HADEETH: "WE ARE AN UN-LETTERED UMMAH"
- The Jews based their months on the Astronomical New Moon (ANM, as discussed earlier). It is well known that the ANM occurs at any time during the day and night. Thus, such a lunar month will be of 29.5 or 29.75 days duration.
- Whilst the Jews have used many other ways to perpetuate their hatred for the Holy Prophet (the final Messenger of Allah, ﷺ), they have also exploited the fact that the Muslims did not have an exclusive calendar of their own at the time. Upon this basis, they criticised the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) and His Ummah as illiterate (may Allah forbid) and unsuitable for the leadership of mankind.
- In the light of this background, if we look at the saying of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ); "We are an un-lettered nation" [see Sahih Muslim, Hadith 2376], we learn not to follow the method of the Jews and thereby make our months of 29.5 or 29.75 days duration. On the contrary, we are to adopt a simple, natural and universally applicable formula in the determination of the lunar month. i.e. commence fasting by the sighting of the crescent moon by the naked eye and end fasting by means of a similar sighting of the crescent moon. In the case where a sighting is not reported, we are instructed to complete the 30 days of the ongoing month.
Furthermore, the Muslim Ummah is clearly advised to be cautious against the Jewish method of dubiously miscalculating the lunar months. To take the literal meaning of the above Hadeeth (whilst deliberately ignoring the great wisdom and true lesson being delivered to the Ummah) in support of the argument that we should remain ignorant of the physical sciences is to go against the Quranic teaching: "He (Allah) taught man of what he knew not". (Quran 96:5)
- Some latter-day Muslims have mistakenly thought it wrong to use the astronomical knowledge and a few even considered it as an innovation in religion. Whilst the clear aim of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) in the above saying is simply to advise us not to follow the Jewish calendar in which the month commences with the Astronomical New Moon as against to the Islamic calendar in which the month begins with the sighting of the crescent moon.
- Astronomers, both modem and old, and renowned Commentators of the Quran are all agreed that towards the end of every month the moon goes through a stage of alignment. The period when the moon is invisible by the naked eye, is a reality and that at the CONJUNCTION TIME it is impossible to observe the crescent moon from anywhere on the earth. At no time in history has there been a difference of opinion amongst the astronomers about this basic fact. Even today, it is universally illustrated.
AN ANSWER TO A QUERY
Throughout the Muslim world, the month of Ramadan (1412 AH, 1992 C.E.), commenced on the following four days based on claimed sightings:
CONJUNCTION TIME (Astronomical New Moon): Wednesday, 4 March 1992, 1:22 GMT.
- Claimed sighting in Saudi Arabia: Tuesday, 3 March 1992, 22 hours prior to CONJUNCTION TIME. Ramadan commenced in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, 4 March 1992. (also, some places in USA and Europe who followed Saudi Arabia).
- Claimed sighting in Egypt: Wednesday, 4 March 1992, 2 hours 34 min after CONJUNCTION. Ramadan commenced in Egypt on Thursday, 5 March 1992.
- Morocco, Lisbon (Portugal), Pakistan, a number of African countries: Sighting on 5 March 1992, approximately 30 hours after Conjunction. Ramadan commenced in Morocco on Friday, 6 March 1992.
- India, Pakistan, Reunion, Bangladesh, Mauritius, New Zealand: Sighting on Friday, 6 March 1992. Ramadan commenced on Saturday, 7 March 1992.
As per the above, there were 4 different claims of a sighting. Which one from these is correct? Besides astronomical calculation, is there a Shar'ee and Fiqhi basis upon which this question may be answered? If we are to accept all of the above as valid then should we accept the difference in geographical locations (Ikhtilaf-e-mataale') and follow the FIQH rule (Every country has its own sighting)? Or are we to ignore the difference in locations and accept the earliest claim of sighting; Thereby those who fasted later will have to compensate fasting of 1, 2 or 3 days?
The question arises -
ls it really possible that the crescent moon is sighted in different places of the globe with the difference of 3 to 4 days? Or are we to understand that the crescent moon is sighted after sunset at one place (say Riyadh). There is no sighting the next day. On the third day it is sighted in another place (say Rabat).