Sighting versus Calculating the New Moon


It might be a bit premature for a post like this given that Ramadaan is still a few months away, but this issue has been playing on my mind for a long time now. I was reminded about it again just now when I was delayed in my performance of my Dhuhr salaah, which nearly overlapped with the time for Asr. How did I know it almost overlapped? Not through measuring the length of the shadow of an object relative to the object itself, or from going out to try to determine the angle of the sun. I identified the overlap like almost every other Muslim these days, and that is that I looked at a perpetual salaah timetable that has been published by various Islamic bodies throughout the world, and that is available on the internet, on my mobile phone and in various printed formats. 

So we’ve got access to this amazing wealth of knowledge that we know only stems from Allah because Allah has established this universe in due proportion with an order about everything. It makes everything predictable if we only apply our minds. Everything except the weather of course. And women. But I digress. 🙂

Despite knowing the exact minute when the moon will be born, and despite knowing exactly how old it has to be before it is possible to be seen with the naked eye, we still insist on the physical sighting of the moon to establish the beginning of a new lunar month, when we go from day to day and establish our salaah according to a calculated timetable! Is it just me or is there a distinct contradiction in that? The moon sighting sagas has not only made the Muslims a laughing stock of the world on more than one occasion, but it has driven divisions in communities because of the ridiculous debates that rage around it.

So in our collective wisdom, in South Africa for example, we agree that if the moon is not sighted in Johannesburg, but it is sighted in Cape Town, then the Muslims in Johannesburg are allowed to commence fasting in line with the people in Cape Town. So I ask myself this simple question; during the time of Rasulullah (SAW), how would it have been possible for a message to be sent in a single night from one town to another town to confirm the sighting of the moon when those towns were in fact days of travel apart? So is this then yet another contradiction in the practice of insisting on the sighting of the moon for Ramadaan?

It simply doesn’t make sense. All it does is it confirms yet again the ridiculous gap in knowledge of those that perpetuate such logic because once again we fail to note the difference between ritual and principle. Ritual would be the sighting of the moon. Principle would be the changing of the month based on the birth of the new moon. Both of which is clearly guided by the measurements defined by the Sunnah. If these measurements can be accurately confirmed without the use of the naked eye, then the same way that we don’t look for the distinction between a black and white thread at the time of dawn to commence Fajr salaah, we should not be looking for the crescent of the new moon to confirm the commencement of a new Islamic month. When we get this right, the ridicule in the below image can finally be put behind us, so that as an Ummah we can stop being distracted with such ridiculous pettiness and instead focus on the real issues that face the Muslims today. 

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