There is a real possibility that on Monday, July 8, the crescent of Ramadan may not be sighted in the Muslim World especially in Saudi Arabia. The Astronomical New Moon will be born on Monday, July 8, 2013 at 7:14 Universal Time (10:14 a.m. Makkah al-Mukarramah time). Sunset at Makkah on July 8 is at 7:07 p.m., while moonset is at 7:08 p.m. It means that the New Moon will stay in the Makkan horizon just for a minute after the Sunset at Makkah. The stay of just one minute after the Sunset is an extremely short time for the Moon to be seen by a naked human eye. In reality it will be impossible for anybody in Makkah to sight it on the evening of July 8, 2013. Therefore we may not have any report of actual sighting on Monday, July 8 and Saudi authorities may announce Wednesday, July 10 as the first day of Ramadan al-Mubarak. Potentially this can cause a lot of confusion in North America as the Fiqh Council of North America has already announced that Ramadan will commence on Tuesday, July 9. In the past, FCNA’s Ramadan and Eid dates had pretty much coincided with the Saudi announcements. But this year there is a big chance of divergence. The Fiqh Council will stick to its criteria and decision no matter what reports come from abroad. Ramadan in North America will definitely begin on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Following are some of the reasons for such a decision:
1: The Council accepts astronomical calculations as a valid method of Ramadan affirmation. The calculations about the birth of New Moon are absolutely accurate and are universally accepted as categorical. The Shari’ah demands certainty about the sacred timings and, in the past, actual Moon sighting was perhaps the only means to attain that certainty. That is why Muslims have followed that method for centuries. Currently that certainty can be attained by authentic astronomical calculations as the calculations are categorical while the naked eye sighting is probable. Therefore the Shari’ah will definitely endorse a categorical mean (calculations) over a probable mean (eye sighting) of determining the sacred month.
2: The FCNA’s adopted criteria is that the next day will be the first of new month whenever New Moon is born at Makkah before Sunset and Moonset takes place after Sunset at Makkah. FCNA takes Makkah as the convention for obvious Islamic reasons. As noted above, this criterion is fulfilled on Monday, July 8, 2013 as the New Moon will be born at Makkah on Monday before Sunset and Moon will set after the Sunset at Makkah. Therefore, Tuesday, July 9 will be the first day of Ramadan fasting.
3: The age of New Moon will range from 18 to 22 hours (depending upon location in the US) by the time it gets to the United States of America. This is sufficient enough of a proof to know that the New Moon is in the horizon. There is also a possibility of its being sighted somewhere West of North America especially in the Polynesian Islands in the Pacific Ocean. In fact it is certain that the Moon will be seen in the Polynesian Islands. We share the same night with these Islands and hence possibility of sighting there applies to North America as well.
4: This way the Council has jointly followed the two valid methods of Ramadan affirmation i.e., calculations and possibility of sighting. Therefore, Ramadan for North America will be starting on Tuesday, July 9.
Ramadan Mubarak to all. May Allah SWT make it a blessed month for the Ummah and the humanity at large. Ameen.