Monday, July 8, 2013

Ramadan Moon Sighting - the Scientific Way

The Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr moon sighting has always been controversial in our country. Normally the people living in the northern areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa province contest the findings and sighting of the moon and normally observe Ramadan and Eid coinciding with dates of Saudi Arabia - without realizing the physical distance between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. A few years ago, a federal minister from KPK officially announced celebrating Eid with Saudi Arabia even when there was no possibility of moon being sighted the same day in Pakistan.

Moonsighting is an international organization which predicts very precisely the occurrence of moon for each Islamic month, specially the Ramadan and Eids.  I have been following their predictions and calculations for quite sometime now and find their findings near accurate. Therefore it is prudent to follow the scientific methods which are more accurate aided by physical moon sighting as per requirement of the religion.

For Ramadan beginning awhile from now, their first map appears for 8th July as given under:

The visibility curve for 8th July 2013 shows most of the earth in a non visibility zone. Thus there will be no direct sighting on the various continents. However, a blue zone covers a part of the Pacific Ocean towards the west. Thus it becomes essential to calculate whether fajr in some countries – with no direct visibility on the evening of 8th July 2013 – is not before the visibility of the crescent in the Pacific ocean, thus insuring visibility to the west of the country under consideration, before fajr in the country. These countries can thus start the fasting of Ramadan on 9th July 2013.

The above clearly shows that at best the moon can be sighted with optical instruments short of Africa in almost the entire South America. Thus there is no possibility of moon being sighted on 8th July in Saudi Arabia, what to talk of Pakistan.

For the other countries the visibility curve for 9th July 2013 will apply as shown above. Here most of the world is in a green or blue zone, specially in the southern hemisphere. Thus all countries which cannot start Ramadan 2013 on 9th July 2013 will start fasting on 10th July 2013. 

In above 9th July moon curve, the green area where moon can be sited with naked eye covers area lower Africa  excluding Saudi Arabia and India. However, the blue area includes both Saudi Arabia, lower half of India and western half of Australia. Pakistan falls in grey and red areas where moon sighting can be observed with optical instruments only and not with naked eye. And in no way there is a possibility of sighting moon in the northern areas of Pakistan on 9th July as is the usual practice by the local clerics to announce first Ramadan ahead by one day with the the rest of the country.

However, there are other factors that are also involved in moon sighting like:
  • The minimum time between the sun and moon set be 40 minutes - if tis is lesser, that moon is under age and cannot be taken as authentic moon.
  • The new moon must be sighted for continuous 59 minutes
Based on the very accurate measurements above given in the map, one should not make the moon sighting an issue in Pakistan and link it with Saudi Arabia due to movement of moon and timings of of its limited life.

This is specially applicable to moon sighters in northern areas who correlate the moon sighting with Saudi Arabia and always have a day's difference with the rest of the country.

I will update the map tomorrow if it is done at Moonsighting (updated 10th July 10:00 PM)

For the information of Muslims awaiting moon sighting announcement in Pakistan, here is the latest update of the moon sighting map which shows clear view of Ramadan moon on 10th of July - meaning by that first of Ramadan will be on Thursday 11 July 2013 in Pakistan.

However, it isi sad to hear that some religious groups in the extreme north of the country have declared first Ramadan on 10th of July, whereas there has been no possibility of sighting Ramadan moon today as per the second map shown above. Such unilateral announcements based weak reporting are only prejudiced that serve no religious purpose and mislead they people.  

Happy Ramadan ul Mubarak on 11th July.

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TARIQ said...

Thanks for the scientific update on moon sighting. Very convincing case to decide Islamic calendar on the basis of scientific data. But unfortunately the Thekedars of Islam in Pakistan would never listen to reason. They will create the usual funny scene of looking at the moon through telescopes and then agonising the entire nation by making half an hour long statement of sighting the moon or otherwise.

Jalal HB said...

Thank you Tariq fro stopping by - yes, in our country we would continue to cling to age old methods of holes in a mouse and see through these whether moon is there or not.

Khalid Masood said...

very informative and nice blog....thanks sir...

Felix Lee said...

This is one very informative blog. Thanks for sharing. I learned something new today.