Determining the beginning of Eid al-Fitr caused confusion among the Muslim countries this year again. In Turkey it is celebrated on Tuesday 5th of July, although it will be on Wednesday 6th of July in Saudi Arabia and some other countries.
The Presidency of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Turkey applies the correct regulations in the way that Qur’an shows. While Qur’an commands making observations about the times of prayer, It leaves the calculations about Lunar Calendar to groups of scientists. The Almighty Allah commands:
The sun and the moon follow a reckoning. (Rahman 55:5)
It is He Who made the sun to be a source of light and the moon to be a reflector of light, and He who measured out stages for it (the sunlight); that you might know the count of years and the calculation. Nowise did Allah create this but pointing out the truth and righteousness. Does He explain His Signs in detail, for a group of people who know. (Jonah 10:5)
Since there were no scientists to do the calculations during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.), he enjoined as follows being the only way out:
“We are an illiterate community; do not know to calculate or write. We know that a month takes either 29 or 30 days”
“Begin fastening when you see the Crescent (of Ramadan), begin the Eid when you see the Crescent (of Shawwal). If it is cloudy, complete the current month to thirty.”
Nowadays, there are enough of scientists to be able to compute the motion and reckoning of the moon and sun. The accurate principles were set at the International Crescent Conference held in 1978 led by The Presidency of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Turkey. Since then, the calendars based on the apparition of crescent have been prepared by the cooperative studies of astronomers and Islamic scholars.
The Shawwal Crescent, implying the start of Eid al-Fitr, is viewed with the naked eye. On 4th July, in the west of Chile, in Isla Santa Maria the Sun set at 18:08, and the Moon set at 18:37. Since the Moon was 6 degrees above the Sun, the Crescent (new moon) was visible to the naked eye.
Relevant technical information is as follows:
Isla Santa Maria
Latitude -22.4 degrees
Longitude 70.6 degrees west.
Sun 6 degrees below the horizon.
(Information obtained from Prof. Dr. Adnan ÖKTEN, Istanbul University Department of Astronomy Sciences)
Observing the crescent is not ordered in any of the verses. On the opposite, “determining via calculations made by a group of people who know”, is desired. In the ages when such groups were not found, our Prophet applied the only possible solution by counting on the naked eye observations. Carrying out this method at our century is neither understandable nor acceptable.
With best regards…
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz Bayındır
İ.Ü. Faculty of Divinity Professor
Süleymaniye Foundation – Center of Research on Religion and Nature