A Quick No-Nonsense Guide for the Impatient

The Islamic (Hijri) Calendar التقويم الهجري

By AbdurRahman | Saturday, December 18, 2010

  1. This lunar calendar is based on 12 lunar months, unlike some other lunar calendars, e.g. the Hebrew calendar, that occasionally inserts a 13 months to keep the months in the same season from year to year. In 1999, Ramadan was in Winter. Now in 2010, it has worked its way backwards into Summer.
  2. This calendar is an Islamic calendar, not an "Arab" calendar. Its history is more Islamic than Arabic, with year 1 A.H. referring to the migration of our Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) from Mecca to Madina.
  3. The beginning of each Hijri month starts with the sighting of the first thin crescent (called the Hilāl in Arabic), usually a day or two after the New Moon.
  4. In Islam, like Judaism, and the Christianity of centuries ago, the day starts at sunset and ends at sunset.
  5. For a sighting to be valid, it has to be made by one or more trustworthy Muslim men, preferably with some experience in matters of moon sighting. For this reason the announcements made by Saudi Arabic are almost always consistently invalid and should be avoided. See this sad track record. At the opposite end of the reliability spectrum, Morocco has never announced a sighting that is inconsistent with the science of astronomy. The Saudi announcements, on the other hand, quite often defy known scientific principles. One Saudi group of observers claimed this year that their eye-sight was superior to any telescope!
  6. The first thin crescent (called the Hilāl in Arabic), needs to be visible with the naked eye. Using binoculars or a telescope can assist observers in locating the Hilāl, but if it never becomes visible to the unaided human eye, it is not counted as a valid sighting.
  7. On the 29th of any Hijri month, it is an obligation on each community of Muslims to send out a group of experienced observers to look for the Hilāl shortly after sunset (Maghrib time), which as indicated in fact # 4 above, will become day 1 of the next month if a positive sighting is made.
  8. If the group of observers cannot see the Hilāl for any reason at all: rain, clouds, haze, binoculars/telescopic sighting only, etc., then the community counts this new day to be day 30 of the current month. Then there is no need to go looking for the Hilāl on the next evening.
  9. Sightings are always looking towards the West, low in the sky, shortly after sunset. Thin crescents in the pre-Dawn Fajr time a couple of days before the New Moon are beautiful to look at, but have nothing to do with the Hijri Calendar.
  10. How one negative sighting can invalidate another sighting to its EAST!
    1. Both observers are at different locations, but both locations being in the same (Northern/Southern) Hemisphere and along a similar latitude (+/- 10 degrees)
    2. The western situated observer has excellent viewing conditions (clear skies with no clouds, haze or dust), yet cannot sight the Hilāl. If the western situated observer cannot even sight it with binoculars under such conditions, then the claim of sighting by the eastern situated observer is surely invalid!
    So, if you are Yemeni, Kuwaiti, Syrian, etc. living here in the U.S. and you are starting Ramadan because your country announced it (probably because Saudi Arabia made yet another false announcement), but more than 8 hours later in Brownsville, Texas, the Keys of Florida, or in the cloudless skies on the outskirts of San Diego, California, none of our experienced Hilal Sighting Committee members could spot the Hilāl with binoculars or telescope despite perfect viewing conditions and years of experience in this matter, then what are you following? Who are you following?
  11. According to Imam Muslim (Sahih Muslim) a community is not obligated to follow even a valid sighting of another community if that other community is far even away that you would become a traveler and could shorten your prayers if you were to visit them.
  12. Because the Earth is round and we have an International Dateline, having everyone start Hijri months on the same day is completely impossible, unless we throw away the Sunnah and follow scientific calculations like the Jews do. Sure, why not? Let's crawl into a lizard hole!

Last updated: Wednesday, December 29, 2010