Cont’d from page 1
What is a Lunar Month?
A lunar month is approximately 29.5 days, which is the time it
takes for the moon to orbit the earth. Because a lunar month is,
on the average, one day shorter than a solar month, a lunar year
is 10-12 days shorter than a solar year. Therefore, the Month of
Ramadan comes 10-12 days earlier each year. This way we get to fast
when the days are very warm and long in summer as well as when they
are cool and short in winter. This beautiful design by God is also
a test for us to see if we will fast regardless of the length or
temperature of the days of Ramadan.
The beginning of a new lunar month is the moment, during the moon’s
orbit around the earth, when the moon is in conjunction with the
sun, with the sun’s light hitting the side of the moon away
from the earth. In this position, the moon is said to be a “new
moon,” with its dark side turned toward the earth. By definition,
a new moon is not visible from the earth as the sun’s light
is shining only on the side of the moon not facing the earth.
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 hilltops where the visibility will be the best.
Is Moon Sighting Necessary?
God gave us scientific knowledge to
determine exactly when a lunar month will begin and end. 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. Some almanacs, magazines or newspapers
also 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 as we know it because that night actually belongs
to Friday according to their definition of a 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 particular
night is considered to belong to the last day of the previous month
Therefore, even if the new moon time
may fall before the dawn, the first day of Ramadan does not start
until the next sunset. Thus one starts fasting at dawn following
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 following 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 to Ramadan.
Ramadan This Year
The new moon times to be used for determining the beginning and
ending of Ramadan are given below for GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
10:32 P.M. (22:32) on December 7
6:14 P.M. (18:14) on January 6
The actual time for each time zone is relative to GMT. For example,
Tucson is seven hours behind GMT. Thus when, for example, it is
10 P.M. according to GMT, it is 3 P.M. in Tucson. Based on the above
information, God willing, the first day of Ramadan for Tucson is
December 8, the last day is January 6. The Night of Power starts
at the sunset of January 2, 2000.
These Ramadan dates are valid practically for the North and South
American continent. On the other hand, the people in Europe, Middle
East, Africa and Asia should start Ramadan on December 9, and end
it on January 7, 2000.