Sunday 16th June 2024 | Ahad 9th Dhul-Hijjah 1445 [?]
Introduction

The Islamic Crescents Observation for the UK (ICOUK) was established in October 2008 to Revive the Sunnah of Moon Sighing in the UK.  To minimise the volume of manual interventions (i.e. collecting reports and sending out the results), the website was first developed in 2012, to help automate some routine tasks and to create greater public awareness.

However, it wasn’t until 2018 when two days of reporting (29th/30th) was introduced, the demand for website usage started increasing to its full capacity (on a shared server). By 2020/2021, we started noticing the server shutting down at peak times (Ramadan/Eid) with millions of hits within a short time, which it was unable to cope with (see Fig. 1).

Furthermore, the original website was optimised for most desktop users, but it became evident in recent years that the website needed to be optimised for mobile devices. It was also necessary to make it more reliable (to avoid shutting down) and easy to use (especially for mobile users). With these aims in mind, a UK technology company was commissioned to design a new website and migrate all the historical records, to be easily accessible to our users.

Website Functions

From the initial conception, the technology chosen was for a database-driven dynamic website (not just flat pages), which can be updated online by users and admins alike from anywhere in the world. The technology needed to meet the specialist requirement that was not readily available off-the-shelf and so much of the functionality was custom developed by specialist programmers, such as the Hijri Calendar API and a number of database forms mentioned below.

Hijri Calendar API

The ICOUK Hijri Calendar API was custom developed from scratch in 2012 (1434 AH) based on the Predicted Crescent Visibility for the UK (Imkan Al-Ruyat) and then updated on the 29th lunar date with actual sighting data (see Fig.2).

The API is used on our own website/apps as well as was made available to other websites and mobile phone apps, which was the first of its kind in the whole world. There has never been any Muslim country/government or private organisation in the world who had provided this type of Hijri Calendar service based on actual observation of the moon by the human eye (Muhaqqaq Ru’yat Basari) in the past, although some do exist based on the Astronomical New Moon.

These types of ground-breaking applications require custom codes that need regular security updates and maintenance with the fast-moving technological changes. These custom code developments include the Membership Registration Form, Observation Report Form (using the Hijri API for 2 days), Display of Observation Results, Current Members List etc.

Publication Articles

The original articles were written with page breaks for ease of reading on desktop computers. However, some users have informed us that navigating multi-page articles is inconvenient from mobile devices, especially searching for keywords on different pages. Therefore, all page breaks on all long articles have been removed for ease of navigation by scrolling up and down (eg. Hilal Sighting and Hijri Dates by Dr Salman Shaikh, Importance of Jame Ghafeer by Mufti Yusuf Danka etc). The same principle was applied to the multi-page Crescent Visibility Maps for ease of comparison between all 12 months, as well as changing the order of the maps from Right to Left (for continuity).

Observation Reports

In order to collect the crescent observation reports from throughout the country as quickly as possible and present them to the UK Hilal Committees soon after sunset, all registered members are able to send their report from any device within 1-minute. However, the old reporting form was not mobile-friendly and so the new form has been made with bigger fonts and easier selection of date/time (see Fig.3).

One of the important parts of the report is the uploading of sunset and crescent moon photographs (as supportive evidence of observations). The number of photograph uploads has been increased to four so that additional supportive evidence can be included. Furthermore, the website automatically adds watermarks on all photographs so that they can easily be identified when shared via social media without compromising the source or authenticity (testimony). This means anyone can submit a report instantly from the field without having to wait for image processing on a home computer.

Membership Records

There are many observation reports (2000+) from past and present members which are associated with their names and observation locations that must be maintained. The old website modules had become obsolete, so a new website component was developed to transfer the user and observation records at a significantly high cost as they required cleaning and normalising by database specialists, before importing them to the new database. All these tasks have been carried out with full confidentiality (under an NDA) in accordance with our website privacy policy.

Website Testing

All the new functionality of the website has been fully tested before making it go live in November 2022. However, there are over 200 website pages that have been imported from the old website, many of them with links that may not work properly. Therefore, please let us know of any broken links/forms (or enhancements) via the website Contact Us form and we shall action them as soon as possible, InshaAllah.


Review Date: December 2023