The Beginnings of the Lunar (Hijri) Months
There is a juristic opinion that imposes itself on a lot of religious scholars. This opinion considers that sighting the moon [by the naked eye] is the basis of proving the beginning and the end of any lunar month. But from a juristic point of view, according to the way Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, the lunar (Hijri) month is a universal phenomenon that Allah had created before He created man, and He says: “Surely the number of months with Allah is twelve months in Allah’s ordinance” (09:36).
The month is a part of the universal system of defining time. Therefore, the beginning of the month is an objective phenomenon that has nothing to do with whether man sees the crescent or not. It is a manifestation of the astronomical laws that Allah set in the universe to differentiate between one month and another. That is why, once the moon leaves the wane and a certain time elapses until it is able to be seen, Sayyed Fadlullah rules that the month has begun even if nobody sees it. He relies in this ruling on the precision of the astronomical system as defined by the calculations of experienced astronomical scientists, taking into consideration that witnesses may be wrong especially when the sky is not clear. As a result, SayyedFadlullah relies on the astronomical birth of the crescent, coupled with the objective possibility if sighting it. In this respect, the problem of Muslims is that they stick to the apparent meaning of the text without trying to understand its contextual meaning or the idea it is based on.
The crescent is established as being born: by sighting, the testimony of two just persons, the passing of thirty days from the crescent in the previous month and by the ruling of the Islamic judge as well as by any scientific effort that leads to certainty or reassurance that the moon has left the wane which is determined by accurate astronomical calculations that determine its birth, and usually this is not a matter of disagreement; rather, it determines for sure that the crescent is born and has left the wane. However, a certain time should elapse during which the crescent stores a certain quantity of light that enables it to be seen by the naked eye if there are no natural obstacles, and this depends on several factors, some of which are: the age of the crescent, its altitude and angular distance and the viewer’s sharp eye, as well as other factors that take part in the sighting process. Once the crescent is established as born in one country, then it is established as born in every country which shares with the first country a part of the night, even if the horizon is not the same. What is meant is having a common night between the two regions in the sense that the dawn does not break in one of them before the sun sets in the other, so as to establish that the crescent was sighted on the eve of the day before since there exists [the notion of] the unity of the horizon in the entire world, for the lunar month is a month for all the regions of the world, and there is no such thing as a month for every region.