Displaying items by tag: moon sighting

The sighting of the Syawal moon has long been an important event in the Muslim calendar, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr celebrations. However, in Southeast Asia, the practice of moon sighting  for determining the start of the new month can vary greatly between countries. These differences in moon-sighting can have significant impacts on the socio-economics of the region as well as in international relations.

Moreover, differences in moon-sighting can also affect the relationships between different Muslim communities within a single country. In some cases, different regions or ethnic groups within a country may follow different moon-sighting methods or have different criteria for determining the start of the new month. This can create tensions and divisions within the Muslim community, and may even result in the marginalization of certain groups.

When the holiday falls on a different date than it does in their home country, Muslim workers may encounter difficulties getting time off from work in nations where the Muslims are minorities like in Singapore, Philippines and Thailand. The socio-economic impacts of differences in Syawal moon-sighting in Southeast Asia can be far-reaching and affect various sectors of society.

Different implementations of moon-sighting criteria is one of the main causes for differences in determining Syawal in Southeast Asia. While these differences may have cultural and historical significance, they can also create practical and logistical challenges for individuals, businesses, and governments in the region. As such, there is a need for greater cooperation and standardization in implementation of moon-sighting methods and criteria, in order to promote greater harmony and understanding among Muslims in the region.

Efforts to standardize moon-sighting criteria in Southeast Asia have been ongoing for many years, driven by the desire to promote greater unity in the region. MABIMS(Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore) criteria are a set of guidelines for visibility of the young crescent moon for determining the beginning of Islamic months based on the imkan al-rukyah method.

Imkan al-ru'yah concept combines the methods of astronomical calculation and physical moon sighting. This concept is based on scientific data and is considered valid according to Islamic jurisprudence and astronomy as long as it is consistent with moon sighting data. The criteria need to be evaluated with the development of science and technology to ensure that the Hijrah calendar compilation conforms to aspects of science and religion.

The criteria were introduced in the Istanbul Meeting for Hijri Month Determination 1978. It indicates that to consider a young crescent moon that marks the start of a month, the moon’s altitude should not be more than 5 degrees and the sun-moon elongation should not be less than 8 degree at sunset.

The criteria was later being modified by the Ministers of religion of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore (MABIMS) Meetings in 1992 which indicates that the moon’s altitude should not be more than 2 degree and the elongation of the moon-sun is not more than 3 degree at sunset or the age of the young crescent moon must not be less than 8 hours after conjunction.

Nonetheless, the imkan al-ru'yah criteria are solely employed for the months apart from Ramadan, Shawwal, and Dzulhijjah in Brunei. In contrast, the initial three months of the Islamic calendar are determined by utilizing the rukyah al-hilal method, which involves physically observing the appearance of the new young crescent moon. Malaysia started to adopt the criteria in 1995.

Experts in Shariah, astronomy, and Islamic authorities have been meeting in MABIMS countries since 2016 to discuss moon sightings and the Islamic calendar. In 2019, based on thorough analysis of moon sighting data within the countries, they agreed to use a new criterion based on analyzing moon sighting data within the country. This new imkan al-ru'yah criteria requires that the moon’s altitude to be at least 3 degrees and the sun-moon elongation to be at least 6.4 degrees at sunset on the 29th day of the Hijri month. Since 2021, MABIMS countries have been using this new criterion.

In Islam, there are two concepts related to moon sighting. Wihdah al-matali' means that the sighting of the young crescent moon in one place is valid for all places that share the same horizon, while ikhtilaf matali' means that the sighting in one place is not valid for places with different horizons. This has implications for determining Islamic months, such as Ramadan and Shawwal. Currently, there is a trend towards the unity emergence of the young crescent moon in regions under the authorities of the European Fiqh Council, North American Fiqh Council, and the Muslim Association of Canada. The aim of aligning the implementation of the new MABIMS’ criteria should be to actualize the unity emergence approach in the region.

Overall, the implications of differences in Syawal moon-sighting in Southeast Asia can be significant, and may require careful management by governments and religious authorities in the region. By prioritizing cooperation and understanding, and working towards a common understanding and criteria for determining the start of the new month, countries can help to promote greater harmony within Muslim communities and stability within the region.

Dr. Ahmad Badri bin Abdullah is the Deputy CEO of IAIS Malaysia

Dr. Raihana Abdul Wahab is a Senior Lecturer, Islamic Astronomy Programme, Department of Fiqh and Usul, Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya


Tagged under