Frequently asked questions about Moon-Sighting

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1. Ittihad-ul-Matali' or Ikhtilaf-ul-Matali':

1.1   Question: If the moon is sighted any place on earth, then why all Muslim Ummah cannot start the Islamic month on the same day. (Oct 1,1997)

Answer: When the moon is sighted in a place on earth, right at that moment there are two days and dates prevailing all over the globe. Some places have already started their next day. Those places can not start the month at that time. They have to wait for the next sunset time to start new month, and hence their month will not start on the same day as the place where the moon was sighted.

Suppose the moon is only possible to be seen in Hawaii and nowhere in the world. Even if we know ahead of time that the moon will be sighted in Hawaii, the time of starting Islamic month will be after sunset in Hawaii (around 6:00pm). At that time in Tokyo, the time will be 1:00pm of the next day. If this was month of Ramadan, this is way past Suhoor time in Tokyo. They cannot start fasting 9 hours before the month can begin anywhere in the world e.g. in Hawaii in this case.

1.2   Question: ALL middle eastern countries, with the exception of Oman and Tunisia, have declared Ramadan to be Dec. 30, 1997. In sunnah Rasul-allah (SAAW), states that if 2 people had sighted the moon, then all Muslim Ummah should fast. And what is good for 1 Ummah is good for all. If 2 persons have sighted the moon, the astronomical calculations are not valid. (Dec 29,1997)

Answer: The 2 people criteria you mentioned is not in Sunnah; it is an opinion of Fiqh. Use common sense, that if 2 persons see something else, and we know by laws of nature that the moon was not there; what they saw was not the moon then why you insist that we should close our minds and not think rationally and accept a simple mistake that we know is going to affect thousands of Muslims starting the month at the wrong time. It does not make sense.

1.3   Question: I understand, that it is valid to say, that if the moon is sighted anywhere in the world, one may use that to start the month everywhere on the globe. If we know in advance that the moon could be seen from the far west of USA and Hawaii Islands. Why is it not okay to use this knowledge for beginnig the month in North America?

Answer: This "would be visible" knowledge is not considered sufficient by Ulemaa. Actual Sighting is required. But, in future, if Ulemaa agreed to this "would be visible" argument then that can be done. As long as actual sighting is required, by the time the moon is actually seen in Hawaii, it will be hardship for the people of East coast of Canada to wait past 3:00 or 4:00am for the confirmed news of sighting. Consider what would happen for Japan. The time in Japan would be past 2:00pm the next day. Muslims in Japan could not begin fasting on that day, if it was the month of Ramadan.

1.4   Question: If the moon is sighted on different dates in different parts of the world, are we to use different 'start' dates for the month or is the whole world supposed to use the same date?

Answer: Ikhtilaf-al-Matali' concept says, use different start dates. Ittihad-al-Matali' concept says only relatively close areas should start on the same day; it was not for the whole globe or for large distances. Time differences in distant locations of the world prove that Ittihad-al-Matali' concept is not applicable for large distances.

1.5   Question: It is true that in North America, the CRESCENT known as HILAL was not visible. We do not have to see the moon to start a new month if one trustworthy Muslim on earth sees the first Hilal, the whole Muslim Ummah must follow. THIS IS ACCORDING TO QUR'AN. Prophet[pbuh] never wanted the Muslim Ummah to be disunited on any matter. In this day and age of Satellites, internet, and telephones, the sighting news of HILAL can be sent to any part of the globe. This way Muslims will start the first day of the month on the same day all over the world. What is wrong? (Jan 23, 1999)

Answer: First of all, Qur'an does not say that about moonsighting. Just like prayer timings are different in different locations, month starting is also different. Let me give you the answer to your question from hadith of the Prophet [pbuh]. Hadrat Abdullah Ibn Abbas [RA] in Medinah did not start the month of Shawwal, when Hadrat Kuraib and Moaviah [RA} reported that 30 days are completed based on sighting in Dimashq, and Ibn Abbas [RA} and all other Sahaabah [RA} did not see in Medinah. Abdullah Ibn Abbas [RA] in Medinah and other Sahaabah in Dimashq did Eid on different days [Hadith from Sahih Muslim] and remember, that Hadrat Ibn Abbas [RA] in Medinah required Hadrat Kuraib [RA] to fast for the 31st day of his fasting, because Kuraib [RA] started his Ramadan in Dimashq, one day earlier than Medinah, and Ibn Abbas [RA] did not accept the argument of 30 days completed in Dimashq [Hadith from Subulus-Salaam].

1.6   Question: Why did Makkah celebrate Eid-al-Fitr one day erlier than Malaysia? We in Malaysia are not too far away from Makkah. (Jan 25, 1999)

Answer: According to Saudi announcement, someone saw the moon on Friday, Dec 18, 1998, so they started Ramadan on Saturday. They were UNABLE TO SEE Shawwal crescent on Jan 17, 1999 after 30 days. Note that if the month started with correct moonsighting then after 30 days, it is always visible, given clear horizon. Yet, they used the argument that 30 days have been completed, so Jan 18, 1999 is Eid-al-Fitr in Saudi Arabia.

Of course, moon could not be seen on Jan 17 anywhere in the world, and you in Malaysia would not even see on Jan 18 according to my calculations, so your Eid should have been on Jan 20, 1999, just like most of India and Pakistan celebrated Eid on Jan 20, 1999, two days after Makkah, not one day after. We in USA celebrated it on Jan 19, 1999 according to the authentic sighting in USA.

1.7   Question: Is moonsighting really more important than the unity of the Muslims? Why don't we all follow Hajj date for Eid-al-Adha?

Answer: Unity on the right thing is more important then the unity on the wrong thing. No Aalim from anywhere supports the position that Eid-al-Adha in the whole world is after the day of hajj.

1.8   Question: I agree that Ikhtilaful-Matali' is the better position because of the way Allah SWT created our universe (with time differences), but also because it does not rely on the existence of communication technology. If technology broke down, we could still practice Ikhtilaf al matali', on a local level (and we could do it without astronomical calculations as well, just the way the early Muslims did so). But the same is not true for ittihadul-matali'. >

Answer: Ittihadul-Matali' position adopted by all Hanafi Imams and scholars was only for a short distance where the news could travel in reasonable short time. It never meant to be for large distances, certainly not for the whole globe. Ikhtilaful-Matali' looks more logical approach.

2. Big Moon (must be second day moon?):

2.1   Question: If the moon is big, does it mean it is a second day moon?

Answer: As most of us know, the moon goes through several phases. The months of the Islamic Calendar are based on sighting of the new moon every month. In Astronomy, a new moon means "when the moon of the previous month disappears (i.e. the moon goes from a slightly visible crescent to a completely black sphere that is impossible to be seen)." Remember, new moon is dark and invisible. About 17-23 hours after the new moon, a thin crescent becomes visible on earth; this is visible new moon. As we were taught by Allah (Qur'an 2:189) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is the sighting of this crescent that marks the start of a new month. Therefore, even though a moon may be born on one day, it may not been seen until the next day. Furthermore, if a new moon is born less than 15 hours before sunset on day 1; it will not been seen until sunset of day 2; and when it is finally seen it is 15+24=39 hours old and will look very thick. This does NOT mean that this is a second day moon. A first day crescent-moon can be very thin in some locations and it can also be thick in other locations because of time difference. As Muslims, we should always remember that our first priority is to follow the teachings of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) who told us to start the month when we see the crescent, not when the moon is "born." If we do that, Insha-Allah we will start the month at the "right" time (the time that Allah intends for the month to start for a specific location).

2.2   Question: I saw the moon that was so big and remained above the horizon past Isha time. It has to be the second day moon.

Answer: The big moon can be the first day moon also. Think of a case that the moon was 16 hours old on one day and was not visible on clear skies. 16 hour old moon is not visible in certain seasons. The next day it was 40 hours old and was definitely big. 40 hour old moon will be a lot bigger than a 20 hour old moon that was visible in some month and was thin.

Now you be the judge that if it was not visible even with telescopes (16 hour old moon) then shouldn't the next day be the first day moon even though it was a big moon. Same way if it remained above horizon a long time, it does not tell you that it is the second day moon. The higher the moon is above horizon is related to the age also. A 20 hour old moon will not be above horizon for 45 minutes, but a 40 hours old moon could be above horizon for 90 minutes.

Moreover, I give you a Hadith, AbulBakhtari reported:
We went out to perform Umrah and when we encamped in the valley of Nakhlah, we tried to see the new moon. Some of the people said: It was three nights old, and others (said) that it was two nights old. We then met Ibn Abbas and told him we had seen the new moon, but that some of the people said it was three nights old and others that it was two nights old. He asked on which night we had seen it; and when we told him we had seen it on such and such night, he said the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) had said Verily Allah deferred it till the time it is seen, so it is to be reckoned from the night you saw it. [Sahih Muslim 534]

2.3   Question: I have noticed that the moon was visible more than two hours after sunset, and it seems to be big. Some people may ask me about this, and I want to have an answer. Does this mean anything. Does it favor the fact that Eid is supposed to be on Friday, Jan 7, 2000 instead of Saturday. (Feb 13, 2000)

Answer: No, certainly not. It does not favor the Eid of Friday. I am in Washington DC area, and I myself and many people in our community tried to see the moon even on Friday, Jan 7, 2000 because I asked them to do and the finding was that despite very clear horizon (no clouds) and moon setting 1 hour after sunset, we could not see the moon even on Friday. That means the moon was impossible to see the day before.
The moon is visible all over the world within 24 hours of the time it becomes visible first, except the polar regions. This is a scientific fact. So, non-visibility in clear horizon on Jan 7, was a clear proof that it was not visible in that area the day before. Now moon was sighted in Texas, Arizona, and westward on January 7. So, even though it was not visible in Washington DC area we celebrated Eid on Jan 8, based on (Ittihadul-Matali) one horizon.

Now moon was visible more than 2 hours on Jan 8. Yes, of course; same thing happenend in Washington DC area. Even on Jan 7, it was setting 1 hour after sunset, but it was still not visible. So, do not look at a big moon of Jan 8, and estimate when could it have been visible. On Jan 6, in Washington DC area it was 4 hours old; on Jan 7, it was 28 hours old still not visible, and on January 8, it was 52 hours old. Age is very misleading factor for visibility. Moonset after sunset also is misleading for visibility.

2.4   Question: The moon on Feb 24, 2001 was so big, was it not the second day moon? What percentages of the moon surface illumination can be considered a second day moon?

Answer: The answer to your 1st question is in the Hadith of Sahih Muslim, when Sahabah were talking about a big moon and said it looks like second day moon, and the prophet said, DO NOT SAY IT WAS A SECOND DAY MOON. ALLAH MADE IT BIG FOR YOU, ALTHOUGH IT WAS NOT VISIBLE THE DAY BEFORE. Science also confirms this Hadith, that a big moon on the next day does not mean it is a second day moon.

Second question is answered automatically, that a second day moon can be small or big. It depends upon how old it is. This time first day moon in Saudi Arabia on Feb 23 was 6 hours old and in California was 17 hours old. On the next day it was 41 hours old in California and hence it was so big. Percentages of illumination directly depend upon the thickness of the crescent, so the same percentage can be a first day moon for some month and second day moon for another month.

2.5   Question: Why is the moon sometimes big and orange and sometimes small and white?

Answer: The moon travels in an orbit around the earth in an oval path, so its distance from earth varies. When it is closest to the earth it looks bigger. The colors variation is due to variation in the pressure, temperature, and humidity in the atmosphere, which goves more pronounced affect for a viewer when the moon is near the horizon.

3. Why not with Saudi Arabia:

3.1   Question: I've just received news that Saudi Arabia had a confirmed sighting of the Ramadan hilal on the 29/12/97. Hence their fasting will start on 30/12/1997.
Some of the astronomical software showed that on 29/12/97 the moon and the sun set together almost at the same time for most part of the Middle East and the moon conjunction occurred about an hour after the sunset in most Saudi Arabia. It is therefore perplexing that they claimed to see the elusive hilal. I hope you can shed some light on this. Shukran. (Dec 29,1997)

Answer: We have been monitoring their announcements for about two decades, and consistently their month starts earlier than any place on earth every month. I think, the reason is that they use a pre-calculated calendar based on "New-moon" that is invisible. I have a copy of their 30 years calendar, every month begins one day after New-moon date of Greenwich Mean time (now called Universal time). It is very common mistake that people make by seeing other objects and think they saw the moon, sometimes a peace of jet-smoke, or planet Venus etc. The moon cannot be seen before it is born, or if it sets before the sunset?

They have one of the two cases:
1. A few claims of sighting an invisible moon come and the authorities accept them saying that a pious and credible Muslim has given the witness, so it completes Shari'ah requirement.
2. If they don't see on the 30th day, they use a justification that 30 days are completed.
In fact, the moon is always visible on 30th day, if the month started on actual and authentic moonsighting. If the moon is not visible on 30th day, it means that the beginning of the month was in error either due to pre-calculated date that was not based on moonsighting or due to mistaken sighting claims.

3.2   Question: Did someone try to tell the Saudi Arabian authorities that their calendar is totally wrong? This is causing ripple effect in the USA. I know several masajid that declared December 30, 1997 as the first day of Ramadan. Unless this is fixed in Saudi Arabia, we will continue to have two Eids. (Dec 29,1997)

Answer: Several groups of people have written to the Saudi authorities about this. Groups of people from India and Pakistan have gone to them at different times to talk face to face. ISNA's representatives have gone and discussed this matter with them. I am also trying to convey this message to the Saudi Authorities through some contacts in Saudi Arabia in the hope that something good will come out in near future.

3.3   Question: According to what was posted on your web page the Ramadan moon was not supposed to be visible in the Middle East on Dec 29, 1997. Yet there are reliable reports of relatives (not connected to the government officials) who saw the moon - in Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. I hope you have your own sources who can confirm that. However I have not heard of anyone sighting the moon on that date in North America! Do you have an explanation for this? I am a regular visitor to your web page, I find it very informative and entertaining. May Allah bless you for the service you provide. (Jan 5,1998)

Answer: The moon was not even born in Saudi Arabia, and could not be seen in Middle East. That's why it was not visible several hours later in North America. People get the news from Middle East that Ramadan starts from Dec 30, so they assume that moon has been sighted on Dec 29. The announcement does not even talk about moonsighting. It says, "The supreme Judicial Council endorsed that December 30, 1997 will be the first day of the holy month of Ramadan for the lunar year 1418 AH according to a statement released by the Royal Court on Monday evening."

3.4   Question: The crescent for the new moon of Shawwal was not sighted (with the eye) by Muslims anywhere across the world today, Tuesday, Jan 27, 1998. Therefore we continue to fast tomorrow (Wednesday) to complete the 30 days. Why we cannot have Eid, when 30 days are completed? (Jan 27,1998)

Answer: This 30 day complete argument is wrong. If you start fasting before new moon was even born, then you did not start the month on the right day. 30 day complete argument is only good when the previous month began with the correct sighting of the moon, and not by mistaken claims.

All experts of the world about moonsighting are unanimous that moon can not be seen in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, and East coast of North America on Jan 28, 1998 (Wednesday). Non-sighting of the moon after 30 days is a clear proof that the month did not begin correctly, otherwise moon is always visible on 30th day, given clear skies.

3.5   Question: Many Muslim countries in Middle-East have seen the moon on Friday (Dec 18, 1998). Why astronomers are saying that it is impossible. I would take the word of a Muslim over all the sciences, when I know that science theories change with time. (Dec 23, 1998)

Answer: Muslims in the Middle-East have made a mistake in seeing a cloud or jet smoke thinking it was the crescent moon. The moon was not even born on Dec 18, 1998. It could not even be seen on Dec 19, 1998 in Saudi Arabia, because its angular separation from the sun was 8.5 and it was too low on the horizon.

3.6   Question: The first day of Zul-hijjah was observed in Saudi Arabia two days before here in the U.S. and one day before its neighboring countries. How could that be possible? (April 20, 1999)

Answer: There is only one rational explanation for Saudi dates being ahead of USA, and that is their calendar is based on some convention and not the moonsighting. In fact it is quite contrary scientifically that Saudi date can see the moon and North America does not see on the same evening 8 to 11 hours later.

This Zul-Hijja, 1419AH, Saudi Arabia was only one day ahead of USA not two days. Pakistan and India are so close to Saudi Arabia, but they have every month at least one day behind Saudi; sometimes two days behind. I check India and Pakistan dates every month, and they always start their months according to scientific possibility of moonsighting, while Saudi dates seldome reflect possibility of sighting.

3.7   Question: Eid-al-Adha was celebrated in India and Pakistan on March 29, 1999, three days after Hajj, and two days after Eid-al-Adha in Middle East countries. Why there is difference of two days between the countries which are very close such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

About Pilgrimage, Allah says in Holy Quran " They ask you (Mohammad)(peace be upon him) about the new moons: Say : These are signs to mark fixed periods of time for MANKIND and for the pilgrimage" (2:189). In Hadith Allah's Messenger says after sighting the crescent we have to begin the Ramadan fasting and similarly we have to end the fasting after sighting of the new crescent. In another Hadith Allah's Messenger says: We are unlettered people and we don't know writing and calculations and the lunar month is 29 days or 30 days. Both Ahadeeth are from Sahih Al-Bukhari. Based on the above verses from Holy Quran and two Ahadeeth I want to know your answer. (May 10, 1999)

Answer: The difference of two days between India-Pakistan and Saudi Arabia date for Eid-al-Adha is attributed to practices in the two countries. India-Pakistan had celebrated Eid-al-Adha based on correct and authentic moonsighting as far as our scientific knowledge tells us. Saudi Arabia is using a pre-calculated calendar and not the actual sighting. They say that their calendar is for civil use only, and for religeous purposes they depend on actual sighting. However, if 30 days are completed by their pre calculated calendar then they start new month, no matter if the moon is born or not, and even if the moon is not sighted on 30th day.

Now there is only one moon. If it was seen in Saudi Arabia on March 17, then where did it go to be invisible in India or Pakistan on March 17, or 18. It is against all the known facts about moonsighting, science, astronomy, and mathematics. It certainly was not seen in India/Pakistan on March 18, and was subsequently seen there on March 19. While Saudi Arabia fixed their dates as if the moon was sighted on March 17, two days before India/Pakistan. Either they have set their dates based on a criterion other than moonsighting, or accepted claims from people who saw something else (like a streak of cloud, or a jetsmoke) and believed it to be the moon.

We all know these things that you quoted from Quran and Hadith, and no one has any question about them. However, Quran or Hadith does not tell us to believe a Muslim blindly if we know that the moon was not there. The moon was not even born at Maghrib time of Saudi Arabia; it was born on March 17, 18:49 Universal Time that is 21:49 Saudi Time, which was 3 hours after Maghrib. The moon was not there to see. We know that for a fact. It is not a good argument that we should not look at the calculations; we believe calculations for prayer times; and we know that Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) said "Al-shamsu wal-qamaru bi-husbaan" (sun and moon follow course exactly compted) ; He also said, "li- ta'alamu 'adad al-sineena wa al-hisaab" (so that you may know the count of years and calculations). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "To seek knowledge is obligatory on all Muslims men and women". The first word form Allah was "Iqraa". If the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "la naktub wa la nahsib" and meant it to be an order for all times, then why do we write; we should give up writing too if we were asked to give up calculations. Think rationally, that Allah has given us the knowledge which we must use for the benefit of mankind and for establishing the truth and justice, in the way Allah and His Rasool please. We must not remain blind from the facts of existence of science, mathematics, and all other uloom that Allah has bestowed upon us.

3.8   Question: Many mosques in USA individually announced Eid on Friday, Jan 7, 2000. How could the moon be sighted in so many places, not only in USA but also in Middle East? (Jan 15, 2000)

Answer: Decisions in many cities do not mean that moon has been sighted in many places. Middle Eastern countries other than Saudi Arabia did not see the moon. They went along with the decision of Saudi Arabia. Many of us take that news and translate in our minds that the moon has been seen in all those places. That is a big fallacy. Mistakes have been made even in the past when sincere trustworthy Muslims see something and believe it to be the moon. Imams of individual mosques in USA started making their own decisions based on any claim or news they hear from anywhere. ISNA and Shura Council of North America have a frame work for making sure that the true moon has been sighted and not any mistaken object that people believe moon. Making decision at individual mosques and not following a unified decision of Shura Council will keep the Ummah divided. Let us make efforts to follow unified Shura Council's decision to avoid such happenings in future, and to remain united.

3.9   Question: I spoke to my cousin in Saudi Arabia who said that today (Nov 25, 2000) is the 29th day of Shabaan. Hence they were looking out for the moon of Ramadan today. If the moon is sighted today then Ramadan will start for them on Tuesday (Nov 26) which according to you is not possible. Was there a mistake on their part regarding sighting of the moon for Shabaan?

Answer: They did not start Sha'ban with the sighting of the moon. In Saudi Arabia, they have a pre calculated (Ummul-Qura) calendar, It is basically used for civil purposes. This calendar is based on new (invisible) moon calculations or moonset after sunset calculations. They do not follow their civil calendar for religious dates. However, on the 29th Sha'ban or 29th Ramadan of that calendar they look for the moon, and year after year someone mistakes something else for the moon or they just complete 30 days from the calculated calendar and observe the new month sometimes ONE day earlier than what it should have been, if they follow sighting.

3.10   Question: If we all agree on one Qibla, and if we have the state of the art in telecommunication, would that not be enough to follow Makkah in moonsighting. Do you think that Saudi Arabia does not have all the tools that are required for an accurate moonsighting? We should be one Islamic Umma at least for one day out of the whole year which is the day of Eidul Adha.

Answer: Telecommunication also tells us when is Jumuah prayer conducted in Makkah. Wht do we not perform Jumuah in the whole world with them. If Saudis had all the tools for moonsighting as you believe, then they should know that the moon could not be sighted on Feb 23, 20001. Saudi Arabia Official announcement for Zul-Hijja did not mention anything about moonsighting. We should be one Ummah not for one day, but for all 365 days. The unity of the Ummah is not in praying Jumuah all over the world at the same time, and praying at different times does not break the unity. Similarly, the starting of a month at different times has nothing to do with unity; it is bound to be at different times in different locations.

3.11   Question: What is the definition of "YAWM ARAFAH" and how are we going to fast "YAWM ARAFAH" for example Monday, March 5, 2001 is 9th Zul-Hijjah in North America and it is day of EID for Hujjaj.

Answer: Hujjaj do not have a day of Eid. They never pray Salatul-Eid. According to all four school of thoughts, fasting is on the 9th of Zul-Hijja based on local sighting. This has been the way for over 1300 years. Just 50 years ago, people in Iran, Afghanistan, Far east, did not know when YAWM ARAFAH is in Makkah. How were those Muslims fasting on YAWM ARAFAH, or was their fast invalid? Also remember, that Hajj was prescribed seven years after Eid-la-Adha was prescribed. so, saying that Eid-al-Adha has always been on the day after hajj is not right.

3.12   Question: Granted that Saudi Arabia may be wrong on their announced date (Feb 24, 2001) for the 1st of dhul-hijjah. But do you think that the other countries in that area, who did see the moon, are also wrong? shouldn't we follow them if they saw it?

Answer: Other countries did not claim to see the moon. They are just following announcement of Saudi Arabia. When people get the news of Eid, they themselves translate that news into moon must have been sighted, but the moon was not sighted on Feb 23, 2001.

4. Age: Youngest Moon:

4.1   Question: Ater the Moon Birth, how much time is required for people to sight the New Moon?

Answer: Time passed after New Moon Birth is called the age of the moon. Sighting is possible at different age in different months. So, age cannot be a criterion for sighting. Why is it so? Because, the orbit of the moon is elliptical and in its orbit, the moon moves faster when it is closer to the earth, and slower when it is farther from earth. When it moves faster, the moon becomes visible at smaller age (like 17 hours), and when it moves slower, it becomes visible at larger age (like 23 hours). The main factor that makes the moon visible is the angle between moon-earth-sun. When this angle becomes about 9 degrees, the moon starts to be visible. How much time it takes to get this angle depends upon the speed of the moon in its orbit.

4.2   Question: When has the earliest new moon crescent been seen after new moon was born? (Dec 4,1997)

Answer: Moon sighting does not depend on age. Non-Muslims have treated this question as a sport, "Who can see the youngest moon." In the zeal of their competition, they claim early and early sightings, which are in most cases false, as many claims have been refuted with no sighting at places thousands of miles west. There was an article in Quarterly Journal of Royal Astronomical Society, Q.J.R. Astr. Soc. (1993) 34, p53-56, "Records for young Moon Sightings," by Bradley Schaefer, Imad Ahmad, and LeRoy Doggett. They have refuted some sighting claims. However, they accepted the two following claims:

1. Morning crescent on Sep 14, 1871, Age -15.4h at Athens Greece, seen by Schmidt (Naked eye)
2. Evening crescent on May 5, 1989, Age 13.47h East Lansing, MI, seen by Victor (Binocular only)

Both of these claims are questionable; the first one with naked eye has been a record so old that it has not been met in the recent century, and therefore is doubtful. There is no way it can be justified. The second one is questionable, as I had talked to Bob Victor who told me that there were two other persons with him and they could not see the moon. Moreover, from Michigan to West coast, no where it was seen. This paper also did not accept May 5, 1989 sighting of Badat in Houston reported by "Mohib Durrani." The article mentions that reported altitude was wrong. I personally talked to Badat and he told me he casually looked over his shoulder as he was standing for Maghrib prayers and he saw the moon quite high. The authentic naked eye sightings are at about 17.2 hours, and 15.5 hours by observatory telescopes. Remember, in some seasons, earliest moonsighting takes about 24 hours. So if the moon has become 17 hours old or more, one can not conclude that it is possible to see that moon.

4.3   Question: What is the record time between a new moon and its first possible sighting, and is this result available for every point on earth? (Jan 15,1998)

Answer: No, this result is certainly not available for every point on earth. According to different individual claims, the record time between new moon and its sighting varies for naked eye, and aided eye (binocular or telescope). Dr. Doggett of U.S. Naval Observatory, Dr. Schaefer of Yale University, and Dr. Ahmad, a Professional astronomer have written a research paper on a collection of most early sighting claims, Q.J.R. Astr. Soc. (1993) 34, p53-56, "Records for young Moon Sightings." For naked eye, claims are with the age 0 to 15.4 hours, but all claims less than 15 hours are not considered credible by professional experts in this field for various reasons. Some were reported a few days or weeks later, some few month later and in some cases, it was found that skies were overcast in that area, so claims were made for wrong dates. For aided eye, claims less than 13.47 hours are not considered credible.

However, one point must be understood, and that is, even if a moon was sighted at the age 15.4 hours by naked eye, or 13.47 hours by aided eye, it does not mean that every time moon age reaches those limits, it could be visible. In some months, moon could not be visible any place on the globe until it becomes 23 hours old. That still does not mean that a 23 hour old moon will always be visible from every place on the globe.

4.4   Question: What is the "scientific" basis for the apparently accepted view that the moon cannot be sighted with naked eye if it younger than 13 hours or so? (Dec 24, 1998)

Answer: Scientific basis is that in 13 hours, the angular separation of the moon from sun is between 7.2 to 8.5. The angular separation (elongation) is the most important factor in moon's visibility besides several other factors combined. At the angle 7, no sun light reflected from the moon can come to the earth meaning that the crescent is not formed to see from earth (This is due to the mountains on the surface of the moon that block the sunlight coming to the earth - Danjon effect). Between 7.2 and 8.5 the crescent is invisible to the eyes, because the brightness of this thin crescent is less than the sky brightness on the horizon. At elongation less than about 7.5 even telescopes do not pick the thin crescent. This is the discussion for naked eye versus telescope or binocular sightings.

The published record for moonsighting with bare eyes shows that no one has ever seen the crescent of less than 15.4 hours old [See "Records of Young Moon Sightings, Quarterly Journal of Royal Astronomical Society (1993) 34, 53-56, article by Schaefer, Ahmad, and Doggett]. This sighting was done on Sep 14, 1871 CE. The angular separation was 9.3. That was in the previous century, when atmospheric pollution, and city light pollution did not exist. Now, it is not possible to see even this kind of crescent. In recent times the crescent that has been seen with naked eye had the angle of 10.5 which corresponds to 17 to 21 hours of age. Remember, even 17 to 21 hours age does not mean that every moon of this age will be visible. There are other factors that must meet the certain minimum for a crescent to be visible.

4.5   Question: What is the youngest new moon observation record with a telescope, binocular, and with unaided eye? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: I do not know if any one keeps the record of telescope sightings. The youngest new moon observed with a binocular is 13.47 hours of age, while with unaided eye, it is 15.4 hours. [See "Records of Young Moon Sightings, Quarterly Journal of Royal Astronomical Society (1993) 34, p53-56, article by Schaefer, Ahmad, and Doggett].

5. Questions regarding Qur'an Sunnah:

5.1   Question: If the sighting information or testimony given by a person or persons were false, then the person(s) who reported the moon sighting will take on our sins for fasting at the wrong time.

Answer: In Qur'an, several places Allah says, "La taziru wazirtun wizra ukhra" No one will take the burden of anyone else. This ayah has been repeated at least 5 times in Qur'an. For your satisfaction, please take a look at the following sections in Qur'an:
Surah 6, Ayah 164
Surah 17, Ayah 15
Surah 35, Ayah 18
Surah 39, Ayah 7
Surah 53, Ayah 38

5.2   Question: We know that the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw split of the moon as it is mentioned in the qur'an. Is there any scientific proof that the moon had a huge earthquake the time of which is exactly at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). I have heard this but not have seen actual credible papers on this subject and if it is true would you be willing to cite such article so I can show it to someone as proof.

Answer: Qur'an does not say that the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw the split (Shaqqul-Qamar). Qur'an does mention about Shaqqul-Qamar, and the scholars have written that it was mentioned as a sign for the nearness of Qiyamah. But even if the split occurred, one should not expect that there should necessarily be a long-lasting mark on the moon's surface or inside it. Allah can do it with or without a trace. To my knowledge, no one has tried to find a scientific proof of it.

5.3   Question: What are the Ayaat in Qur'an about moon. Can you list them all? (Jan 31, 1999)

Answer: Click here to see all Ayaat reference and the translation.

6. Questions on Calendar - 29 or 30 Day Month:

6.1   Question: Is there a pattern of sequence of 29 and 30 days month? Some people say that after 19 years moon phases repeat. Some others say that after 30 years moon cycle repeats. (Nov 11,1997)

Answer: After careful scrutiny of long term calculations of moon cycles we found that, in fact, there is no pattern. We have checked 4000 years of calculations i.e. 48000 months and found no pattern. The 19 year cycle of Gregorian year (equal to 228 months in Gregorian Calendar), is a cycle after which the moon phases roughly repeat. Remember the word ROUGHLY, NOT EXACTLY, an hence 228 Gregorian months (or 6940 days) are approximately equal to 235 lunar months (19 years and 7 month in Lunar Calendar). Similarly 30 lunar years (10631 days) are approximately equal to 29 years and 1 month of solar calendar, but again this is also APPROXIMATE. Long term calculations based on this rule sometimes gives results that are wrong by one day. Some others have pointed a cycle of 210 lunar years, and it has the same flaw as 30 year cycle. In short, there is no pattern that can be quoted exactly repeating.

6.2   Question: When did Ramadan start in the year 1947 according to the Christian calendar? (Jan 12,1998)

Answer: Based on sightability of the moon, Ramadan may have started on July 19, 1947 in North America, while in the rest of the world, it must have started on July 20, 1947.

6.3   Question: Can we achieve a global Islamic calendar that could unite the whole world for same dates for the beginning of every Islamic month?

Answer: We must understand that if the sighting is required we cannot have global unity. To achieve global unity, we have to stay away from sighting and some convention has to be adopted just like International Dateline convention. The world is not ready for that yet. May be a little more education of the science of moonsighting to Muslims all over the world would lead Muslim Ulemaa to think more seriously about the advantages of pre calculated calendar and global unity.

When the Ulemaa of the world would be ready for a global Islamic calendar, a suggestion would be to make Makkah, a conventional line, where if the moon is born before sunset in Makkah, the month is considered to begin after sunset, and if the moon is born after sunset in Makkah then the month begins the following evening. This would require two calculations; 1)the time and date of new moon birth, and 2)the time of sunset in Makkah on that specific date.

Another convention that I could suggest for global unification of the Ummah, would be that if the moon is born before 12:00 noon UT, then the month begins at sunset of that day everywhere in the world. This requires only the calculation of time of new moon birth, which is already available on internet to every one through the web site of U. S. Naval Observatory. It does not require any more calculation like the first suggested convention that requires to calculate sunset at Makkah on that specific date. This convention has a strong basis of the visibility that somewhere on the globe on that date the moon would be definitely visible given clear horizon, because the age of the moon would be 18 hours at sunset on a point just to the east of the International dateline if the moon birth took place before 12:00 noon UT. No astronomer disputes that an 18 hour moon cannot be seen (in some instances it may not be seen by the naked eye but with telescope it can be seen). This known scientific fact can be made the basis of pre calculated calendar, so that it is based on sighting requirement and would be according to Qur'an and Sunnah, and that can be adopted on a global basis, and then all the disagreements about when the month starts would go away.

6.4   Question: Is it possible to have several consecutive months of 29 days and to have several consecutive months of 30 days and what is the highest possible number? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: Yes, actually observed and according to calculations of moonsighting, up to three consecutive months of 29 days and up to four consecutive months of 30 days are possible. This is nothing unusual. This happens quite often.

6.5   Question: Is it possible according to the calculations that the month be 30 days in the northern hemisphere and 29 days in the southern and vice versa? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: Yes. Also the calculations prove the fact that at any location on earth, the moon becomes visible either on the 29 day, or on the 30th day counted from the visibility of the previous crescent from the same place.

7. Astronomy Questions:

7.1   Question: What is the effect of earth's rotation axis tilt of 23.5 to its path around the sun? Is this the reason for the moon to be first sighted in March far away north near Alaska, Mongolia, and in August it is first visible far south near Madagascar, New Zealand, etc.? Does the twilight time also change for this reason at different latitudes and affects moonsighting? Do you think these two reasons are related with the arc of light? (Oct 10,1997)

Answer: Yes, the tilt of earth's axis of rotation is the reason why moon is first visible in Northern latitudes in March, and in Southern latitudes in September. But that tilt has no effect on the arc of light.
Twilight times also change with high latitudes and with seasons, and this does affect sighting in high latitudes (55 North and 55 South), because the longer background light affects visibility of crescent. Sometimes the sun does not go far enough below horizon to facilitate moon sighting.

7.2   Question: I've been told that we always see the same side of the moon. There is always a hidden side that we can never see. Is this true? If so, why is it?

Answer: Yes, it is true. The moon rotates around its own axis in about the same time as it takes to circle the earth. These two motions cause the same side of the moon turned towards earth in general. Due to some variations in these motions and some other minor phenomena (liberation and wobbling), the people from earth can only see about 59% of the moon's surface at different times and place, which is a little more than (50% of the lunar surface) one side of the moon as seen from earth.

7.3   Question: The moon is the closest object to the Earth, yet we do not see it for some part of the month. Where does it go? Is it because of light or darkness? (Dec 27, 1998)

Answer: The moon is totally dark object; it does not have any light of its own. It merely reflects sunlight falling upon it. When sun is on the opposite side of the moon looking from earth, the side of the moon facing earth is completely dark, and we can not see this moon for about 36 hour every month. On all other days, the moon is at a different angle from the sun and we see different phases of the moon. It rises and sets because of the curvature of the earth as earth revolves around its own axis.

7.4   Question: Is the calculation of solar movement more exact than the calculation of the lunar movement? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: Calculation for the movement of the moon is as accurate as that of the sun. However, the sun being a source of light can be seen easily, while the moon, that does not have any light of its own, can only be seen when the sun is in such a position that its light falling on the moon can come to the earth. Many a times the moon may be above horizon, but it can not be seen because the sun is in such a position that its rays coming to the moon do not make a sufficient thickness of crescent to be seen from earth.

7.5   Question: Is it possible for the dark moon (unilluminated) to be above the horizon after sunset before it is born? When does this happen? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: Yes, it is possible. The moon quite often sets 5 to 25 minutes after sunset when new moon is not born yet, that is its age is negative. The moon can set several minutes after sunset even when there are 10 hours to go before the new moon birth. It could happen in different places on the globe in different months.

7.6   Question: When does the moon set to the right side of the sun and when to its left side? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: Moon can set to the right or left of sun. The moon may set to the right of sun at some location on earth, while the same moon on the same evening may set to the left of sun at another location. All this can be precisely calculated in advance for different locations.

7.7   Question: Do all astronomers use the same method(s) for calculating astronomical new moon? If not, what are the differences? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: There are different algorithms to calculate astronomical new moon (conjunction time) depending upon accuracy desired. Some are more accurate than others. Less elaborate and sufficiently accurate formulae can calculate the time of birth of new moon with an error up to +2 or -2 minutes, and for most practical purposes this accuracy is sufficient.

7.8   Question: It is known that the orbit of moon around the earth is oval in shape. The moon comes closer to the earth, and then it goes away from the earth. Does the phase of new moon's birth occur when it is at closer point to the earth or when it is at farthest point from the earth, or does it change from month to month? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: When new moon birth takes place, moon may be anywhere between closest to farthest point from the earth. It is at a different position in its orbit every month when the birth takes place, i.e., when the conjunction occurs. So, it changes from month to month.

7.9   Question: Is it possible that the moon may set in South-Eastern direction? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: Moon sets in all directions in its average cycle of 29.530588 days. The very first observed crescent always sets in generally west direction. The full moon always sets in generally east direction. All the other phases of the moon set in between these directions. A new moon can never set in South-Eastern direction.

7.10   Question: How long the moon remains totally dark and hidden from the light of the sun? Does it vary from month to month? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: The moon remains invisible as seen from a specific location on earth for about 24 to 36 hours, about 12 to 18 hours before new moon birth and roughly the similar time after new moon birth. Actual times may differ from these values in different season's and they also change every month depending upon moon's speed around the earth which varies along its elliptical orbit.

7.11   Question: What is the duration of astronomical month (days/hours/minutes and seconds)? Does it change from month to month? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: If astronomical month is defined as the time from new moon to new moon, then it changes every month. The value could range from approximately 29 days 5 hours to 29 days 20 hours, with an average cycle of 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes 3 seconds.

7.12   Question: What is the distance of the sun and the moon from the earth in light minutes? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: The distance of sun and moon from earth varies depending upon their positions in orbit. The sun is at an average distance of about 8.4 light minutes from earth. The moon is at an average distance of 1.38 light seconds (or 0.023 light minutes) from earth.

7.13   Question: Since the passage of the sun over the equater occurs on March 20, 1999, is it correct to say that the exact time of this passage would be at 6:48 pm NY time and 4:48 Salt Lake City time? (March 13, 1999)

Answer: Although this question is not about moonsighting, it deals with the beginning of Iranian calendar, for Naurooz. That's why it is presented here. The sun passes over the equator on two days of the year, Spring Equinox, and Autumn equinox (which occur approximately on March 21, and September 21). On these dates the sun passes over the equator at some instant of time, which is different every year. For this year 1999, it will pass at Mar 21, 01:46am Universal Time (March 20, 20:46 NY time or 18:46 Utah time).

7.14   Question: Was astronomy relied thousands of years ago, especially when cloudy weather obstructed visual observation? (April 18, 1999)

Answer: Thousands of years ago, astronomy was not this accurate. But then there were not many man-made objects in the sky either. Now a days people can see many man-made objects and think they saw the moon. We are trying to educate the people, so they understand the basic known facts about the moon, and when is impossible to see, such that when a Muslim or group of Muslims see something and believe it to be the moon, we all can differentiate that it was not the moon; they have seen something else.

7.15   Question: If we go to higher altitudes like on top of a mountain or in airplane, does it help for moonsighting? (April 24, 1999)

Answer: Going to a higher elevation really does not change the situation except for a small time delay added to the setting times for sun and moon. This delay by itself helps very little. However, going to higher elevation helps the visibility, because the higher the elevation, the better is the air transparency, and the lower is the light extinction. But this does not mean that a moon of 10 hours old can be seen from high monutains or even from airplanes.

8. Questions on Eclipses:

8.1   Question: What are the dates of all solar/lunar eclipses that occurred during Ramadan between 1840-1900 CE, to understand the claim of Qadianis (Ahmadiyya) about Mehdi. (Jan 7, 1998)

Answer: I have done extensive research on the exact calculations of lunar and solar eclipses that occurred in the month of Ramadan in life time of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908CE). Results of my research along with answers to Ahmadiyya claim in the light of Ilm-ul-Hadith is provided on

8.2   Question: It was stated by someone that in the year 2003 there will be a Lunar and Solar Eclipses at the same time. Do you know anything about that occurring? From an astronomical view has it ever happened before or is it predicted to happen? (Nov 21, 1998)

Answer: This is absurd. Solar eclipse always occurs on new moon, while lunar eclipse always occurs on full moon, therefore, the both can not occur on the same day. There is always a minimum of two weeks difference in lunar and solar eclipses.

8.3   Question: What is "Eclipse," and why and when "Solar" or "Lunar" eclipse occurs? (Oct 20, 2000)

Answer: Eclipses occur when the Sun, Earth and Moon line up. They are rare because the moon usually passes 5 above or below the imaginary line connecting Earth and the Sun. In a solar eclipse the moon passes directly in front of the Sun. This can only happen when the phase of the moon is "new." That occurs because, for Earth-based observers, the far side of the moon is illuminated while the side facing Earth is in darkness. A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth comes between the moon and the sun, earth casting a shadow on the moon. It can only occur when the moon is "full."

At solar eclipse, the moon, which is 400 times smaller that the Sun, is 400 times closer! This means that the two objects appear to be the same size in the sky. An annular eclipse is a special partial solar eclipse. Because the moon's orbit around Earth is an ellipse, not a circle, the moon's distance from Earth varies. When the moon is far from Earth it appears slightly smaller in the sky. (Earth's orbit around the Sun is also an ellipse, and during January, Earth is at its closest point to the Sun. The Sun's size is slightly larger than during the rest of the year.) With a "small" moon and a "large" Sun the moon will not completely block out the Sun. For individuals in just the right location, the Sun appears as a ring (annulus) around the dark surface of the moon.

In a lunar eclipse the moon moves into Earth's shadow. Observers on the night side of Earth see the moon move into Earth's shadow. If the entire disk of the moon falls into the shadow it is total lunar eclipse. If only a portion does, then it is a partial lunar eclipse. Lunar eclipses are more common than solar eclipses.

8.4   Question: If the birth of the moon means that the center of the earth, the sun and the moon lay on straight line, does that mean the eclipse occur every month? If the answer is no explain. (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: The plane in which the moon orbits around the earth is 5 inclined to the plane in which earth moves around the sun. Think of an imaginary line joining the center of the sun and the center of the earth. At new moon birth the center of the moon precisely crosses this line, while the moon can be up to 5 above or below this line. Sun eclipse only occurs when the moon crosses on that imaginary line, which does not happen every month.

8.5   Question: Is instant of new moon the time at which the moon begins to move out of the shadow of the earth? (Jan 17, 1999)

Answer: New moon is the time at which moon crosses a line between earth and sun. Shadow of earth will never fall on the new moon. The Shadow of earth sometimes falls on the full moon only (earth comes in between sun and moon), and then it is lunar eclipse. Solar eclipse occurs only on new moon day and only sometimes, when moon blocks sun as seen from the earth.

8.6   Question: Many Muslims want to pray salat-ul-kusoof during eclipse. Can you provide date and timing of eclipse on your web page?

Answer: Thank Allah (SWT). What you just requested, Allah put that thought already in my mind, and I have already done what you requested. Subhan-Allah.
If you go to: and click on 2001 Calendar, or 2002 Calendar you will see the dates identified for both lunar and solar eclipses. In the calendar, you can click on eclipse dates for more information about those eclipses.

9. Sighting Questions:

9.1   Question: Why does the first crescent look thin in some months and thick in other months? (Oct 31,1997)

Answer: For a specific location where you are, the new crescent moon in some months has the least age, in other months has larger age, and yet in some other months, its age is just below the visibility range (say, e.g., 12 hours), and then the next day its age grows by 24 more hours (to 36 hours). Of course, this 36 hour old moon looks so big that people may say that it is definitely second day moon. For your locality, it is still first day moon. However, for some other localities, it may have been seen the day earlier (at the age of 17 hours), and for them, it is second day moon when it is 41 hours old. So, you see, a 36 hour old moon may be the first day moon and a 41 hour old moon which is not much different from 36 hours is a second day moon.

9.2   Question: After looking at your website, I started fasting on December 31 1997 in Detroit Michigan. On the evening of December 31, I was able to see the new moon even at 7:15pm in Detroit Michigan . I have got a shareware software (CyberSky). According to the this software at 7:15pm the moon was about 5 above the horizon in Detroit Michigan. The point is that I think one can see the moon at 5 above the horizon which your software (on the web MOONCALC 4.0) does not take into account for global moon sighting. Now I check the software for the evening of December 29 1997. According to the results of this software, the moon was at 5 above the horizon after sunset in Detroit, Michigan. This makes me wonder that how no one of you was able to see moon in North America on December 29, 1997. For eid according to the software results the moon will be about 10 above the horizon in Detroit Michigan on January 28, 1997, so we should be able to see it easily which moonCalc 4.0 does not predict. (Jan 3,1998)

Answer: The moon-sighting prediction calculations are not that simple as you think. If the moon surface facing the earth is completely dark and the moon is above 5 or 10, or even 20 it means it is there but is invisible. 5 or 10 above horizon is a function of curvature of the globe. But for visibility, the moon has to reflect sun's light. To do that the moon has to be at about 10 angle minimum from the sun (this angle is also called elongation, or arc of light). Elongation was 5.2 in Detroit on Dec. 29; That is why you did not see the moon on that day. On Jan 28, you will still not see the moon, because the elongation is less than 10, and the age is 17 hours, and there are other parameters of the moon that make it impossible to see it on Jan 28. However, on Jan 29, you will see a big moon that is 41 hours old, that still does not mean that it was yesterday's moon, because yesterday, it was 17 hours old and was not visible in your area or on the east coast of USA.

9.3   Question: Why it is not possible to see a Crescent on Jan 28, 1998, when It will be 19 hours old in California, and possibly at good altitude above horizon.

Also, I just saw that sighting is possible on Wed Jan 28, 1998 at Hawaii. Will ISNA take it as a proof to celebrate EID on Jan 29, 1998 Thursday ? (Jan 6,1998)

Answer: To answer your brother's question, firstly, moon is not always visible when it is 19 hours old. In some months 23 hours old moon is not visible. Secondly, on Jan 28, 1998, the moonsighting is difficult but possible on West coast 30 minutes after sunset, only if the optimum weather conditions persist (no city lights on west, favorable humidity, favorable temperature, and atmospheric pressure etc.).

In Hawaii, it should easily be visible. However, ISNA and Shura Council of North America have decided to announce the beginning of Shawwal after moon is sighted in Continental North America. They will verify the claims of sighting from the main land of North America. We can not wait for reports of sighting from Hawaii, because, it will be past midnight on the East coast, by the time we confirm the sighting claims. That is a burden on Muslims of East coast, specially in Nova Scotia which is 1 more hour ahead of Eastern Time Zone. Just a statement of possible sighting in Hawaii is not enough for ISNA to make a decision before actual sighting.

9.4   Question: Can I determine the 14th of an Islamic month from the full moon time shown in Moon phases Tables?

Answer: It is not true that the 14th of an Islamic month falls on a full moon day. Full Moon can occur on 13th or 14th or 15th of the month, because the full moon occurs at one specific moment Universal Time (that can be in the day or night) and at every moment, there are two Gregorian dates in the world (parts of the world on either side of the International Dateline have different days at every moment) and those two dates correspond to three different dates in Islamic calendar depending upon the location on the globe. Now, the sighting of the moon determines the beginning of the month not the moon birth. Sighting of the moon occurs on at least two different days on the entire globe, sometimes even three different days.

9.5   Question: If the moonset in Riyadh is 37 minutes after sunset on Dec 19, 1998, why you say that this moon cannot be seen?

Answer: If the moonset is 37 minutes after sunset, it does not mean it is visible for 37 minutes. All it means is that the moon is above horizon for 37 minutes, and if it is less than 7 to 10 from the sun, then it is not visible. Visibility depends upon angular separation of the moon from the sun. If the angular separation is not enough to make a crescent, just the presence of moon above horizon is not enough for it to be seen.

9.6   Question: If the astronomical calculation informs that the moon is definitely on the horizon after sunset then why is its visibility impossible before the age of 13 hours, or before the lag time of 24 minutes between moonset and sunset? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: The moon could be on the horizon before the birth of new moon. Therefore, new month can not start before the moon is born. If the moon is above horizon, its visibility may be impossible because of its relative position from the sun. If sun is in such a position that the crescent is not formed as seen from the earth, then moon cannot be seen, even if it remains above horizon after sunset. The visibility does not depend on age, but on the angular separation of moon and sun. A 13 hours age moon generally does not have enough angular separation for it to be visible. Also it takes about 20 to 25 minutes for the sun to go below horizon such that the background light of sun's glare diminishes to an extent that a crescent can be seen. However, a very thin crescent can not be seen until after 38 minutes past sunset.

9.7   Question: The Prophet (Peace be upon him) went to Arafat on Friday the 9th Zul-Hijjah of 10 AH which was on March 6, 632 CE Is it correct according to calculation? Give detailed answer with exact time? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: Very correct. The calculation confirms that new moon occurred at 21:03 GMT on February 25, 632 CE(Tuesday). On the following day, February 26, 632 CE in Medinah, the calculations for the moon show the following results:
Sunset at 6:25 pm, moonset at 7:04 pm. At sunset, the elongation is 10.1, Age of moon 18.3 hours, and Altitude above horizon 7.6.

This crescent was visible on February 26, 632 CE(Wednesday), and the 1st of Zul-Hijjah was on February 27, 632 CE(Thursday). Therefore the day of Arafat, 9th Zul-Hijjah was on March 6, 632 CE(Friday).

9.8   Question: Is it possible to see the moon near the sun in the morning and during sunset in the same day? And when does that happen? (Dec 30, 1998)

Answer: No. But it is possible to see the moon on one morning before sunrise in the east, and then one the next day's evening (i.e. after about 36 hours) it can be seen after sunset in the west. This happens very seldom for a specific location. Usually the moon remains hidden for two days, a day before new moon, and a day after new moon.

9.9   Question: At what age the moon after getting out of the "Mahaq" (new moon phase) the hilal can be seen with: a) naked eyes? b) scientific instruments? Also, at what time the moon starts leaving the Mahaq (wane) for the current month i.e. Jan. 1999? (Jan 9, 1999)

Answer: The "Mahaq" is the time when the moon becomes invisible from any place. This period of Mahaq will vary for different places. The minimum period of Mahaq is about 30 hours (about 15 hours before new moon birth, and about 15 hours after it). But this does not mean that the moon is out of Mahaq for every place in that time. For some months and for some places it could remain in Mahaq for about 50 hours. For Shawwal 1419, the moment of new moon birth is Jan 17, 1999, 15:47 UT. Remember, the age of the moon is very wrong factor to look for visibility. The most important factor for visibility is the angular separation of the moon from the sun. This angle is not easy to calculate for everyone. That's why most people try to come up with an easy formula in terms of age or difference of moonset and sunset, and none of those formulae work. There is no answer for minimum age for sighting, either with naked eye or with instruments (telescope/binocular). However, there is a minimum limit of 7 for angular separation of moon and sun (Danjon effect, meaning the mountains on the surface of the moon block the sunlight coming to the earth).

9.10   Question: Why the crescent is often described as "impossible to see" after it has passed the time of new moon? (Jan 17, 1999)

Answer: Let me clarify what "Birth of New Moon" means. It is the instant of time when the moon crosses a line between the earth and the sun, and since the moon does not have any light (it merely reflects sun's light) it is dark at this time and therefore, it can not be seen. The sun light falling on the moon reflects back to the sun and the earth is facing the dark side of the moon. As the time passes from birth of new moon, the moon move out from in-front of the sun and several hours later it can be seen as a crescent.

9.11   Question: Taking this Shawwal 1419, for example, the new moon was at 10:46AM, which means that at the time of Maghrib on the east coast, it was 6 to 7 hours old. It also set a few minutes after the sun in the mid-Atlantic region. Why is it then "impossible to see"? (Jan 17, 1999)

Answer: It was not possible to see this Shawwal moon on Jan 17, 1999 anywhere in the world, because the sun has to be at certain angle for its light falling on moon to come to earth, and this is not enough either. The background light on the skies at the horizon must also be lesser than the brightness of crescent moon. For these two reasons, the moon was not visible anywhere in the world on Jan 17. So, if the moon is above horizon after sunset, it just tells us that the moon is there, and it may be dark, but for it to be visible, the angle from sun and the background light of the horizon conditions must be sufficient to see that moon. 6 to 7 hours old moon is not visible as proven by the observatories of the world using even most powerfull telescopes.

9.12   Question: Is it correct that the new moon (dark moon) was seen in Utah, Arizona & California Friday April 16, 1999? I was under the impression it was impossible to see the dark new moon. Apparently that is not correct, according to what you state. (April 18, 1999)

Answer: First you should understand, "new moon" and "new crescent moon". New moon is an instant of time; for example, this month it was at 4:21am Universal time on April 16, 1999. At that time it was 8:21pm on April 15, 1999 in California. At this time the moon is dark and cannot be seen. At that time there are different times at different locations in the world. Of course on April 16, in California it was 23 hours old, and was seen. So, looking at the date only for moon birth April 16 you are misleading yourself that if the moon is seen on April 16 anywhere in the world, it was a dark moon, since the moon was born on April 16, 1999.

9.13   Question: I came across a website "Virtual Reality Phase of the Moon" which shows photos of the current phase it appears a new moon can be seen. If one knows where to look and looks for it's faint contrast.

Do you know how many hours after the conjunction, that a faint sliver of light appears? (April 18, 1999)

Answer: If one knows where to look for the moon, it does not mean that the moon could be seen. Moon does not have any light. It reflects sunlight. At newmoon phase the earth is on one side of the moon and the sun is on the other side, so no sunlight falling on moon can come to the earth.

The programs like "Virtual Reality Phase of the Moon" only show you a calculated geometry of the moon surface facing a particular spot at a specific time on the globe not the whole world. The faintest crescent it shows does not mean that it can be seen. It requires the crescent to be of sufficient thickness and brightness compared to the background light of the sun in the sky, which is present on the horizon even after sunset. Moreover, the sunlight falling on the surface of moon is not reflected to the earth until about the angle of sun-earth-moon becomes 7 because the mountains on the surface of the moon block the sunlight until the angle becomes 7. It takes about at least 13 hours after "newmoon phase" to see the crescent even from telescopes. For naked eye this time is about at least 15 hours or so. It does not mean the a 13 hour or 15 hour old moon will always be visible. In some months moon is not visible from any place on earth until it becomes 23 hours old.

9.14   Question: Are there some locations on the globe inherently better than others for sighting the new crescent? (May 2, 1999)

Answer: YES, and such locations have factors better for optics than other locations. Locations looking out over the ocean are better than looking over in a direction of a populated city. Poor air transparency due to molecules and dust suspended in the air is also bad for visibility. The air transparency is better for higher elevations like mountain tops. Urban and industrial areas are at a disadvantage compared with rural and more arid areas. The average cloud cover is significantly higher at high latitudes and near equator than in the subtropics and lower temperate zone.

The haze effect also known as light extinction, dims the crescent by a large factor. At the low altitude where the most marginal crescents would be seen, only about 5% of the light from the crescent can penetrate the air, and 95 percent is lost because it is scattered away in other directions, even in the cleanest air. In a humid or polluted environment, much less than 1 percent of the light of a thin crescent comes to the earth. If the background light from the rest of the sky is brighter than the thin crescent, it would render the crescent invisible.

9.15   Question: WHAT (astronomically, scientificly) could it possibly be, that people "see" as the HILAL, when there is no sighting possibility according to calculation? (Jan 10, 2000)

Answer: It could be one of the so many things people mistakenly think as the Hilal. In our times, there are numerous man-made flying objects, helicopters, air-planes, and satellites, that sometimes reflect sun light in such a way that people take it as a moon. A piece of c-shaped thin streak of cloud, a jet-smoke, or even a small piece of hair stuck to eye-glasses has been considered the Hilal by many sincere Muslims. Sometimes, the zeal of sighting, brings shear imagination that the person thinks (s)he has seen the moon.

9.16   Question: On Sept. 26, 2000 I was driving south on I-127 in Michigan and I saw a clear crescent on the east side at 6:40 am. Per your web site, the new moon will be born on Sept. 27 and it will be seen on Sept. 28, 2000. can you please explain? (Sep 28, 2000)

Answer: Yes, what you saw was an old crescent (meaning crescent before it becomes new). The new crescent is going to be born on Sep 27, 2000 at 19:54 UT i.e. 15:54 Eastern Daylight Time. What you saw was the moon about 33 hours and 14 minutes before newmoon (from 6:40 EDT on 9/26/00 to 15:54 on 9/27/00). Of course a moon 33 hours before new would be easily seen and remember old moon is always visible on Eastern horizon near Fajr time and newmoon will always be visible on Western horizon near Maghrib time.

9.17   Question: Do you know why countries other than America started Ramadan on Monday, Nov 27, 2000. Do you have the visibility map for Nov 27?

Answer: Visibility curve for Nov 27 will be the extension of the parabolas on left past the International dateline of the curves shown on Nov 26. So, most of the Eastern world would see the moon on Nov 27. There are three major reasons as to why Eastern countries started Ramadan on Nov 27:

1. Some one sees something other than moon on Nov 26 and reports it and the authorities accept it.
2. Some countries like Libya have some astronomical criteria to begin any month, e.g., if the conjunction has taken place before morning the new month begins.
3. Some countries (like Saudi Arabia) have a precalculated calendar, by which Sha'ban 29 was on Nov 25, and no one reported seeing crescent on the 29th Sa'ban, so they decided that Nov 26 is the 30th Sha'ban and Ramadan Begins on Nov 27. This is the consequence of a precalculated calendar not based on moonsighting. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Iran are among the countries which saw the real moon on Nov 27 and started Ramadan on Nov 28, 2000.

9.18   Question: How come Eid-al-ADha in Pakistan and India is also on March 6, 2001 same as in USA? I thought they see the moon a day later than USA sees the moon.

Answer: More often it is true that USA sees the moon a day before India, but not always. This time it was that exception. You will understand more if you learn How to read the visibility curves. Click here

9.19   Question: Is it possible to observe the crescent before sunrise and after sunset in the same day in the middel east region?

Answer: No, it is absolutely impossible anywhere in the world. In rare occasions, it is possible to see the old moon before sunrise on one day and then a new moon after sunset on the next day (total time span between the two sightings being about 34-36 hours).

10. Sighting Criteria:

10.1   Question: In South East Asia there's Mohammed Ilyas, currently residing in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia. I assumed you already knew him. I've read some of his books. His method in the determination of the new visible moon is highly complex. From what I gathered the criteria used by South East Asian countries to determine the hilal is, at sunset, at least 2 altitude for the moon, 8 hr. after conjunction and 3 hypotenuse difference between the sun and the moon. That criterion is used if the hilal is hidden behind the clouds. Can you please tell me if this method is feasible? (Oct 19,1997)

Answer: I know Dr. Ilyas personally. I have spent some days with him, attending conventions for moon-Sighting and Islamic calendar. His criteria are very approximate, and have failed many times since 1996, that I have monitored regarding actual moon-sighting. The criteria described by you are not his criteria. They are the criteria adpopted in South East Asian countries, and will not yield a visible crescent.

10.2   Question: What is the process one must use to correctly sight the moon? (Dec 29,1997)

Answer: Go after about 15 minutes after sunset. Look in the direction of the setting sun, just above it, also look to the right or left of it up to 30 in either direction of the setting sun. Keep looking until the time of moonset that you can obtain from local newspapers. Binocular helps. Have one or more persons with you, if possible. If you do this for a few months, you will know yourself about improving your procedure. What evening you should go to look, can be found from my web site, or if you know when was the moon sighted in your area for the previous month, then count 29 days from it.

10.3   Question: Your model for predicting the new moon and the confirmation of the model by verification of moonsighting has demonstrated that we are on the right path. The problem is that many Middle Eastern countries and some of the U.S. & Canadian communities led by Middle Eastern immigrants assume Saudi decision on new moon as having sighted the new moon.

Your observations may be correct that the Saudi months start with the new moon and not observing the new crescent moon. This status will never change unless the source of the problem is corrected, which is the criterion used in decision making process in Saudi Arabia. You should increase your efforts to contact the right people. They will not listen to the Pakistanis or Indians (Rafiq's). The only way is to educate and convince influential Saudis visiting here. You need one right Royal family individual or a religious leader, who can understand your system. They may be able to make a difference, otherwise present chaos will continue. GOOD LUCK

If that can be done, I can foresee Muslim Ummah united in at least their observation of Ramadan and Eids. (Jan 1, 1998)

Answer: We are trying to educate Muslims all over the world as well as Saudi Arabia. In-sha-Allah with our sincere efforts something good will come out with the help of Allah. May Allah bless you for your concern, and show guidance to all of us including the decision makers all around the world.

10.4   Question: I compared your predicted moon dates with the US Naval Observatory data, unfortunately there are differences between these two. I am not an astronomer (I am Chem. Engineer) and don't know how you calculated those dates. Is there any reason that yours is not compatible with theirs?

Answer: It looks to me that you are confusing "New moon" reported by US Naval Obs. with a visible crescent. "New moon" reported by US Naval Obs. is totally invisible. Any Islamic dates based on that would be 1 or 2 days ahead. We calculated dates based on a crescent that could be seen.

10.5   Question: What is the minimum angular separation required to see the new crescent? How can I calculate it for a particular place and date for a new born moon? (Dec 21, 1998)

Answer: Minimum separation (elongation) for visibility, statistically known, is about 10.5 to 11 for naked eye, and about 7.5 to 8 for powerful telescopes. Remember, these are for perfect atmospheric conditions, which do not exist most of the times and places. To calculate this separation is not easy. It requires a lot of mathematical terms to calculate the positions of sun and moon based on local horizon in question, and then their separation angle is calculated using spherical trigonometry. The more accurate lunar theory and calculation methods you use, the better the results would be.

10.6   Question: How much time is required for the 1st hilal to remain in the sky after sunset for visibility according to your findings? Why it is invisible if it remains above the horizon for more than 40 minutes after sun set? (Jan 20, 1999)

Answer: Time varies for locations and months. On one particular evening a crescent may be thinnest in Japan but the same crescent will be 15 hours to 18 hours thicker in USA, and would remain in the sky above horizon in different locations for different duration.

Sometimes the crescent may remain above horizon for more than 1 hour but it may not be seen, because it does not have any light of its own; it merely reflects sunlight, which it can only reflect if moon is at least a certain angle from the sun. Even when it meets minimum angle requirement, in some cases, the crescent is invisible if the background light of the setting sun on the horizon is brighter than the crescent.

If you understand that moon does not have its own light, then its presence on the sky does not mean it is visible. You should realize that on 28th or 29th evening of a lunar month the moon disappears from sight; this is mainly for the same reason that it is not at sufficient angle to reflect sunlight.

10.7   Question: Could you please explain How to Read the Visibility Maps for the moon sighting? (Sep 21, 1999)

Answer: The visibility map shows newmoon birth date for a specific month at top left corner. Below that is the date of calculations for possible sighting, which could be 0, 1, or 2 days after newmoon birth. This map is not for one instant of time. This is a composite map showing the chance of visibility at Maghrib time of every point on the globe The black background areas are where moonsighting is impossible even with high powered telescopes. The parabolic colored curves are the areas where visibility is possible. This colored area has a legend explained at the bottom right of the map showing the age of the moon for different colors, so you would have an idea of the age at various locations. Now, there are 4 curves drawn on each map (4 nested parabolic shaped curves), which are for 4 different conditions explained in yellow color as A, B, C, D on the map. A is for the area that is inner-most or left-most parabola in which moonsighting is possible with the naked eye. B is for the area just to the right of area A, where moonsighting is only possible if perfect atmospheric conditions exist. C is the area just to the right of area B, where aid of binocular or telescope is required to spot the moon. D is the rightmost colored area shown as parabola, where good preparation (calculations for locating the moon and eye adjustment for darkness) and use of high powered instruments focussed and aimed at calculated position in the sky can show the extremely thin crescent.

If you imagine extending the colored parabola on left past the International dateline then the date changes and areas that now fall in the visibility parabola, will see the moon on the next day (corresponding to what day it would be past international dateline).

10.8   Question: How long it takes for the moon to get a separation of 7 from the sun, which is considered as the limit for which the sun light falling on moon cannot come to the earth, and moon remains invisible? (Nov 20, 2000)

Answer: It takes a minimum of approximately 8.5 hours to 15.5 hours for the moon to move 7 away from the sun. 8.5 hours is the case when the moon is closest to earth and is 5 from the ecliptic plane at the time of moon birth (example: Dec 14, 1955). 15.5 hours is the case when moon is farthest from the earth and is 0 from the ecliptic plane at the time of moon birth (example: Dec 10, 1977). The crescent will be visible to the high powered telescopes about 2.5 hours after it has attained 7 angle from sun, i.e., at 11 to 18 hours of age. To the naked eye it would be visible after 5 more hours, i.e., at 16 to 23 hours of age.

11. Conjunction (New Moon):

11.1   Question: Why not adopt CONJUNCTION as the basis for starting the month? (Nov 24, 2001)

Answer: Let us examine the conjunction as a possible basis of starting a month. Remember, the conjunction can occur at any time between 24 hours. Suppose the conjunction occurs at 11pm Universal Time (Sunday), then at that moment Makkah time is 2am (Monday). Should England start the month on Monday and Saudi Arabia start the month on Tuesday?

Now, if someone says that let us make Makkah as our b]asis and whatever day in Makkah, the conjunction occurs the next day the new month starts. The problem with this is that if conjunction occurs at 0:01am (Monday) of Makkah time then at that moment it is 11:01am (Sunday) in Hawaii. Should Hawaii start the month on Monday and Saudi Arabia start the month on Tuesday?

Look at another case: Suppose the conjunction occurs at 11:59pm (Sunday) Makkah time then at that moment it is 5:59am (Monday) in Tokyo. Should Japan start the month on Tuesday and Saudi Arabia start the month on Monday?

If someone says, ignore what time it is in other locations of the world, just go by Makkah time, then why do we have different prayer times for every city? Why not adopt Makkah Prayer Time all over the world.

Muslims have looked at the conjunction as a possible basis, but there is no solution?

Article taken (with Thanks) from



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