Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

Islam and Science Workshop – London 2013 – A Summary

February 22, 2013

Bismillah.  This is a cross-post from http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/events/islam-science-workshop-2013/

Quilliam, in association with the Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris, the American University of Sharjah and Muslim-Science.com, organised and hosted an international workshop entitled “Islam and Science: A Reasoned Approach” for students and young researchers, 18th-20th January 2013 at the Institute of Education, University of London, UK.

The participants consisted of 23 people selected by submission of essays on Science-Religion topics and/or their suitability as “disseminators of ideas” following on from the workshop. These 23 participants included three people from France, the USA and Egypt. There were a total of seven speakers at the workshop: three from the UK, two from France and one each from the UAE and Pakistan.

Introduction – Friday 18th January 2013

The workshop began with a screening of the 1-hour documentary film, Science and Islam – Dialogues for the 21st Century, which was produced by the Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris and featuring interviews with 22 leading scientists, theologians, philosophers and thinkers about the interfaces between religion and science in general, and focusing on Islam in particular.

This was followed by a presentation by Ehsan Masood, author of the BBC series-accompanying book, Islam and Science: A History, a presentation entitled Ibn Sina (Avicenna) – The Man Who Knew Everything, about the life, work and influence throughout Islamic and Christian history of this early Muslim polymath. A lively discussion followed about Ibn Sina’s philosophy and methodology and the scientific rationalisation of miracles.

Saturday 19th January 2013

Prof. Jean Staune (Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris) started with presentation on Science and Religion in the World today & New Paradigms of Science, in which he summarised the major developments in 20th-century science such as relativity and quantum theories in physics, Godel’s theorem in mathematical epistemology, and De Duve and Conway-Morris’ ideas of direction, non-randomness, and convergence in biological evolution. He showed how these “new paradigms” have influenced the discourse in “Science and Religion”, and how this field has become a growing academic discipline in its own right with chairs at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. This was followed by Prof. Nidhal Guessoum (American University of Sharjah), who gave a general overview of the main topic, Islam and Science, showing why “modern science” (particularly “methodological naturalism”) poses a challenge for traditional religious views and discussing the various contemporary Muslim responses to the challenge, ranging from Nasr’s “Sacred Science” and Sardar’s “Islamic/Ethical Science” to Salam’s “Universal Science”, ending with his own “Averroesian Harmonization.”

Yasmin Khan (former curator at both the Science Museum and the British Library) spoke on The 1001 Inventions Exhibition at the Science Museum, London: Engaging the Public in a Multicultural History of Science, a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges of commissioning the most successful touring exhibition in the history of the Science Museum, with a screening of the exhibition’s central 15-minute film, 1001 Inventions and The Library of Secrets, starring Sir Ben Kingsley as Al-Jazari.

Dr. Athar Osama (of Muslim-Science.com) complemented the day’s philosophical, theological, historical, civilisational and public-outreach themes with a sobering presentation on Science Policy in the Muslim World Today: Challenges and Prospects, focusing on governmental public policy and investment in science education and research and an analysis of the funding and work of COMSTECH, the OIC’s arm for science and technology.

Sunday 20th January 2013

Dr. Jean Staune gave a fascinating presentation on the Theories of Evolution. The philosopher of science showed multiple lines of evidence that evolution is an indisputable fact, but one that should not be confused with Darwinism. Based on the research of leading palaeontologists such as Conway-Morris and on the work of Nobel laureate De Duve and others, Staune insisted that the current Darwinian theory of evolution is incompatible at best, and presented ideas implying that evolution is a process leading, sooner or later, to beings like us with a consciousness of their own existence and the ability to seek God.

This was followed by a joint presentation on Islam and the Theory/Fact of Evolution by Prof. Nidhal Guessoum and Dr. Usama Hasan (Quilliam). The presentations included theological and scriptural arguments supporting evolution as well as a history of evolutionary ideas within Muslim civilisation since the 9th century CE from Al-Jahiz and the Brethren of Purity through to Rumi and Ibn Khaldun, a history recognised by a number of historians, Muslim and non-Muslim ones. Also covered was the acceptance of biological evolution by 19th/20th-century Muslim theologians such as Husain al-Jisr (nicknamed “the Ash’ari of our times” by Afghani), and ‘Abd al-Sabur Shahin, a well-known scholar of Al-Azhar. Current Muslim resistance to scientific facts was illustrated with historical precedents of misreading the Qur’an to make inflexible but erroneous assertions about scientific matters, such as Ibn Kathir and Shanqiti’s insistence that the earth was created before the heavens, Suyuti’s insistence that the earth is flat and Ibn Taymiyyah’s assertion that cattle (sheep, goats, cows and camels) were created in heaven (which would imply that modern-day followers of Ibn Taymiyyah who insist that humans were created in heaven and descended from there must also believe the same about those four species of mammals).

The sessions by Staune, Guessoum and Hasan illustrated well the irony that whilst modern biology, built on evolution, has succeeded in mapping the entire human genome as well as the DNA of thousands of other species, and new fields emerge such as astrobiology and the origin-of-life research looking at deep-sea volcanoes, many Muslims (and Christians) continue to debate whether or not evolution (including that of humans) is a fact, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence.

Dr. Bruno Abdelhaq Guiderdoni (Director of the Lyon Observatory) gave a fascinating presentation on Islam & Cosmology: Yesterday and Today, based on the mind-boggling discoveries of modern astronomy, including the existence of exo-planets in earth-like habitable orbits around stars other than the sun. In his lecture, Dr. Guiderdoni stressed the need to read the “Book of Nature” along with the “Book of God” and to maintain the inseparability of science and ethics. The discussion included topics such as the possibility of a multiverse and the question of extra-terrestrial intelligence and life-forms.

Dr. Guiderdoni’s emphasis on ethics led nicely to the session by Dr. Usama Hasan on Islam, Science and Ethics, in which he presented the theory of Maqasid al-Sharia (The Universal, Higher Objectives of Islamic Law) as an Islamic framework for ethics suitable for “Universal Science.” The framework is based on the Islamic principles of justice as minimum, compassion as maximum, promoting benefit and avoiding harm. The theory was illustrated with reference to ethical questions around family planning, abortion and organ transplants.

The workshop concluded with an open and long discussion session involving all participants, further exploring the ideas presented at the workshop and possible next steps to take the exciting conversations forward.

When is Eid al-Fitr? 1433 / 2012

August 15, 2012

Bismillah.  *Sunday 19th August 2012 is a sensible date for Eid al-Fitr 1433 for the whole world.*

Please refer to the Moonwatch data (http://astro.ukho.gov.uk/moonwatch/nextnewmoon.html), that shows:

Friday 17/8: Conjunction and astronomical new moon around 15.54 UT (GMT) – no crescent moon is visible anywhere on earth that night, except possibly in the Southern Pacific, very close to the solar date-line.

Saturday 18/8: The crescent moon is visible throughout the Southern Hemisphere, plus a few places north of the Equator, but not in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa or Europe.

Sunday 19/8: The crescent moon is easily visible throughout the whole world, including the UK.

Hence:

Sunday 19th August 2012 is a sensible date for Eid al-Fitr 1433 for the whole world: there is expected to be a high degree of agreement on this, as has happened in previous years.  (Those who began Ramadan on Fri/Sat 20/21 July will complete 30/29 days of fasting and celebrate Eid together.)

For those following local sightings, Monday 20th August 2012 would be Eid al-Fitr 1433 in the UK.

May Allah bless us all during the remainder of Ramadan and on the glorious day of Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast).

Dr. Usama Hasan,

Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam & Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

15th August 2012 / 26th Ramadan 1433

About the Ramadan start date this year 1433/2012

August 15, 2012

Bismillah.  This is what happened:

Saudi claimed to have seen the moon on Thursday 19/7 and began Ramadan on Friday 20/7; many other countries followed suit.  However, we know definitely that such a sighting was impossible, for at least two reasons:

(i) from precise astronomical calculations (www.crescentmoonwatch.org )

(ii) had it been genuine, there would have been an easier sighting from the Southern US and Central America on the same date, which there wasn’t.  Refer to Ibn Taymiyyah’s fatwa on moonsighting (elsewhere on this blog), as well as Sheikh Afif al-Akiti’s detailed treatise on the subject.

However, the ECFR (www.e-cfr.org ) had already announced that Ramadan would begin on Friday 20/7, due to the expected visibility of the crescent moon from South America on 19/7.  The ECFR mentioned Santiago (Chile) in its declaration.  Note that the ECFR’s declaration implied that they agreed that moonsighting was impossible in Saudi on that date, but ruled that the Chile sighting was enough for the whole world, even if it occurred many hours after local sunset elsewhere: e.g. the ECFR method required Australia to begin Ramadan on 20/7, even though they are about 12 hours ahead of Chile. 

Note also that this ECFR method is consistent, and is a possible approach to determining Arabian/Islamic lunar dates worldwide, using the solar date-line as an effective lunar date-line.  If people agree to use this method, it is a possible solution to the moonsighting problem, although we will need to check that it gives a reasonable pattern of 29/30-day months.

Amongst Sunni Muslims, there were three start dates:

(i) Friday 20/7 – those following the impossible Saudi sighting or the plausible ECFR method

(ii) Saturday 21/7 – those following the easier sightings around most of the world on the next day

(iii) Sunday 22/7 – for northern latitudes such as the UK, those following a local sighting.

Amongst Shia Muslims, the same three start dates were observed, based on people following the fatwa of their authority (marja’), whether Fadlallah, Khoei or Sistani respectively.

A beginner’s guide to learning about astronomy

October 9, 2009

Bismillah. Some recommendations:

1) All knowledge comes from God, so continually pray to him to teach you more. This Koranic prayer is great: rabbi zidni ‘ilma(n) – “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.”

2) The first and last learning resource for astronomy is the sky itself, especially the night sky. Get into the habit of watching the movement of the sun and moon, where and when they rise and set etc. (Never look directly at the sun.) Sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times are widely-available online and in good daily newspapers.

The apparent movement of stars and planets would be the next thing to learn. Make sure you know your N-E-S-W directions wherever you are. Learning about the North Star helps here! Binoculars are good for viewing the moon and fainter stars.

3) Visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG), http://www.rog.nmm.ac.uk – free entry with brilliant learning resources, planetarium shows and a good shop for books, software and telescopes.

4) There are many observatories and planetaria around the UK – do try to visit those.

5) Watch “The Sky at Night” on BBC1, it’s a monthly programme. Has a good website, too.

6) There are several national and international astronomical associations and astronomy magazines. The latter include “Astronomy Now” and “Sky and Telescope.” There are hundreds of websites.

7) Software: free, shareware or fairly cheap, and will show you on your PC screen what the night sky looks like at your location, at any time. “Starry Night” is about £10 at the ROG shop, and is excellent. Skyglobe is good shareware, available online. Others include Stellarium, but I’m not familiar with them. A good way to learn to recognise and name the planets, stars and constellations.

8. Many observatories, including ROG, run short courses with weekly sessions, teaching astronomy at beginner and more advanced levels, as do many adult-learning colleges. For children, there are GCSE and AS-level courses in astronomy.

9) My blog (http://unity1.wordpress.com) has a section on astronomy and Islamic astronomy.

10) There are many books on Islamic astronomy. Good websites include ICOP, the Astronomical Societies of Jordan, the UAE and Qatif in Saudi Arabia (qasweb.org) and various moonsighting ones.

Perseid Meteor Shower 2009

September 5, 2009

Bismillah.  I wrote the following short piece about the Perseid meteor shower at the request of the Guardian CIF on Wednesday 12th August 2009, around the time that the Perseids were peaking.  By the grace of Allah, or “thanks to God and then to Google,” the article was No. 1 Most Viewed on the CIF section all day on Thursday 13th August 2009 and No. 3 on the Guardian website overall, with over 115,000 views.  The photo of a meteor that CIF put at the top of the article generated many hits via Google.

Most readers were thus not regular CIFers, which is partly why there weren’t too many comments.  However, as usual, some of the comments were hilarious and well-worth reading.

The last comment is my own, an extract from the Egyptian scholar al-Suyuti (d. 911 AH/ 15th century CE) regarding meteoric events in history.  Here is an extended extract from those pages of History of the Caliphs, covering other events such as Siamese twins, etc.

[Caliph no. 53:] Al-Nasir li Din Allah, Ahmad

Al-Nasir li Din Allah, Ahmad Abu l-’Abbas b. al-Mustadi’ bi Amr Allah.

He was born on Monday the tenth of Rajab in the year five hundred and fifty-three [553].  His mother was a Turkish umm walad ["mother of a child," a slavewoman who is free after her master's death due to her giving birth by him] named Zumurrud.  He was pledged allegiance when his father [Caliph no. 52, al-Mustadi' bi Amr Allah] died at the beginning of Dhu l-Qa’dah in the year seventy-five [575].  Several scholars gave him permission to transmit from them, including Abu l-Husain ‘Abd al-Haqq al-Yusufi, Abu l-Hasan ‘Ali b. ‘Asakir al-Bata’ihi and Shuhdah.  He himself gave permission to several others to narrate from him.  They used to narrate from him during his lifetime, competing in that for the sake of fame, not of isnad.

One of his interesting anecdotes is that a servant of his named Yumn wrote him a note that included:

Biman yumann Yumn Thaman Yumn thumun

(By whom shall Yumn be favoured?  The price of Yumn is an eighth!)

In the year eighty [580]: the caliph made the tomb of Musa al-Kazim a sanctuary for anyone who took refuge there.  Large numbers of people did so, and many problems resulted.

In the year eighty-one [581]: a boy was born in al-’Alath – his forehead was a handspan plus four fingers in width, and he had one ear.

In the year eighty-three [583]: it so happened that the first day of the (lunar) year was also the first day of the week, the first day of the solar year and the first day of the Persian year, and the sun and the moon were in the first zodiacal sign.  This was an amazing coincidence.

One of the strange matters [connected to the reconquest of Jerusalem] is that Ibn Burrajan mentioned in tafsir of “Alif Lam Mim: The Romans have been conquered” [Qur'an, 30:1-2] that Jerusalem would remain in the hands of the Crusaders (al-Rum) until the year five hundred and eighty-three [583], when they would be vanquished.  Jerusalem would be conquered and remain a Land of Islam until the end of time.  He derived all this from the arithmetic of the ayah, and it is precisely what happened.

Abu Shamah said: What Ibn Burrajan mentioned is a wondrous coincidence, for he died ages before the event, his death having occurred in the year five hundred and thirty-six [536].

In the year five hundred and ninety-two [592]: a black wind gusted over Mecca, blinding everyone.  Red sand covered the people.  A piece of the Yemeni corner [of the Ka'bah] broke off and fell.

In the year five hundred and ninety-three [593, around 1197 CE], a great celestial object fell to earth with a terrifying sound, shaking dwellings and lands. The people sought divine help and prayed publicly, and thought that this was one of the signs of the Day of Judgment.

In the year ninety-seven [597]: A great earthquake shook Egypt, Sham and Arabia, destroying many places and forts. A village near Busra sank into the ground.

In the year five hundred and ninety-nine [599, around 1202 CE] at the end of Muharram [the first month of the Islamic calendar], the stars were in commotion and swarmed around like locusts. This continued until dawn. The people were distressed and cried out to God the Exalted. The [celestial] phenomenon had only been experienced before at the advent of the Messenger of God, peace be upon him.

In the year six hundred and one [601]: a woman at Qutay’a’ gave birth to a boy with two heads, two arms and four legs.  He did not survive.

In the year six hundred and six [606]: the story of the Tatars began, which will be explained later …

Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa or History of the Caliphs, Muassasah al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, Beirut, 2nd ed., 1417/1996, pp. 390-6 (my translation)

Moon Clocks – Mediaeval & Modern

September 5, 2009
Bismillah.  For a description of a mediaeval Islamic moon-clock in Toledo, Andalusia, see below.
Firstly, a modern moon-clock project.  From the team at Aluna:
Dear All,

We were thrilled that Aluna was featured on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme and also on the BBC website on September 1st 2009. Thanks to those of you who heard it and have already been in touch.

The radio piece, by BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh, features contributions from David Rooney, former curator of Timekeeping at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich (now at the Science Museum), Dr. Usama Hasan, Imam and Islamic Astronomer and Aluna’s Laura Williams.

Do take a look at the article on the BBC news websitehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8226735.stm

You can also listen again to the Today Programme on the BBC iplayer for the next few days http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00m9nxp/Today_01_09_2009/


(The story starts at 44 mins 30 secs but you can skip straight there by dragging the cursor along)
For those of you who are not already aware, we’re very pleased that The Aluna Foundation has received its charitable status – granted on the July 20th, the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings!
Secondly, thanks to Mohammad Baig, an astronomer and writer, for drawing my attention to the following:
Al-Zarqali and his lunar chronograph or moon-clock
Extracts:

Abu Ishaq Ibrahim Ibn Yahya Al-Zarqali (Arzachel in Latin), was a famous Andalusian scholar known also as Al-Zarqalluh and Al-Zarqallah. He was born in 1029 and died in 1087. His life corresponded exactly to that dramatic period when the Muslim realm of Spain completely disintegrated, and nearly collapsed, only to be saved in 1089, when the Almoravids of Morocco crossed into Spain, crushed the Christians at Zalaqa, and unified Spain once more. They were followed later by the Almohads, who kept Spain under Muslim rule for another two centuries, until the middle of the 13th century, when Muslim Spain, with the exception of Granada, was lost for good.

Al-Zarqali constructed the famed clocks of Toledo, which al-Zuhri has described in a Castilian translation, published by J.M. Millas-Vallicrosa. The clocks were in use until 1135, when King Alphonso VI tried to discover how they worked and asked Hamis Ibn Zabara to dismantle them. Once they were taken apart, nobody could reassemble them. They constituted a very precise lunar calendar and were, to some extent, the predecessors of the clocks or planetary calendar devices that became fashionable six centuries later in Europe.

Ahmad Thomson has given a vivid account of the intricate working of the clocks. The clocks consisted of two basins, which filled with water or emptied according to the increasing or waning of the moon. At the moment when the new moon appeared on the horizon, water would begin to flow into the basins by means of subterranean pipes, so that there would be at day-break the fourth of a seventh part, and at the end of the day half a seventh part, of the water required to fill the basins. In this proportion the water would continue to flow until seven days and as many nights of the month had elapsed, by which time both basins would be half filled. The same process during the following seven days and nights would make the two basins quite full, at the same time that the moon was at its full. However, on the fifteenth night of the month, when the moon would begin to wane, the basins would also begin to lose every day and night half a seventh part of their water, until by the twenty-first of the month they would be half empty, and when the moon reached her twenty-ninth night not a drop of water would remain in them. It is worthy of remark that, should anyone go to any of the basins when they were not filled, and poured water into them with a view to quicken its filling, the basins would immediately absorb the additional water and retain no more than the just quantity; and, on the contrary, were anyone to try, when they were nearly filled, to extract any or the whole of their water, the moment he raised his hands from the work the basins would pour out sufficient water to fill the vacuum in an instant.

Dawn and Sehri/Suhur/Suhoor Timings Confusion for Ramadan in the UK 1430/2009

September 4, 2009

Bismillah. (Apologies that this is a little late, since half the month has passed, but it will still be useful insha’Allah.)

Much confusion has been caused by varying dawn timings on mosque timetables, even within the same UK city. Variation is caused by different fatwas on how low (as an angle, in degrees) the sun is below the horizon when dawn first breaks. The major fiqhi schools differ between 15 and 18 degrees.

The timings can vary by up to an hour. For example, in London: the East London Mosque (ELM) uses the rule of 15 degrees, I believe. The Regent’s Park Mosque (RPM) uses 17.5 or 18 degrees, following a fatwa from the World Fiqh Academy (al-Majamma’) based in Mecca.

The RPM timings are therefore much earlier than ELM, making the fast much longer. The Muslim World League (MWL) London uses RPM timings but subtracts another 10 minutes at the beginning of the fast, following the disputed, “cautious” method of imsak.

The MWL fast was thus *a whole hour* longer than the ELM one at the beginning of Ramadan this year, approximately 17 vs. 16 hours! The difference reduces to about half an hour by the end of the month, as the days shorten and the end of Ramadan coincides approximately with the autumn equinox.

At Tawhid Mosque (TM) in Leyton, we usually use a 90-minute rule for dawn and nightfall (before sunrise and after sunset, respectively) in working out prayer times throughout the year. For Ramadan, we’ve adjusted the dawn rule to 100 minutes, to be safe, but this is still slightly shorter than the ELM timings.

Only observations of dawn can settle this matter. A few nights before Ramadan, 18/19 August 2009, we had an exceptionally clear night in London. The stars and planets, especially Jupiter and Venus, were much clearer than is normal. I observed the dawn in the morning and first saw it above local rooftops at 4.27am. My estimate of dawn over the horizon, allowing also for light pollution, was between 4 and 4.20am. This was confirmed by Dr. Ameen Kamlana, observing simultaneously in Ashford, Kent. Timings that morning were: sunrise 5.49am (1-2 min variation possible), ELM dawn 4.03am, TM dawn around 4.11am with the 100-min rule.

I observed the dawn again this morning after another clear night. In fact, every time I have observed it around the UK over the years, the timing is close to the 15-degree or the 90-100-minute rules. Many other observers have also preferred the 15-degree timings, including (I think) Maulana Yaqoob Miftahi in Northern England and Refi Shafi (Abu Rumaysah) in High Wycombe.

The 17.5 or 18 degree timings are far too early in my view, indicating dawn when there is actually pitch darkness on the horizon. Perhaps the reason for this is that 18 degrees corresponds to the beginning/end of astronomical twilight, when even sensitive telescopes are unaffected by tiny amounts of scattered sunlight. However, this is not the same as dawn that is visible to the naked eye. Furthermore, as Ramadan moves through midsummer over the next few years, 18 degrees is not attained in most or all of the UK, so this method will provide no timings whatsoever.

Perhaps the jurists who issued the Majamma’ fatwa were wrongly advised about the nature of “first light” ? However, Dr. Musharraf Hussain of the Karimia once told me that 18 degrees is an established Hanafi position. Others, such as the imam of Brick Lane mosque, told me that 15 degrees is, too.

The Majamma’ perhaps needs to reconsider its ijtihad, which has another inconsistency: it uses a 17.5 degree rule equally for dawn and nightfall, although the majority of schools hold that the two are not symmetrical since they depend on white and red twilight, respectively. Imam Abu Hanifah, of course, held that they were symmetrical, both being white threads of dawn/twilight.

Summary: this is all a matter of ijtihad, so the public are free to follow their preferred authorities.

I advise brothers and sisters to observe the dawn and make up their own minds. 15 degree timings are perhaps preferable to 18 degree ones, especially since they make involve less hardship in the fast and seem to correspond far better with the dawn visible to the naked eye.

Note: several narrations in Tafsir Ibn Kathir have Companions/Successors describing the dawn breaking over the mountains of Mecca and Medina. This would indicate that there is no need to be obsessed with sea-level horizon timings, within reason. Allah asked us to begin fasting when the dawn becomes apparent. However, I have never found a good answer to a work colleague’s question, “What do Muslims do, who live in deep valleys?”

All the above is for discussion. Please contribute your views, observations, experiences, etc.

And Allah knows best!

TV programme – Moonsighting discussion

August 16, 2009

Bismillah. We just finished recording this, alhamdulillah.

It will be aired on Islam Channel (Sky 836 or http://www.islamchannel.tv) on Tuesday night God-willing, 18th August 2009, 10-11pm.

Panellists (with a studio audience):

Mohammad Ali (Islam Channel)
Qamar Uddin (ICOP)
Suliman Gani (Tooting Mosque)
Usama Hasan (Tawhid Mosque)

Chair: Ajmal Masroor

A good discussion I thought, more civilised and less heated than in previous years. I hope it will be beneficial in advancing public understanding of the issues involved.

Ramadan, Eid date for UK, 1430 (2009)

August 11, 2009

Bismillah. Please refer to my article, “A simple solution to the moonsighting problem,” first published in Emel magazine in 2007. It is available at the City Circle website (www.thecitycircle.com), under previous blogs – see August 2008. I may update it and post it here later, insha’Allah.

According to that simple methodology, the following are the dates for Ramadan and Eid this year.

First day of Ramadan 1430: Saturday 22 August 2009
(crescent easily visible throughout Australasia and Africa the previous evening)

Eid al-Fitr or first day of Shawwal 1430: Sunday 20 September 2009
(crescent easily visible throughout Southern African the previous evening)

Accordingly, Ramadan in the UK will have 29 days insha’Allah.

It seems that the European Council for Fatwa and Research (www.ecfr.org) has announced 1st Ramadan as 21st August. They seem to be basing this on astronomical conjunction as per Shaykh Ahmad Shakir’s fatwa. This is disappointing and goes against a good fatwa from the 1990′s by Sh. Abdullah al-Juday’, one of the ECFR scholars. In it, he said that hilal-sighting claims about a moon less than 12 hours old would be rejected “because the astronomers agree that a hilal less than 12 hours old cannot be sighted.”

Note that according to Dr. Steve Bell of HMNAO, the world-records for hilal-sightings are roughly 15 hours by naked eye and 12 hours by telescope.

Reflections on Moonsighting

August 2, 2009

1) This is the latest version of a presentation I’ve given at various places around the UK: Reflections on Moonsighting

2) A first-night, 32-hour-old crescent-sighting (plus Venus) from my back garden in London, Muharram 1428 / January 2007 (and hence signalling the start of a new Islamic year) can be seen in this YouTube video.

3) Here is an introductory course on Islamic astronomy, covering Qiblah, prayer times and moonsighting: An Introduction to Islamic Astronomy

4) Here is a presentation on similar subjects by Dr. Steve Bell of HM Nautical Almanac Office, and who is perhaps the UK’s top expert on such astronomical calculations (he also does all the calculations for Websurf and Moonwatch): London_2007Sept08

5) “The Correct Qiblah” – a paper by Kamal Abdali: qibla paper


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