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04.06.2019 Feature Article

Sallah Uncertainties: Crescent Moon Sighting Brouhaha

Sallah Uncertainties: Crescent Moon Sighting Brouhaha

The Qur'an always refers to Muslims as people of understanding.

Ordinarily, there are two Eds in Islam. Weekly Ed and annual Ed. The weekly Ed is the Friday (Jumu'ah) prayers and the annual Eds are both Edul Fitr and Edul Adha during the pilgrimage (Hajj) period.

It is worth noting that these three Eds (Festivals prayers) are done once and on a specific day and time.

The weekly Ed (Jumu'ah) which is the Friday prayer is done on Fridays in the afternoon. Edul Fitr comes off immediately after Ramadan and Edul Adha is done after Yawmul Arafat at Makkah during the pilgrimage.

Traditionally, the Friday (Jumu'ah) prayers can't be observed on Saturday if for one reason or the other a believer (s) couldn't pray on Friday. Because Jumu'ah is once in a week.

Likewise, the annual Eds (Festivals): Edul Adha and Edul Fitr occur once annually and on specific day and time as well. Once a believer (s) misses them they can't be observed later, say the following week or even the following day.

In any case, if one postpones Friday Jumu'ah prayer to Saturday or on any day, is no more Jumu'ah.

You may call it what you like.

Now, once the crescent moon is sighted Ramadan begins and Sha'ban ceases that very night.

That is why we usually and traditionally starts Tarawee prayers on the night of the crescent moon sighting.

In that case, once the crescent moon is sighted again, Shawal starts and the following day, just like Ramadan began when the moon was sighted in Sha'ban, Shawal begins the following day and the Edul Fitr must be observed on the first day of Shawal!

If for any reason a believer could not observe the Edul Fitr on the first day of Shawal, until the following year, that's all. One can't decide to observe it on a different day just like Friday Jumu'ah prayer can't be observed on Saturday if it is missed by a believer in a particular week.

Islamically and on the lunar Islamic calendar, we determine the beginning of a month by the appearance of the crescent moon.

And, indeed, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) is reported to have said in an authentic prophetic Hadith (Saying of the Prophet), that 'sight the crescent moon to begin the fasting in Ramadan and to sight the crescent moon again in order to end the fasting in the month of Ramadan."

This was the tradition of the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W).

As every concerned Muslim knows, that there are Scholars of interpretation of the sayings of the Prophet on matters of Fiqh (Jurisprudence) who interpreted and ruled on the basis of Sharia what some of the sayings of the Prophet meant.

These scholars are Imam Ahmad Hanbali, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik b. Anas, and Imam As-Shafi'.

Their interpretations of the Prophetic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (S. A. W) have given birth to the four famous schools of thought we have in Islam.

Thus, Hanbaliyya to Imam Hanbali; Shafi'ayya to Imam As-Shafi'a; Hanafiyya to Imam Abu Hanifa, and Malikiyya to Imam Malik b. Anas.

These eminent scholars' rulings and interpretations are all acceptable. It is a matter of preference and choice for a Muslim to choose which of their interpretations or verdicts (fatwas) to rely on and follow.

For instance, in the matter of performing Ghusul, the Qur'an says we should purify ourselves after "contact" with women.

The Prophet says the purification is taking a spiritual bath.

Now, these scholars interpreted and ruled as to how to go by the spiritual bath.

Some say a believer should divide himself into two sides (left and right sides) vertically in order to take this spiritual bath by washing one's right side first in odd numbers (1,3,5,7 etc.) times follow by the left side.

Yet, others interpreted that believers should horizontally divide themselves into "up and down" by washing from the head to the waist, and from the waist to the feet. Another scholar says one should just bath the entire body even if it is diving into a pool of water.

These various interpretations and fatwas (verdicts) have been catalogued into schools of thought.

Whichever of the above a Muslim prefers, he or she chooses and uses.

However, because not all of these scholars were contemporaries and lived in different jurisdictions, it is recommended that on a particular matter of their rulings and interpretations, believers should follow the one many of them agreed on.

In the matter of the sighting of the crescent moon, however, it is only Imam As-Shafi'a who differently ruled believers in a particular jurisdiction or country should wait to see the crescent in order to begin or end the fasting if the moon was not sighted in their country on the 29th day of Ramadan.

This ruling of As-Shafi'a has divided the Ummah into Local and Global sighters, where the local sighters rely on sighting the crescent in their country even if it is sighted elsewhere in the world.

As earlier pointed out above, the Edul Fitr or Edul Adha is once in a year.

The prayers must be observed on the first day of Shawal since it is once in a year.

Praying it on any other day apart from on the first day of Shawal is like postponing Jumu'ah prayer to Saturday.

Furthermore, those who still fast on grounds that they didn't sight the moon are fasting in Shawwal and not Ramadan again if the crescent moon was sighted as the Prophet is reported to have said.

Therefore it is important to get the sighting right in order to observe the Edul Fitr accurately.

It is equally important to understand that the ruling of As-Shafi'a that one should wait to see the crescent in their own country in order to begin or end the fasting could have been borne out of unavailability of information because, at the time he made the ruling even if the crescent moon was sighted in say Egypt on the 29th day how would the information get to Muslims in Yemen?

And according to the Qur'an, earth has only one moon and it appears to the whole world.

Not only according to the Qur'an the earth has only one moon, scientifically, there's only one moon to the earth as its natural satellite.

Other planets scientifically have more than one moon and others don't have at all.

For example, Mercury and Venus don't have moons. Mars has two moons and Jupiter has a total of 67 moons.

Hence it is pointless to be waiting for one's country's moon on earth if it is sighted in another country, because it is only one.

Apart from American Samoa that other places of the world are ahead of it 24 hours, no country is ahead or lagging behind the rest of the world with 24 hours.

Therefore if the moon is sighted in those other places, it is still that same day.

Our differences in hours and in make it accurate to rely on the sighting of the crescent moon by other countries.

And if the moon is genuinely and creditably sighted, it doesn't matter you sight in your country or not, it appears to the whole world in that particular day.

Your inability to see it because of whether doesn't mean it didn't appear.

Because it is only one moon.

Interestingly enough, Makkah, where the Islamic religion came from is in the center of the world. This means no country, either to the far west or to the far east, can either be ahead or lagging behind Saudi Arabia's timezone with twenty four (24) hours (full day).

That means, once Saudi Arabia sights the moon it is the same day in every country across the globe!

The Qur'an refers to Makkah in Suratul Ashura 42:7 as the mother of all Towns.

The fact that Islam is coming from Makkah (Saudi Arabia) and it is an Islamic state must have been enough for all Muslims to rely on Makkah (Saudi Arabia) regarding the sighting of the crescent moon.

Yet, another compelling reason is the natural geographical location of Saudi Arabia in the center of the earth.

The Ka'ba is on the golden mean point of the earth. That is why birds or planes can't fly over the Ka'ba, it is not magic. Generally, pull of gravity in Makkah as the center of the entire planet does not support flyers.

Therefore, Saudi Arabia must be the country all other countries rely on and follow in the matter of crescent sighting.

In any case, if despite the fact that the moon is only one and appears to the entire earth whenever it comes, some still want to wait for their own countries' moons, let them perform the pilgrimage using their own countries' moons!

Because it is the Saudi calendar Muslims rely on to perform pilgrimage (hajj). And the he of Shawal affects the date of Arafat and all the other processes involved when performing hajj.

It is primitive that some Muslims find it expedient to fast on Yawmul Arafat day, observe the other pilgrimage processes in line with the Saudi Calendar but rely on their own different calendars to fast or observe Edul Fitr and Adha.

If it is wrong to fast or observe Edul Fitr and Edul Adha in line with the Saudi Arabia's calendar, it is equally wrong to fast on Arafat day for those who choose to have their own country's moon. Rather, they must fast on the day, according to their calendar, falls on their Arafat day.

Of course, this misunderstanding is borne out of leadership.

There are many misguided Imams for the sake of leadership, who seek to establish their own calendars out of arrogance, parochial interest, personal whims and aggrandizement.

Otherwise, it is mind-boggling why the crescent moon will be sighted and the information is credible from the Saudi Sharian government, and yet people want to manufacture their own moons.

Doesn't the Qur'an say "It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error."? 33:36

Continuing fasting after the moon has been sighted is flagrant disrespect and disobedient of the Prophet and his saying that "sight the crescent moon to begin the fasting and to sight in order to break".

And if this anomaly of developing one's own calendar is out of pride and arrogance, doesn't the Prophet say anybody with an atom size of pride in him or her won't go to Paradise?

I end with this quote from Suratul Talaq 65:10

...."So fear Allah and keep your duty to Him, O men of understanding who have believed! - Allah has indeed sent down to you a Reminder (this Qur'an)."

Is it not time Muslims rise above partizan interest and recognize one source as the leader of Muslims as men of understanding?

The writer is a student at KNUST, Department of Religious Studies.

E-mail: [email protected]

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Iddrisu ABDUL HAKEEM, © 2019

This author has authored 6 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: IddrisuABDULHAKEEM

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