Happy Eid Mubarakh + Hilal ReflectionsAssalamualaikum!
Happy Eid Mubarakh!
Along with spending time venting on this blog, I also like to go out on hikes, spend time in forests and deserts (during the winter season) and take lotsa photographs that I display on my other blog. I find that the emphasis Islam places on the human's relationship with the earth, and the universe is rarely contemplated on these days - other than the usual apologetics about how Islam is an "environmentalist religion" essays that show up on earth day etc.
I think the annual controversy about how, where, when to sight (or not) the Hilal is a mixed blessing in that it has at least caused some Muslims to take a closer look at why there may be an emphasis on actually seeing the Hilal.
Here, I'd like to see if I can clarify some of the different positions on Hilal sighting - and offer some of my own reflections.
There are, as I see it, two major points of views, each further sub-divided, that I will name and define (the names are subject to change, feel free to offer other names).
a. Central Regionalists
b. Multi-Central Regionalists
a. Astronomical Calculated Sightablity Holistics.
b. Actual Hilal Sight Holistics.
i. Shared Night
ii. Shared Horizon
1. Regionalists base their Hilal sighting on defined regions that are, in our present day, almost always political state boundaries.
a. Central Regionalists look, for the most part, to "Saudi" Arabia - and so, if that state (i.e. the so-called "royal family") declares Eid - then they will do Eid on that day, regardless of any other considerations.
b. Multi-Central Regionalists may not look towards "Saudi" Arabia as a centre, but consider their own region as one centre of many. For example, Zaytuna defines the "North America" region as the political entities of United States and Canada. So, if the Hilal is seen in any part of North America, then Zaytuna will consider that as Eid for the entire North America. However, they will not accept any sighting outside of their defined region of North America as having any relevance to US and Canada.
I consider both of the above to have very limited value in linking and developing ties with Muslims that transcend narrow temporal political boundaries, and even more limited towards looking at our Earth as a unified whole - especially with reference to contemplating the beautiful relationship between the moon and the earth.
The Multi-Central Regionalists have attempted to correct some the shortcomings of Central Regionalists, but still end up placing themselves into an artificial box.
For example, lets look at the sightablity map for the hilal on October 12th, 2007:
The Hilal could easily be seen in all of South America, Central America, and in Mexico. However, in "North America" it could only be seen easily in a very narrow strip of the southern most part of the political entity of the United States. But only a bare 25-75 miles south of San Diego, in Baja California, Mexico, the Hilal could be easily seen. However, because Mexico does not fit in with the definition of "North America" - Multi-Central Regionalists would not accept that sighting as relevant for the political entities of US and Canada. This is an artificial political line drawing on the map, and is not at all how the light of the sun, the reflection of the moon, and the earth relate to each other.
2. Holistics look at the Earth as a whole, and base their sighting on what is called a "shared night" or "shared horizons". For example, regarding "shared night" if the Hilal is seen in one part of the Earth (say, Caracas) - and if at the time of sighting, it is also night (after sunset, before imsak) in another part (say New York City) - then that sighting in Caracas is considered valid and relevant also for New York City. This is based on the fatwas of the late Ayatullah Khoei, and a modified version by Ayatullah Fadhlullah (I don't have the exact wordings of the fatwa on hand - but will link, once I find them).
The Shared Horizon fatwa of Ayatullah Sistani and Ayatullah Khamenei is based on a "shared longitude."
Ayatullah Khamenei's ruling:
Q 834: Is the sameness of horizon considered to be a condition in regards to observing the crescent?
A: It is enough for the crescent to be sighted in the areas of the same horizon, in nearby areas, or in the areas to the east.
Q 835: What is meant by sameness of horizon?
A: When certain areas are located on the same longitude, they are said to share the same horizon.
a. Astronomical Sightablity Holistics require only a calculated probability of sightablity, this is based on Ayatullah Fadhlullah's fatwa.
b. Actual Sight Holistics require the actual sighting of the Hilal by human eyes, and (for the most part) unaided by optics. Ayatullah Khamenei allows for use of binoculars and telescopes.
Lets take a look at how both these rulings works, the map below is for October 12th, about 6:30 PM, US Pacific Daylight Time.
From Map #1 above, we know that the Hilal was to be easily sighted in Baja California, Mexico - at about the time of probable sighting - almost the entire US and Canada is in night, and the Hilal sighting would be considered valid for these regions. Now, we also know from Map #1 that the Hilal can also be easily sighted in Australia, and as the time of hilal sighting approaches parts of Australia, it will still be dark in those part of North America that were still in daylight at the time of Hilal sighting in Baja California.
Again looking at Map#1, based on Ayatullah Sistani's Shared Horizon, the crescent can be seen in southern parts of the earth, but not in the Northern parts on October 12th. Thus, the Hilal can be seen in all of Mexico, Central and South America, and, with some difficulty, in most of the US, but not in Canada. Thus Eid day would be October 13th for the US, and October 14th for Canada. Click here, for a good explanation of the Shared Horizons fatwa.
Both the Holistic methods allows for looking at the earth as a whole, and takes into contemplation the nature of how light, darkness, the moon, and the sun all interact with each other. And allows for a relationship with this beautiful choreograph created by Allah, a Name of Whom is Al-Musawwir. Furthermore, it does not impose restrictions based on temporal artificial political boundaries that are often based, in our present day, on colonialism, imperialism, and wars.
There is no reason why Muslims in North America cannot, in this day and age, effectively communicate with our sisters and brothers in Mexico, Central and South America and accept their sighting just as relevant and valid as from a Muslim in Texas. Such communication, will, inshallah, help us to solidify our communities across politically imposed boundaries, so, we may also transcend narrow nationalisms and tribalims.
"Al-Nas! Worship your Sustainer, who has created you and those who lived before you, so that you might remain conscious of Him who has made the earth a resting-place for you and the sky a canopy, and has sent down water from the sky and thereby brought forth fruits for your sustenance: do not, then, claim that there is any power that could rival God,  when you know . (Qur'an 2:21-2:22)
"Then Hu decorated them with stars and the light of meteors and hung in it the shining sun and effulgent moon under the revolving sky, moving ceiling and rotating firmament." (Imam Ali, Nahjul-Balaga, sermon #1)