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“No ‘Dilemma’ Over Moon Sighting

Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News – 2013-02-15

Are Muslims facing a potential moon sighting dilemma? This concern was raised by some after the crescent for Rab’ul Akir/Rabi’ul Thani was not sighted despite it being over thirty hours old. Also the possibility that the new moon could be sighted on the 28th of Rabi’ul Thani has raised concerns.

As a result some have called on the United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) to review its policy of only accepting moon sighting in South Africa.

According to the secretary general of the Jamiatul Ulama of South Africa and UUCSA Hilaal Committee spokesperson, Moulana Ebrahim Bham, there is no moon sighting “dilemma.”

Moulana Bham reiterated that Muslims utilize the age of the moon as a guide but are not guided by it. The principle laid down by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is that if the moon is not sighted than a month of thirty days must be completed, which is what happened in this case at the end of Rabi’ul Awwal.

As for fears that due to the age of the moon, the new moon could be sighted on the 28th Rab’ul Thani, Moulana Bham explained that this would indicate that the previous decision should be reversed and the dates adjusted.

Moulana Bham explained there is precedence for this ruling in Islamic history. It does not occur frequently but has happened on a few occasions in the past including the era of Prophet Muhmmmad (PBUH) and in Saudi Arabia a few years ago. Therefore there is no “dilemma” to worry about.

UUCSA’s current policy is that whilst there is jurisprudic basis to accept moon sightings beyond the boundaries of South Africa, there is also jurisprudic basis to restrict moon sighting within the borders of South Africa.

Moulana Bham said that due to the difference of opinion of Ulama regarding the acceptance of moon sightings beyond the borders of South Africa, UUCSA has decided to give preference to the view of accepting moon sightings within the boundaries of South Africa to avoid conflict in the country.

Speaking on the disparity of dates between Muslim countries where prominent Ulama have been quoted saying that there shouldn’t be any disparity of two days in the Islamic date, Moulana Bham said to get complete consensus on the moon matter throughout the world is proving extremely difficult. Citing the United Kingdom, he said that it is not uncommon they celebrate Eid on three different days; one moon sighting is based on Saudi Arabia, one from Morocco and the other from Pakistan. From a jurisprudic principle there are several views on the matter and the decision is not cast in stone, said Moulana Bham.

This particular decision only to accept moon sightings in South Africa was taken in conjunction with the Darul Ifta’s of all the Jamiats and Ulama bodies affiliated to UUCSA. It is also been endorsed and been agreed upon by Mufti Mohammed Saeed Motara from Darul Uloom Azaadville and Mufti Radha-ul-Haq of Darul Uloom Zakariyyah. It was decided that UUCSA would be guided by the fact that it would rather retain unity in South Africa then try to forge unity with neighboring countries on this issue.

If there is a need to review the decision, it will be done, however currently there is no difference of opinion amongst the majority of South African scholars or “potential dilemma” as some have feared, Moulana Bham said.

“Don’t disregard the Sunnah of moonsighting”

Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News | 14 February 2013

A leading South African Ulama body has urged local Muslims to become more conscious of searching for the new moon each Islamic month. This comes in the wake of the failure to sight the crescent for Rabi ul Akhir on Monday evening despite the moon being over 33 hours old.

Moulana Ebrahim Bham of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa(JUSA) told Cii Radio he was concerned that not too many Muslims were taking this Sunnah seriously enough.

“Many a time people feel the job of Hilaal committees in our country is only restricted to the times of Ramadan or Eid. This is incorrect.”

The aalim said moonsighting was a collective responsibility on the entire Ummah, and failure to seek out the crescent each month would constitute a blight on all Muslims.

On Monday February 11, the moon over many parts of the country was approximately 34 hours old. However, overcast and rainy conditions did not permit for a sighting, leading the Hilaal Committee of the United Ulama Council of South Africa(UUCSA) to declare Tuesday to be the 30 Rabi ul Awwal. Rabi us Thani hence began on Wednesday 13 February, 2013.

The absence of sightings on Monday have prompted concerns from some quarters about the possibility of a 28 day Rabi uth Thani – an impossibility according to the Islamic calendar. Astronomical calculations place the age of the moon on March 12, corresponding with the 28 Rabi uth Thani, at more than 21 hours old, enabling a possible sighting.

Experts have however downplayed these possibilities, citing a variety of elements including the so-called moonlag factor, defined as the difference between sunset and moonset. The predicted duration for the lag on March 12 is a mere 10-15 minutes in South Africa. The new crescent moon can generally be seen only if it sets at least 46 minutes after the sun has set. Astronomers at South Astronomical Observatory have however sighted the moon earlier – setting at least 33 minutes after sunset – but only when the age of the moon was at least 24 hours old at sunset.

Experienced moonsighters also say that age alone cannot be considered a criterion for sighting.

Moulana Bham acknowledged the efforts of Hilaal committees in areas such as Klerksdorp, Kimberley, Zeerust and Cape Town who he said “punctually and religiously” fulfilled the obligation of seeking the new moon each month. He nonetheless pleaded for many more Muslims to take this religious necessity seriously.

“Our concern at the Jamiat is, is this non-sighting only due to circumstances(such as bad weather), or is it that the Ummah at large have not taken this Sunnah seriously enough to be searching for the moon every month and not just at the time of Ramadan and Eid.”

A related call for South African Ulama to reconsider their stance on accepting moonsightings from African countries as a long-term solution to the dilemma has prompted much discussion in the community. Until now, the moon sightings of Muslims in neighbouring African nations have not been accepted in South Africa, although they themselves do accept and often take South African sightings into consideration.

Even though such proposals have arisen in the past, South African Ulama have been reluctant to pursue them due to a lack of consensus on the issue from members of the fraternity. The Ulama say they are eager to avoid confusion in matters of moonsighting such as those experienced in other parts of the world, where Eid has previously been celebrated on upto 3 different days due to a lack of scholarly consensus.

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