We argue on almost every issue and never feel shy of giving our expert decisive opinions on each of them believing that we are the ones who have mastered wisdom, knowledge and the blessings. One issue that we have never felt tired of talking is moon sighting, especially, at the time of the beginning of the ninth and tenth month of lunar calendar. Ramadan and Shawwal are the two specific months where the intensity of arguments soars high and tempers at times become out of control. Let us look at some issues before we actually indulge in any discussion on moon sighting.
We believe the following based on the empirical studies that we have undertaken during the last few centuries. We have not challenged them and we have allowed our children to study them without any apprehensions.
We did not have access to this information a few hundreds years ago. For instance we believed for almost 7000 years that earth was flat. But now we do not accept that idea. Because we have seen things differently. We have actually seen the visuals of the earth that does not appear to be flat. If anyone makes that claim, we would probably laugh at him or her.
We believe that the sun orbits around the center of the Milky Way once every 225 million years. We call that period of time a cosmic year. We believe that in its 5 billion years of existence the Sun has orbited the galaxy, more than 20 times. It is the most important source of energy for life on earth. We believe that it has a mass about 330,000 times that of Earth. Now in its nearly five billion history, it has never changed the course it set itself on.
We know that the Earth is the third planet from the Sun, the densest planet in the Solar System, the largest of the Solar System’s four terrestrial planets, and the only astronomical object known to accommodate life. We believe that Earth was formed about 4.54 billion years ago.
We believe that Earth interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon. During one orbit around the Sun, Earth rotates about its own axis 366.26 times, creating 365.24 solar days. Never once, the earth increased or decreased its number of days.
We believe that the Moon is Earth’s only natural satellite. It began orbiting Earth about 4.53 billion years ago. The Moon makes a complete orbit around Earth with respect to the fixed stars about once every 27.3 days. However, because Earth is moving in its orbit around the Sun at the same time, it takes slightly longer for the Moon to show the same phase to Earth, which is about 29.5 days. Never for a day did the moon changed its course it set itself on.
We believe that the new moon occurs when the moon is positioned between the earth and sun. At a full moon, the earth, moon, and sun are in alignment, just as the new moon, but the moon is on the opposite side of the earth, so the entire sunlit part of the moon is facing us. The shadowed portion is entirely hidden from view.
The first quarter and third quarter moons (both often called a “half moon”, happen when the moon is at a 90 degree angle with respect to the earth and sun. So we are seeing exactly half of the moon illuminated and half in shadow.
An easy way to remember and understand those “between” lunar phase names is by breaking out and defining 4 words: crescent, gibbous, waxing, and waning. The word crescent refers to the phases where the moon is less than half illuminated. The word gibbous refers to phases where the moon is more than half illuminated. Waxing essentially means “growing” or expanding in illumination, and waning means “shrinking” or decreasing in illumination.
After the new moon, the sunlit portion is increasing, but less than half, so it is waxing crescent. After the first quarter, the sunlit portion is still increasing, but now it is more than half, so it is waxing gibbous. After the full moon (maximum illumination), the light continually decreases. So the waning gibbous phase occurs next. Following the third quarter is the waning crescent, which wanes until the light is completely gone — a new moon.
Moon has never changed these phases in its history of existence.
We did not create or invent these cycles or phases. Our belief is that God created them. We discovered them and we might not have discovered all that exists. We through empirical research have understood the sun, the earth and the moon and their phases to the best of our knowledge that we have it presently as created by the Master of the Universe. We have discovered when does the sun set and when does it rise, when does the moon become sight able and when it does not and where does it become sight able and where it does not. We can say without any doubt that Monday comes after Sunday. Similarly, we can say without any doubt that on such and such day the moon will become sight able in such and such region at such and such time depending that atmosphere is clear. Even if the atmosphere is not clear, the divine law of the phase of the moon will still work. Our sight ability or lack of sigh ability will not change the situation of the moon. When we have discovered with such a precision all this about moon, earth and sun, what prevents us from accepting these divinely dictated laws as we know them now? Why do we insist that we would not accept them because of whatever reason. The purpose of the divine guidance was to help us not only discover the truth but to accept it also.
We do it to show our ignorance and arrogance.
Our fight is not about the birth or the waxing or waning of new moon or the accuracy and the precision that Allah has placed in his universe, it is about our egos and ignorance and the ones who are responsible for this are none other than those who call them religious scholars, or clerics or clergy or leaders. It is not about how to enhance our understanding of the universe and use that empirical data to improve the quality of life, it is about how to contain knowledge and limit it to the past. It is not about serving God, it is about serving ourselves and our myopic vision of Islam. Let us be clear about the nature of the fight. It is not about Islam or following the faith accurately. It is all about following a path that is built on our egos.
Editor’s note: the author’s views are strictly his own.