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Ramadan & the Sighting of the Moon

The sighting of the Moon signifies the start & the end of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims across the world will soon begin scanning the night sky for the first glimpse of a crescent moon, heralding the start of Ramadan.


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In the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan is preceded by the month of Shaban. The month of fasting & spirituality begins when Moon-sighting committees meet after sunset on Shaban 29, to look for a crescent moon.


A tradition that has run for thousands of years...


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Abu Hurayra reported Prophet Muhammed (ﷺ) as saying:


صُومُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ وَأَفْطِرُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ


“Observe fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break (fast) on sighting it (the new moon), but if the sky is cloudy for you, then complete the number (of thirty).” (Muslim)


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Islam follows the lunar or Hijri calendar which is based on the phases of the moon cycle and has 354 days unlike the solar or Georgian calendar that the rest of the world follows. Hence, Ramadan is 10 or 11 days earlier every year.

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Prophet Muhammed ﷺ taught that when the new moon is observed we should say:


“O Allah, make the new moon shine on us with security, belief, safety and Islam! My Lord and your Lord is Allah. It is a new moon of guidance and good.” (Tirmidhi)


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The Muslim world typically looks to Saudi Arabia to decide the days on which major religious events fall, including the start of Ramadan. However, each country is required to independently verify these dates, through a committee of astronomers & Islamic advisers.


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Islam follows the lunar or Hijri calendar which is based on the phases of the moon cycle and has 354 days unlike the solar or Georgian calendar that the rest of the world follows. Hence, Ramadan is 10 or 11 days earlier every year.


Image credit nattyandpolly

 

Prophet Muhammed ﷺ taught that when the new moon is observed we should say:


“O Allah, make the new moon shine on us with security, belief, safety and Islam! My Lord and your Lord is Allah. It is a new moon of guidance and good.” (Tirmidhi)


Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi Image credit Pinterest/Unknown

 

Muslims across the world will inevitably see the new moon at different times and then start fasting as ordered by Allah. Allah says in the Quran:


“…So whoever sights (the new moon of) the month (of Ramadan), let him fast it…”

(al-Baqarah 2:185)


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Saudi Arabia's moon sighting committee of the Supreme Court announces the official date of Ramadan. The kingdom’s Supreme Court calls on Saudi residents to join in on the efforts to sight the crescent moon too.


Image credit: AFP via Getty Images

 

A team of astronomy observers in Saudi Arabia's Hautat Sudair, a village located at an intersection between Riyadh, Sudair and Qassim, observe the sighting of the moon. The remote mountain area, was selected by a team of astronomers for having the right observation conditions.


A member of the moon sighting committee looks through a telescope to view the moon ahead of Ramadan to mark the beginning of the holy fasting month, near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 12, 2021. (Reuters) Al Arabiya

 

The Moon might appear in the sky for a short period of time, sometimes visible only for few minutes. Observers are required to be in position during that window in a remote location that is open, free of visual pollution & on high ground.


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Modern science & astronomy changed the way the start of Ramadan is observed. Telescopes & radio telescopes are used to make accurate predictions. The methodology for determining the start of Ramadan is updated with religious rulings taking scientific advancements into account.


Image credit Sarah Beth

 

Sources of Inspiration & Information


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_k7zIFrS2v0












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