Naked Eye Versus Aided Eye Sighting

Posted: 2014-07-26

These are the two means of sighting the moon. Naked eye involves the use of the natural eyes to sight the crescent moon. However, this is an archaic method used from time immemorial. It may not give the true and clear picture of what is actually sighted particularly when searching for a very young new crescent which appears so tiny. A cloud or reflection can be confused and assumed for this type of moon. Using a sophisticated telescope will give a clearer image as it brings the object closer. What is seen with a telescope is very correct. The most absurd case is when d crescent moon is not sighted with any sophisticated telescope handled by experts and the moon is claimed to be sighted with the naked eyes. This was exactly what happened on the 27th of June, 2014, leading to some people beginning fasting on the 28th of June. In this case the absurdity is not concealed as the reality of the matter cannot in the least way be justified. Telescopes are capable of viewing tiny moon from about 13hours above of which the naked eye can only pick from about 17hrs and above provided the weather is clear and fine. On the 27th of July, naked eye sighting is only possible in certain areas of America such as Polynesian Island upon which we cannot rely as the latitudinal and longitudinal differences are not comparable. Similarly is the time difference not related and not friendly with what we have here as well as other geographical locations of which the mamlakatul arabiyya as-su'uudiyya (Saudi Arabia) is not exempted. The possibility of sighting in many parts of the world is only telescopic which if justified remains valid and established as a justification for culminating the fast of Ramadaan this year on the appearance on 27th and 1st of Shawwaal on 28th. Other factors may make the moon invisible such as cloudy weather (as humidity is inversely related to visibility of the crescent moon) as will be experienced in Lagos or position of d moon, motion of the moon (slow or fast?), Danjon Effect, Azimuth, Angular Separation (moon is invisible when the angular separation is less than 7.5 degrees).

Note: The angular separation (elongation) of the moon from the sun is the most important factor in moon’s visitibility among several other factors combined. At the angle 7degrees, no sun light reflected from the moon comes to the earth (and the moon is only visible by reflection) meaning that the sun is not formed to see from the earth (this is due to the mountains on the surface of the moon that block the sunlight coming to the earth-Danjon effect). Between 7,2 and 7.5 degrees the crescent is invisible to the eyes, because the brightness of this thin crescent is less than the brightness of the sky. At elongation less than 7.5 degrees telescopes do not pick the thin crescent. There are two motions exhibited by the moon: fast and slow motions. During fast motion the moon moves faster when it is at perigee (I.e. when it is closer to the earth) and during this condition, the crescent could be sighted between 11H 30M  - 15H by telescope and 17H-18H or in less than 23H for the moon age provided the weather is fine (not cloudy). Slow motion is when the moon moves at slow motion when it is at apogee (i.e. farther from the earth). In this case, the crescent is not visible until more than 23H are elapsed (moon age) before sunset time from after conjunction.

South Africa has a greater telescopic chance (of sighting the crescent on Sunday, 27th of July) but also based on the weather. Projections from astronomical information indicate possibility using telescope in areas other than northern America (where naked eye sighting is feasible). The moon will be visible to the naked eye big and clear on d 28th of July because the age is 43H 28M (two days after conjunction).

Because Sunday 27th of July is the correct 29th of Ramadaan you won't hear anyone in the world claiming that the moon is sighted on Saturday 26th (28th of Ramadaan because the new moon is born via conjunction at 11.42pm on Saturday 26th). I don’t think anybody should claim sighting of the moon after sunset on Saturday as the moon expected to be seen is yet to be born. The most authentic and reliable day for eid is Tuesday 29th (if 30 days of Ramadaan is completed) of July (and the only possibility of sighting anywhere in Nigeria on Sunday 27th is Telescopic) but because we don't want some people to fast for 31days we are hoping if they can be fatwa by consensus of scholars in the south-west to break and observe ‘eid on Monday 28th based on possibility of sighting the crescent on the 27th of July in some areas with telescope. This is only if the telescope will sight it in areas like South Africa provided the weather is fine and not cloudy and on the condition that it is sighted and confirmed. Because chances of sighting are now very slim due to bad (cloudy) weather condition in many parts of the world. If not, we shall follow the sunna and complete 30days of Ramadaan which shall end on Monday 28th of July.

The problem we often encounter is from the people using only hisaab (calculation) and also the people using turaab (sand divinity). This is because these two methods can only give them information on when the moon is born (conjunction) and a new moon is different from a new crescent (hilaal). A new moon is an invisible moon which cannot be seen by any means. After the birth of the new moon it takes about 13-15hrs before aided eye visibility can occur and about 17-21hrs for naked eye visibility (subject to the condition of the weather).

Important Information:

-The new crescent is sighted between 8-20mins after sunset. Hence, nobody should claim sighting at 30minutes or above after sunset. This is because the new crescent does not stay long and it sets (just like the sun) some few minutes after its first appearance.

-The time of sunset is important when sighting the new crescent.

-It is a false claim when the new moon is claimed to be sighted at any time from about 30mins after sunset and above.

-This is because the moon sets just as the sun and at about 30mins a new crescent has set and no one could sight it any further in that location.

-It is a wrong idea that must be abolished to alternate between 29 and 30 days for the lunar months as it has no scientific bases. It is one of the wrong notions promoting problem on beginning the lunar months as it is the principle innovated by some people producing lunar calendars.

-We have more of 30days lunar months than 29days. This is because the Mean Synodic Period (New moon to new moon) is 29.5305888days. The additional fraction is responsible for having more of 30days lunar month than 29days within a lunar year.

-Two of 30days lunar months can follow each other and two of 29days can also follow each other. Therefore, no one should insist that because the first month is 29days the second month has to be 30days.

-Thinking that the crescent cannot be sighted in Nigeria (or other places) if it was not sighted in Saudi Arabia or Mecca is a wrong notion. This is because Saudi is 2hrs ahead of Nigeria. This 2hrs increase the age of the moon by 2hrs and give more chances of sighting it in Nigeria or any other country towards the west.

This is what will happen on the 27th of July. The moon is travelling from the east to appear in the west while the earth is equally rotating. By the time the moon gets to the west arrears towards the east of Nigeria such as Saudi would have passed and missed the moon while areas towards the west of Nigeria would meet the moon before it sets.

-Why the sightings in Nigeria are often faulted is because they confer more of hisaab result such as birth of new moon occurring before sunset and of which the crescent is not visible.

-It should be understood that the issue of the moon is like a programming and the more you study it the more you understand it. Therefore, scholars or Imaams who preach that sighting is subject to mu‘jiza from Allaah should think wise and that is why the sun does not rise from the west and set in the east. This is known as programming (Taqdeer) and Allaah says: ‘wal qamara qaddarnaahu manaazila hattaa ‘aada kal ‘urjuunil qadeem’ (And the moon We have programmed it to have phases until it returns like an old date stalk). Q36: 39. Here, the old date stalk means the waning crescent before the topocentric conjunction and the phases refer to the programmed eight traditional phases: waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, frost or full moon, waning gibbous, second quarter, waning crescent and the new moon (at conjunction).

-Imaams who have no idea of the knowledge of moon sighting and the scientific bases of the moon should have no say on this issue and should not be consulted or allowed to give order on when to start or end Ramadaan.

-NSCIA should come up with a standard scientific lunar calendar (designed and checked by those informed about this issue) and discourage Muslims from using the wrong and misleading calendar found in almost every mosque and house. This will be based on conjunction and only when visibility is possible.

-Ramadaan is based on actual and confirmed visibility and not hisaab (calculation of when the moon is born and not when it is visible).

-The predominant idea of thinking once the moon is born it is assumed that it must be sighted somewhere on earth and thus people should start fasting or end fasting the following day should be discouraged as it is predominant in Nigeria.

-Sand divinity (turaab) as predominant in Nigeria for getting information about the moon should be discouraged and Astronomical calculation and information on this issue should be encouraged.

-There should be more awareness and counseling on this issue. NSCIA should organize meetings at least twice a year. The reason being that Muslims begin Muharram at wrong dates (a day or two earlier) as well as other important months like Rajab. This has led the Government to declaring wrong dates as public holidays for the Muslims because the people who are much informed are not consulted.

-Muslims should prepare for ‘eid on Monday 28th if the sighting is confirmed on the 27th by appropriate and reliable means.

-Sighting claim that is against astronomical calculations and information should be disregarded and this is why Sunday 27th of July cannot be 1st of Shawwaal

-We can follow the sighting of any neighboring country within acceptable time difference (not more than 3 hours) provided the sighting is confirmed.

Nurudeen Ibrahim.
Saturday, 26th July, 2014.
Saturday, 28th Ramadaan, 1435.
(Biochemistry, UNILAG, and Director of IRFAN ARABIC and ISLAMIC INSTITUTE- 08027091623).