FAQ – Moon Sighting


As most of us know, the moon goes through several phases. The months of the Islamic Calendar are based on sighting of the new moon every month. So what is a new moon? A new moon is “born” when the moon of the previous month disappears (i.e. the moon goes from a slightly visible crescent to a completely black sphere that is impossible to be seen). About 17-23 hours after the new moon is born, a thin crescent becomes visible on earth. Once again, as we were taught by Allah (Qur’an 2:189) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is the sighting of this crescent that marks the start of a new month. Therefore, even though a moon may be born on one day, it may not been seen until the next day. Furthermore, if a new moon is born less than 15 hours before sunset on day 1; it will not been seen until sunset of day 2; and when it is finally seen it is 15+24=39 hours old and will look very thick. This does NOT mean that this is a second day crescent. A first day crescent can be very thin in some locations and it can also be thick in other locations because of time difference. As Muslims, we should always remember that our first priority is to follow the teachings of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) who told us to start the month when we see the crescent, not when the moon is “born.” If we do that, Insha-Allah we will start the month at the “right” time (the time that Allah intends for the month to start).

Question: Where in Quran and Hadith it is mention to start new month by sighting Moon.
In Quran see Surah Al-Baqara, verse 189.

Translation: “They ask you concerning the new Moons. Say: They are but signsto mark fixed period of time in (the affairs of) men and for Hajj”
There are numerous Hadiths in which prophet Muhammad (SalallahoAlaiheWasalam) ordered Muslims to start the new month by sighting the Moon. Here is one for reference.
Allah’s Messenger (peace_be_upon_him) said: Observe fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break it on sighting it. But if (due to clouds) the actual position of the month is concealed from you, you should then count thirty (days).(NARRATOR AbuHurayrah, SAHIH MUSLIM)

Question: If the moon is sighted any place on earth, then why all Muslim Ummah cannot start the Islamic month on the same day. (Oct 1,1997)
Logical Answer: When the moon is sighted in a place on earth, right at that moment there are two days and dates prevailing all over the globe. Some places have already started their next day. Those places can not start the month at that time. They have to wait for the next sunset time to start new month, and hence their month will not start on the same day as the place where the moon was sighted.

Suppose the moon is only possible to be seen in Hawaii and nowhere in the world. Even if we know ahead of time that the moon will be sighted in Hawaii, the time of starting Islamic month will be after sunset in Hawaii (around 6pm). At that time in Tokyo, the time will be 1pm of the next day. If this was month of Ramadan, this is way past Suhoor time in Tokyo. They cannot start fasting 9 hours before the month can begin anywhere in the world e.g. in Hawaii in this case.
Straight Answer:  Nowhere in Quran or Hadiths it is said to follow a particular country or a Masjid, instead every where in Quran and Hadiths, Muslims are ordered to follow Quran and the Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad (salallahoAlaiheWasalam).

Question: Why does the first crescent look thin in some months and thick in other months? (Oct 31,1997)
Answer: For a specific location where you are, the new crescent moon in some months has the least age, in other months has larger age, and yet in some other months, its age is just below the visibility range (say, e.g., 12 hours), and then the next day its age grows by 24 more hours (to 36 hours). Of course, this 36 hour old moon looks so big that people may say that it is definitely second day moon. For your locality, it is still first day moon. However, for some other localities, it may have been seen the day earlier (at the age of 17 hours), and for them, it is second day moon when it is 41 hours old. So, you see, a 36 hour old moon may be the first day moon and a 41 hour old moon which is not much different from 36 hours is a second day moon.

Question: By calculation and all modern day Technology, we can accurately predict when new Moon will “born”. Given that why we cannot start New month accordingly.
Answer: Surely, we can use all the technological advancement in predicting the birth of new Moon but we cannot make our decision solely based on these information because the hadiths of Rasulallah (salallahoAlaiheWasalam) clearly states that “Allah’s Messenger (peace_be_upon_him) said: Whenever you sight the new moon (of the month of Ramadan) observe fast, and when you sight it (the new moon of Shawwal) break it, and if the sky is cloudy for you, then observe fast for thirty days. (Sahih Muslim)” i.e. we are ordered to see the Moon and not when the Moon is “born”. Now consider this, If we only have to rely on when the New Moon will born then why Rasulallah (salallahoAlaiheWasalam) ordered us to see the Actual Moon. Was it difficult for Rasulallah to see the Moon behind the Cloud or to find when the new Moon would born if Allah Wanted. No, instead, Rasulallah Gave the Ummah a simple solution  till the day of Resurrection so that the Ummah can start the new month in right way.

Question:  Can one follow the Majority decision to start Ramadan or Eid?
Answer: One can follow the Majority’s Decision only if their decision is based on Quran and Sunnah. Otherwise, follow those who start Ramadan or Eid according to Quran and Sunnah even if they are less in numbers.

Question:  Does the size of first sighted moon (thick or thin) matters?
Answer: In Shariah, the size of first sighted moon does not matter whether it is thick or thin. The following hadith clearly state that size of new moon does not matter, all it matters is when the new moon has been sighted.

NARRATOR Abdullah ibn Abbas
HADITH_No 2392
AbulBakhtari reported: We went out to perform Umrah and when we encamped in the valley of Nakhlah, we tried to see the new moon. Some of the people said: It was three nights old, and others (said) that it was two nights old. We then met Ibn Abbas and told him we had seen the new moon, but that some of the people said it was three nights old and others that it was two nights old. He asked on which night we had seen it; and when we told him we had seen it on such and such night, he said the Prophet of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) had said Verily Allah deferred it till the time it is seen, so it is to be reckoned from the night you saw it.


Courtesy in part: www.moonsighting.com