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[Moiez a Tapia is Chairman Emeritus of Universal Heritage Institute, P.O.B. 248384
MIAMI, FL 33124-8384. Tapia can be contacted by E- Mail
or Tel.: (305) 284-5565, (305) 666-9590 ]                     8/30/06



The Islamic way of life is very dynamic and is based on the unchanging principles given explicitly or implicitly in the Noble Qur'aan and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH]. These principles have led to different methods and ways of Islamic life during different times due to different levels of technological development and sociological conditions and the ability of the deep-sighted scholars of Islam to convince the masses. The principles underlying these changing methods, however, never change.

Calculations for Suhoor Time Widely Accepted:
- The verse 187 of Surah 2, Albaqarah, gives a method of determining the end of the period of Suhoor: "And eat and drink until the [first] streak of light of dawn becomes clear to you against the darkness [of night]." This was the method used by Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] and the earlier Muslims since they did not know how to precompute the instant of time when the first streak of light in the morning occurs. The verse defines a particular instant of time and it is important to adhere to it and not necessarily to the method suggested in the verse. Any other way of establshing that instant, if possible, would be acceptable. In fact Muslim astronomers who did the pioneering work in astronomy did compute and prepare schedules for this instant of time for any day of a year—past, present or future--for various places on the earth. These schedules are used by most Muslims today. They are using a method different from the one in the Noble Qur'aan, but they still satisfy the basic principle in the Qur'aan relating to the time for end of the Suhoor.

Calculations for Maghrib Time Accepted:
- In order to determine the time of sunset for breaking fast or to offer Maghrib Salaah prayer, the Prophet [PBUH] and earlier Muslims used to wait and watch the setting of the sun when the sky was clear. They did not know how to compute the time for sunset. Sighting the sunset with the naked eyes was the only way! Of course, in modern times, perhaps no Muslim goes out to watch the setting of the sun. Schedules giving distinct times for sunset for any day in a year--past, present or future--for various places on the earth are now available and they are almost universally used. Their use of this method different from what the Prophet [PBUH] used is not a violation of the Sunnaah since the basic principle in the method used by the Prophet [PBUH] is preserved.

Calculations for Asr Time Accepted:
- In order to determine the time for the Asr Salaah prayer, the Prophet [PBUH] used a stick and placed it vertically on the ground. If the length of the shadow of the stick equalled [or exceeded] the length of the stick, it was time for the Asr Salaah prayer. Nowadays we do not use a stick but we use schedules computed by Muslim astronomers to know the time for the Asr Salaah prayer.

Airplanes and Automobiles Replace Camels and Horses:
- The Prophet [PBUH] used a camel to travel in those days since that was safe and the fastest mode of traveling in that part of the world. Nobody doubts that traveling by a bus, car, train or airplane is permitted by the Qur'aan and the Sunnaah.

The Prophet [PBUH] wrote letters to communicate. He would certainly approve the use of telephone, fax, radio, internet, television, etc. to convey message. He would approve the use of microwave and conventional electric ovens, airconditioning, the modern blessings of Allaah [SWT]-- to make our lives easy and comfortable. We have to consult Muslim dentists to determine if appropriate toothbrushes and toothpastes are available that would do the task that a Mishwak does.

Different dresses that many devout Muslims throughout the world wear today are different from what the Prophet [PBUH] and his wives wore in those days since these dresses worn by modern Muslims do conform to the principles of the Qur'aan and the Sunnaah.

Principles Used by the Prophet [PBUH] Are To Be Followed:
- The fact that scholars have approved new methods for determining times for different Salaah prayers and the time for the end of Suhoor shows that methods different than those used by the Prophet [PBUH] are consistent with the Noble Qur'aan and the Sunnah as long as these new methods satisfy the principles which are behind the methods stated in the Noble Qur'aan and those actually used by the Prophet (PBUH).

Level of of Asronomy, Mathematics and Computational Devices:
- The Prophet [PBUH] is reported to have said that the Ummah at that time was not literate and did not know how to write or to compute [complicated mathematics pertaining to astronomical calculations]. It was early Muslim scientists, inspired by the Noble Qur'aan, who made pioneering work in astronomy.

- Later the awakened scholars of Europe that was sleeping in darkness developed mathematics and astronomy much further. Our knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and computer science and engineering today has now reached a state that enables us to compute the position of the moon, the time for the new moon during any month, and the time for moonrise, moonset, sunrise and sunset on any day of the year--present or any time in the future--at any place on the earth with an accuracy better than ever. We can break fast without witnessing the sunset with our own eyes or without hearing about it from witnesses who have seen it with our own eyes.

Did Our Prophet [PBUH] Use Knowledge of Astronomy?
- The Muslims used the Jewish calendar before Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] migrated from Makkah to Madinah. This calendar has a lunar month and it has an additional thirteenth month every two or three years so that it keeps fairly close to the motion of the earth in its orbit around the sun. It was known in those days that a lunar month has at least 29 days but no more than 30 days. The Prophet [PBUH] did use this knowledge. He did not ask us to look for the new moon on any night before the 28th night. He asked to look for it on the 29th night. He did not ask to look for it on the 30th night if the moon was not sighted on the 29th night since the new moon would definitely be born by then. Many scholars today are convinced that the Prophet [PBUH] would not not ask us to look for the moon on the 29th night, if there were some definite way of knowing that the new moon is already born.

Consistency in Application of Astronomical Knowledge Necessary
In this age of space exploration, it is well known that the science of astronomy, aided by highly accurate and super-speed computers, yield highly precise calculations relating to the position, in space, of the sun, the moon and other celestial bodies at various instants of time even if these instants are separated by fractions of a second. Allaah [SWT] told us about 1400 years ago in Ayah 5 of Surah 55, Alrahman, "The sun and the moon follow courses [exactly] computed." During the earlier days of Islam, people mixed up astronomy with astrology and magic. Since both magic and astrology are forbidden in Islam, scholars who did not understand astronomy as an exact science, rejected it [ 1].The sightability of the new moon at given place on the earth with the naked eye is probabilistic, depending on the cloud intensity at the place at sunset time, the height of the place above the sea-level, etc. We have already accepted the validity of astronomical calculations for predetermining the times of the end of Suhoor, sunrise, midday, Asr time, sunset time and Isha' time. Among the educated circles around the world, the schedules for these prayer times are available and widely used. Nobody insists on going out to witness the sunset physically before breaking fast in Ramadan or look for the first streak of light in the morning before calling the Adhan or on using a stick to determine the Asr Salaah time. Using precalculated schedules has become widely accepted as an approach consistent with the Noble Qur'aan and the Sunnah.

Recent Approaches:
There was an international Islamic Committee set up in the early 1970's, which met in Islamabad, Pakistan, to come with a uniform global Islamic Calendar. The Committee recommended a predetermined global calendar based on the position of the moon with respect to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately the governments of Muslim countries could not enforce it.

In October 1992, the ISNA Fiqh Council explored the possibility of having a predetermined calendar. Dr. Jamal Badawi, a member of the Committee and a recognized scholar, agreed with the calendar in principle but felt that the Ummah was not yet ready to accept it and advised that a campaign should be undertaken to educate the community about the truth of the matter from the point of view of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah. Dr. Ihsan Bagby, another member of the Committee, also agreed in principle with the acceptability of calculations in place of naked-eye sightings. Shaykh Qardawi, a highly eminent scholar of our time, supports a predetermined calendar.

The Announcement of the Fiqh Council of North America:
- The recent announcement of the Fiqh Council of North America is a bold and courageous step to mobilize the Ummah to institute a pre-calculated, moonsighting-independent calendar and push Muslims to embark on an Islamic renaissance. Let us hope and pray to Allaah [SWT] that scholars and governments of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia and other Muslim countries support this bold step.

The excellent article by Dr. Zulfikar Ali Shah [2] eliminates all doubts about every continent having its own distinct [Matla'] and distinct calendar. It establishes the necessity of adopting a unified, global Islamic calendar.

What Do We Do When There Are Many Alternatives?
- Whenever our Prophet [PBUH] had to choose from a number of permitted alternatives, he always chose the easiest one. When Allaah[SWT] blesses us with favors of new knowledge of science and technology, and techniques and methods to facilitate our lives, then by this Hadith we have an obligation to choose the easiest one. Who can deny these favors of Allaah [SWT]?

- References:

[1] Shah, Zulfikar Ali, "Astronomical Calculations: A Fiqhi Discussion," Presented before the Fiqh Council of North America and accepted by it on June 10, 2006.

[2] Shah, Zulfikar Ali, "The Unity of Horizons or Variety of Horizons," Presented before the Fiqh Council of North America and accepted by it on June 10, 2006.




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