Makkah meet calls for panel to unify lunar calendar

JEDDAH: A conference of experts in Makkah has called for the formation of a committee of astronomers and Islamic scholars that would try to unify the beginning of lunar months in Muslim countries.
“The committee would consider Makkah as the center for astronomical observation and issue a unified Hijri calendar,” said the final communiqué issued by the three-day conference on Tuesday.
The committee, to be based at the Muslim World League (MWL) in Makkah, will study all the research work so far conducted on the issue.
Organized by the Islamic Fiqh Academy, an affiliate of the MWL, the conference emphasized the importance of sighting the moon to determine the beginning of lunar months of Ramadan and Dul Hijjah.
However, the conference said that Islam has no objection to making use of modern technological means to sight the moon. It pointed out that air pollution as well as an increasing number of aircraft and satellites have made it difficult to sight the moon with the naked eye.
Prominent figures, including Islamic scholars, jurisprudents and astronomers from within and outside the Kingdom, took part in the event at the MWL headquarters. Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance Saleh Al-Asheikh opened the conference on Saturday.
“The beginning and end of a lunar month will be based on sighting the new crescent, either by the naked eye or using astronomical observatories. If the crescent is not sighted the month will have 30 days,” the communiqué said, quoting the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The conferees said the statements of witnesses could not be accepted if it was impossible to sight the moon on the basis of categorical scientific facts. They also agreed that Muslim minorities living in a country should start or stop fasting during Ramadan if the moon was sighted anywhere in the country.
“If a Muslim minority in a non-Muslim country cannot sight the new moon for any reason they should follow the nearest Muslim country or Muslim minority group,” the communiqué said.
The conference urged Muslim astronomers to provide correct information related to moon sightings to relevant authorities in a country. It also urged the public not to cast doubt on moon sightings after approved by the authorities.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has emphasized the significance of determining the start of the lunar month on the basis of the sighting of the moon. “Islam has defined that the beginning and ending of the fast depends on the sighting of the crescent and there is no difference of opinion on this,” he said.
The grand mufti reiterated Shariah principles should be upheld when calculating lunar months. “We are not waging a war on astronomy. But we don’t want to cross the boundaries of Shariah when making lunar calculations,” he said, while urging the Ummah to stick to relevant Islamic principles.


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