City of Brass

City of Brass


ahlan wa sahlan, ya Shehre Ramadan

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Last night at sunset, according to the Fatimid lunar (Hijri) calendar, marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. Today I am observing the first fast.
These are controversial statements, because the majority of muslims adhere to the hadith that each month begins with the visual sighting of the new crescent moon. The Saudi ulema have even issued a fatwa to the effect that astronomical calculations are not valid and that moonsighting is the sole acceptable method. Shayk Hamza Yusuf of the Zaytuna institute concurs, laying out the case for moonsighting in impressive scholarly detail (PDF link). However, in 2006 the Fiqh Council of North America adopted the compromise position that astronomical calculations were indeed valid, especially as a means for ruling out physically-impossible moonsighting reports. Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah wrote a lengthy rebuttal to Shaykh Yusuf, pointing out that the act of witnessing the new moon itself is not an act of worship in and of itself, and is merely a means of telling time. Another thorough and scholarly essay by Dr. Louay Safi notes that the choice is not between moonsighting and calculation, but rather personal testimony and calculation. Further essays and reading material on the debate are available at the Fiqh Council’s website.

In practice, muslims rely on moonsighting by a local religious authority or organization. The specifics of moonsighting vary widely from country to country, meaning that the start of Ramadan might vary by one or two days across the muslim world. This year the general consensus is that Ramadan 1429H begins on Monday, September 1st, though technically in North America the moon will not be physically visible to the eye until September 2nd, so some may elect to begin fasting on Tuesday.

This complexity in method worldwide carries over to the Western muslim community, of course, as muslim immigrants initially tend to adheres to the tradition of their homelands. But there is intense cross-fertilization between muslims in the West – something that occurs nowhere else. Ultimately it boils down to a personal judgement as to which method to use: moonsighting, calculation, or hybrid methods. Who said the gates of ijtihad were closed?



  • Willow

    I just look up what the Fiqh Council of North America says and call it a day. But I think that if the Saudis want real accuracy when it comes to moonsighting, they shouldn’t offer a purse of gold to the first guy who spots it…the moon seems to come up awfully promptly in the Kingdom…
    Ramadan kareem!

  • Dilshad

    This subject of moonsighting gets debated to death in my home. Ultimately we, and I suspect most Muslims, follow what their local mosque does. Ours is part of the moonsighting crowd, and thus we will do our first fast tomorrow. Others in my town who follow a mosque on the south side (a mosque that follows the Fiqh council) started today. Two start times in the same city.
    I’ve decided that we are all trying our best, and Allah knows that. So Ramadan Mubarak to all of you, whether you started today or will do so tomorrow! Aziz — hope your first fast goes well! — your editor

  • Aziz

    Agreed, and really Dilshad I kind of like it that way. I think that the diversity of interpretation and practice on an issue as basic as when the holiest month begins, to be a marker of the health of the community of the faithful as a whole, at a fundamental level. Its really kind of great, of you think about it.

  • Sohail Khan

    Hi does anyone know of any mosques in the uk who began the holy month on the second of september, my family where amongst those who decided to wait for the official sighting rather than following the calculation.

Previous Posts

is ISIS Islamic? Wrong question.
There is an excellent longform essay on ISIS published in The Atlantic, "What does ISIS Really Want?" that lays out an excellent case fore ISIS being genuinely different in ideology, motivation and ethos than Al Qaeda. The real question boils down to, is ISIS "Islamic" or not - and makes an excellen

posted 11:34:08pm Feb. 17, 2015 | read full post »

The Price of Extremism
This is a guest post by Durriya Badani. The execution style murder of three young North Carolina students, two of whom were hijab wearing Muslim women, raises questions regarding the rise of Islamaphobia in the United States in the form of hate crimes. Some will argue that the motive for the inc

posted 11:26:53am Feb. 12, 2015 | read full post »

Can atheism drive someone to murder? #muslimlivesmatter #chapelhillshooting
Like everyone else, I am in shock at the horrible tragedy in North Carolina last night, where three young Muslim Americans were brutally executed. The police are investigating and the murderer is in custody and cooperating. The family of the victims will hold a press conference soon, until then I am

posted 4:21:58pm Feb. 11, 2015 | read full post »

Halal Italian and Mexican catering in Chicago
This is a guest post by Whitney Gaspar. I am not Muslim. I am not any religion, really. I was baptized as a Catholic to please my grandma and raised as an atheist by my mother. I am spiritual and I believe in God. But that is not why I eat halal. I eat halal because it is logical. It simpl

posted 11:09:45am Feb. 09, 2015 | read full post »

the State of the Ummah, 2014/1436
I tuned into President Obama's 2014 SOTU for a while last week - mainly beca

posted 12:06:37pm Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.