The verse of the Holy Qur'aan "He merges night into day and he merges day into night" (35:13) indicates that the Earth must be a globe rotating on its axis and that the rotation would merge night into day and vice versa. The hemisphere on which the sun light falls experiences day while the opposite hemisphere experiences night. As the globe rotates, night passes into day and day into night. The first hemisphere in which the Ka'aba is situated and contains Australia, Asia, Europe and Africa enjoys daytime while the second hemisphere containing two Americas enjoys nighttime. As time proceeds from east to west on earth, the five prayers as mentioned above, must be performed at the stipulated times in succession according to the angles of the Sun at the particular place without violating the order. Thus no time in the world passes without a Muslim prayer.
In the second year of the Hijra the order to turn towards the Ka'aba, during the prayer, was revealed in the Holy Qur'aan (2: 144). Supposing the Earth to be a vast area with the Ka'aba at a particular place, imagine what will happen to the people in prayer on both the sides of Ka'aba at the last ends. A diagram will explain this better. (Diagram No2)
When all people turn towards the Ka'aba what will happen to those at the ends, if the ends are joined together as it is upon the globe? The people at the ends (A and B) will face towards the opposite directions and their backs will meet! This condition does not contradict the Qur'aan, which says: "Righteousness is not that you face East or West." (2:177) At a certain place on the Earth the Muslims must necessarily face towards the opposite directions during their prayers! Where on the Earth could this happen?
The Kiblah of a town cannot be towards opposite directions. All Muslims in a town must face to one direction in their prayer. But as the Earth is a globe, a place where the Muslims must necessarily turn towards opposite directions while in prayer, where two days of Jumu'a are experienced and where a man crossing from one place to the other loses or gains 5 prayers of the day, is inevitable. This cannot happen on a land inhabited by people. Such a place can be only at sea.
The Imams of the past have written down the rules for such a place. According to them it should be separated by a sea or an uninhabitable mountainous barrier, which makes the two sides approachable only by travel in which the Shariah could allow lessening of the canonical prayers. Here a traveler must change his Kiblah, his Day and his Date. This is the Meeqatul Kiblah of which we have mentioned in the beginning. The Meeqatul Kiblah is one of the Signs of Allah (swt). It must be recognized and respected by all people. (Q.22: 32). The diagram shows how the Kiblah lines radiating from the Islamic Center, Makkah towards all directions meet on the Meeqatul Kiblah, the date line. (See the diagram 3) The Kiblah lines radiate towards all directions of the compass from Ka'aba and in a line on the Meeqatul Kiblah on the opposite side of the Ka’bah.
Since a traveler is allowed to lessen his prayers (4:101) the peculiarity of losing or gaining of the prayers during a travel across the Meeqatul Kiblah is not a problem. The diagram explains how the west and east Kiblah lines radiating from the Ka'aba meet and form a line passing from the north pole to the south pole of the Earth through the Bering Strait which is the only gap separating the two continents of Asia and America. The Kiblah lines radiating towards north and south of the Ka'aba do not cross the poles and reach the opposite side. (See diagram No. 4). It is noteworthy that the Qur'aan does not mention north and south in relation to Kiblah. It mentions East and West only.
The Meeqatul kiblah or the date line has to be zigzag to allow one Kiblah, one Day for those who had already settled and established their Day and Kiblah when they occupied the islands near it. They were living there without knowing each other till the explorers detected them. The inhabitants on the East observe the East Kiblah and Thursday, while the inhabitants on the West observe the West Kiblah and Friday. There is one day's difference at this place on the Earth. The Islamic Shariah forbids the change of Day, Date and Kiblah at any other place in the world. The diagram 5 shows the Kiblah lines meeting with the counterparts. When these are connected we get the Meeqatul Kiblah, the International Date Line running from north to south. This is the boundary for the West and the East on the Earth.
The Meeqatul Kiblah is about 9 hours ahead of Makkah. The Zuhar prayers of Thursday end and the Jumu'a prayers of Friday begin immediately from here. This is the Zero hour of the world. All calendar dates must change at the Zero hour. Days and dates of the Islamic calendar also begin here at the Zero hour at noon. Corresponding time at the Ummul Qura, the Center of Islam is "Sahar" (the last part of the night) and at London, situated exactly on the opposite side of the Meeqatul Kiblah, it is midnight. Allah (swt) had ordered the Prophet (saw) to observe the singular Kiblah and change the Day at 'Sahar' time in the second year of the Hijra about 1400 years ago and the Muslims began to practice it since that time. The navigators in 1886 AD found out the Date Line of Islam defined at the time of the Prophet (saw). Those who established it did not know the Islamic rules for a date line!
The day dawns first for those who live near the 'Meeqatul Kiblah' 9 hours before it dawns at Makkah. So they must observe all religious rites of the day 9 hours before Makkah. In fasting and feasting also they will be 9 hours ahead. They cannot postpone any ritual saying that the Center has not yet done it. The order of time sequence in the world must be strictly adhered to. Violation of time order in performing the rituals is forbidden in the Shariah. For the same reasons a time bound prayer cannot be postponed. (2:189, 17:78, 9:37). So a gap of 24 hours (a day) must be observed between the Islands on either side of the Meeqatul Kiblah, the International Date Line. This means that those to the west observing the West Kiblah shall observe Friday while those to the east observing East Kiblah observe Thursday.
Meeqatul Kiblah is the Date line of the Islamic calendar. A Day begins depending on the Sun. "Have you not seen how your Lord spread the shadow. If He willed He could have made it still. But we have made the Sun its indicator" (25:45). The shadow shrinks as the Sun rises and vanishes at noon and then again appears in the afternoon with the decline of the Sun. It goes on lengthening till the sunset, indicating our time. Had there been no sunlight, there would have been no shadow. The Sun indicates day, night and our time. So date, which stands in place of a Day should begin with the Day. A date line cannot shift from place to place because people living on the sides of the Date line must observe different days. This is not practicable on a land.
Unfortunately some Muslim astronomers have suggested that lunar date lines should be marked on the world map for the Muslims to begin their fasting and celebrating their Eid. According to them this would be on the first visibility of the crescent. The so-called curved lunar date lines always keep on changing and they pass through cities, towns and even houses! They do not abide the rules of the date line. So the lunar date lines are impractical and meaningless. They are neither scientific nor Islamic. An example of the three lunar date lines plotted on the world map for a year indicating the appearing of the crescent of Ramadan, Shawwal and Zul Hajj of the Islamic calendar is given in the diagram 5.
Our knowledge of time is in relation to the rotation of the Earth with reference to the Sun. To count the number of rotations of a wheel, two marks are necessary; one in the rotating wheel and one stationary, outside. When these two marks meet, one rotation is counted. In the same way to count the rotations of the Earth a mark on the Earth and a mark outside are needed. The mark on the Earth is the Meeqatul Kiblah and the external mark is the Sun. When both meet, one rotation for the Earth or one day is counted. To get the correct count we need a stationary mark outside. But our mark, the Sun is moving and the Earth too is perambulating the Sun. So we will not be able to count the number of the Earth's rotations exactly with the help of the celestial objects, which too are in motion. We need not worry about the correct number of the Earth's rotations because our time is not connected with that. Our days depend only on sunrise and sunset.
We record the count of days in dates. So if we calculated with the average length of a day, measured in relation to the Sun or the other objects, which too are really moving, we would make errors in calculating our old dates. So the Creator has provided us with a wonderful system to calculate our time and has ordered us to use the Moon for the purpose so that we may not make mistakes and be confused in calculating our dates. "He has appointed Manazil for it (the Moon) so that you may know the count of the ages (of the Moon) and the calculations."(Q.10: 5) We follow the instructions of the manufacturers in using of our home appliances. In the same way we must follow the instructions of the Creator in order to be on the right track concerning our times and dates.
After having defined the beginning of a Day under the light of the Holy Qur'aan and the Sunnah let us try to define the beginning of a month of the Islamic calendar. The Qur'aan has already explained that our dates and months should depend on the Moon. The Sun cannot catch the Moon. (36:40). The Earth has already caught it. It rotates around the Earth. One rotation of the Moon around the Earth with reference to the Sun is one month. As the Moon travels in its course, the change of its position in relation to the Sun creates changes in the phases of the Moon seen from the Earth. This marks the dates for the people. (2:189) (diagram No. 7 explains it)
A solar eclipse (New moon) can occur only when the Sun is in line with the Moon and the Moon is between the Sun and the Earth. Since it can happen at any part of the day, it is called the new moon day. The Islamic month ends with it and the next month begins. A month can begin only with a Day. So the next day is treated as the first day of the ensuing month. The dates of the Islamic calendar must tally with the phases or the Manazil of the Moon. (2:189, 10:5, 36:38-40) Thus a lunar eclipse should occur only on the full moon day in the middle of the month when the Moon is behind the Earth and enters into the shadow of the Earth. A solar eclipse should occur on the new moon day in the end of the month when the shadow of the Moon falls on the Earth. Since the plain of the Moon's orbit is slanted by 5 degrees the eclipses do not occur every month. They occur only when the crossing coincides on a line at the end or the middle of the lunar month. So the Islamic dates that depend on the angles of the Moon in relation to the Sun can be checked on such occasions with the naked eye observations. The Days could be found out exactly by using astronomical calculations.
Diagram 8 solar and lunar eclipses
The Islamic month ends when the Moon competes her cycle around the Earth on the new moon day and this is calculated taking the Sun as the reference point to begin the cycle. When the Sun, the Moon and the Earth come in a line the cycle is complete and the next one begins. (See the diagram) This moment is known as the conjunction or new moon. The Hilal can be seen at different times at different places on the Earth, just as the sunset, many hours before and after the conjunction. Some times a solar eclipse can be witnessed at the time of the Eid prayer at some places on the Earth. (Imam Shafi, Fat'hul Barri Vol, 2)). It happens due to the error of parallax.
The month should change just after the conjunction. Conjunction or new moon is calculated with the center of the Earth. During a solar eclipse the shadow of the moon falls on the Earth. The shadow crawls on the surface of the Earth with time. If one travels with it, the eclipse can be seen for a longer time. The first and the last is not the conjunction. The middle one is the conjunction. A diagram explains it better. See diagram No. 9
Our time depends upon the angles of the Sun in relation to the horizon. Our dates depend upon the angles of the Moon in relation to the Sun. The horizon has nothing to do with this. We can know our time without seeing the Sun or the shadow. There is no objection to use other means of finding out our time in the Shariah. Then why should there be any objection to use other means for finding out our dates that depend upon the angles of the Moon when the Qur'aan informs us that both the Sun and the Moon are with calculations? Can we use calculation for both, our time and our date? The Ulema should give a verdict on this issue.
The Prophet (saw) who taught the Qur'aan to the unlettered Arabs of his time taught them the easy method of finding out their time by observing the Sun. He also taught them the easy method of finding out their dates by observing the Moon. They were not in the habit of writing, calculating or recording their time. The Prophet (saw) asked them to learn wisdom, the art of reading, writing, recording and calculating. He did not forbid them to learn, but on the other hand, he enjoined them to acquire knowledge in every faculty of learning from wherever it was possible.
In the days of the Prophet (saw) Arabs were using the Jewish lunar calendar, which had a fixed number of days for every month, 30 or 29 alternating and had leap years to adjust their artificial months with the natural calendar. He gave instructions to correct the dates according to the Ahillah (Manazil of the Moon) (2:189). He ordered to avoid the leap years and make the calendar fully natural. The deviation of dates from the Manazil of the Moon was not allowed because if a day of Sha'ban entered into Ramadan, Halal and Haram of Allah (swt) would be violated. Sha'ban according to the Jewish calendar always had 29 days where as it could have 30 days also and all months of Ramadan had 30 days, but Ramadan too could have 29 days according to the Moon's phase (Ahillah). That is why the Prophet (saw) ordered to observe the Moon and correct the dates accordingly. The final amendments of the calendar were announced during the Hajjathul Wida.
There are 12 months in a year (9:36). We know what will happen if a date is skipped over. The Qur'aan forbids the intercalations (9:37). The observation of the Moon for long periods gives us the average number of 354.3671days for a year and 29.53059 days for a month. (29.53059x12=354.3671). Astronomers have proved that the statement of the Prophet (saw) that the lunar months have 29 or 30 days is correct.
Since the dates of the months are related to the days of the week, but not to the places, the months of the Islamic calendar should begin from the Meeqatul Qibla with the day. Now the Muslims do not practice the Islamic calendar, instead they rely and depend on the Christian dates for their daily use. So they do not have any idea about the Islamic calendar! They foolishly believe that the Islamic months will begin only when they see the Hilal with their naked eyes at the sunset differently at different places! It is wrong to say that time will wait for man and different towns could have different dates in the Islamic calendar!
The Christian Calendar and the errors in it
Julius Caesar had instituted his calendar in 46 B.C. Later the Christians adopted it as their calendar. It had accumulated an error of about 10 days by 1582 AD! Pope Gregory removed 10 days and changed the rules of the calendar, and it is known as the Gregorian calendar since then.
The exact measure of the solar year was not known when Julius Caesar instituted the calendar. Even today we do not know the exact measure! It was regarded as 365.25 days. Later it was estimated that the Earth takes 365 days 5hrs 48 minutes and 49 seconds to make a rotation around the Sun according to the correction made in 1582 AD. This is 365.2422 days and this too will change whenever the accumulated error of days is corrected at an interval.
The error of 0.0078 days added up every year amounts to 15.6 days in 2000 years! This means that 15.6 days would have passed without sunrise! In a solar-based dating system the error will accumulate without our notice and days will have to be eliminated from the calendar at intervals in order to adjust with the natural system. This sort of meddling with the calendar will create confusion in calculating the passage of our time. Such a dating system cannot be good for recording the events of history.
Had the people of the past used the lunar phases for their dates to record their events, we will not have had problems in finding out the actual days on which the incidents in the past had occurred. But now we are in utter confusion. We do not arrive at the recorded date and day by calculation. The Qur'aan says, "The Sun and the Moon are with calculation" (55:5). So both the Sun and the Moon should be used for calculating the passage of our time.
Renowned mathematicians and astronomers have calculated the date of birth of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). But all of them have gone wrong. They give different dates for the Prophet's birth! The fact that a person cannot be born on two days indicates that there is some thing wrong with their calculations. Their dates do not tally with the historical records too. This is because the calendar had been meddled with and the omissions are not taken into account correctly.
We have a record of two events of the past recorded in two calendars. If we calculate the number of days elapsed between the two incidents according to the two calendar systems we can see what happens when a defective calendar is used to record time. The equivalent dates and days of two solar eclipses of the past are given below as recorded according to two calendars.
Solar eclipses recorded according to C.E and M.E.
1. C.E. 22-07-1990 Sunday. M.E. 30-12-1410 Sunday.
2. C.E. 14-07-0622 Wednesday. M.E. 30-12-0000 Wednesday.
08-00-1378 years. 00-00-1410 years=Time elapsed.
Total No f of days elapsed according to C.E. 1368 x 365.25+8 = 499670.00 days
Total No of days elapsed according to ...M.E 1410 x 354.3671 = 499657.16 days
The error accumulated in C.E for 1378 years is 12.39 days. At the same time there is no error in M.E. From this we can see that the Lunar dating system is perfect. If we calculated our time without involving the Moon we would make mistakes and we would not know that there is a mistake! We will be left in confusion. It is high time that we adopted the scientific dating system and used it in our day-to-day life so that we may not create confusion for the future generations.
If we have the consensus to prepare the scientific lunar calendar based on the phases of the Moon as per the rules of the Qur'aan for the entire world, we can have the first of Ramadan on the same day for each and every Muslim on earth. Likewise we can celebrate the Eid also on the same day in all countries. Let me remind that the Holy Prophet (saw) has forbidden fasting on the Day of Eid. How is it justifiable to have fasting and feasting on the same day? If we agree that it can be so we are admitting that there can be mistakes in the calculations of Allah the Almighty also.
Observing Ramadan and Eid on the correct days which will be same for all people in the world as commanded by Allah (swt) will lead us to the much required unity, harmony and peace of the people in various parts of the world.
Kindly think over the problem and the relevance of the Meeqatul Qibla, which is very important to define the dates of the Islamic calendar. The Lunar Date Lines suggested by some Muslim astronomers are neither scientific nor Islamic.
May Allah bless us with open minds and intelligence to find out his orders and systems, which are hidden in Nature and help us to live accordingly!