Each year, more than 1.6 billion Muslims all over the world await the announcement of the first day of the holiest month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a month that Muslims anticipate throughout the globe to receive its blessings by performing more Islamic rituals in order to achieve higher spiritual wellness and to gain Allah’s promises of forgiveness and eternal paradise.
Here comes the importance of how to decide the first day of Ramadan, as well as the beginnings and ends of every Lunar month in the Hijri Calendar.
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Observing Crescent with Naked Eyes
Lunar Calendars seem to have great importance and significance in different cultures and civilizations.
Simply, Ramadan starts when the crescent appears in the sky. Yet, fulfilling this task accurately is not as easy as it sounds since there are conditions and rules which must be obeyed for a correct sightseeing and authentic observation. Let’s first show how the start can be distinguished by naked eye observation.
In order to make a naked eye observation of the crescent, you need to go to an open space with an open western horizon. The site must have a clear sky and an above-sea level altitude to have the least good conditions for possible observing.
The observer should go to the observing site on the 29th of the previous Hijri month and look for the crescent at the west direction during sunset. If the observer sees the crescent, this automatically means that Ramadan has started, while if the observer doesn’t see the crescent this means that the next day will be the 30th of Shaaban which will be the last day of Shaaban.
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The crescent must be obvious after the sun sets, otherwise if the observer noticed the crescent with the naked eye before sunset –almost impossible- this would not be counted as the crescent of the first day of a lunar month.
If the observer sees the crescent having its horns facing downwards, this would mean the observer has seen the Waning Crescent which is the crescent of the end of a lunar month.
Hence, a lunar month must start with what we call a Waxing Crescent which is the correct crescent of the beginning of the lunar month with its horns facing upwards.
Observing Crescent Via Optical Instruments
A few Muslim countries find it haram, i.e. islamically unlawful, to observe the crescent through telescopes and optical instruments, while many Muslim countries find the optical instruments just an aiding extension of the naked human eye, similar to eye glasses.
Due to optical instruments’ magnification capabilities, it is a must that the observed Waxing Crescent appear above the solar disc, while there is an argument between different schools about how much the apparent distance between the sun and the moon should be.
The distance between the sun and the moon is an angle that is measured to determine the time between the sunset and the moonset. This time measurement is called “Mukth” in Arabic which is the time taken between the sunset and the moonset.
A new Hijri month is to begin when the Mukth at the 29th of the previous month is positive which means the crescent sets after the sunset.
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