Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Moon sighting and the permissibility of calculations

I watched a video of a lecture by Sheikh Tahirul Quadri (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLgpje6nN78) on moon sighting. He says that it is perfectly permissible to calculate the moon sighting.

He explains that we need to study the ahadith to see if there was any room in them to permit calculations. He quotes several ahadith, of which a couple of them are mentioned below.

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مَسْلَمَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا مَالِكٌ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ دِينَارٍ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ "‏ الشَّهْرُ تِسْعٌ وَعِشْرُونَ لَيْلَةً، فَلاَ تَصُومُوا حَتَّى تَرَوْهُ، فَإِنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ ثَلاَثِينَ ‏"‏‏.

Narrated `Abdullah bin `Umar: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "The month (can be) 29 nights (i.e. days), and do not fast till you see the moon, and if the sky is overcast, then complete Sha'ban as thirty days."  (Sahih al-Bukhari  Volume 3, Book 30 Hadith 1907)
حَدَّثَنَا آدَمُ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ زِيَادٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ يَقُولُ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَوْ قَالَ قَالَ أَبُو الْقَاسِمِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ صُومُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، وَأَفْطِرُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، فَإِنْ غُبِّيَ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَكْمِلُوا عِدَّةَ شَعْبَانَ ثَلاَثِينَ ‏"‏‏.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadan), and give up fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwal), and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it), complete thirty days of Sha'ban." Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 30, Hadith 1909

Shaikh Tahirul Qadri says the main word used in these ahadith is "ra'a," which many interpreters say means "sighting with an eye." But he says this word "ra'a" has several meanings other than "sighting with the eye" including calculations.

To explain this, he uses the example of Surah Feel where the word "ra'a" is used:

Have you (O Muhammad (peace be upon him)) not seen how your Lord dealt with the Owners of the Elephant?

In this verse, Allah is asking Prophet (peace be upon him) whether he "saw" an event that happened before his birth. Shaikh Qadri says, here the word "ra'a" does not mean actually "seeing" but rather it means "knowledge."

I have come across some web sites that have tried to say that the word "ra'a," when applied to tangible objects like moon, meant only naked eye sighting.

From where did they take the meaning that the word "ra'a" when used for tangible objects like "moon" applied to only visual sightings? The Qur'an uses the same word regarding the sun, the moon and the stars for a dream. Please read the Surah Yusuf, where Yusuf, peace be upon him, describes to his father that he saw the sun, the moon and the stars prostrating to him.

 (Remember) when Yûsuf (Joseph) said to his father: "O my father! Verily, I saw (in a dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon,— I saw them prostrating themselves to me."

If we used their definition of the word "ra'a" it would mean that the sun, the moon and the stars literally prostrated to him and Yusuf, peace be upon him, saw that with his naked eyes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eid and Moonsighting: The Moon Anarchy

Hudhayfah b. al-Yamaan asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Messenger of Allah, we were living in an evil (atmosphere) and Allah brought us good (Islam) and we live in it now. Will there be evil after this good?” 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Yes.” 

Hudhayfah b. al-Yamaan said: “And any good after this evil?” 

He said: “Yes.” 

Hudhayfah b. al-Yamaan said: “And any evil after this good?” 

He said: “Yes.” Hudhayfah said: “How will it be?” 

He said: “After me, rulers will come who will not abide by my guidance and Sunnah. Some of their men will have Satan’s heart in a human’s body.” 

Hudhayfah said: “What should I do, O Messenger of Allah, if I lived to see that time?” 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “You should listen and obey them even if the ruler smites your back and takes your wealth.”  (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim) 

In New Jersey, USA, there are two masaajid where we have groups of Muslims who are proudly rebelling against their community.

The Piscataway masjid has announced Eidul Adha to be on October 15, 2013. A group of rebel Muslims have arranged for another eid salaah on October 16, 2013 in the same masjid. The funny thing is, this rebel group thinks of itself as qualified enough to call for a rebellion against the eid date, yet not qualified enough to have anyone in them to lead the salaah. So they had to recruit an Imam from a different masjid, who will lead the eid salaah two days in a row.

In Trenton, New Jersey, it is opposite. The masjid has announced the Eidul Adha to be on October 16, 2013. There too many Muslims have abandoned their community to celebrate Eid on October 15, 2013. At least there, the Eid salaah is not in the same masjid.

I call this behavior "the moon anarchy." It is same as the people of Musa, AS, told him, "You and your God go ahead and fight and liberate the Palestine." And they were lost for 40 years in the desert.

In the hadith I quoted above, RasoolUllah, Peace be upon him, is commanding the Muslims to listen and obey their rulers even if they smite their backs and rob them. But here there is no such pressure from anyone.

I was just wondering how would these Muslims behave in a battle field. They will rush to disobey  their bosses just like the people of Musa did.

Why does each masjid have to have "a moon sighting committee?" Can't they get along with their neighboring masjid?

The Muslims need to understand the priorities. The fard has the highest priority. Then comes the Sunnah. And the Muslim unity is a fard.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Moonsighting: Are We Making the Hijri Calendar Obsolete?

In the forums I have had discussion with various people about the moon sighting. I talk in favor of calculations. Their immediate response would be, “Our deen is perfect. We don’t need any modifications to our calendar.” I reply, “Yes, our deen is perfect. That’s why it suits every generation. And no scientific and technological advancement can make Islamic things obsolete.  But by insisting on the naked-eye moon sighting, we have made the Hijri calendar obsolete with no use except for starting and ending our fasts and going to Hajj.  Even if we try, we cannot use the Hijri calendar for our worldly life. In doing so, we have made ourselves dependent on the Gregorian calendar so much so that we do not even realize that we are so much dependent on a non-Islamic calendar.” I will you give you an example.

Everybody these days travels by airplanes and for that they book seats, sometimes months in advance. More than often, they change planes midway. Now let’s say you want to use Hijri calendar to book your seats.  You want to travel from New York to Karachi via Dubai on Shabaan 30th. Now the fun begins.

  1. The agent says, “Sorry sir, we cannot book any flights on Shabaan 30th because there is no guarantee of Shabaan 30th.” 
  2. Then you ask the agent to book the seat on Ramadan 1st. “The agent says, “Sorry sir, we are not sure when the Ramadan 1st is going to be.”
  3.  Out of frustration, you tell the agent to book a flight on Ramadan 15th. And you show up at the New York airport. The agent says, “Sorry sir, but you are one day late. Today is Ramadan 16th.” But you insist it is Ramadan 15th. The agent replies, “The airline runs as per the Dubai dates. And in Dubai it is Ramadan 16th today.”
  4. In frustration you cancel the ticket. And you book another flight for Ramadan 25th. This time you use United Airlines because you do not want the date confusion. You show up at the New York airport on Ramadan 25th. The agent tells you, “Sorry sir, but you came one day too early.” You dispute the date. The agent explains, “This airline is based in Chicago. They started Ramadan a day later than New York.”
  5. Then you change your mind and try to reserve a seat on Emirates believing that travel via Dubai will not be as confusing since the whole trip will be based on Dubai dates. The agent explains to you your itinerary: “Sir, you leave New York on Ramadan 29th. Your connecting flight to Karachi is on Shawwal 1st. In case they did not see the moon, there will not be any connecting flights at Dubai since it will be Ramadan 30th in Dubai, and we do not fly any flights on the 30th of the month because there is no guarantee of the 30th day in any month.”
  6. Since you were desperate to travel, you leave on Ramadan 29th. When you reached Dubai, you find that you reached Dubai on Shawwal 2nd. You are shocked and demand an explanation. The agent explains, “Sir, the last month there was a mistake in the moon sighting. So the king adjusted the date. Please do not worry, the king paid the kaffara on everybody’s behalf.”
  7. After some arguments with the airline's agents, you board the flight to Karachi. When you arrive in Karachi, you find yourself back in Ramadan and see people in a state of fast. And they tell you that you may need to pray Taraweeh that night and fast the next day as it was only Ramadan 29th there. 
  8. You call your friend in Peshawar. He had left New York on the same day but on a different date because he was from a different town in the same state. He tells you although he departed Dubai at the same time you did, he reached Peshawar on Shawwal 2nd and missed the eid by two days as the people in Peshawar followed Saudi announcement and celebrated eid two days ago.
  9. You managed to return to the USA. But your boss wants you to go to Dubai again for a business meeting. You say, “Gaa, I will rather do a video teleconference.” You schedule a conference on Shawaal 25th at 11:00 GMT and invite Mr. Khalid from Dubai and Mr. Ali from India. On Shawaal 25th you start the conference and find nobody there. Well, you discover it is Shawaal 26th in Dubai and Shawaal 24th in India.