Some Facts about the Solar and Lunar Calendar
1. The Lunar Calendar day starts just after sunset and completes at sunset next day, whereas the solar calendar day starts just after midnight and completes at midnight next day.
2. A lunar calendar month can be of 29 or 30 days (six months of 29 days and six months of 30 days) whereas the solar month of February is of 28 days (except leap years when it is 29 days), four solar months are of 30 days (April, June, September and November) each and the remaining seven months are of 31 days each. The solar calendar consists of 365 days or 366 days in a leap year. Each lunar calendar is of 354 days. A lunar year is 11 days shorter than a solar year. That is why Ramadan starts 11 days earlier.
3. A lunar month of Hijra calendar (Islamic calendar) starts from the sunset when the new crescent is sighted in the horizon. Thus the Hijra calendar month cannot start on the same date in all areas of the globe. This is why we find that Ramadan starts in India, Indonesia or Pakistan a day later than the UK.
4. The term full moon means when the moon is fully illuminated by the rays of the sun. This is the opposite of the conjunction, when the moon has no illumination at all or is completely shaded or dark. The astronomers call this as the birth of the new moon probably because the next phase of the moon starts after this event. The moon remains completely dark or shaded for a short time but the new crescent of the moon cannot be visible even if it is in the horizon after sunset unless it is at least 15 hours old provided of course the sky is clear and the visibility conditions are favourable.
5. The Hijra calendar's new month starts from the sunset after which the new crescent is sighted and not from the time of conjunction nor from the night following the conjunction as some people think or some astronomers recommend. During our Prophet's (pbuh) time when there was confusion about starting the month of Ramadan, the Prophet's verdict or advice was to start fasting after the sighting of the Ramadan crescent and stop fasting after sighting of the Shawal crescent.
6. Some brothers in the UK say that even when according to the Royal Observatory the 'new moon' was not born, they sighted the crescent after sunset. They probably do not know that the sighting of the last stage of the crescent of Sha’ban is not the same as the sighting of the Ramadan crescent. The Sha’ban moon has to completely disappear, conjunction should take place, leading to the birth of the Ramadan crescent which must be sighted in the UK or any other country. The last crescent of Shaban and the new crescent of Ramadan should not be taken as the same. Similarly, the last stage of the Ramadan moon if sighted on the 29th day after sunset should not be taken as the crescent of the Shawal moon. Notes prepared by Dr Mahbub Ahmed, Secretar of the UK Ruiyate Hilal Committee
1984 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON LUNAR CALENDAR, LONDON
With regard to the beginning of the lunar month according to Shari’ah, the participants debated the following principle: sighting of the crescent must be the primary deciding factor and when the astronomical calculations verify that the crescent for the new month is born and in the horizon after sunset then the following day will be the beginning of the Shari’ah month.
Having taken into consideration the circumstances of Muslims in Europe and similar areas where there is no possibility of sighting the moon at most times of the year for several reasons, and with the intention of arriving at an agreed decision, the recommendations are as follows:
(i) The Muslims in those areas should attempt a sighting of the new moon. If they see it in accordance with the Shari’ah they should act accordingly.
If a sighting of the moon was not possible, they may accept a sighting from any Muslim country, provided it has been ascertained in accordance with the Shari’ah and communicated by a reliable source and providing the astronomical calculations show that the moon is indeed in the horizon after sunset in the region concerned, whether it is visible or not.
On determining the beginning of Shawwal, it is necessary to follow the country where sighting for Ramadan was accepted. If however, the moon of Shawwal was not sighted in that country, a sighting in another Muslim country would be acceptable in accordance with the preceding recommendations.
The seminar adopted these principles for the sake of unity and for establishing an acceptable method of determining the beginning and ending of Ramadan, Shawwal and Al-Hijja and in accordance with the hadith of the Prophet (S.A.W.) 'Fast when you see the moon and stop fasting when you see the next new moon. If, because of cloud you cannot see the moon then calculate'. May Allah lead us to success. The Blessings of Allah and Peace be upon Sayyedina Muhammad, his family and his companions.
The European Council for Fatwa and Research Statement on the beginning and End of Ramadan (Cologne-Germany 4-7/2/1420 AH, 19-22/5/1999)
The beginning of Ramadan and Shawwal is decided as a result of visual sighting, either by the naked eye or by means of observatories, when made in any Islamic country by sound legal means, in accordance to the holy prophetic saying in the authentic hadith: “When you see the crescent begin your fasting and when you see it again break your fasting”, and in another: “Fast when you see it (the crescent) and break your fast when you see it (the crescent)”.
This is on condition that the firm scientific astronomical calculations do not contradict the possibility of such sighting in any country. If these calculations rule out the possibility of visual sighting, however, the testimonies of individuals are rejected and refused as they may have occurred out of mistake, imagination or even a false and untrue claim. Moreover, the testimonies of individual witnesses constantly carry the element of imperfection, whilst astronomical calculations are sound and unequivocal, and the scholars have agreed that what is imperfect does not stand up to nor overtake what is deemed firm and sound. The Council also affirms that by astronomical calculations, by no means is it referring to the prohibited and outlawed astrology, nor is it referring to the various calendars which have become widespread throughout Islamic countries, as many may believe. Rather, we mean by astronomical calculations, the fruits of the modern science of astronomy which is built upon sound arithmetic and scientific bases, which has advanced enormously and helped man to reach the moon and other planets, and in which Muslim scientists all over the world, have excelled.