Advertisement

City of Brass

City of Brass

ahlan wa sahlan, ya Shehre Ramadan

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.

Advertisement

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?

Advertisement
Comments read comments(4)
post a comment
Willow

posted August 31, 2008 at 5:30 pm


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!



report abuse
 

Dilshad

posted September 1, 2008 at 12:34 pm


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



report abuse
 

Aziz

posted September 2, 2008 at 7:37 am


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.



report abuse
 

Sohail Khan

posted September 19, 2008 at 9:32 am


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.



report abuse
 



Previous Posts

the solution to the unschooled scholar problem - the Islamic dojo
I'm going to throw out some quick half-formed ideas in response to this article by Sufi Synik (via the indomitable Samar Kaukab): Half of the Muslims want me to shut up and take every single hadith (without considering its historical context) ...

posted 10:42:50am Apr. 17, 2016 | read full post »

Shari'a tectonics; Eurabia is still a lie
Of all the weird stuff I see on Facebook and Twitter, this pretty much beats all this week. Brother looks like he's got some knee pain. And tiny t-rex arms. Anyway, I'm sure we can blame Obama for this somehow. In all seriousness, this ...

posted 2:12:29pm Mar. 06, 2016 | read full post »

Valentine's Day Mubarak!
Happy VDay to all! Or, belated VDay depending on your madhab - according to Saudi moonsighting Valentine's was yesterday ;) The Gujarati origins of what was then known as "Velan-time Day" are well-established in the historical record. Rather ...

posted 10:45:17am Feb. 14, 2016 | read full post »

Obama quoted my letter about my daughter
This is a guest post by Ali Asghar Alibhai. There is no question that the America my generation grew up in is much different than the America of now. I grew up in West Texas, a place that some might consider as among the most conservative in ...

posted 1:30:00pm Feb. 04, 2016 | read full post »

Who was Saudi Shi'a Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr?
Yesterday, the Saudi government executed the Shi'a cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, as an enemy of the state. His ...

posted 2:12:32pm Jan. 03, 2016 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

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

All reported content is logged for investigation.