How to Sight the New Crescent Moon and Why It Matters for Muslims

The Islamic calendar is based on the phases of the moon, and each month begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon (hilal) in the sky. This means that the start of each month, and the Islamic festivals that depend on it, such as Ramadan and Eid, can vary by a day or two depending on where you live and how clear the sky is.

But why do Muslims follow the lunar calendar, and how do they sight the new crescent moon? In this blog post, we will explore the history, significance, and methods of moon sighting in Islam.

The History and Significance of Moon Sighting in Islam

The lunar calendar has been used by many ancient civilizations, including the Arabs, who were familiar with the cycles of the moon and the stars. When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) received the revelation of Islam in the 7th century CE, he continued to use the lunar calendar as a way of organizing time and marking important events.

One of the benefits of the lunar calendar is that it keeps the Islamic months and seasons in sync, unlike the solar calendar, which drifts by about 11 days every year. This means that Ramadan, the month of fasting, can occur in any season, giving Muslims the opportunity to experience different levels of difficulty and reward.

Another benefit of the lunar calendar is that it reminds Muslims of their dependence on Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. By following the natural signs of the moon, Muslims acknowledge that Allah is the one who controls time and destiny, and that He alone knows the unseen.

The Quran, the holy book of Islam, mentions the moon as one of the signs of Allah, and encourages Muslims to use it for reckoning time. For example, Allah says in Surah Yunus, verse 5:

It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases – that you may know the number of years and account [of time]. Allah has not created this except in truth. He details the signs for a people who know.


The Quran also mentions the new crescent moon as a marker for the start of the months, especially the sacred months of Ramadan and Dhul-Hijjah, when Muslims perform the acts of worship of fasting and pilgrimage. For example, Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 189:

They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, “They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj.” And it is not righteousness to enter houses from the back, but righteousness is [in] one who fears Allah. And enter houses from their doors. And fear Allah that you may succeed.


The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also instructed his companions to sight the new crescent moon at the beginning of each month, and to fast when they see it at the start of Ramadan, and to celebrate Eid when they see it at the end of Ramadan. He said in a famous hadith:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: Observe fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break it on sighting it. But if (due to clouds) the actual position of the month is concealed from you, you should then count thirty (days).


The Methods of Moon Sighting in Islam

There are two main methods of moon sighting in Islam: the local method and the global method. The local method means that Muslims in each location should sight the new crescent moon for themselves, or rely on the testimony of trustworthy witnesses in their vicinity. The global method means that Muslims can accept the sighting of the new crescent moon from any place in the world, as long as it is verified and communicated.

The local method is more in line with the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions, who did not have the means of knowing the sightings of other regions. It is also more accurate and reliable, as it depends on the actual visibility of the moon, which can vary due to factors such as latitude, altitude, horizon, weather, and optical aids.

The global method is more convenient and unifying, as it allows Muslims to start and end the month at the same time, regardless of their location. It is also more feasible and accessible, as it relies on the calculations and announcements of astronomical bodies and Islamic authorities.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and there is a difference of opinion among Muslim scholars and communities on which one to follow. Some prefer the local method, while others prefer the global method. Some try to combine both methods, by accepting the global sighting as long as it is possible for their location. Some also use astronomical calculations as a backup or confirmation for the actual sighting.

The most important thing is that Muslims should respect and tolerate the differences of opinion on this issue, and avoid any disputes or divisions that may harm their unity and brotherhood. As Allah says in Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 10:

The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.


How to Sight the New Crescent Moon Yourself

If you want to try to sight the new crescent moon yourself, here are some tips and steps you can follow:

  • Find out the expected date and time of the new crescent moon for your location, using reliable sources such as Alhabib HilalMap.
  • Choose a suitable place for moon sighting, preferably a high and open area with a clear view of the western horizon, away from any light pollution or clouds.
  • Use a compass or an app to determine the direction of the sunset and the moonset, and the angle between them. The new crescent moon is usually seen above and to the left of the sunset point, at an angle of 10 to 20 degrees.
  • Go to the place before the sunset, and perform the sunset prayer (Maghrib) if possible. You can also make dua (supplication) and recite some verses of the Quran that mention the moon, such as Surah Al-Fatihah, Surah Yasin, and Surah Al-Qamar.
  • After the sunset, look for the new crescent moon in the sky, using your naked eye or binoculars. The new crescent moon is very thin and faint, and may appear as a white or red arc. It is only visible for a short time, usually 15 to 45 minutes after the sunset, depending on your location and the season.
  • If you see the new crescent moon, you should glorify Allah and say “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest). You can also report your sighting to your local mosque or Islamic authority, or to a website such as Moonsighting or ICOP.
  • If you do not see the new crescent moon, you should complete the current month as 30 days, and start the next month the following day, unless you have a reliable confirmation of the sighting from another place.

Hope it is useful.

Habib bin Hilal

Habib bin Hilal is Editor in Chief of this blog and manager of the website: Alhabib - Coloring with Islam.

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