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As the moon continues to orbit around the earth, it starts forming
a crescent. This will be minutes after the new moon even though
the crescent will not visible for several hours.
In some traditional Islamic countries, Muslims do not start fasting
until they can see the crescent in the sky. In those countries people
who sight the crescent first may also be rewarded. To get the reward,
some people camp on hill-tops where the visibility will be the best.
Do we need Moon Sighting?
God gave us scientific knowledge to determine exactly when a lunar
month will begin and end for any year. Therefore there is no need
for trying to sight the crescent of the moon to start fasting. Any
observatory or astronomy center should have that information for
your area. There are many sites on the internet that provide the
detailed information on phases of the moon. One such site is US
Naval Observatory’s Astronomical Application Department:
Also, some almanacs, magazines or newspapers report the times for
the phases of the moon. To determine when one should start fasting,
compare the time the new lunar month begins with the time of sunset,
the beginning of a day in the Islamic calendar.
What is an Islamic Day?
The Islamic day is the same as the Hebrew day. It begins at sunset
and ends at the next sunset. In this system, the night comes before
the day. Therefore, in some traditional Islamic countries, when
they talk about, for instance, Friday night, they are actually referring
to Thursday night. This is because that night actually belongs to
Friday according to the definition of a lunar day.
Beginning of Ramadan
To determine when Ramadan (or any lunar month) begins, we need
to know mainly two facts. The first is the time of the “new
moon,” and the second is the time of sunset of the same day
as this new moon. Even though the lunar month theoretically begins
with the new moon, in practice the month begins on the first sunset
following this new moon.
If the new moon time for the month of Ramadan is before the sunset,
one starts fasting the next day at dawn (fajr). However, if the
new moon time is actually past the sunset, then that particu-lar
night is considered to belong to the last day of the previous month
(Sha’ban). Therefore, even if the new moon time may fall be-fore
the dawn, the first day of Ramadan does not start until the next
sunset. Thus one starts fasting at dawn following this sunset.
Ending of Ramadan
One has to use the same system to determine the ending of the
month to be consistent. If the new moon time for the month follow
ing Ramadan (the month of Shawwal) is
before the sunset, one ends fasting at that sunset because the next
day will be the first day of Shawwal. If the new moon time is past
the sunset one must fast the next day also since that day will belong
Ramadan This Year
The new moon times to be used for determining the beginning and
ending of Ramadan are given be-low for GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
6:40 A.M. on November 15
8:48 P.M. on December 14
The actual time for each time zone is relative to GMT. For ex-ample,
New York is five and Los Angeles is eight hours behind GMT, but
Mecca is three hours ahead of GMT. Based on the above information,
God willing, the first day of Ramadan for USA is November 16, the
last day is December 14. The Night of Power starts at the sunset
of Dec 11, 2001.
The starting date for Ramadan and the date of Night of Power,
are practically valid for all coun-tries of the world. The ending
date, however, is valid for only the North and South American continents.
The submitters in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia and
New Zealand should end Ramadan on Decem-ber 15. Thus they get the
oppor-tunity and blessings of fasting for one more day.
God willing Ramadan Mubarek or Happy and Blessed Ramadan to all.