Each month of the Islamic calendar commences on the birth of the new lunar cycle. Traditionally this is based on actual witnessing of the crescent marking the end of the previous lunar cycle and hence the previous month thereby beginning the new month. Consequently, each month can have 29 or 30 days depending on the visibility of the moon, astronomical positioning of the earth and weather conditions.
Sighting of the moon is necessary after the 29th day of a lunar month to determine the next month’s arrival. If 30 days of any Islamic month are complete then sighting of the moon is not necessary for the upcoming month. In other word the next month will start automatically.
The Hilal Committee of Mumbai was established in the early 19xx's by <person's name>. It is now chaired by <name> along with many other scholars.
The Raut-e-Hilal Committee was established to make arrangement for sighting of new moon, accepts testimony and announces beginning of Islamic months. It also coordinates with Hilal Committees of different cities and try to establish a network to avoid confusion amongst the Muslim community in regards to the beginning of Islamic months.
Generally for all Islamic months, but particularly for Ramadan and the two Eids, Ruet-e-Hila Committee coordinates with Hilal committees of different cities to present their unanimous decision to the Muslim masses.
The Ruet-e-Hilal Committee meets regularly on the 29th of each Islamic months and appoints responsible persons for the sighting of the new moon. The responsible persons will in turn present any reported sighting to the Hilal Committee. The Ruat-e-Hilal committee also coordinate with Hilal committees of different states and subcommittees and exchange information on testimony and moon sighting.
The decision will be made by the ‘Ulama Al-Kiraam amongst the members of the Hilal Committee solely on the grounds of Shar’ee Shahaadah. The conditions for Shar’ee Shahaadah (Testimony according to Shari’ah) mentioned by the Fuqahaa (Jurists), are as follows:
- The witness must be a Muslim; a non-Muslim’s testimony is not acceptable regarding the sighting of the hilal.
- The witness must be sane; an insane person’s testimony is not acceptable.
- The witness must be an adult; a minor’s testimony is not acceptable.
- The witness must not be blind.
- The witness must be just and honest.
- The witness must be an eye witness, i.e., he or she was present in that event, and is not testifying on hearsay.
The most important factor that must be present in all Shahaadahs (testimonies) is that the witness be a “just” person as Allah Ta’aala has mentioned it specifically in the Quran:“And take testimony from the just and honest amongst you”
In order to reach the Muslim masses and for coordination purposes, the website www.jumamasjid.org and tweeter accounts @juma_masjid and @hilal_committeewill be used.
METHOD OF ESTABLISHING MOONSIGHTING
- All efforts should be made to sight the moon locally.
- Use a base of scientific facts as a standard for accepting moon-sightings. To achieve this, help can be taken from the experts in the field of astronomy, but the judgment will never ever under any circumstances be dependent upon them, the judgment should always be upon actual sighting. In summary, we have to decline sightings that are inconsistent with generally agreed on scientific models of crescent visibility.
- We do not need to rely on calculations for the timing of the occasions, but rather it is just to establish a baseline of acceptability of reported sightings.
- If there is possibility of a sighting anywhere in India (Imkanu-Ru’yat) at the end of the 29th day after Maghrib, if the moon is on the horizon, then all efforts should be made to sight the moon locally.
- If the moon cannot be sighted in Mumbai then we can accept the sighting of suburbs and another cities which are in the same “matla” i.e. sighting region, on the condition that the actual sighting information is correct, reliable and verified, (Muhaqqaq Ru'yatul Basari) and the moon sighting criteria followed by that region, is accepted by the Shariah.
- If at the end of the 29th day, there is no possibility of sighting the moon in India i.e. the moon is not on the horizon, we will still follow the Sunnah and exhaust all efforts in trying to sight the moon. However on this occasion, the testimony of one or two witnesses will not be deemed as acceptable, rather, the testimony of a large group will be necessary (Jamm al ghafir) as is the case, when the skies are clear.
- If this condition does not exist (i.e. if the moon is not sighted anywhere locally or in suburbs and other cities within the “matla” or sighting region or when there is no possibility of moon being sighted and testimony of a large group is not there, or if we do not receive correct, reliable sighting report (Muhaqqaq Ru'yatul Basari) from another cities of which are in the same matla or sighting zone, then thirty days will be completed for that month.
- The issue of shahadah (testimony) of moon sighting from reliable Muslims is extremely important due to which, the reliance on astronomical data is considered secondary in this regard.
- The definition of jumm al-ghafir (large number of witnesses) is when a group of people (of any number of people) cannot be considered to be lying about a sighting of the moon.
- People should not make up their minds in advance about the impossibility of the sighting rather people should be encouraged to sight the moon regardless of the astronomical data available so that they are rewarded for observing this form of ibadah.
- A time should be fixed for making a decision based on information received from another area. If no news is received on the fixed time, then 30 days should be completed, thereafter an announcement should be made. However if a testimony or information is received through a reliable source then it will become compulsory to make a decision according to that.
- The fixed time for receiving news from another area during the lengthier days will be up until 2 hours after sunset in the corresponding area or dependent upon the opinion of the committee.
Method of establishing the news for Moon Sighting
If any of the conditions below are established with the relevant criteria (highlighted above) a declaration can be made:
- Two trustworthy persons gave testimony of their sighting in front of a Ruet-e-Hilal committee.
- Information received or collected via telephone in regard to the commencement of the
Islamic months excluding Ramadhan has the same legal ruling as correspondence via letter.
- When the committee is convinced that this is the very same person with whom contact was established. He is pious and the person making the call knows him well, and can be verified through other sources then a declaration can be made after full satisfaction.
- The testimony of a witness deemed unacceptable through external evidence can be
rejected. Similarly the testimony of a fasiq (transgressor) can be accepted if validated by an external evidence.
- Information in relation to the decision of a genuine moon sighting committee is received via telephone or cell phone, the voice of the informant is recognized and confirmed, or the accuracy of the information is known through other sources or means.
- Information regarding the sighting is received through, fax or internet. This will only be
deemed acceptable when actually confirmed by the chair of the committee or a reliable person of that particular locality.
- An abundance of telephone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters are received from a particular or various locations, reaching the status of istifadha (over whelming sources of information that cannot be doubted) resulting in the committee being convinced that the moon being has been sighted.
- The moon sighting committee sends a reliable person to a certain place, to inspect their
ruling. He returns and gives a pronouncement in favor of the sighting.
- A letter/fax from the chair of a moon sighting committee or his associates, mufti, or
whoever made the decision is received by the localcommittee or chair and they are convinced of the sighting.
- An overwhelming no. of telephone calls, faxes, letters or e-mails are received from a certain location or locations which leads to the undeniable fact of the moon being sighted.
- The moon sighting committee for a specific region, whose members are all trust worthy,
religiously conscious or the mufti, scholar of a particular locality after receiving a valid testimony has given approval for the sighting.
- A phone call was received by the committee from the chairman-associate of the moon
sighting committee of the specific region. The information has been authenticated through various means and the news reached the stage of surety/
- The moon sighting committee received a certain number of phone calls from various places of the same region from so and so persons and these have been authenticated by the committee.
Process of Taking Testimony
Principally, the responsibility of taking testimony on moonsighting and making announcement on the commencement of the respective months accordingly lies with the Qadhi or Hakim. In non-Muslim countries or countries with Muslim minorities, the Muslims may adopt any one of the following to facilitate this function:
- Appoint an ameer or leader;
- Setup Hilaal committee.
After the testimonies are taken and an announcement is made accordingly.
Hereunder are a few guidelines which although may not be applied absolutely, are generally persuasive in ensuring that the testimony is satisfactorily authenticated resulting in an accurate ruling:
- The witness should be reminded of the serious consequences and repercussions of his testimony and of his accountability unto Allah;
- Testimony should not be taken if the skies were clear. This is because in this condition, the testimony of 1 or 2 people will not suffice;
- Generally, if a person sees the moon once, he will see it a second time with relative ease. If the witness saw it once and was unable to see it a second time, the possibility that might have been mistaken is increased.
- One who has seen the moon will be able to show another with relative ease. If this secondperson was unable to see it, despite the witness pointing it out to him, it will create doubt inthe testimony of the witness;
- The witness should not merely give an account of his experience but should use the words of testimony thereby sensitizing him of the seriousness of his actions.
- The body language and facial expressions of the witness should be observed. He should not seem pressurized to give testimony.
- A pertinent point to bear in mind is that the one taking testimony is not obligated to accept the testimony merely on the basis that there are witnesses presented who are prepared to testify. If the testimony is not convincing due to outside factors or inconsistencies, then the testimonies may be rejected and the resultant ruling will be binding.
And Allah Taala Knows Best