Calendar in Islam

The present confusion rampant in the Muslim countries in the world today could be removed by adopting the lunar calendar prescribed in the Quran for the civil use of Saudi Arabia and the Muslims, using it in the day to day life, along with the conventional calendar. Dates of Ummul Qura must be followed by all Muslims.

A practical calendar must be based upon certain principles. The dates must be fixed and not liable to any change at any time in history. The day for any date, past or future must be calculable. The calculated number of days from one date to the other must be the exact combination of the week days. The purpose of a calendar is to know the time of an event, not of the weather condition of that time. The holy Quran gives such a perpetual calendar.
The Ummul Qura calendar of Saudi Arabia from 1300H to 1429H provided such a calendar. It was based on the manazil (elongation) of the moon as directed in the Quran and Sunnah. It is presumed that the Saudi Government would have published it after thorough study and investigation of the past history and dates observed in the two holy Harams of Makkah and Madinah. The name of the author was not given in the book.

Solar and Lunar Eclipse
The past and present dates of Haramaen match exactly with astronomical calculations. The months began next day after conjunction. For example first Muharram of the first year of the Hijra calendar was Thursday the 15th of August 622AD. The sun was eclipsed on the previous day (Wednesday) which was the day of conjunction, the last day of the previous month. Later science adopted this method to define the synodic lunar month. Islamic scholars like Albiruni, Qaradawi and others agree with it. Solar eclipse marked the end and lunar eclipse the middle of the lunar month. We can examine some more events of that time. Prophet Muhammad was born on Monday the 12th of Rabiul Awwal according to the Arabic calendar. It was Monday which came in the middle of  Rabiul Awwal, the full moon day. Moon was eclipsed at night. He passed away on 8th of June 632AD Monday, which came in the middle of Rabiul Awwal. It was the 12th of Rabiul Awwal in the Arabic calendar. It was the full moon day.
On Friday the 25th of Zulqadha, the Prophet announced his departure for Hajj on the next day, Saturday to the thousands gathered there to perform hajj with him. This shows Zulqadha had begun on Tuesday. It is reported that Zulqadha of that year had 29 days. All this prove that the dates they followed, matched with the manazil of the moon and with the astronomical data. The Arabic calendar was an artificial lunar calendar beginning after sighting the hilaal, like the Hebrew  calendar. Therefore, it ran two or three days behind the manazil of the moon. Their fixed lunar calendar has 354 days in a year. They used leap year to adjust with the moon. It was done by giving 30 days to the last month, which ended in 29 in other years. Later this calendar was known as the Hijra calendar. This was in vogue in all Muslim countries and it was believed to be the Islamic calendar. This is why  countries other than Saudi Arabia are two days behind the actual lunar date.
The Prophet (Pbuh) talked to his companions (Sahaba) when fasting was prescribed in the second Sha’ban after his arrival in  Madinah. They had fixed number of days 30, 29 alternating in a regular order in their Arabic calendar. He said Sha’ban is not 29 always and Ramadan not 30 as it was in their calendar. Since they were illiterate, he ordered the Sahaba to see the moon and begin fasting and not to perform the Eid and  rituals without seeing it. 
According to the Quran, time depended on the angle of the sun with the horizon. This is different everywhere. Date depended on the manazil of the moon. This is same everywhere except where the week days begin on earth.
 They did not know the calculations of the sun or moon. So they decided time by seeing the sun, and date by seeing the moon. Their dates were correct and matched with the manazil of the moon, which Allah had fixed on the day of creation. 
At the same time the dates of other parts of the world were two or three days behind. They followed the Arabic calendar thinking that it was the Islamic calendar. But some of their important dates matched with the manazil of the moon. For example India got freedom on Friday the 15th of August 1947 AD. It was 28th of Ramadan 1366H. Pakistan emerged one day before on Thursday the 27th of Ramadan. In those days, all Muslims in the world observed unity as far as possible in Ramadan and Eids. Under the British rule too, Muslims were united in Ramadan and Eids. Telegraphic communication enabled this unification. Ramadan of 1366H began on Saturday and ended in 29 days on Saturday. The Eid was on Sunday, the first of Shawwal 1366H. All these matched with the astronomical calculations. 
Zulhijja 1439H began on Sunday. Hilal could not have been seen on 29th of Zulqaed on Saturday anywhere in the world. Hilaal, the first crescent is never seen on the last day of the month. Hilaal is seen in some places on earth on the first day of the month.  The rituals were performed on correct days by observing the moon in the proper way. They observed the waning crescents in the last days of the month. This enabled them to find out the correct beginning of the months. Even today, the Bedouins of Saudi Arabia living on hill tops practice this Quranic method. This was known to some Alims in the last century. It was gradually forgotten in course of time because people used the Christian calendar for their day to day life instead of the Hijra calendar. Had they practised the moon sighting of today they would have never been correct and united in fasting and Eids.

The First Crescent Hilaal
Belief that hilaal indicated the beginning of the lunar month for performing the religious rites got established in the minds of the people in course of time. In fact, the first crescent Hilaal is seen low on the horizon in some parts of the world on the first day of the month. It sets  by magrib time. The second one is seen high on the horizon after sunset and remains till Isha. The companions of the Prophet were familiar with this phenomenon. This Hilaal is seen often and Muslims in other countries began fasting and celebrated Eid after seeing it. They believed that the lunar months began after the Hilaal was seen. But Hilaal always becomes visible only on the first day. It cannot be seen on the last day 29/30, which is the day of conjunction, on which both the sun and the moon are in one manazil and the moon over takes the sun. Rising or setting of the moon cannot be seen from anywhere on earth on this day. So the practice of beginning the month after seeing the hilaal was not the way of the Prophet and his companions. A wrong way contracting Quran would not have been practiced by them. But somehow the wrong  method of beginning the month after seeing the Hilaal continued in other countries except Arabia and that is why the dates of those countries are one or two days behind the dates of Arabia. Now modern education has confused Saudi Arabia also. It is high time that the wrong practice of celebrating one Eid for three days in the world is stopped. 
First of Shawwal is the date fixed by the Prophet for Eidul Fitr and it is silly to make it two or three days in a year.
During the Ottoman empire, the news of Ramadan and Eid was communicated far and wide by telegram and the Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid on the same day. When they missed the first days of Ramadan, it was compensated by fasting after Eid. This practice was in vogue during the Khilafat of Islam. But this correct Sunnah is not practised now because of the invention of the “Ikhthilaful Mathalia” and people believed that the decision taken in their land was applicable only to them.
After freedom from the British rule,  Khazis in different parts of the world declared fasting of Ramadan and Eids independently based on the  local visibility of hilaal without consulting others. Most often these reports of hilaal were fake. They thought that unity in fasting and Eids was not necessary. They  used the Christian calendar for their day to day life and Hijra calendar was neglected. Celebrating Eid on different days had become a common practice in India by 1960AD. 
The Ulema convened a meeting in Lucknow in 1967AD to find a solution to this wrong practice of Eid falling on many days. They decided that the Indian subcontinent should celebrate Eid in one day.  Moulana Shihabuddin Nadwi quoted this in his article in the Islamic Voice of 2000.
Saudi Arabia used the Ummul Qura calendar for civil purposes. The religious events like fasting and Eid were observed under the jurisdiction of the concerned authorities. Most often their decisions matched with the Scientific Ummul Qura calendar. 

Groping in the Dark
The Quran says:”waqaddarahu manaazila li tha’lamoo adadas sineena wal hisaab”. He has fixed manazil for the moon so that you may learn the count of ages and the calculations. The astronomers studied the moon, it’s phases, stages and ages and learnt calculations. The Muslim authorities must learn it instead of groping in the dark. We calculate times of prayer shown by the angles of the sun. We perform all worship based on calculation without seeing the sun. The same rule must apply to  moon also because the Quran says “sun and moon are with precise calculation”. The angular distance between the moon and the sun marks the date, which would never change. So the date shown by it also cannot change.
Wrong Interpretations of Quran
Without knowledge in astronomy, the Islamic scholars of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other places complained that the dates of the Ummul Qura calendar were two days ahead, where as their dates  were two days behind. The wrong interpretations of Quran and Hadees created confusion in their method of seeing the hilaal and fixing the lunar months. Since they used the Christian calendar for day to day needs, instead of Hijra calendar they had not learnt rukes of the Islamic calendar. Their Ulema used the published dates of the Arabic calendar in their literary works. So they felt that the dates of Saudi Arabia were two days ahead. As a result now, they believe that celebrating Eid on different days is the Islamic way.
Original Ummul Qura Calendar
Dr N. M. Fadhl, the Director General of the astronomy department of Saudi Arabia was the author of the original Ummul Qura calendar. He was the only Muslim astronomer holding a Ph. D in astronomy. He had published a calendar book containing civil Hijri calendars from Hijra 1 to 2000 as a continuation of his earlier work before he passed away in 2006. We request Saudi authorities to recognise this work and use it as the civil calendar for Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world. The Arabic calendar which was not  approved by the Prophet should be given up. It is a great pity that the calendar prescribed in the Quran has not been put into  practice in the world even after 1440  years have passed since the revelation of the Quran, while the erroneous Gregorian calendar has been accepted by the world. Even in Saudi Arabia the true Hijri calendar is not being practised. 
The present confusion rampant in the Muslim countries in the world today could be removed by adopting the lunar calendar prescribed in the Quran for the civil use of Saudi Arabia and the Muslims, using it in the day to day life, along with the conventional calendar. Dates of Ummul Qura must be followed by all Muslims.
(M Ali Manikfan was born to Musa Manikfan and Fatima Manika in Minicoy Island of Lakshadweep on 16 March 1938. His father Musa sent him to Kannur for formal education. As he was not interested in formal education, he left his studies and returned to his home land. According to him, formal education is artificial and pointless and best way to acquire knowledge is getting wisdom by observing our environment.  Manikfan Is a marine researcher, ecologist, shipbuilder.  He has designed a lunar calendar based on the new moon times published by Fred Espenak, who calculated the new moon times based on Astronomical Algorithms of Jean Meeus. He recommended Muslims all over the world to follow his lunar calendar)

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