The Fiqh Council of North America announced last week that it would no longer rely on naked eye moon sightings to determine the start of Islamic months and would instead use astronomical calculations.
A special conference on Hilal Sighting was organized by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) on 10 June 2006, in Virginia, attended by a number of jurists, Imams, astronomers and other concerned Muslims. A number of research papers dealing with the juridical and astronomical aspects of the topic were presented and discussed.
After much deliberation among the members and astronomical consultants, the following was concluded:
Position of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) on using astronomical calculations for Islamic Dates:
The Fiqh Council of North America after careful research, deliberations and discussion has adopted a new position regarding the determination of the beginning of the Islamic lunar months. This position is based primarily on the following Fiqhi premises:
- Sighting the Hilal (ru’yah) is not an act of ‘ibadah in itself; it is rather a means to know with certainty about the beginning of the new month related to Islamic ‘Ibadat.
- Ru’yah as a means was indicated and used by the Prophet -peace be upon him- because he himself said that the Ummah at that time was not literate and did not know how to write or to calculate (complicated astronomical data).
- Some classical jurists were willing to accept the calculations.
- Some classical jurists refused to allow calculations in this matter because in their time astronomy and astrology were not quite distinct sciences. Jurists were suspicious that astronomical predictions may not be based on exact science but on whims, conjectures, magic etc.
- During the last century an increasing number of Muslim jurists indicated that calculations could be used to negate erroneous reports of crescent sighting. Some jurists were of the opinion that calculations could also be used as a positive method to determine the new Islamic lunar months.
- There are now many Muslim astronomers who have been working for many years to develop a global lunar Islamic calendar. Fiqh Council particularly appreciates the efforts of its consultants Dr. Imad ad-Dean Ahmad, Dr. Khalid Shaukat, Dr. Muhib Durrani and Dr. Ahmad Salamah.
- Dr. Salah Soltan and Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah also presented scholarly papers to give thorough evidence from Fiqh Perspective that the use of calculations is not against the Sunnah of the Prophet -peace be upon him.
The Fiqh Council of North America considered the following factors in making its decision:
- Use of calculations in determining the Islamic dates is not against the Sunnah.
- Sure astronomical methods are now available to provide a sound basis for the determination of the Islamic dates of Ramadan and the two Eids.
- Shari’ah is based on ease and considers the convenience of people.
- Announcement of Islamic dates ahead of time will reduce a lot of hardship, chaos and confusion that happen every year at the time of the beginning of Ramadan and the two Eids.
- Announcement of Islamic dates will help Muslims to plan their activities in advance, facilitating their ability to take off from work or school. Many other benefits will result from this.
- Announcement of these dates will also remove unnecessary financial burdens from the Muslim community in North America.
- Muslim of America will become more united in their celebrations.
- Muslims of America can also work to have their Islamic holidays officially recognized.
- The Muslim community of North America will lead the way towards the development of a unified global Islamic calendar for the whole Muslim world.
- The Fiqh Council will continue working with the Imams and scholars of the communities to develop a consensus in this matter. It is, however, hoped that whether some of us agree or disagree with this position, we shall all recognize the validity of ikhtilaf in this issue and that the Ummah should be united in brotherhood despite any legitimate fiqhi differences.
| The following is the decision:
Following are the names of FCNA members as of 2006.