Countries and Moonsighting.
Though different communities in each country may not begin a new islamic month together, most countries have an official position regarding moon sighting and when to start a new month. According to moonsighting.com, there are currently 43 countries following Saudi moon sighting, 16 countries follow Calculations methods, 30 countries follow local sighting and 4 countries follow global sighting.
Looking at the above statistics of moonsighting around the world, it is clear that there is not a majority opinion. However, countries that follow Saudi, Calculations and Global sighting will most probably start an Islamic month the same date. Many large countries with local sighting will also most probably spot the moon the same date as the rest of the world. This will leave fewer countries 1 or 2 day late. For Shawaal 2017, all countries except 25 did it on the same date ( June 25 )
School of thoughts
Scholars differ on the subject and at many times they interpret the same set of hadiths differently. There are some scholars who are persuaded that their opinion is the only correct one, whereas there are others who say that there is a legitimate difference of opinions in the interpretation of hadiths and proclaim local or global sighting as both valid.
Watch opinion of Dr Muhammed Salah :
Visibility of moon over different regions around the world
Geographically speaking, it is a fact that the crescent of the moon will not appear in certain part of the world the next day following new moon. Some countries in the northern hemisphere will have to wait for 2 days before the crescent is visible.
Visibility of moon in Mauritius
Analysing the different monthly charts from moonsighting.com, it is safe to assume that if the moon is visible in the gulf region, it must have already been visible in the Mauritian sky. Being in the southern hemisphere, we have a better chance of spotting the moon than the gulf region. However, we will not always see it due to bad atmospheric conditions. Since we are a very small country and a cloudy weather in the west of the island probably means that from wherever you look towards the west, you will see the same atmospheric conditions. If from the north of the country, you are looking at the moon direction which is blocked by clouds far away in the horizon, you will probably not see it any better while being in the west or other regions. Therefore moon visibility depends hugely on climatic conditions. Even if the moon age is 24hrs, we might not see the crescent due to poor atmospheric condition.
New moon vs Visibility of Moon
For the moon to be visible with the naked eye, you have to wait for at least 16hours after the birth of the moon. Optical aid is needed for age of moon less than 15hours. However, with modern equipment, it is now possible to see the crescent immediately after it is born! On July 8 2013, a picture was taken with the moon age of 0s! You can find more on the following link :
The use of such equipments must be addressed by the Hilaal committee but will most probably cause another debate!
Questions that arise
- If some countries moon-sighting panel consider communications as prohibited while relaying news of moon sighting, communication is still being used to relay news of moon sighting within that country, independent of its size.
- If we consider calculation as an invalid form for moonsighting, we are still relying hugely on astronomical data for moon sighting such as the time, direction and elevation the crescent will appear.
- If someone claims that he has seen the moon but astronomical data tells us that it would be impossible at the said time, should we consider his testimony as valid?
- If we follow the opinion of the local sighting, and the month of dhul Hijjah starts one day late from Saudia, we are still supposed to fast on the 9th day in our country. However we can see on our TV channel and we have the information that the day of Arafat is not the day we are fasting.
- In Mauritius, when Dhul Hijjah starts 1 day late, some people fast the 8th of Arafat – the date it is Arafat in Saudi and celebrate Eid on the 11th instead of 10.