Thursday, January 17, 2008
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
yearpast, 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 Quraan, but they still satisfy the basic principle in the Quraan
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 Quraan and the
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
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 Quraan
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 Quraan 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 Quraan, who made pioneering work in
- 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 Quraan and the Sunnah.
There was an international Islamic Committee set up in the early 1970s, 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 Quraan 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  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]?
 Shah, Zulfikar Ali, Astronomical Calculations: A Fiqhi Discussion,
Presented before the Fiqh Council of North America and accepted by it on June
 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.
MOIEZ A TAPIA , Chairman Emeritus
Universal Heritage Institute
MIAMI, FL 33124-8384
Tel.: (305) 284-5565, (305) 666-9590