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Our Goal

The goal of the Islamic Computational Astronomy

Network (ICAN) is to:
• Set up a single, global standard for the Islamic calendar
based on:
– Islamic requirements
– Astronomical facts

• The entire Islamic world can establish a uniform global
Hijri calendar
• Muslims everywhere in the world have the same Hijri
dates (not two or three)

The Format of the Talk
• The talk will be broken down into three parts:
– How a calendar is made
– How Muslims fixed their calendar
– Question and answer session
– How the moon is sighted
– Question and answer session
– A new proposed global standard
– Question and answer session

Part 1 - Calendars
Muslims in North America follow THREE
Hijri Calendars
- Calendars from ME countries.
- Moon SEEN anywhere in 48 contiguous states
- “Locally” visible moon (CT Council of Masajid)

Muslims started Ramadan 2005 on four solar

days/dates (instead of one lunar day/date).
Oct. 3 Monday: Nigeria (some Sunday, Oct. 2 also)
Oct. 4 Tuesday: S. Arabia, M East, followers of Saudi dates)
Oct. 5 Wed.: Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Turkey,
Africa, Europe, Americas
Oct. 6 Thurs.: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Central Asia

Eid al-Fitr 2005 was celebrated on four different


Nov. 2 Wed: Nigeria, Libya

Nov. 3 Thurs.: S. Arabia, M East, Indonesia, EU, USA (ISNA)
Nov. 4 Friday: S. Africa, UK, Canada, USA, India, Pakistan
Nov. 5 Saturday: Northern India, etc.

Why this chaos?

Muslims do not agree on when to
begin an Islamic month.
Calendar – Making Options
• You can make a calendar by
using the sun or the moon
• People have used different
methods to make either
calendar for thousands of
• The Islamic calendar is lunar,
unlike the solar calendar
• Lunar calendars
• Babylonian
• Jewish • The New Moon time and
date could be fairly
• Hindu accurately calculated for
• Chinese more than 2000 years.
• Islamic • None of the lunar
calendars starts from the
New Moon (Conjunction)
Two Major Challenges
a. Accurately predicting moon’s earliest visibility
b. Uniform global fixed dates of Hijri Calendar

Calendars are Global, not Tri-Zonal

Why Muslim Dates Are a Mess?
• Some start Ramadan;
• By a visible moon (India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Morocco,
S. Africa)
• From the Moonset after the
sunset (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and
the M. East)
• On the New Moon date (Libya,
Tunis, etc.)
• Moon’s fixed elongation or
altitude (Indonesia, Malaysia,
Turkey, etc.)

Only dates based on the ‘earliest

visible moon at sunset’ fulfill the
Shariah requirements.

Do we have to see the Hilal to start

and end Ramadan and other
months? YES.
Lunar Calendar
• A lunar calendar depends on the moon’s phases
• Earlier, you could not predict exactly when and where a
moon would be seen
• Now we can do this with modern computers
• Before the modern communication age, people observed
their lunar calendars locally. It was not possible to
coordinate between towns, countries and continents
• If it was cloudy, people couldn’t see the moon. They had
to complete 30 days though the moon was seen in the
nearby town

– The old ways of calendar-making, where every

village and town observed its own dates, is no
longer correct. Tri-zonal or bi-zonal calendars are
equally invalid. visit

Part 2 - Qur’an: Hilal is Miqaat

Hilal and Not the New Moon

Ittihad vs. Ikhtilaf al-Matali

Lunar Calculation is Fine

Moon-Sighting Controversies


Involves Two Parts
• There are two parts to moon-sighting
– How the moon revolves around the Earth
– How, when, and where people on the ground
see the moon

Moon Basics
• The moon revolves around the earth (need an animatic to
show this)
• As the moon moves around the earth, its phases change
from the new moon to full moon and back to new moon
Computed New Moons for 2000-2019

Data for Ramadan 1427

Moon’s Rotation Around Earth

Sidereal & Synodic (Conjunction) Month
• The moon rotates
around Earth
• Sidereal rotation takes
27 Days, 7 Hrs, 43 Mins,
11.6 Sec
• Synodic month
(Conjunction to
Conjunction) is 29 Days,
12 Hrs, 44 Mins, 2.9 Sec
• The moon is not visible
on the conjunction date

This is the New Moon (Geocentric Conjunction)
• Arabic term for the conjunction phase
of the moon is not “Hilal” but “al-Qamar
al-Mawlid” (new born-moon)
• Hilal (plural Ahilla) is the earliest visible
waxing crescent moon after “Mahaaq”
• “Mahaaq” are the dark nights between
two lunar months when the moon is
hidden for observers from the surface
New Moon of the earth.
• The New Moon (Geocentric
conjunction) could not begin a lunar
Hilal month because:
– The New Moon occurs at all times
of day and night.
– A date has to start always from a
fixed point of time.
– Every month the New Moon occurs
at a different point on the globe
A NASA Photograph at the New Moon Phase

• The infra-red
scan of the
moon at the
shows a full
black moon with
no crescent

This is the Islamic New Moon (Hilal)
• Hilal (plural: Ahilla) is
the visible waxing
crescent moon of the
first two or three days.
• The term is derived from
the root “Halla” to ‘raise
voice at the first sight of
the waxing crescent

Moon’s Paths in Various Months
• From different
locations on Earth
in different
seasons, the
crescent moon
appears of a
different shape
and at different
• If the moon is not
seen on the 29th
evening then on
the next day it
appears 24 hrs.
bigger,12 degrees
higher and
brighter. It stays
in the sky 52 min.
longer too.
• It does not mean
the moon could
be seen in the
previous evening. visit
Fixing Dates of Ramadan and Eidain
• Islamic dates are not fixed because
Islamic month may be 29 or 30 days long
• Islamic day and date begin at sunset
after a moon is seen
• The earliest visible moon can now easily
be computed for any point on Earth
• Earliest visibility may be by naked eye or
binoculars followed by naked eye or
telescope followed by binoculars or
telescope only

The New Moon or Hilal?
The New Moon (Geocentric • The Qur’an, the Sunnah
conjunction) cannot begin a and Fiqh make the
lunar month (as Qaradawi, earliest visible waxing
Shakir and others believe) crescent moon (Hilal) the
because: fixed point (Miqaat) to
• The New Moon occurs at all begin an Islamic month:
times of day and night. (A (2:189)
date must always start from a Can we accurately predict
fixed point of time) moon’s earliest visibility?
• Every month the New Moon • Yes. For any region,
occurs at a different point on though not for every
the globe village on the Earth)
A rotating dateline and floating • Visibility should be
time made the New Moon consistently verified by
useless for any lunar calendar naked-eye sighting

How Astronomers Compute Visibility
• The Moon’s earliest visibility is no longer a scientific inquiry, and there is no scientific ‘test’ to
prove or disprove a sighting claim. So how to determine the first date of an Islamic month?
Since ancient times, astronomers have tried to predict the likelihood of seeing the waxing
moon by defining minimum visibility criteria. Monzur’s MoonCalc currently supports 13 such
• * Babylonian.................... [Age at sunset>24hrs & Lag>48 min.]
• * Fotheringham (1910) [Alt, Rel Azi]
• * Maunder....... (1911) [Alt, Rel Azi]
• * Indian/Schoch.......... [Alt, Rel Azi]
• * Bruin ........... (1977) [Alt, Crescent width: 0.5 modified to 0.25 min.
• * Ilyas_A........ (1984) [Alt, Elong]
• * Ilyas_B modified Babylonian [Lag:41-49 min for 0-40 degrees Latitude]
• * Ilyas_C........ (1988) [Alt, Rel Azi]
• * RGO/CFCO (1981) [Alt=10 degrees at sunset, Elong:12+/-]
• * SAfrican Astro Obs [Topocenteric Alt, Rel Azi]
• * Shaukat........ (?) [Alt:3.4, Elong: 12.7+ Crescent width: arcmin /1.2)>1]
• * Yallop …. (1997/8) [Rel Alt, Crescent Width]

• This criterion was developed from the Indian and Bruin criteria by Yallop (RGO) from 295
published moon (non)sightings compiled by Schaefer and Doggett. A parameter 'q' is derived
from the relative geocentric altitude of the moon (ARCV) and topocentric crescent width. In
the original technical note byYallop, q was derived at 'best time' (ie sunset + * moonset lag).
• Criterion q Range Remarks
• A q > +0.216 Crescent easily visible (*Not always)
• B +0.216 >= q > -0.014 Crescent visible under perfect conditions
• C - 0.014 >= q > -0.016 Need optical aid to find crescent
• D -0.016 >= q > -0.232 Optical aid only
• E -0.232 >= q > -0.293 Crescent not visible with telescope
• F -0.293 >= q Crescent not visible, below the Danjon limit of 7 degrees elongation
Earliest Visibility
• How to verify the
earliest visibility

• Some 16-20 hours old

• Some 20-24 hours old
• Some 24-30 hours old
• 2 days old moon

Tricky Part: Observing the Moon
• The easy part is to understand how the moon works
• The tricky part is how people actually observe it from
the surface of the earth:
– How old a moon has to be before the human eye
can see it
– If the sky is clear, why will some people see it and
others will not
– Where it is cloudy or hazy, no one will see it

We can now predict where it will be seen,

and when

Moon Visibility
• In order to be seen, the moon must be approx. 20
hours old or more;
• 12 degrees away from the sun; and
• 10 degrees above the horizon
(Keep in mind that it will not always be seen, and not
everywhere even if these conditions are met)
• The moon is seen on earth starting at point Y and its
visibility extends westward in a parabola
• Each month, the moon is observed from a different
place as the visibility maps show
• Earliest point of observation is not repeated for
hundreds of years

Moon-Sighting Historically
• The ancients had no way of
predicting moon’s earliest
visibility accurately. So the
older lunar calendars such as
the Chinese, Indian, etc. used
computational tables to check
the actual observation of the
moon each month
In the Muslim World
The month was fixed by:
-Watching the new moon each
month, or
- Official government or Islamic
body proclamation or
- Other options: (fixed calendars,
month alternating 29 and 30
days) visit
Moon-Sighting Challenges
• Computational modeling predicts when and where the moon
will be visible first, but
• If you go by visibility, then you face several hurdles:
1. Sighting starts from a new point each month

(This means that in one month Chicago may see the

Hilal, but people 30 miles east of Chicago will not.
Does this mean that both communities should
observe separate Hijri calendars even though they
are only 30 miles apart? This was quite common until the 1950’s.)

• The answer is NO
• You need to build a uniform calendar based on Shariah and
Geodesic rules
Every Lunar Month is 29 and 30 Days Long

Ramadan started on Nov. 5 2002 at a different point on

Earth than Shawwal on Dec. 4 2002. This makes
Ramadan 29 days long for the Americas and 30 days
long for the rest of the world.
Earliest Visibility-Based Lunar Calendars
• Earliest visibility starts
from a different point on
Earth each month, as we
see here
• Only W. Africa and the
Americas could see Safar
Moon on 2/28/06. The rest
of the world saw it on
• Visibility separator curve
requires adjustments for
political boundaries
(Canada with the USA, etc.)
• Extending visibility to
areas outside visibility
separator curve (UK on
Morocco, Europe on Saudi
Arabia, or S. Africa)

PART 3 - Global Islamic Calendar
• Islamic lunar month is no less than 29 and no more
that 30 days long (Hadith: Al-Shahru haakadha wa
• Locally, the Islamic month starts from sunset when the
crescent moon is first observed and continues until a
moon is seen again after 29 or 30 days
• A consistently west-moving dateline based on the
moon’s earliest visibility means:
- Islamic month starts from a different point on Earth
- Every month is 30 days long for some regions and 29
days for the rest
Modern Astronomical Computations (MoonCalc)

• MoonCalc. formalized various

visibility criteria
• A ‘strictly visibility-based’ criterion
has several drawbacks:
a. Visibility is ‘local’ and not ‘global’.
Towns only a few miles apart,
even parts of a mega city might
see moon on two different days.
b. Atmospheric conditions hinder
moon’s visibility
c. Observers mistakes and illusions
(Visibility reports collected from
1900- contain unreliable claims.
d. Moon watches arranged in 1990s
did not produce reliable data.
e. Many moon observers now
compete to break the old
There is no scientific test to prove
or disprove a claimed sighting
to be valid (i.e.: Nov. 2, 2005)
Global Lunar Calendar Standards
• Muslim astronomical computations for Global
Hijri calendar:
• Abdali (1978)First serious attempt to calculate the
predicted dates of global lunar visibility.
• Minai (1980-81) Detailed analysis of issues involved in
global Islamic lunar calendar
• Charles Evans (1960-) Photographic images of the earliest
visible crescent moons
• Afzal (1986) Proposal for computing a global Islamic lunar
calendar based on the moon’s visibility around 180E
• Imad (1986) First suggestion to make Makkah the starting
point of an Islamic date
• Ilyas (1986) suggested “Probability of moon’s earliest
visibility” for tri-zonal and bi-zonal Hijri calendars
• Turkish ( )

Reference Articles on Moon’s Visibility
• Ashbrook, J. 1984 Astronomical scrapbook, Sky Pub. Co. Cambridge. M.A.
• Bruin, Frans. 1977 The First Visibility of the Lunar Crescent, Vistas in Astronomy. V. 21, pp.
331-358 (1977).
• Caldwell, John A.R. 1999. First Visibility of the Lunar Crescent. South African Astronomical
• Doggett, L. E. 1994 “Lunar Crescent Visibility” ICARUS (v.107: p388-403)
• Dershowitz N. & E.M. Reingold 1997 Calendrical Calculations. Cambridge University Press,
New York.
• Fatoohi, Louay J et al. 1998. The Danjon Limit of First Visibility of the Lunar Crescent. V. 118.
• Loewinger, Y. 1995. Some Comments on the Article of Dr. B.E. Schaefer… Q.J.R. Astro Soc.
• Odeh S.M. 1999. Taqweem Nasb al-Khata Fi Tahdeed Awail al-Ashhur al-Hijriya.
• Qasum et. al 1997 Ithbat al-Shuhur al-Hilaliyah wa mushkilat al-Tawqit al-Islami. Dar al-
Taliyah, Beirut.
• RGO Astronomical Information Sheets 1987-2005
• Schaefer, Bradley E. 1988. Visibility of the Lunar Crescent. Q.J.R. Astro. Soc
• Schaefer, Bradley E. 1991. Length of the Lunar Crescent. Q.J.R. Astro Soc.
• Schaefer et. al 1993 “Records of young Moon sightings” Q.J.R. Astr. Soc. (v.34:pp.53-56)
• Schaefer, B. E. 1993 “Astronomy and the Limits of Vision” Vistas of Astronomy (v.36,pp. 311-
• Schaefer, Bradley E. 1996. Lunar Crescent Visibility. Q.J.R. Astro Soc.
• Taqweem min 1409 hatta 1440 1408 Madina al-Malik Abd-Aziz lil-Ulum wa al-Taqniya Riyadh

Technical Standards for a Lunar Calendar
• The only way to build a workable global Hijri calendar is to fix:
• A fixed Lunar dateline
• A standard method to calculate the start/end of every lunar month
at the lunar dateline

Social Standards for a Lunar Calendar

• Compliant with Islamic law
• Predictable and computable
• Easily observed
• Easily verifiable
• Easily understood
• Sensible enough to be followed all over the world
Lunar Dateline
• Why International
Dateline (Solar)?
Two ships only 50 yards apart on
the two sides of IDL have Proposed Lunar
different dates International Dateline
• Why International Lunar
Date Line?
For fixed Hijri dates
• Why ILDL cannot be at
Regions east of Makkah even Taif
would have a different date
Monday Sunday
• Islamic date/day (from
local sunset) 180 E 180 W

• Global Islamic date from

180E (ILDL)
• The moon will be visible
somewhere around 180E International Dateline (Solar)

but not everywhere the

same evening visit
Global Lunar Islamic Calendar
Saudi dates for 1427-1435 (Moonset after the sunset in Makka)

Global Lunar Calendar (Based on Visibility Around 180E)

Network (ICAN)

- Hijri calendars
- Global Prayers
- Global Qibla
- Misc.

Committee for Crescent Observations Intl (CFCO)
The Committee for Crescent Observation International (CFCO) is now part of ICAN,
an independent group of experts in the astronomy of moon’s visibility, and lunar
Islamic calendar. CFCO have been helping the Muslims all over the world since
1978 by accurately predicting the moon’s earliest visibility in the USA and other
regions of the world. We provide the ‘Dual solar/lunar dates’ calendar, and the data
to observe the crescent moon (Hilal) for any place.

CFCO helps Muslims fast and celebrate Eidain on correct dates

CFCO experts makes sure that the Ramadan and Eidain dates are fixed according to
the observable Hilal of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. We collect sighting claims from
all over the world each month, evaluate them by set visibility standards, and
publish our findings regularly.

CFCO’s criterion is the “earliest verifiable visibility of the crescent moon

somewhere (in North America)”.

Islamic day/date/month begins from a clearly “visible” crescent moon after sunset on
day 29 or day 30 of the lunation. If a moon is not seen consistently then odd
claims do not fulfill Shariah requirements of “Ghalabat-az-Zann” (overwhelming
probability) for Ramadan and “Ghalabatal-yaqeen” (near certainty) for Eidain.
How to be part of CFCO?
Support CFCO
Summary of Explanation
• This is about making a calendar – you can make one using the sun or the moon
• People have used different methods to make either calendar for thousands of years
• A lunar calendar works the following way: show with pictures
• It used to be that you couldn’t exactly predict when it can be seen, now you can
• Before modern telecommunications, people used to observe their lunar calendars in a local fashion, and it was not
possible to coordinate between countries and continents
• This standard must be: easily observed, easily verifiable, easily understood, and sensible enough that it can be
followed all over the world
• There are two parts to an Islamic lunar calendar: how the moon behaves, and how people on the ground organize
their calendar based on its movements
• The movement of the moon can be tracked scientifically, and through the use of computers we can predict this
• That is the easy part
• The tricky part is how people actually observe it on earth –
– there is the issue of how old a moon has to be before the human eye can see it,
– Where the sky is clear, some people will see it and some people will not
– Where it is cloudy, no one will see it
– We can now predict where it will be seen, and when
• First big challenge: agreeing that we can predict when and where the moon is sighted (and this should always be
verified by eyesight, this is not just a computer model)
• Second big challenge: making a calendar out of this
– Once you have a set of lunar times, to build a workable calendar you need:
• A standard dateline
• A standard method to calculate the start/end of the month
• A method to make the calendar consistent and useful

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