System of Moonsighting for United Kingdom
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh
The consultation for an appropriate and Shāria compliant Moonsighting system for nearly 3 million British Muslims has taken a number of years and extensive discussions. The findings of these discussions and research were presented to the Ulama at Majlis e Dawatul Haq (Leicester) on Saturday, the 9th of September 2017 where they were unanimously accepted by the Ulāmā.
Shāykhul-Hādeeth (Maulana) Mohāmmad Ayub Bande Ilahi was the Ameer of the Mushwarā.
These principles are based on years of research, experience, principles of Shāria and the practical need to unite British Muslims, particularly on the occasions of Ramaḍān and Eidāin (i.e. the two Eids, Eidul-Fit’r and Eidul-Adhā).
Principle 1 (Moonsighting for 12 months):
The Islamic Calendar referred to as the Ḥijrī Calendar is followed by Muslims across the world in order to fulfil their religious obligations. The Ḥijrī Calendar consists of 12 Islāmic months. There are certain months which carry more relevance due to the significant religious acts which are performed during them; namely, Ramaḍān, Shawwāl, Dhū al-Hijja and Muḥarram. There are religious acts within the remaining months as well.
The start of Islāmic months is subject to the (new) crescent. There is specific evidence in the sacred (Islāmic) texts for searching for the (new) crescent for specific months such as Ramaḍān, Shawwāl and Dhū al-Ḥijja, in order to commence acts of worship. In the remaining months there is secondary evidence of searching for the (new) crescent. In addition, the sacred (Islāmic) texts call upon Muslims to search for (new) crescent on the 29th of each month. This requirement dictates that a reliable system for all 12 Islāmic months based on the crescent must be deliberated, enacted and followed.
Principle 2 (Regional Moonsighting):
The strongest position in normative Islām is for Muslims to sight the moon at their (respective) location. There is active practise of Moonsighting in Britain and the moon is sighted in United Kingdom numerous times in a year. However, the geographical location of Britain and the British weather, does make sighting of the Moon difficult. If British Muslims were to complete 30 days when the Moon is not sighted on the 29th day, there would be many consecutive months of 30 days and we would find ourselves out of step with the rest of the Muslims.
Thus, for practical reasons we have no choice but to rely on Moonsighting from other countries. There are a few factors which were considered in our search:
- A valid and operational system of Qadhā (Judgement of Islamic Scholars)
- Monthly (observational based) moonsighting system
- Time zone, sunrise and sunset times to be close to United Kingdom
- Ease of access
- Rigour and tested to be valid
Although one of the opinions within the Hānāfi Madhab states that differences of horizons are not to be considered, a truly global Moonsighting system is neither (practically) possible nor advised in the Madhab. It is not possible to string the world together into a singular Moonsighting system from Auckland (New Zealand) to Los Angeles (California). Thus, when the Madhab advocates disregarding differences of horizons, it is meant to be interpreted regionally. We know that when we look at Moonsighting curves, the sighing is divided regionally. The only way to interpret the Moonsighting system within the Hānāfi Madhab is to interpret it regionally. A truly global Moonsighting system has never existed and neither can it exist! It is impossible for Muslims in Britain to wait for Moonsighting in Honolulu which is 11 hours ahead. If the Muslims in Britain were to merely accept Moonsighting from the (East) it will lead to abandonment of a necessary act (of Moonsighting) from British Muslims. The commands of sighting the Moon and recitation of Duas (upon sighting the Moon) will become meaningless for British Muslims. Thus local sighting in (Britain) must be organised, planned and executed every single month of the Islamic Calendar as the primary method of establishing Islamic months as per the Sunnah.
Regions with a year-round (monthly) Moonsighting system can be relied upon for the start of Islamic months provided that the (actual) sighting is proved to be possible. In terms of Shāria, the regions where sighting is claimed must have Imkān al-Ru’ya (possibility of sighting). Since the Qurʾān, categorically states that the movement of the sun and the moon is known, it is possible to negate an impossible sighting based on astronomical data, one of the verses is as follows:
ٱلشَّمۡسُ وَٱلۡقَمَرُ بِحُسۡبَانٍ۬
The sun and the moon [move] by precise calculation [55:05]
Wifaqul Ulama Moonsighting Criteria
Since the sighting possibility curves are not absolute, they cannot be used in place of sighting but can only be used as an aid. We have studied the sighting curves and their mapping to sightings both with the naked eye and using optical Aid. After extensive analysis we have divided the sighting possibilities into a RAG (Red, Amber, and Green) system as follows:
- RED: Moonset before sunset, sighting should be rejected.
- AMBER (Less than Imkān al-Ru’ya): Moonsighting claims should be thoroughly scrutinised and the numbers of those claiming sighting and their expertise in Moonsighting should also be checked.
- GREEN (Imkān al-Ru’ya): Moon age to be greater than 16 hours, lagtime to be greater than 30 minutes (i.e. the moon sets more than 30 minutes after sunset) and elongation to be greater than 10 degrees). Moonsighting can be accepted.
The study is summarised here:
Here is the sighting criteria produced for Shawwal 1439 where all the necessary data is made available.
Wifaqul Ulama Moonsighting Arrangements:
We work in partnership with numerous individuals, organisations, universities and also engage with Royal Greenwich observatory. Some of the key sighting points in United Kingdom are as follows:
- Walthamstow (London)
- Ilford (London)
- Croydon (South London)
An example of the system used for Shawwal 1439 and advertised is as follows:
Principle 3 (Agreements):
Once the sighting in a region is established, the testimony of the sighting must be conveyed to a moonsighting committee in a compliant manner. In order to fulfil this requirement, we have reached bilateral agreements with various other moonsighting committees in Britain and abroad. The key agreements are between Wifāqul Ulāmā , Batley Moonsighting committee and Rochdale Council of Mosques (RCM), due to these bilateral agreements they can share moonsighting testimonies with each other.
L’Observatoire Lunaire des Musulmans de France (OLMF) attempts to sight the crescent monthly and has an agreement in place with Wifāqul Ulāmā.
Note: Some of the wordings of this agreement is under review and may change in the future.
British Muslims have been working with authorities of Morocco and accepting moonsighting since the 1960s. Some of the British organisations such as Rochdale council of Mosques , BMSC (Batley Moonsighting Committee) , Wifāqul Ulāmā , British Muslim Forum and ICO-UK have agreements with and receive faxes from Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs (Kingdom of Morocco). Some of these organisations receive faxes (from Morocco) while others informally consult and cooperate with each other.
Morocco is divided into 16 administrative regions and has over 278+ sighting points. Attempts to sight the moon are made every month and each of the 278+ sighting points sends a report (monthly), which is then reviewed by two judges before being forwarded centrally to Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs (Kingdom of Morocco), where the final decision is made. This entire process is repeated monthly.
British Muslims have been using and relying on moonsighting from Morocco for over 4 decades in one capacity or another and there has never been an error or claims of sighting contradicting astronomical calculations. Since a group of from BMSC (Batley Moonsighting Committee) visited Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs (Kingdom of Morocco) and created a bilateral agreement, Wifāqul Ulāmā is also covered.
It is due to lack of time difference and later sunset (times), delay is experienced in the news of actual sighting reaching British Muslims.
During winter months due to South African Standard Time (SAST) being UTC+2, once the Moon sighing has been exhausted after sunset in Britain, the news from South Africa can be received relatively quickly. The arc of visibility is similar for Britain, Morocco and South Africa. Muslims of South Africa also have a robust (monthly) moonsighting system and British Muslims have been using and relying on moonsighting from South Africa for nearly 2 decades.
There is close relationships between British and their South African counterparts. A bilateral agreement was nevertheless signed recently to formalise the ties and it is as follows:
Malawi is part of Africa and also has a robust and reliable monthly moonsighting system. Wifāqul Ulāmā has now signed a bilateral moonsighting agreement with Malawi.
Zambia is part of Africa and also has a robust and reliable monthly moonsighting system. Zambia National Hilaal Committee has been operating under the auspices of one of the longest serving Muslim organisations in Zambia, Lusaka Muslim Society (L.M.S. est. 1957). British Ulama have repeatedly visited and investigate their monthly moonsighting system. Wifāqul Ulāmā has now signed a bilateral moonsighting agreement with Zambia.
Zimbabwe is part of Africa and also has a robust and reliable monthly moonsighting system. Wifāqul Ulāmā has now signed a bilateral moonsighting agreement with Zimbabwe.
Mozambique is part of Africa and also has a robust and reliable monthly moonsighting system. Wifāqul Ulāmā has now signed a bilateral moonsighting agreement with Mozambique.
Réunion is located in the Indian Ocean and has a robust and reliable monthly moonsighting system. It’s unique (geographical) location and clear weather, enables it a unique opportunity to sight the Moon. British Ulama have visited and investigated their monthly moonsighting system. BMSC (Batley Moonsighting Committee) have tested and verified their sighting for close to a decade. Wifāqul Ulāmā has now signed a bilateral moonsighting agreement with Réunion.
This is outside of Africa and it is extremely unlikely that Moon will be seen in Réunion but not anywhere else in Africa, such an event has not occurred in 40+ years.
There are two countries which effectively coordinate moonsighting within Americas. Panama and America coordinate and cooperate primarily while the other countries in Latin, South, Central and North America follow their guidance.
Due to time differences it may not be possible for British Muslims to utilise the moonsighting news and testimonies from these countries. Nevertheless, Wifāqul Ulāmā has signed a bilateral moonsighting agreement with Panama and America for acknowledgment and sharing of information.
Islamitisch Observatorium Nederland in Holland has been conducting monthly Moonsighting for some time. Wifāqul Ulāmā is currently discusssing the need for a bilateral moonsighting agreement with them and sighting will be accepted based on agreed principles, once the agreement has been concluded.
Nigeria is part of Africa and traditionally did not have a robust monthly moonsighting system. We have been assured that improvements have been made and the Moon is now sighted monthly. Wifāqul Ulāmā is currently discusssing the need for a bilateral moonsighting agreement with them and sighting will be accepted based on agreed principles, once the agreement has been concluded.
Moonsighting system for 9 Islāmic months:
Continue to use the current system of observing the Moon in Britain and then taking testimony from Morocco and South Africa.
Moonsighting system for Ramaḍān, Shawwāl and Dhū al-Hijja:
Observe the Moon in Britain and then take testimony from Morocco, South Africa and any of the countries with a bilateral agreement in situ. This is to facilitate unity amongst British Muslims.
The reason to extend the (British) horizon and opting to take moonsighting testimonies is due to the well-known Hadith. Nabi (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) commanded us to observe fast when the moon is sighted and to (conclude the month of) fasting when the moon is sighted. This narration is Mutlaq (unconditional) and as long as the actual sighting can be verified, confirmed and reliably transmitted (the body of) Muslims can begin their Ramaḍān and conclude it (thus beginning Shawwāl).
حدثنا آدم، حدثنا شعبة، حدثنا محمد بن زياد، قال سمعت أبا هريرة ـ رضى الله عنه ـ يقول قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أو قال قال أبو القاسم صلى الله عليه وسلم ” صوموا لرؤيته، وأفطروا لرؤيته، فإن غبي عليكم فأكملوا عدة شعبان ثلاثين
Sayyidina Abu Huraira (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) made a mention of the new moon and (in this connection) said: Observe fast when you see it (the new moon) and break fast when you see it (the new moon of Shawwal), but when (the actual position of the month is) concealed from you (on account of cloudy sky), then count thirty days. [Muslim].
When it comes to the month of Dhū al-Ḥijja, there are two opinions amongst Scholars as follows:
- Differences of horizons are to be considered, i.e. each location must have its own (local) distinct and separate moonsighting.
- Differences of horizons are not to be considered.
Adopting the second opinion, gives us room to promote the unity and cohesion of British Muslims in celebrating Eidul-Adhā.