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.

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