In the name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

ONE EID IN THE UK: A SOLUTION ON THE HORIZON

بِسۡمِ اللهِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِيۡمِ

ONE EID IN THE UK: A SOLUTION ON THE HORIZON

 

As we approach the end of another Islamic year there is a debate on social media amongst top U.K. Muslim scholars with opposing views about the correct day of Eid-ul-Adha 1442 (10th Dhul-Ḥijjah) for U.K. Muslims and the Saudi moonsighting system. This year has exposed the weaknesses in the Saudi moonsighting system and why we in the U.K. are unlikely to be ever united on such a system. The Saudi moonsighting system which works well for the Saudis, undoubtedly has its problems which become apparent when we in the U.K try to implement it locally. However, some people make false, unsubstantiated allegations against the Saudi moonsighting system. This article looks at the pros and cons of the Saudi Hijri calendar and their moonsighting announcements as well as a possible solution for UK Muslims to become united on the issue of Eidain.

 

Understanding the Saudi Hijri calendar

1. The Saudi Hijri calendar is an amalgamation of eight months from the Umm-ul-Qura calendar based on astronomical data that the new moon crescent is above the horizon at sunset time in Makkah (since 1423 A.H.) combined with four months (Muharram, Ramaḍān, Shawwāl & Dhul-Hijjah) based on the testimony of a local Muslim that he has seen or not seen the new moon crescent(Hilāl). This superimposition of four months based on the testimony of local moonsighters on top of the pre-calculated Umm-ul-Qura calendar causes certain problems. The root cause is that the pre-calculated Umm-ul-Qura calendar is effectively based on the birth of the moon and hence is usually 1 day ahead of actual Hilāvisibility. Supporters of the Saudi system will point out the Umm-ul-Qura calendar is only for civil purposes. Yes, that is true but it determines which day the Saudi public are told to look for the Hilāl for the religious months (Muharram, Ramadan, Shawwal and Dhul-Hijjah), and that can, in reality, be on the 28th of the Hijri month.  

 

2. Some people state that the Saudis adhere to the pre-calculated Umm-ul-Qura calendar and manufacture evidence if need be. This is a very serious allegation without any concrete evidence. This kind of thinking is false because there are several occasions where the Saudi authorities have deviated from the pre-calculated Umm-ul-Qura calendar based on the testimony of local Muslims. Furthermore, there are regional official hilal sighting committees in Saudi Arabia who do look for the hilal every month but the official sighting of hilal (positive or negative) is only made for the four religious months and announced on the official government website وكالة الأنباء السعودية (spa.gov.sa). Research publications to suggest that the Umm-ul-Qura Calendar does psychologically bias the witnesses to claim a sighting when the moon is not visible to the human eye (Kordi, 2003).

In the following cases the announcement of moon sighting by the Saudi authorities was on the evening after the evening predicted by the Umm-ul-Qura calendar, Ramaḍān 1424 AH, Ramaḍān 1434 AH, Ramaḍān 1435 AH, Dhul-Hijjah 1436 AH, Dhul-Hijjah 1437 AH and Ramaḍān 1439 AH.

In the following cases the announcement of moon sighting by the Saudi authorities was on the evening before the evening predicted by the Umm-ul-Qura calendar, Shawwāl & Dhul-Hijjah 1425 AH, Ramaḍān & Dhul-Hijjah 1427 AH, Shawwāl & Dhul-Hijjah 1428 AH and Shawwāl 1429 AH.

3. Some organisations in U.K. who follow Saudi Hijri calendar have stated in their literature that the Saudi moonsighting announcements are based on naked eye sighting of the crescent moon (Hilāl). This is not true the Saudi scholars have stated that "Observatory instruments may be used in sighting the new moon but astronomical sciences cannot be relied on." Observation of the new moon crescent (Hilāl) by a trustworthy individual is to be acted upon according to fatāwa of Saudi scholars.

4. The Saudi scholars have consistently advised Muslims in other countries to follow their own local moonsighting to determine days for religious purposes including determining the days for fasting on the 9th Dhul-Hijjah and Eid-ul-Adha. 

 

Why the Saudi system is flawed from a scientific and logical perspective

5. We know that

i) The birth of the moon (New Moon Conjunction) can be calculated very precisely.

ii) The crescent moon after the birth (conjunction) is invisible to the naked eye for 18-24 hours at least (but sometimes 30-40 hours). 

iii) The earliest visibility location of the new moon crescent starts from a different location on the Earth. And this location is not repeated for many years.

iv) Once the crescent moon (Hilāl) has been sighted at a particular location in the East e.g. Saudi Arabia then it must become visible in countries located to the West of Saudi Arabia on a similar latitude such as Egypt, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. As the moon becomes bigger, brighter, higher and hence easier to sight. This fact is stated on the official Umm-ul-Qura website.

 

6. How is it that the new moon crescent is always seen first in Saudi Arabia rather than any other country?

7. Why is it that on many occasions when the Saudi authorities announce the moon being sighted in Saudi Arabia but it cannot be seen later the same evening in countries to the West of Saudi Arabia such as Morocco which has 278 designated moonsighting locations?

8. The astronomical moon visibility charts have been proven to have a high degree of accuracy and match actual observations in various countries over several years except for Saudi Arabia. The Saudi moon sighting announcements defy these astronomical moon visibility charts again and again. How is this possible?

9. On many occasions the official Saudi moonsighting committees consisting of experienced moonsighters, a scholar, local government official and an astronomer equipped with modern technology, telescopes and binoculars all fail to sight the new moon crescent (T. Alrefay, 2018) yet the Saudi authorities announce that the new moon crescent has been sighted based on the testimony of a layperson. How is it possible for all the official Saudi moonsighting committees with all their experience to fail to see the new moon crescent yet the layperson does in the same location? As the Saudi astronomer, Dr. Ayman Kordi, from the physics and astronomy department at King Saud University in Riyadh, states what the layperson (crescent observer) saw was an illusion, but he cannot be refuted. The word of a layperson is accepted even if it is impossible to sight the new moon crescent, and hence an official announcement of the moon being sighted is made.

10. On occasions the Saudi authorities ask the local people to look for the new moon crescent before the moon is born as happened for the new moon crescent for Dhul-Hijjah 1442 (9th July 2021) or count the start of the month from the day of a solar eclipse, when the moon is invisible (eg start of Dhul Qaidah 1442 from 10 June 2021).

 

11. The ardent followers of the Saudi moonsighting system have been evasive over a number of years when invited to sit together with the opposing groups to discuss the issue.

12. Together these above points provide undeniable evidence that the Saudi moonsighting system is flawed.

 

A possible solution on the horizon

13. It is necessary to acknowledge that the Saudi moonsighting system although very convenient to follow is flawed and hence could have an effect on our acts of Ibadah e.g. missing on a Fard fast during Ramadan or fasting on the wrong day for 9th Dhul-Hijjah.

14. Some individuals who know the Saudi system very well including its flaws continue to promote it as a method of unifying the Muslims on Eidain, this is presumably based on their allegiance to certain individuals, organisations or groups. This should stop as it is a major cause of confusion and prevents efforts towards unifying on one Eid in the U. K. The allegiance of a Muslim should be to the truth.    

15. A number of individuals and groups have worked very hard and managed to collect data for 4 complete years for local U.K. moonsighting which shows it is possible for U.K. Muslims to have their own Hijri calendar based entirely on local moonsighting. It is the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad  and a communal obligation to try to sight the new moon crescent every month locally in order to establish a local Hijri calendar (Tafsir Mariful Quran 2:189). This system of having a U.K. Hijri calendar based entirely on local moonsighting although the best method does require local community support to be a success. This is probably the only solution which none of the various Muslim groups, organisations and denominations in the U.K. will object to. (Ref. moonsighting.org.uk)

16. It is the responsibility of the masjid management Committees to cooperate with one another and look into this issue in depth to determine the most suitable method for determining Islamic dates for their Musallees. Doing nothing and waiting for others to make the first move is not a good option. 

 

Dr. A. Hussain, July 2021