Posted by: mjaga | July 30, 2011

The New Moon

In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

The New Moon

1. Muslims generally all over the world follow the Gregorian calendar. So they come to bother about sighting the new moon only at the onset of the month of Ramadan, or for determining the Eidain days.

2. But here, as in many, many other matters, the Muslim Ummah has fallen into unseemly controversies, rendering the Islamic calendar an object of mockery! That too when the Creator has graced them with the Qur’aan, the divine Book of Guidance divinely guaranteed against all pollution, adulteration and corruption!! But, as our beloved Prophet (peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him) would cry out in the Hereafter, his Ummah has ‘indeed abandoned this Qur’aan as a thing of no importance’ (Refer Q: 25.30)

3. Yes! We, the Prophet’s Ummah, do sometimes refer to the divine Book for answers to problems facing us. But we do so half-heartedly! We are not absolutely sure that we would find the answers there!

4. In one such half-hearted attempt at finding the answer to the problem under discussion in this article, we discover the Qur’aanic verse 2.185. “Month of Ramadan! That month in which was sent down the Qur’aan as Guidance for Mankind and with clear evidences for the guidance and for the distinction made between right and wrong! Whoever then amongst you witnesses the month, he/she should fast therein! ….”, so runs the beginning part of the said verse. And in our not-too-sincere efforts at finding the guidance as promised therein, we grab at the phrase ‘witnesses the month’, as a drowning man would catch at a straw!

5. And we say, “Eureka!” We interpret the phrase, ‘witnesses the month’ to mean ‘witnesses the new moon heralding the month’. We forget that by thus interpolating our own imperfect words, we are casting doubts (nauzubillah) that the Qur’aan contains the perfect words of the Perfect Author!

6. And we thus conclude that for terminating any lunar month, at any particular place ‘A’, at 29 days, factual witnessing of the new moon, at that particular place ‘A’ itself, is necessary. We thus have the phenomenon of our Eidain being observed not only on more than two different days in different parts of the world, but also on different days at the same place! And, we remain blissfully unaware that calendars based on such a principle would be unfit and inadequate for international transactions and dealings.

7. Aren’t we aware that the interpretation we have given to verse 2.185 is rather a stretched one? We indeed are! But then we had to find some Qur’aanic support for a hadeeth we’re accustomed to believe in, more passionately.

8. English translation of one version of the hadeeth in question goes as follows: “The Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) said: ‘If you sight it (the new moon of Ramadaan), then fast and if you sight it (the new moon of Shawwaal), then end the fast. And if it is obscured from you, then complete thirty days (of Sha’baan)'”. There may be different versions of the hadeeth in different books of ahaadeeth, but the point to be noted in all the versions is that the Prophet had laid emphasis on the sighting of the new moon for ending the month (either Shaabaan or Ramadan) on 29th day.

9. Anything in the ahaadeeth, as reportedly said by the Prophet, is absolutely sacrosanct for us. So we twist the meaning of verse 2.185 to bring it in tune with the hadeeth quoted above. Never mind the fact that the hadeeth got recorded in writing centuries after the death of the Prophet. We give scant thought to the prospect that the hadeeth could have been contaminated with the personal words of, not one, but a chain of narrators, in the centuries-long meantime!

10. But had we been a little more sincere in our belief that the Qur’aan is the perfect Book from the Perfect Creator, we would not have been disappointed for long. Just 3 verses away from verse 2.185 is verse 2.189. It reads, “They ask you about the new moons. Say, ‘These are fixed points of Time for Mankind and for the Pilgrimage.’ …” Let us now sincerely and deeply ponder over this divine statement.

11. Verse 2.189 specifically mentions the new moon. It is obviously therefore more relevant to the issue in hand than verse 2.185. And yet we have ignored verse 2.189. Reasons? We don’t know; and even if we know, we don’t wish to give expression to those reasons.

12. It is also interesting to note that the new moons are spoken of as points in time – points to demarcate fixed periods of time – for the entire Mankind. The periods of time so determined should be so as to be applicable to all the nations on earth. Our Wise Lord therefore did purposely not put the condition of sighting the new moon for the determination of those points in time. The Creator of all things in the Universe knew that the new moon is a celestial phenomenon that occurs when the moon just slips off the straight line, in between the earth and the Sun. HE knew that this phenomenon occurs exactly at a predetermined point in time. And He knew that in course of time He would be pleased to impart this knowledge to Mankind.

13. But this knowledge was not given to the people among whom the Prophet lived. He (the Prophet) had no alternative then but to tell his people to sight the new moon to determine whether any particular lunar month would end on its 29th day!

14. But we, whom Allah has given the knowledge, fail to understand this apparent dichotomy between what the Prophet reportedly said and what Allah, through the Qur’aan, says. We fail to understand that the hadeeth was time-specific, while the Qur’aan was meant to cover all times till the Last Day. We fail to understand that the Muslim community during the time of the Prophet had not spread to all parts around the earth as it is spread today.

15. We do accept the sunset and sunrise timings at a given place without actually sighting the sun set or rise. Even for the purposes of our prayers! Likewise we should have no reservations in our minds on accepting the scientifically determined new moon timings. Based on these fixed timings, a common Islamic lunar calendar for international use can be drawn up by Muslims of all nations sitting together in a conference.

16. The All-knowing Allah has left enough scope for such a conference to use its discretion to work out the detailed procedure for arriving at the common calendar after proper and meticulous studies. The conference could consider adapting the methodology adopted for the Gregorian calendar to the special needs of a lunar calendar. The Qur’aan would require the conference only to base their deliberations, taking the fixed new moon timings as the reference points.

Mohammad Shafi



  1. I disagree with what you are saying here. Not that I don’t understand what you are saying. The issue is not the mockery of Muslims or Islam. We have been looking for the new moon and it never caused mockery of Islam for 1400 years. When we were the leaders everyone respected us. It is not necessary that the whole world have first of a month on the same day or at the same time. Even by the Solar calendar we don’t have it so. One part of the world can have Monday and the other still Sunday. The reason for mockery of Islam is that we are not sincere to our religion. For example all believe that Muslims have been ordered to allow their beards to grow. This is the order from Rassoolullah s.a.w. (Quran asks us to obey him). The result is not that we obey him, but disobey him.

    Now if we have decided that we cannot implement Quran and Sunnah, why would others value it?
    If we cannot implement Quran and Sunnah in our national lives, when we pay no respect to
    Mohammad Shafi responds:
    The impracticle nature of the different calendars Muslims have in different parts of the world is proved by the fact that they themselves do not follow these for their day-to-day activities. Such calendars are by no means Islamic. These do not have the Qur’aanic sanction. The Qur’aan does not stipulate that the number of days in a month are to be determined by human sighting of the new moon.

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