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April 25th, 2021

Sighting the Moon (Ruyat-i Hilal)

I saw an interview with the new chairman of the Ruyat-i Hilal Committee of Pakistan, Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, on GEO TV. He stated that the arrangements for determining the new moon will now be such that there will not be any disagreement in the country about the date of Eid. He also disclosed that the work of this Committee costs the government 4 million Rupees (I am not sure if he meant annually or on each occasion).

I don’t know what solution the Maulana has devised, but the real problem is due to the fact that while scientific data can tell us for certain which evening it is when the moon will be new, the question of whether the new moon will be visible is not a matter of certainty, but probability.

This year 2021, in Pakistan on the evening of 12 May, which will be 29th Ramadan there, the age of the moon at sunset will be about 19 hours. It might be possible to sight it using a telescope, but sighting it with the naked eye will be almost impossible. Consequently, the Committee will find it very difficult to accept any report of sighting as correct.

So the Committee may well announce on 12 May that the moon has not been sighted. Unfortunately for them, since the age of the moon on the evening of 13 May will be about 43 hours and it will be out in the sky for about 90 minutes after sunset, people observing it will wonder how such a large and long-lasting crescent can be the new moon.

Therefore, objections will arise whichever date is selected! And the same has happened several times in previous years.

The solution is found in a very short verse of the Holy Quran: “The sun and the moon follow a reckoning (a ḥisāb)” (55:5).

Muslims happily follow the first part of this verse. Hence times of starting and ending the daily fasts are published. If it is cloudy, no one is worried about finding out when the sun will set and when they can end their fast. Unfortunately, Muslims in general are not willing to follow the second part of this verse, about the moon. On the basis of one or two hadith reports on this issue, they are setting aside and ignoring the guidance of the Quran.

It is a matter of deep embarrassment that while Muslims are found to be discussing every year whether the new moon has been sighted, non-Muslim nations (dubbed by Muslims as kafir) reached that same moon more than fifty years ago, and today they are able to send machines to the planet Mars, several hundred times further away than the moon is, and move them about by remote control.

— Zahid Aziz

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