The Second Islamic Astronomical Conference, in Amman, Jordan, October 29-31, 2001, jointly organized by the Arab Union of Astronomy and Space Sciences (AUASS), Jordanian Astronomical Society (JAS) and the Jordanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs, where I presented a paper, there were some excellent resolutions, including:
- REJECTION OF THE CLAIM OF SIGHTING THE CRESCENT, IF IT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE CONDITIONS FOR A POSSIBILITY OF SIGHTING THE CRESCENT.
- Verification of the meticulousness and the honesty of the witnesses to a sighting of the crescent, and not only the honesty.
- Consultation of an astronomical adviser in every committee being entrusted with the determination of the beginning of months in the Islamic countries.
- Providing the Muslim scholars of the fundamentals of sighting the crescent, as well as providing the astronomers of the information about sighting the crescent from Shari'a perspective.
- Encouraging the Muslims in different countries of the world to do a monthly observation of the crescent.
- Support of the Islamic Crescents' Observation Project (ICOP).
This ICOP – www.icoproject.org has had a great role in ongoing education and correction of Islamic dates worldwide, with input to publications and online magazines etc.
6 Use Naked-Eye Sighting instead of Telescopes
Arguments are made to use telescopes for Hilal Sighting. But firstly, these instruments do NOT reduce the Uncertainty, since behind the telescope eventually is still the naked-eye! Thus two people could look through a telescope – one able to see the Hilal and the other not able! Furthermore, Using a telescope may result in seeing the Hilal one day earlier on many occasions. (See MoonCalc picture - Areas between Curves C and D would see Hilal only by telescope. Naked eye visibility for this area would be next day). Adding the possibility of using Telescopes also increases the Zone of Uncertainty, since now there is an added element of telescope being present or not present. Using naked eye sighting also appeals to the logic that whatever criterion we use today should back calculate to the same dates that were likely decided at the time of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Thus for example Br. Yaser ElMenshawy, Chairman of the Majlis AshShoora (Council of Masajid) of New Jersey, USA, supports naked eye sighting, as this would result in the Hilal (Islamic New moon Crescent) being typically One Day After the Astronomical new moon (Dark moon / Invisible / No moon) and thus makes 13,14,15 of month as “white fasts” (full moon) as mentioned in Seerah and explained earlier in this paper.
As mentioned before, scholars like Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) support naked eye sighting rather than using telescopes. He indicated that using telescopes increases the “Takalluf” (Burden) on Muslims, which Allaah (سبحانه و تعالى) does not want. Thus even though the Official Saudi Arabian Hilal committees may carry a telescope, the official witness is only on naked eye visibility. Other scholars also cite Surah Al Baqarah, verse 189 which refers to the Hilal as a definite sign that ushers in each new Islamic lunar month and a sign is something that is visible to a common person. This also makes Islam easy for ordinary Muslims, no matter where, since the ordinary Muslim does not have a telescope. If the telescope criterion was used, the majority of Muslims would be effectively excluded from the Hilal sighting process.
Of course I do not equate eye-glasses to telescopes. Since eye-glasses are meant to correct the vision, and make it equivalent to the normal naked eye. Further, the use of correctional eye-glasses does not introduce the “Takalluf” / burden (as referred to by Sheikh AlOthaimeen (RH) above). Rather I feel that dis-allowing eye-glasses may introduce a burden. The unaided (naked eye) sighting has proved to be a method that is, straightforward, pure and not complex, used successfully and correctly by overwhelming majority of the Muslim Ummah Alhamdulillaah year after year (including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia which comprise about 70% of the entire Muslim population).
However, telescopes can and should be used to refute erroneous naked-eye sightings.