This is a book on Time. The problems involved in measuring it makes it a subject for treatment in book form and the science of measuring it that can be derived by the Qur’aan and the Tradition of the Holy Prophet (saw) makes a discussion of the problem fruitful. There is a Tradition, which condemns the act of cursing time, as Allah (swt) is Time. We realize time because we live. And we measure our time through two objects of nature, the sun and the moon. We mark one day from the non-stop flow of Time with sunrise. Every time the sun rises only to mark the end of one day and the beginning of another. A Day is further divided into nights and days, hours, minutes and seconds. The natural division of a day as indicated in the Qur’aan is through the declinations of the sun.
Subuh, pre-sunrise prayer, is the first prayer, thus we do not have to define a day in any other terms once more nor is there any problem in finding out when it starts and ends. When does the day begin? Our five time prayers tell us this. The first prayer is Subuh. Thus the day begins at Subuh Sadik. The day neither begins with sunrise as was believed by most till the introduction of the International Date Line, nor at sunset. Obviously the last prayer of the day is Esha.
The week begins on Sunday even according to the Islamic Calendar. After the Hijra when the Islamic Calendar came into being, Sunday continues to be the first day.
According to Arabic grammar while listing nouns the masculine is said first and then the feminine. Thus we have the expression ‘Lail wa Nahar’ night and day. This does not mean that night comes before the day. In fact one Ayath of the Qur’aan states categorically ‘Valallaylu saabiqunnahaari’ (36:40) “the night is not the forerunner of the day”. This strengthens the argument that the day begins with the daybreak.
The seven days of a week too receive sanction in the Traditions. We need not re-fix it. The Monday morning sun rises to give birth to a new week and after the passing of seven days, the sun rises the following Monday to mark the end of one week and the beginning of another. No natural phenomenon marks the beginning or end of a week. The next higher unit of time is the month. The movement of the moon marks the birth of a month. After the brief conjunction or Amavasai a part of the moon is visible to a part of the Earth. It may be day to others and so they cannot see the short-lived crescent or their land may not come under the visibility angle. However, the fact remains that the month is born. The crescent waxes and becomes a full moon. Then it wanes till it disappears totally. The plain of rotation of the moon, which is five degrees slanted, does not allow the shadow of the moon fall on Earth at every conjunction or Amavasai. And when the three come in a line and on the same plane the shadow of the moon falls on the earth and an eclipse occurs. Conjunction marks the end of one month and gives birth to a new one. Similarly the time taken for the earth to go one full circle around the sun is one Solar year. In lunar terms, the end of twelve months marks the beginning of a Lunar year. A Solar year has 365.2422 days. A Lunar year has 354.3671 days. However the Qur’aan does not approve of measuring the year depending on the sun. The Qur’aan orders mankind to use the Lunar year, which is free of errors, which will be explained in due course.
The point very casually made first, i.e., “After the brief conjunction, eclipse or Amavasai a part of the moon is visible to a part of the Earth” is what is explained through this book. There is much darkness around this fact. There is less light and more heat generated in this area. It is hoped that this book will throw some light for people willing to see the truth.
As the beginning of a month depends upon days and birth of the crescent, it is important that we know the day on which the crescent would be born. According to a popular Tradition the Muslims have been asked to look for the crescent and confirm its presence on the western horizon before starting the fast of the month of Ramadan and before ending it. While some understand “see” [Ru’yah] literally to mean see it with the eyes, some others take it metaphorically to mean, “Know”. The Author is a strong advocate of the latter interpretation. He quotes many traditions to substantiate his stand. His argument that the exact time of the birth of the crescent can be calculated well in advance lends validity to his interpretation. In fact, he has been calculating the movement of the moon before every month of Ramadan, Idul fithr and Idul Adha. He has worked out a calendar for many years backwards and forwards. Through this achievement he has not only given a very practical interpretation to a very basic Tradition on the lunar calendar but also impressed upon the educated the importance of learning this science. For those who do not have time and means to learn this he gives a series of simple formulae to confirm the dates of the lunar calendar.
The time of the moonset and sunset is given in leading newspapers. In order to find out the date of the Lunar month we will have to deduct the time of the sunset from that of the moonset and divide the remainder by forty-eight. There are also simple ways of doing this by looking at the shape of the moon and its position on the sky at a particular time. The author argues that at least the Ulema should learn this in order to lead the community in the right path. Today nearly everyone is ignorant of a science, which our forefathers had mastered. He gives us simple rules like the lunar calendar cannot have 30 days consecutively more than thrice except as a freak and 29 days more than twice. By applying these we can avoid mistakes in our Hilal observations.
The point that is to be highlighted is that we neither know the science of the lunar calendar nor are we conscious of this ignorance. Far from making an effort to learn this science we pretend to know it. The disease that we are ignorant of our ignorance is to be remedied through this book. It is only when we know the scope of this subject that we realize how little we know. This in-turn would either make us interested in this subject or at least dissuade us from taking our own stand based on our smatterings when we are faced with the situation of having to fix a date.
The question of deciding or rather knowing the right date is very important in Islam because a series of duties become incumbent on Muslims on certain months and dates. What is regularly done in a month or even a date is not done on other months and dates. The most common example for this is eating and fasting. It is only after knowing when the month of Ramadan begins does a Muslim stop eating during the day.
The celebration of Eid ul Fitre too is linked with the appearing of the crescent of the Shavval, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. One should not fast on the first day of this month but celebrate Eid instead. Similarly one should not fast on the day previous to the first day of Ramadhan, i.e., on the last day of Sha’baan. These days are the bones of contention in the Islamic world. When the month is calculated right, there is great confusion among the Muslims. Missing a day in a month would amount to a day’s difference for months together in a calendar.
The Lunar calendars published in India and the same published in Saudi Arabia give at least three different dates for a day anytime in a year. While this difference, which is not ignorable, does not attract the attention of the common man and thereby does not affect his religious life during most months, it becomes the topic of discussion for the entire Islamic world at least twice, once during the beginning of the month of fasting and once more during the celebration of Idul Fitr. The problem is equally serious on the eve of the month of Haj, Dulhaj the last month of the Islamic calendar. However, as mere celebration of Idul Adha is involved to most of the people the difference in the Day of celebration throughout the world do not strike them as significant because all of them celebrate on the same date. This is because they do not know the significance of Day and Date.
The author takes strong objections to the confusion in dates created by false Hijra calendars. The argument that the crescent of the first day should be physically seen with the eyes the night following the 29th is held strongly by both the learned “Ulema” and the common man alike. The question of seeing the crescent does not arise the night following the 30th of a month. While one people belonging to one school of thought wait till they see the crescent to begin the month, others either go by calculations like Saudi Arabia or accept the sighting in any part of the world. Thus the latter’s month often begins early. The author is a strong advocate for both calculating and accepting the earliest sighting in the world.
There are two problems involved here. First of all, not all accept the fact that another must accept the sighting of one country. As sight follows from the East, a group may accept the sighting of the crescent in an eastern country. Although the same group accepts the fact that the crescent that is not visible in the local sky may be visible in a neighboring country that is to its west within a few hours. Accepting this possibility does not convince them that the month is born for their country too. They are willing to believe that the month that has started in a neighboring country has not started in theirs! They believe that the new month need not start on the same day throughout the world. To them it can be Shaban in one country and Ramadan in another or Ramadan in one country and Shawwal in another. They do not even consider this a sin. What is worse sometimes is that there are three dates in the world. One country delays by not one day but two in accepting the arrival of the new month. The problem does not end here, but the error continues not only throughout the month but also in determining the sighting of the crescent for the following month. Thus the error is perpetuated from year to year.
The consequence is the existence of not two but three lunar calendars in the Muslim world. The Muslims consider certain days special and certain others normal on the basis of the calendar that is printed and circulated in their society. Finally it is both the Ulemah and the false Hijra calendars printed without caring to verify the dates with the objects on the sky which are responsible for retaining the people in a month that has passed and delaying them from entering into the next month promptly.
The interesting phenomenon here is that usually the Muslim world is behind time and not ahead of it. If one section is ahead of time another behind and the rest on time the problem would have been still more difficult to solve. Now it is only a matter of convincing the late entrants to enter on time. The first task before us is to explain the concept of time to the people.
The time difference that exists from country to country is obviously because of the rotation of the earth. It anticipates sunlight–day and avoids sunlight–night. However this hour difference does not result in two different twenty-four hour days. It may be that Friday has started in Fiji and it is Thursday in Samoa. But the time difference between both these points is less than twenty-four hours. In fact the maximum time difference between two distant places on earth is twelve hours. Perhaps this is the only existing time difference on earth. If the crescent of Ramadan is visible in the sky in some part of the Earth or if the crescent of Ramadan is born in the sky but not visible anywhere on Earth, it is Ramadan for the whole world. The simple logic is that there is only one day/date on Earth, only one month on earth and one year on earth. As the Moon is the clock that shows the time to the inhabitants of the Earth, it cannot show two dates and consequently two months at the same time. The question of three days sounds highly fantastic and it ridicules the very idea of a calendar. The people of the Earth must be reminded of this basic fact.
Another major doubt in the minds of the people is with the possibility of predicting the movement of the Moon. Once you accept that like the Sun, the moon too moves in a definite orbit following the laws of its Creator you will accept the calculations made about the movements of the Moon. One wonders how the same mind that agrees with the fact that the Sun’s movements can be calculated for many years in advance disagrees with the fact that the moon’s movements can also be calculated for many years in advance. There is a reason for this contradiction. The common man does not follow the existing solar calendar just because he is convinced with it. He follows it just because there is only one of its kinds. And how is it that there is only one solar calendar and not two or three as is the case with the lunar calendars? The first point is that it is midnight twelve (in London) and twelve noon at the Date line that marks the beginning of a day. Any other happening in the sky does not mark the end of a day and the beginning of a new one. That the Sun has to rise and set to mark every day is taken for granted. Obviously the time can be clearly checked in most sea coasts.
The duration of each month is found even in nursery rhymes. Thirty days hath September April June and November. And all the rest have thirty one excepting February alone which has only eight and a score till leap year brings in one day more. Giving a certain number of pre-fixed days to each year does not mean that year is exactly that long only. The difference in time, which we miss to tabulate in our solar calendars, shows its unpleasant shadows in terms of days lost. When we look at the history of the Gregorian calendar we learn that it was altered more than once with a view to synchronizing the dates that the calendar shows and the dates that the Sun shows. Thus in 8 BC Augustus Caesar altered the Julian calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. He wanted to give 31 days to August, a month named after him, instead of the original 30 days. As 10 days had to be dropped from it in 1582 this calendar was renamed Gregorian calendar in memory of Pope Gregory XIII. As the length of a day in the solar calendar is not the same, the length of a month and a year too are not the same. Thus the speed of the rotation of the earth is not a perfect guideline to measure the length of a day.
The Sun is not a dependable calendar that can be used by man who has to record history too. But the Sun is an effective watch to show the time of the day, nothing less, nothing more.
How about the Moon? It is a perfect calendar as already pointed out. We can depend on it. We can work it backwards to arrive at the exact days of historical events. We can calculate forwards to know the time of Moon set and Moonrise. And this is enough to tell us when the month will begin. As the movement of the Moon follows certain rules, it is a matter of finding out these rules. The author has tabulated a calendar that goes backwards and forwards through centuries. Further we can calculate the exact day and date of any event in history through a simple method. This calculation tallies with the known dates and days in Islamic history. For example the agreed fact in Islamic history is that the Holy Prophet (saw) gave his historical talk to more than one lakh companions on the 9th day of Zul Haj, the last month of the Islamic calendar. We can work back to confirm this. However when we work backward, the false calendars miss a day or two.
One need not be shocked at the fallible nature of the solar calendar. In fact, we are bound to err and we are destined to keep changing our calendar if we base it on the Sun. The Sun is not meant to be a calendar. We get this startling truth from the Qur’aan.
When the companions of the Holy Prophet (saw) asked the Prophet (saw) how the moon changed the phases, the Holy Prophet (saw) replied that it was a calendar. His answers provide clues to so many questions unsolved by our scientists up to the first man landing on the Moon and even now. When Allah (swt) Himself has called the Moon a calendar, can there be any defect in this calendar?
The present interpretation of the various traditions of the Holy Prophet (saw) that has resulted in two lunar calendars, as against the true one, should clearly be a gross misinterpretation. There can neither be more than one lunar calendar nor can any other object that has not got Allah’s sanction as a calendar considered one. Thus Allah (swt) has not called the Sun a calendar but He has called the Moon. And the fact that a Calendar has got Allah’s sanction demands our consideration in that and it alone has to be accepted as the point of our time reference.
The case is different with the Moon. It’s rising that is, visibility is a problem on the first day if the sky is not clear and not within the visibility angle. The concession given by Allah (swt) is that when one cannot decide the first crescent on the 29th night one should complete 30. This is the only thing possible. However, when one observes the Moon regularly for many years the seemingly unpredictable movement of the moon becomes predictable as said in the Qur’aan: (55:5)
The argument has come one full circle. The writings of the author should be more meaningful to the beginners of this discipline against the background of what has been said. I should accept the fact that all that I have said so far and in the rest of this book is an echo of the author’s ideas. I have enjoyed his intellectual and spiritual companion-ship for over a decade. The fact that a layman like me is able to write on this topic is a testimony to his influence on the educated. One only needs to listen to him patiently and with an open mind. Patience and open mindedness is what is needed to appreciate the views of the author, Ali Manikfan, the unschooled but self-taught genius.