When is Eid-ul Fitr 2021 (Local or Regional Sighting)?
By Eng Qamar Uddin, York (UK) / 20 April 2021
On Monday 12th April 2021 (29th Shaban 1442) the crescent moon (Hilal) of Ramadan was not sighted in the UK horizon in clear weather conditions, as reported by many of the ICOUK members on the Moon Sighting UK website (www.moonsighting.org.uk), which also agreed with the fax from Morocco Awqaf Ministry.
On Tuesday 13th April 2021 (30th Shaban 1442), it was cloudy in most of the UK, but yet many of our keen and experienced observers were able to sight the Ramadan moon from throughout the UK. The fact that the moon was sighted in cloudy weather proves that it is possible to sight it in adverse UK weather conditions!
However, there is a difference of opinions between Muslim scholars if the lunar month should start with the BIRTH or the VISIBILITY of the moon. Those who follow the BIRTH of the moon (eg. Saudi Arabia) have started Ramadan on Tuesday 13th April 2021, as per the Saudi Ummul Qura Calendar (UQC). Those who follow the VISIBILITY of the moon (eg. Morocco) have started Ramadan from Wednesday 14th April 2021.
There is yet another established difference of opinions between the Muslim scholars about Local Sighting or Global Sighting criteria. In the earlier centuries (i.e during the pre-telecommunications era) when Muslims were confined to a small area of the Globe, what was considered as Global Sighting then, can now be re-defined as Regional Sighting, as practised by many of the UK Muslims (eg. the UK to Morocco region).
If we were to consider Local or Regional Moon Sighting for the possible date for the Hilal VISIBILITY at the end of Ramadan 1442, we can look at the HMNAO website of the UK government for the Crescent Visibility Prediction data for Eid-ul Fitr 2021 dates for most of the UK cities (as well as for Rabat & Mecca for reference) as shown in Fig. 1 Visibility Map for Shawwal 1442.
On Wednesday, 12th May 2021 (29th Ramadan 1442), the moon will be 25 hrs old (HMNAO Visibility Code B) within the territories of Morocco (i.e Dakhla) and so we are expecting to receive positive moon sighting news (although at a later time).
Accordingly, based on the agreed ICOUK criteria for Regional Sighting, Eid-ul Fitr 2021 is likely to be on Thursday 13th May 2021, InshaAllah (which also happens to coincide with the Saudi UQC date for Eid-ul Fitr, too).
However, the crescent moon of Shawwal 1442 is not expected to be visible on the UK horizon until the next day, hence our monthly “Spot the Moon Photo Competition” will be on Thursday 13th May 2021, InshaAllah.
A few of our ICOUK members have asked about the possibility of switching to UK-only Local Moon Sighting criteria, for a United Eid by all groups, so you may wish to consider the following data analysis/proposal.
Possibility of Local Moon Sighting Criteria
The reason we started a 2-days moon sighting since 2018, with the “Spot the Moon Photo Competition” was to encourage the UK Muslims to look for the moon when it was scientifically possible to be sighted in the UK (and not just look for it on the 29th date of a foreign country!). Furthermore, one of the main reasons for doing so was to evaluate this very possibility of adopting a UK-only moon sighting criteria. [Ref: Why look for the moon after 29th date?]
The observation data collected over the past 4-years (2018 – 2021), shows that indeed, it is both scientifically and practically possible to sight the first day’s crescent moon on the UK horizon (provided enough people are looking for it) and it also meets the Shariah requirement of 29/30 days long months throughout the whole year. [Ref: View Observation Results]
However, we have consistently faced the difficulties of not having enough people looking for the moon in the winter months (Nov – Feb) or enough area coverage when most people are still at work (during sunset times around 4 PM). This lack of support during the winter months will make the change to a UK-only criteria very unreliable (until we have wider community support) and has the potential of further divisions/disunity.
Proposal for Local Moon Sighting Criteria
The adverse UK weather conditions and the lack of sighters have forced the UK Muslims to borrow moon sighting news from nearby countries with similarities of moonrise times. Indeed, the vast majority of the UK Muslims did agree to follow Morocco for the past 50-years (since 1970’s), based on the well-established Regional Moon criteria for centuries! [Ref: Why Two Eids? By Allamah Khalid Mahmood (RA)]
However, there was an unfortunate event in the 1980’s that led some of the UK Muslims to follow Saudi Arabia which resulted in divided Ramadan/Eid ever since! Nevertheless, if both these groups were willing to leave foreign countries altogether and unite on UK moon sighting (ie the British Isles), then that will be a very commendable achievement, InshaAllah.
Up to now, we have undertaken the role of the public to do Sighting and Reporting (via the ICOUK website). However, when we adopt an independent Local Moon Sighting System, we will need to undertake Testimonies and make Declarations too, very rapidly and accurately.
To facilitate a rapid and accurate testimony procedure (acceptable in Hanafi Fiqh), we will need two types of people with specialist skills working as a team in each of the UK Regions. These people must include a few Ulama to take Testimonies (Shahada) and a few IT Admins to facilitate face-to-face and/or remote audio/video links that work flawlessly! [Ref: Hilal Testimony Procedure]
Finally, we will need to provide the necessary training to the above types of people for a few months, followed by a few months of practice with real witnesses before going live from a future date (with a common starting point, e.g. March 2022/Shaban 1443) that is well-publicised for a further few months by all-party Ulama and Community Leaders.
- May – July 2021 (Shawwal – Dhul Hijjah 1442): Formation of UK Regional Testimony Groups (x 12)
- Aug – Oct 2021 (Muharram – Rabi-ul Awwal 1443): Training of UK Regional Testimony Groups
- Nov – Feb 2022 (Rabi-ul Thani – Rajab 1443): Practice/ Publicity of UK Regional Testimony Procedure
- Mar 2022/Shaban 1443: Switch to Local Moon Sighting on a common date for UK, Morocco, Saudi UQC