Monday, February 13, 2012

Important Progress on the Islamic Calendar Problem


This is a weekly post by Nidhal Guessoum (see his earlier posts here). Nidhal is an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at American University of Sharjah and is the author of Islam's Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science. 
Ten days ago, I took part in a two-day conference in Paris, France, on the necessity of adopting an astronomical calendar in the determination and adoption of Islamic dates, particularly for holy occasions such as Ramadan, Eids, and Hajj. The conference, titled ‘Islamic lunar calendar in light of scientific knowledge’, was organized by the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, in partnership with the European Council for Fatwas and Research and the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe.
The aim of the conference was for some of the important Islamic organizations in France and in Europe to (finally) officially adopt an astronomical-calculation methodology in the determination of Islamic occasions in lieu of the traditional and problematic naked-eye or even telescope-observation of the crescent on the eve of the occasion.
Regular and long-time readers of Irtiqa know that I have been fighting for this for a long time; indeed, I’ve written about this before (here at Irtiqa, but also at Huff-Po and at Oumma.com for the francophone public), and last August an article in Science highlighted my efforts on this issue. I should also point to strong efforts made by ICOP, the ‘Islamic Astronomy’ organization in which I play a leading role, efforts which include previous conferences on the subject (see an earlier report of mine here).
This Paris conference, however, is highly significant in two ways: a) this signals a serious shift in the position of important Islamic organizations in Europe (and there are indications that other Islamic organizations in France and elsewhere will follow suit); b) the European Council for Fatwas and Research, which co-organized the conference and provided it with the Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) backing, is headed by Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, the leading authority of the Sunni world, which indicates a new stand in the Arab-Muslim world as well.
This is not the first time such a bold step is taken. Indeed, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has for at least 5 years now adopted a fully calculated Islamic calendar, which includes dates for Ramadan and Eids, a calendar which does away with sightings, local or otherwise, with naked eyes or telescopes. But ISNA has received much criticism and condemnation for that avant-garde standpoint, and form so far away it couldn’t really have much of an impact on the Muslim-majority world. European Islamic organizations, with their closeness (geographical and ideological) to the scholars and officials of the Arab-Muslim world, are a different case in point.
It was interesting that during the conference, where half the speakers came from Europe and half from the Arab-Muslim world, the discourse oscillated between the pragmatic goals and the traditional views. The European participants (most of them Muslim immigrants from the Arab world) kept relating stories of how they couldn’t even request a day off from work to celebrate Eid because the date couldn’t be set in advance, how their children felt that their religion is unable to adapt to the modern world, how the traditional determination on the eve of a holy occasion created divisions among Muslims (various groups following different countries), etc. And it was poignant to see the Arab-Muslim scholars while fully cognizant of those real-life problems of Muslims in Europe unable to jump away from the Islamic jurisprudential arguments of more than a thousand years ago.
Even the astronomers (four of us) were not always adamant or forceful about the need to make the conceptual shift from the traditional approach to the modern astronomical calendar methods. But by the end of the first day, with the push from the public, the European scholars, and the astronomers, it became clear that a bold resolution and communiqué were the only logical outcome that could be expected from the conference. (Participants, imams, and community leaders, from Germany, Sweden, Poland, and elsewhere, were begging the scholars not to send them back with the same old problematic approach.)
In the end, the right resolution was adopted, with a firm decision to determine all Islamic dates on astronomical bases (including for the holy Ramadan and Eids, but not for Hajj, which will always be set by the Saudi government). Some debates took place between the astronomers and the European Muslim community leaders as to the kind of Islamic calendar that should be adopted, and though I did not fully endorse the particular solution that the Europeans wanted (one which accorded with the Turkish approach and adopted a principle of a crescent visible anywhere in the world), I insisted that what is important at this stage – and this is what needs to be strongly hailed – is the fact that we will now do away with observations altogether.
I am eager to see what kind of impact this development will have on the rest of the Muslim organizations and communities in Europe and (there will have to be some effect) in the Arab world (nearby North Africa in particular) and beyond.

18 comments:

jaylen watkins said...

AlhamdulillaH Islam guides in every step of life. Only needs close study of Islam


Calendar Template

Anonymous said...

Can some one please tell us who were the represetatives form UK at the conference?

Mohib said...

As Salaamu Alykum,

It is important to distinguish between a CIVIC calendar (for civic activities, ex. financial etc.) and an ISLAMIC calendar (for religious observance, obligatory fasting, Hajj, etc.).

Forcing a "calculated" CIVIC calendar (calculated by some astronomical criteria - which again, the criteria, is debatable) on an ISLAMIC calendar is NOT wise, in my opinion.

There will be different dates (Gregorian calendar) for start of an Islamic calendar for the world. There is NO PRESSING REASON for all of the world to follow the same dates (Gregorian) for Islamic obligations. For example, the whole world does NOT pray any particular prayer at the same instant of time! Even Lail-a-tul Qadr (the Night of Power) is during night-time and we all know that when there is night in one hemisphere, there is daylight in the opposite hemisphere.

With the progress of astronomical calculations and advanced modeling of atmospheric optics better models are being developed for predicting the sighting of a Hilal (Cresent New Moon) that can be utilized in refining the predictions for an Islamic date, which will be confirmed with the actual authenticated sighting of a Hilal.

I pray that Allah swt continues to Bless and Reward all that are striving to Please Allah, amin.

Sincerely,
Dr. Mohib. N. Durrani.

Nidhal Guessoum said...

Dear Dr. Mohib,
The issue is simple: should Islamic (holy) occasions be decided by the traditional method of waiting until someone has “sighted” the crescent on the eve of the event or can that date be calculated in advance? The traditional method is too problematic to follow, for example one cannot plan for holidays, can’t plan for leaves, reserve halls for collective prayers, travel in an orderly manner, or even organize Hajj, including lodging, precisely enough; and do I need to remind you of the error rates produced by such “sightings” and the disagreements (and hence splits in the Muslim community) that this invariably leads to? These are the reasons why first ISNA (in North America) and now the European Islamic organizations have moved to adopt calendrical calculations for Ramadan and Eids. (As I wrote, Hajj will continue to be decided by Saudi Arabia in the usual problematic manner…)

Oh, and a calendar is not a calendar if it is not calculated. I don’t know what you call an “Islamic calendar”, but that can only be based on computations. (Which criteria are used, etc., is a technical issue that astronomers can decide, and this should not be an excuse to reject the above principle.)

Finally, there is an on-going discussion among experts on whether the Islamic calendar to be adopted should be unified (for the whole world) or bi-zonal. Like you, I do not recommend – though I would not fight against – the unified calendar; my point is simply that, indeed, dates don’t have to be unified over the whole world, but a chaotic situation like we presently live is ridiculous and must be corrected by adopting one calendar or another.

Best wishes and regards.
Nidhal

shaddad-mhsh said...

vyiftAlhumdulilah that I lived to see scholars openly supporting doing away with eye sightings. Something I have been openly pursuing over decades.
Muawia Shaddad
An astronomer and a conjunctionest

Nasir Iqbal said...

The muslims contributed a lot in the field of science. Hope the new generation of Islam will try to attain the dignity that the early time muslims got through their knowledge.

mahendar hirani said...

New Reasearch on muslim calendar

http://www.multifaiths.com/pdf/ramadan2012.pdf

Zaheer Hussain said...

As Salaam Alaikum. I have been involved with our community calendar for the last 20 years and I have seen a lot. I like the one developed by FCNA/ISNA in the USA. But why insist on Saudi for Eidul Adha? It is only half a resolution. We will still have date problems for Eidul Adha. So let's adopt it for the entire year.

Zaheer Hussain said...

As Salaam Alaikum.

Br. Mohib, I too was against all calculated dates for almost 18 years until I heard Dr. Tahirul Qadri(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-C_efTg2Cg) address the issue. He clarifies that calculations are perfectly legal for both civic and religious cases and he makes a convincing argument.

Now, the only problem I have is going by Saudi announcement for Eidul Adha. That makes the calendar 50% useless. Either go 100% or do not go at all. There is no religious case either for that.

Going by Saudi announcement for Eidul Adha is probably done because of Arab brothers who simply do not want to accept any other date.

Anonymous said...

That is a very childish assertion that you want to establish a calculated calender cuz you can't take a day of work or you are unable to explain to your 2nd grader child why your religion is not compatible...grow up, go learn your religion, don't scum to these pressure, don't let these silly things dictate.

Zaheer Hussain said...

This debate has gone much beyond its due. We must pick one start date just for the sake of unity, which is mandatory on all Muslims. Start date of month is not that important as we were given an option to add a day to the month if the moon is not sighted. The calculated one gives the most accuracy and has a large following in the Middle East. Also, Saudi Arabia, which has a large following, uses calculations though it doesn't admit that it does.

Musa said...

Masallah, this way all the Muslims in the world can perform and celebrate all rituals of ISLAM unitedly.

m z malik said...

as salaam alykum
all these so called scholars are proposing are nothing more than what the jewish calendar is based on. the holy prophet has forbidden you to follow the jews in this instance.
what nonsense the moon can be sighted somewhere in the world & therefore the islamic month can start.
this is not shariah. show a single hadith confirming the birth of the moon to start a month.
beware of these people who give wrong examples eg watches to prove their flawed thinking. people in america should sight the moon & start their fasting. people in the far east should fast when they sight the moon. there is no link between the two.
COME ON BROTHERS THESE SO CALLED SCHOLARS HAVE A MENTALLITY OF TEN YEAR OLDS.NOTHING MORE THAN TIME WASTERS. PLEASE DO SOMETHING USEFUL FOR THE COMMUNITY.

Zaheer Hussain said...

Many hardcore naked-eye moonsighters fail to realize that insistence on naked-eye moonsighting makes us dependent on Gregorian calendar for verything in our daily life. Try to book a flight using Hijri callendar and you will not be able to fly from NY to Philadelphia because in between we will have several dates. Using Hijri can you book a flight on the 30th of any Islamic month? Can we have any business meeting using Hijri calendar? This insistence on naked-eye sighting has made Hijri calendar totally incompatible with the modern life. We Muslims have life outside of Ramadan. Didn't the translations of the Quran into other languages face the same opposition a hudred or so years ago?

Zaheer Hussain said...

Many hardcore naked-eye moonsighters fail to realize that insistence on naked-eye moonsighting makes us dependent on Gregorian calendar for verything in our daily life. Try to book a flight using Hijri callendar and you will not be able to fly from NY to Philadelphia because in between we will have several dates. Using Hijri can you book a flight on the 30th of any Islamic month? Can we have any business meeting using Hijri calendar? This insistence on naked-eye sighting has made Hijri calendar totally incompatible with the modern life. We Muslims have life outside of Ramadan. Didn't the translations of the Quran into other languages face the same opposition a hundred or so years ago?

nazeer said...

Assalamualikum
I am Nazeer From Chennai , India
a member of Hijri Commitee of India

Can muslim follow Gregorian calendar?
We need to reconsider before saying yes
1-Islam says a month can only be 29/30 (Buhari book of fasting)
2-The period of ittha should be 4months 10 days (Al quran-2:226)
3-The years for suck (milk ) offspring 2 year (Al quran -2:33)
4- Write agreements with a fixed period (Al quran - 2:282)
5-Four holy months []

Problems in Gregorian Calendar
1- 10 days missing in Oct 4 - 14 1582(AD)[spain]
2- 10 days missing in sep 1752 (UK)
3- 10 days mising in Jan 1583 (Germany -catholic)
4- Month ends 22 August 1610 (Germany -old prussia)
5-Month ends 19 December 1872 (Japan)
6- feb 14 first day of month 1918 (Russia)
7 December 1926 18 last day (Turkey)
8 Feb 30 1712 (Finland & Sweden)
9-10 days missing in Sep 4-14 1852 (Ad) [Italy]
10- 1 day difference after every 131 days
11- Name of greek/Roman lords (Jan,Feb..)
12- Name of Roman Kings (July,August)
13- First the calendar had 10 months
Verify all this timesanddate.com (calendar search)

Note:
Hijri committe of India established an Islamic calendar
based on Quran and Sunnah for more details visit
www.hijricalendar.com
www.mooncalendar.in
www.hijracalendar.in
Feel free to contact nazeeera1983@yahoo.in

nazeer said...

Al Quran 10:05 (Calculate dates for Years~calendar)
Alquran 2:189 (Time for people and Hajj)
Al Quran 36:39 (Urjoonal Qadeem)
Nazeer

nazeer said...

Al Quran 10:05 (Calculate dates for Years~calendar)
Alquran 2:189 (Time for people and Hajj)
Al Quran 36:39 (Urjoonal Qadeem)