government in Pakistan declared 1st of Ramazan as of Sunday the 24th September, 2006. But the Central Moon sighting committee announced that 1st of Ramazan began from Monday the 25th September, 2006.  In Saudi Arabia 1st Ramazan fell on Saturday the 23rd September, 2006. Bohra community in Pakistan also started fasting from Saturday the 23rd September as according their calendar prepared in advance that was first of Ramazan. Eidul Fitar was celebrated in Peshawar and some other cities on three different days by different communities..

Couple of years ago the NWFP Assembly through a unanimous resolution had suggested the provincial government to ask the federal government of Pakistan to dissolve the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee and follow the decisions of Saudi Arabian government for observing all Islamic festivals including Eids and fasting.
 

PRAYER TIMINGS ARE REGIONAL – DAYS AND MONTHS ARE GLOBAL

It is fallacious to believe that just as prayer timings differ from place to place, Ramazan dates and Eid days can also differ. On the contrary just as Juma prayers are offered within 12 to 15 hours around the globe, we should be able to start and end Ramazan and other months and offer eid prayers within the same time constraint  – and not with the gap of one to three days. The day of Juma and beginning and end of Islamic months are global – not regional whereas only prayer timings are regional. 
 
 

Many Muslim communities in the world including Bohra community follow the Egyptian Calendar and do not think moon sighting is necessary for fasting or celebrating Eid or any other special occasion. The birth and death anniversaries of the Holy Prophet and Imam Ali (SA) and martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS) and other Imams and Caliphs are observed on different week days as the date of Hijri calendar fall on different weekdays in different regions. 

Differences of opinion exist on the following points. 

1. Does Holy Quran prescribe actual sighting of moon to determine the beginning of new month or it merely prescribes the lunar cycle as the basis of Islamic calendar?

2. What if people in one area see the moon, but those in another area don't? Is it okay for them to start the new month on different days?

3. Should we follow the moonlighting in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, or should we look for the crescent every month in our own region or locality?

4. Can we use the aid of telescope etc. to see the crescent?

5. What if the weather is bad and clouds hinder sighting of the crescent?

6. What we should we if happen to be in countries near polar regions where moon is not visible for months. 

7. Is sighting of moon is necessary even in this age when we have watches, calendar based on advance and accurate astronomical data to facilitate preparation of a calendar in advance? 

Over the years, various scholars and Ulemas have answered such questions in different ways. The great Imam Shafi (RA) (150-204 A.H.) 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 for all as that distance was sufficient for dispatch riders to make announcement of the sighting. Now in Pakistan Ulemas ignore such limitations of distance for Ramazan but Pakistanis living in places near Arab countries are required by Ruiyet Hilal committee to follow their verdict rather than the announcement of nearest neighboring vicinity.  By literal interpretation of Hadiths the very establishment of Central Ruyiet Hilal committee becomes questionable

 

Many Muslim communities in the world including Bohra community follow the Egyptian Calendar and do not think moon sighting is necessary for fasting or celebrating Eid or any other special occasion. The birth and death anniversaries of the Holy Prophet and Imam Ali (SA) and martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS) and other Imams and Caliphs are observed on different week days as the date of Hijri calendar fall on different weekdays in different regions. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muslims living in countries where moon is not sighted for many months are advised to follow the sighting in the nearest vicinity, but Arab Muslims  living there follow either the calendar or announcement of their own Arab country..

he prevailing opinion in South Asia remains that one should depend on a local moonsighting, i.e. begin and end Ramadan based on the sighting of the moon in your local vicinity. Astronomical calculations can help us predict when the moon should be visible, but Muslim Ulemas still rigidly follow the traditional method of looking at the sky themselves and physically "sighting" the crescent. Thus, the exact day of the beginning of Ramazan  (or any other month) is not known until the sunset of the 29th day of the Hijri month, when the moon is actually sighted and confirmed.

Many Ulemas in Saudi Arabia think that crescent should be visible by naked eye but many ulemas in Pakistan and many other countries think that visual aid can be used. 

It is said that prior to 1990 the Saudis used to follow a lunar calendar based on astronomical calculations for appearance of the moon at Mecca prepared by a British observatory. Now they have their own modern observatory, which prepares a calendar for civil use. A committee of Ulemas recommends to the rulers if the moon has been sighted. And the ruler being custodian of K'aba announces that date of Ramazan, Eidul Azha and Hajj.  Usually  there are six such committees in Saudi Arabia - near Mecca, Riyadh, Qassim, Hail, Tabuk and Asir. 

While they may carry a telescope with them, the official sighting of the committee is with naked eye only. Saudi scholars like Sheikh Al-Othaimeen are said to be against use of telescopes. Sheikh Al-Othaimeen for example indicated that using telescopes increases the "Takalluf" (Burden) on Muslims, which Allah does not want. 

 The Excellence of Friday

According to a tradition Abu Huraira reported the Holy Prophet (SWS) as saying: The best day on which the sun has risen is Friday; on it Adam was created, on it he was made to enter Paradise, on it he was expelled from it. And the Last Hour will take place on no day other than Friday.' The Holy Prophet also said on the occasion of Friday: We who are the last shall be the first on the Day of resurrection, except that every Ummah (nation) was given the Book before us and we where given it after them. It was this day (Friday) which Allah prescribed for us and guided us to it and the people came after us with regard to it, the Jews observing the next day and the Christians they day following that.' 

About the significance of Friday, the Holy Prophet is also attributed  saying: `There is no time on Friday at which no Muslim would stand, pray and beg Allah for what is good but He would give it to him' and he pointed with his hand that (this time) is short and narrow. 

There is difference of opinion among the scholars as to what exactly is
that fortunate hour on Friday when the supplication would be granted. This hour is considered as hidden. The more time we spend  in supplication and glorification of Allah the better it is for us.

It is said that the Holy Prophet (sws) attached special significance and honor to Friday. He recommenced reciting Soorah as-Sajdah (in fajr) [and al-Insaan] on Fridays because it that indicate different  affairs relevant to Friday such as taking a bath, using perfume and miswak, going to Friday's congregational prayer early, listening to the sermon, wearing one's best clothes and remembering Allah all the time. 

 
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