At the beginning of the week, Muslims celebrated Eid-el-fitr, the feast of ending the fasting of the holy month of Ramadhan.
Eid-el-fitr falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal, the tenth month on the Islamic lunar calendar, a calendar is largely based on the movement of the moon. As the countdown to the end of Ramadhan began, many, especially workers who looked forward to a prolonged weekend, asked their Muslim friends the exact day for the celebration. The answer as usual was not so convincing: either Monday or Tuesday.
Some non-Muslims are heard murmuring, year-in, year-out, “Why can’t these Muslims just choose a day and celebrate Eid!”
The lunar calendar has always proven too confusing especially for those not familiar with Islamic teachings, wondering why in the current age of aancements in science and technology, Muslims still cannot establish important dates on their calendar.
There is an argument that with technology, Muslims can develop a fixed calendar since science and technology can accurately predict when a new moon will come up therefore, there is no need to first sight the crescent moon to start and end Ramadhan.
Proponents of this argument are, however, defeated by Islam’s dependence on Allah’s decrees as contained in the Holy Qur’an and Hadith (traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad), the two primary sources of the Islamic law (Shariah). The Islamic belief holds that Allah can make things happen which are against all laws of science and technology as evidenced by flaws in pre-printed calendars based on scientific calculations of the sighting of the moon.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stressed in various Hadiths the importance of first sighting the moon before starting and ending the fasting of Ramadhan, and if it is not visible then, the Prophet encouraged Muslims to complete thirty days of the month.
In the particular Hadith, the Prophet: “Observe fast when you see it [the new moon of Ramadhan] and break the fast when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], but when [the actual position of the moon is[ concealed from you [on account of cloudy skies], then count thirty days.”
The months of the Islamic calendar are either 29 or 30 days. Muslim scholars have argued that the requirement to complete thirty days proves that there is no need for lunar calculations. The argument is that, modern technological aancement can easily predict where on earth and what time and date the new moon can be seen but the aomical data to sight the moon cannot form basis for determining important dates at the expense of the Qur’anic and Prophetic teachings.
Some scholars have indeed observed that adoption of a fixed calendar based on scientific calculations would amount to an innovation yet the Prophet preached against innovations in religion, denouncing them as misguidance.
From the infancy days of Islam, Muslims depended on the natural movement of the sun and the moon to determine certain periods of time like prayer times for the five daily prayers and the month for the Hajj – the annual holy pilgrimage to Mecca.
It is, therefore, the sighting of the new moon that marks the beginning of a new month of the Islamic calendar.
Muslims’ dependency on the lunar system to determine their calendar is therefore based on various teachings in the Qur’an some have come to be proven by recent discoveries by science.
Source : The Observer