Astronomical Calculations for Islamic Dates Position of the Fiqh Council of North America
The Fiqh Council of North America — after careful research, deliberations, and discussion — has adopted a new position regarding the determination of the beginning of the Islamic lunar months. This position is based primarily on the following fiqhi premises:
- Sighting the hilal (ru’yah, crescent sighting) is not an act of `ibadah in itself; it is rather a means to know with certainty about the beginning of the new month related to Islamic `ibadat.
- Ru’yah as a means was indicated and used by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) because he himself said that the Ummah at that time was not literate and did not know how to write or to calculate (complicated astronomical data).
- Some classical jurists were willing to accept the calculations.
- Some classical jurists refused to allow calculations in this matter because in their time, astronomy and astrology were not quite distinct sciences. Jurists were suspicious that astronomical predictions may not be based on exact science but on whims, conjectures, superstition, etc.
- During the last century an increasing number of Muslim jurists indicated that calculations could be used to negate erroneous reports of crescent sighting. Some jurists were of the opinion that calculations could also be used as a positive method to determine the new Islamic lunar months.
- There are now many Muslim astronomers who have been working for many years to develop a global lunar Islamic calendar. The Fiqh Council particularly appreciates the efforts of its consultants Dr Imad ad-Dean Ahmad, Dr Khalid Shaukat, Dr Muhib Durrani, and Dr Ahmad Salamah.
- Dr Salah Soltan and Dr Zulfiqar Ali Shah also presented scholarly papers to give thorough evidence from the fiqh perspective that the use of calculations is not against the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
The Fiqh Council of North America considered the following factors in making its decision:
- Use of calculations in determining the Islamic dates is not against the Sunnah.
- Reliable astronomical methods are now available to provide a sound basis for the determination of the Islamic dates of Ramadan and the two `Eids.
- Shari`ah is based on ease and considers the convenience of people.
- Announcement of Islamic dates ahead of time will reduce a lot of hardship, chaos, and confusion that happen every year at the time of the beginning of Ramadan and the two `Eids.
- Announcement of Islamic dates will help Muslims to plan their activities in advance, facilitating their ability to take off from work or school. Many other benefits will result from this.
- Announcement of these dates will also remove unnecessary financial burdens from the Muslim community in North America.
- Muslims of America will become more united in their celebrations.
- Muslims of America can also work to have their Islamic holidays officially recognized.
- The Muslim community of North America will lead the way towards the development of a unified global Islamic calendar for the whole Muslim world.
- The Fiqh Council will continue working with the imams and scholars of the communities to develop a consensus in this matter. It is, however, hoped that whether some of us agree or disagree with this position, we shall all recognize the validity of ikhtilaf (differences) in this issue and that the Ummah should be united in brotherhood despite any legitimate fiqhi differences.
The following is the decision:
Fiqh Council of North America
Decision on Determining the Islamic Lunar Calendar
A special conference on Hilal Sighting was organized by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) on June 10, 2006, in Virginia, attended by a number of jurists, imams, astronomers, and other concerned Muslims. A number of research papers dealing with the juridical and astronomical aspects of the topic were presented and discussed. After further teleconferences and communications among the members and astronomical consultants, the following is concluded:
- It is decided to use astronomical calculation to determine the beginning of the Islamic lunar months with the consideration of the sightability of the crescent anywhere on the globe.
- To determine a lunar Islamic calendar, a conventional point of reference must be used. The International Date Line (IDL) or the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) may be used.
- The new Islamic Lunar month begins at sunset of the day when the conjunction occurs before 12:00 noon GMT.
- Discussion of a number of research papers led to the conclusion that the use of calculation both in negation as well as affirmation of the beginning of the new Islamic Lunar months has a firm basis in the Qur’an and Sunnah as well as in the opinion of some classical and contemporary jurists. For more details please see the website of ISNA at http://www.isna.net.
- The new moon (i.e., time of conjunction) is when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun closest to the Sun-Earth line. This time of conjunction is precisely predictable by astronomical calculation.
- The conjunction before 12:00 noon GMT would give enough time to the new moon to be visible (weather permitting) somewhere on the globe before the end of the night in North America.
*By The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)
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