Tag: islam

Eid al-Fitr 2016AD 1437AH

So, I predicted at the beginning of this month that Saudi will announce Eid al-Fitr as Wednesday 6th July and therefore completing 30 fasts for Ramadan (for those who started on a Monday).

For once, it completely aligns with astronomical data regarding the visibility of the new moon (hilaal). Today, Monday 4th July, it will not be possible to sight the new moon from any of the Islamic countries in the Middle East, north Africa or Asian sub-continent. So you will be completing 30 fasts and Eid al-Fitr will be on Wed 6th July for you

New-moon Mon 4th July 2016
New moon Mon 4th July 2016

Please see tomorrows (evening of Tuesday 5th July) chart below, it shows clear new moon visibility in much of the Middle East, northern Africa, parts India, south east Asia and the whole Americas. If you started on a Tuesday in any of these regions, you will complete 29 fasts only and do Eid al-Fitr on Wed 6th July.

New moon Tue 5th July 2016
New moon Tue 5th July 2016

Now let’s talk about the UK, strictly speaking the chart above shows no local sighting is possible in much of Europe including the UK. No sighting at all. Therefore depending on how your local mosque or community make the decision the following might apply.

1. If based on sighting from NEAREST Muslim country (any North African country), your Eid al-Fitr is Wed 6th July. Whether you started on Monday (30 fasts) or Tuesday (29 fasts)

2. If based on GLOBAL sighting, the same principle and date as 1 above applies

3. If based upon a LOCAL sighting then strictly speaking the new moon is NOT visible on Tuesday 5th July (but will be on Wed 6th July, see chart at end). This is where it gets interesting…IF you started on Monday then you will have completed 30 fasts on Tuesday 5th July and therefore MUST do Eid al-Fitr the next day. You simply cannot keep 31 fasts. Only for those who started Tuesday would Eid al-Fitr on Thursday 7th July be valid – to me this validates the position of local sighting and my previous blog post on the start of Ramadan 2016.

To summarise, both Wednesday 6th July and Thursday 7th July 2016 are valid dates for Eid al-Fitr in the UK, strictly speaking neither is wholly right or wholly wrong. What does matter is how you came to the decision and that you stick to this principle all the time.

The sticking matter of the unification of start of Ramadan and dates for Eid in the UK are primarily based upon the differing (yet valid in most cases) decision making mechanism that is used. Don’t expect all mosques & communities to agree and for there to be a unified date going forward – this is unlikely to happen. One of the issues is the Umm al-Qura calendar.

Good luck, God bless and Eid Mubarak where you are.

In a future post I will attempt to demystify the lunar cycle and hopefully increase people’s understanding of this issue.

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Ramadan 2016AD, 1437AH – Clarity from Chaos

As usual confusion as to when Ramadan begins this year is abound. IT really does surprise me as to how a LOT of people cannot get their heads around basic astronomy and continue to ignore facts – oft blaming those using facts of being ignorant themselves.

Islam uses a Lunar calendar. From one new moon until the next is called a Lunar month and is usually 29.5 (29 and a half) days. So please understand clearly that a Lunar month doesn’t fit nicely into the category of exactly 29 or exactly 30 days, it is squarely in between.

Getting to the point. Sighting of the new moon (‘hilal’) for the beginning of any Lunar/Islamic month is NOT a religious matter. It is a scientific one. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, the month preceding is called Shabaan.

So when does Shabaan end and Ramadan start?

Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said: “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 30).” Sahih Muslim; Hadith No 2379a

So the Islamic tradition is to attempt to observe the new moon yourself on the 29th of Shabaan, failing that because 1) it is not there to observe or 2) your view is obscured (cloudy evening/night) you are to complete 30 days of Shabaan and begin the 1st of Ramadan straight after. Hence why I stated that the observation of the moon is a purely scientific matter.

Was the new moon even visible?

Let’s get some visibility FACTS for the UK. For the evening of Sunday 5th June 2016 – was the new moon actually there to be seen?

Visiblity 05 June 2016

The chart above clearly shows that it was NOT visible from the UK. In fact, it wasn’t visible from ANY of the traditional Islamic countries in the Middle East, Asian Subcontinent and eastern Asia. So it would be impossible to report a sighting from anywhere in Saudi Arabia, therefore you should be completing 30 days of Shabaan and starting 1st of Ramadan on Tuesday 6th June 2016. However interesting to note is that it WAS visible from the continent of South America, and possibly visible from the far West of Africa using an optical aid (i.e. not with just your eyes).

Now lets look at the chart of Monday 6th June 2016:

Visiblity 06 June 2016

 

Now the new moon is clearly visible from the entire world, for the first time for this new moon it includes the whole of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. So tonight it should be easy to spot the new moon BUT it is also the 30th day of Shabaan – so you would start Ramadan on Tuesday 7th June 2016 anyway!!! You don’t need to go out and find the new moon.

Just to validate this further with scientific fact:

01-06-2016 10-32-16

Global Announcements

So why are there so many announcements for 1st of Ramadan for today, Monday 6th of June when very clearly scientifically is WRONG. There are 2 possible reasons

1. Someone somewhere follows the principal of Global Sighting and accepts a sighting from South America (Sao Paulo in Brazil?) as valid for them in Europe, Africa, Asia or the Middle East. This position is actually valid but not many people follow it.

2. Someone saw something and mistook it for the new moon e.g. Venus, Saturn, a satellite or other object in space. Yes, this has actually happened before. But it is 2016. An age of science, of HD and 4K cameras, of advanced astronomy and astrophysics, advanced photographic capability. Yet not ONE single institution or government that declared Ramadan for today Monday 6th June 2016 has provided an iota of photographic or direct evidence. Not one. Says something doesn’t it?

Well onto reason 3. I did say 2 possible reasons, I know! But reason 3 is my conspiracy theory (sort of). A while ago Saudi Arabia adopted a standard calculated (yes calculated, NOT observed) Lunar calendar. This calendar goes by the name of the Umm al-Qura calendar, it contains key Lunar dates for the next 10+ years. Here it is in all its glory:

Umm al-Qura Calendar

My personal belief is that there is a single-minded decision to stick to these dates as much as possible, regardless of observation/visibility of the new moon. Why? Simply because of the headache of having to update many dependent systems both Financial and IT related which interact with global systems using the solar calendar. The headache is immense in having to do this every few months, but no excuse really.

Chaos in the UK

OK, so the Saudis make a decision to fit in with their calendar requirements. So why the big argument in the UK about the start of Ramadan repeated each year? Well the primary reason is the number of Saudi funded mosques in this country, adherents who never question the decision made, never seemingly ask for any proof and refuse to debate claiming it is a religious matter for higher authorities when clearly is purely a scientific matter. Is it that hard to ask for photographic proof from the religious ministers?

In fact the Director (no less) of the Astronomical Observatory at Majmaah University, Abdullah Al-Khudairi, actually claimed the day before (Saturday 4th June 2016) that the new moon will appear the next day for “20 minutes after sunset”. How on earth did he know this, and then if this was fact why not announce 1st of Ramadan as Monday 5th June 2016? Did they capture any photographic evidence on the Sunday to share with the world? See where this gets totally confusing. Here is the article as proof:

arab news ramadan 2016

Further Information

Anyway a cool new site (WebSurf 2) for technical data can be found here:

http://astro.ukho.gov.uk/surfbin/first_beta.cgi

Interestingly, it contains a section on Islamic Prayer Times as well as the Crescent Moon Visibility which is the important factor in selecting the 1st of Ramadan for the Islamic Year. I salute the organisation providing this information.

Some more reading: http://www.moonsighting.com/soomu-hadith.html

A positive attempt by Wifaq ul Ulama to unite on moon sighting issues in UK: https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=http://www.wifaqululama.co.uk/images/pdf/Unified.pdf

And a very interesting and highly relevant approach to calculating Fajr time in Birmingham, UK: OpenFajr which has been accepted by Birmingham Central Mosque.

More about Umm ul-Qura: http://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/islam/ummalqura.htm

Good Luck, God Bless and Ramadan Mubarak – whenever you decide to do it!

To be very clear: Whether you start on Monday or Tuesday – both dates are acceptable and neither is wrong!

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Suhoor vs. Fajr start times – when is dawn, not dawn?!

There continues to be debate about the end of Suhoor and the start of Fajr, which often causes confusion and consternation between friends and family. I’ll try to clear up some of the points here, as usual I only vouch for the Hanafi school of Jurisprudence.

For a start, the word Suhoor (aka Sehri, Sahur, Sahari!) is the Arabic word that refers to the pre-dawn meal that should be eaten with the intention to then fast the rest of the day. Incidentally ‘Sahoor’ translates literally as ‘of the dawn’ – which is interesting to note.

Suhoor Hadith

So we come to Fajr, this is the early morning prayer (usually it’s still dark out there when you offer it). The first of the 5 daily prayers. The time for when you can actually begin this prayer is actually a tough one to work out in the UK, let’s pretend you don’t have that calendar on your fridge to follow and you had to work out the time for fajr all by yourself – just using your senses. How would you do it?

Well, wake up very early. Well before dawn. Then go outside into your garden or a similar open space and look towards the east from where the Sun will eventually rise. What you will notice is that it gradually starts to get lighter & lighter – even before the Sun has actually made an appearance. Now, if you are lucky and live on the East Coast (else just pretend there are no buildings or hills in your way) & you could see to the horizon – the first inkling of light can be seen far in the distance. Yet where you are it is still quite dark. This is kinda when the Sun is roughly at an angle of 18 degrees BELOW the horizon. This is the time when many mosques/communities use as the start time for Fajr and is technically described as the Astronomical Dawn! But others use a different definition, that of 15 degrees, which means Sehri ends roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes (specifically during July, and in the UK) than for those who use the 18 degree calculation.

Now, the clear distinction of the END of night is an indication of the beginning of Fajr. This is totally the same time as when Suhoor ends, i.e. when you have to stop eating/drinking and make your intention to fast

“…and eat and drink, until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn…” Al-Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah [02-187]

[this doesn’t mean you should get a black and white string and hold them up to compare, it’s talking about what you can see & distinguish in the sky!]

So…as soon as ‘dawn’ starts that is when Suhoor ends, not 10 or 20 minutes before. The debate/argument/disagreement is about which definition of Dawn we use, whether dawn is at:

  • 18 degrees (Astronomical Dawn – when it all still seems very black where you are)
  • 12-15 degrees (Nautical Dawn – getting lighter, but still pretty dark)
  • 6 degrees (Civil Dawn – enough daylight to go outside and do something outdoorsy)
  • or when the Sun hits the horizon at 0 degrees (by which time it will be really quite bright)
night, day, twilight and dawn
night, day, twilight and dawn

Others will talk about a True Dawn and a False Dawn preceding it, with the true dawn as 15 degrees and the false dawn as 18 degrees. Confused? Don’t blame you. Many people are. You are actually supposed to go out and make the observation yourself, from your home city – but for many living in urbanized areas this is very difficult to do.

Therefore the key question remains is at how many degrees below the horizon is the Sun when we have sufficient light WHERE WE ARE STANDING to be able to differentiate between the whiteness of day and darkness of night and hence declare ‘Dawn is here!’??? I’ll go with 15 degrees, which would concur with the statement from Al-Quran that there be sufficient light to see the difference in night/day, and which the majority of Hanafi fiqh jurists agree.

Once you know the time for Fajr start that you agree with you can happily drink that last glass of water, then go and pray your Fajr salaat. No delays, no faffing about. There is no need for this practice of ending Suhoor early, it is not what is stated in the Quran yet it seems to be more and more popular as a customary practice.

You won’t find me doing it…

Keeping this in mind, the practice in Ramadhan in some organisations is that Suhoor ends at 16 degrees (False Dawn) whilst the Adhan (call to prayer/beginning of prayer) of Fajr is called out after the sun reaches 15 degrees (True Dawn) below the horizon. This time difference period is often referred to as Subh-Sadiq, it lasts about 10 minutes and unless you are very skilled at observing the dawn period is very difficult to determine with the naked eye (hence we all use our fridge magneted calendars!)

Having said all that, with the complications of determining exactly when Fajr starts – it can make sense to end Suhoor a minute or 2 before Fajr starts. Just common sense really, a surety in a world full of doubts/ambiguities/complications. However you can eat or drink ALL the way up till the very start of Fajr, if you are holding a glass of unfinished water – FINISH it. Even if Fajr has started. It was never the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) or his companions, so relax! Stay clear from the obsessive behaviour around this issue, even a few minutes into Fajr MAKES NO DIFFERENCE.

Often, other websites will recommend you consult your local Ulema (knowledgeable people) for guidance on this issue. This confounds the problem further, who is your local ulema? If like me you have over 90 mosques within 10 miles, and use more than one regularly…which do you follow? In this age of technology and many conflicting opinions the real truth is often buried. Dig it out.

Also many people say fasting in Islam is from Sunrise to Sunset – this is INCORRECT. It is from the first light of Dawn to Sunset, as explained dawn starts well before actual sunrise. Sometimes the difference can be nearly 2 hours – which is the valid period within which you can read Fajr!

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