According to reports, the moon ushering in the Holy Month of Ramadan has been sighted in the majority of Middle Eastern countries. Thus, for most Muslims the first day of fasting will begin tomorrow, Wednesday, August 11, 2010!
The organization Crescentwatch also has changed its position with respect to moon sighting. In the past, it has followed a regional sighting in North America as opposed to a global sighting or astronomical calculation. With respect to its policy change, Crescentwatch states on its website:
“Concerning the timings of sacred observances and lunar months in general, the situation of Muslims in North America is unique owing to the composition of our community. On the one hand, there are Muslims representing almost one hundred national and ethnic groups in our community. On the other hand, there is no universally recognized central religious authority. Despite these realities, many Muslim organizations have tried to adhere to a policy of North American moon-sighting for the determination of dates.
“However, at a national level, that effort has been largely unsuccessful for a number of reasons. First of all, the large number of Muslim ethnicities, with many groups of Muslims attempting to coordinate their sacred observances with Muslims in their "home" countries, creates confusion. Secondly, there are significant numbers of Muslims who advocate a policy based upon global moon-sighting, though usually limiting the timings of the sacred occasions to the timing determined by the religious authorities of Saudi Arabia. Recently, a significant number of Muslims, who do rely on moon-sighting, expanded their zone of acceptable sightings to include South America and the Caribbean. Finally, international political realities factor into the decision-making process of some Muslim organizations.
“This situation has resulted in confusion, division and frustration for the average Muslim and most Islamic organizations. It has led to many Muslim communities and even individual families being divided and torn during times when they should be coming together in worship and or celebration. It has contributed to a lot of heartache and pain at a time when Muslims should be joyful. It has also led to an abandonment of the Sunnah of moon-sighting by growing numbers of Muslims and Islamic organizations.
“In light of this situation, Crescentwatch has decided to change its position on moon-sighting from the minority opinion of a regional sighting to the majority opinion of a global sighting. It is hoped that this position will greatly enhance the possibility of Muslims who rely on verified moon-sightings being in harmony with the majority of the community while continuing to base the timing of their sacred occasions on the Sunnah of moon-sighting. Crescentwatch has also decided to release an annual calendar of probable lunar dates based on this global position to assist in limiting the confusion mentioned earlier.
“We pray that this message has helped to clarify our changed position on an unnecessarily contentious issue, and we pray this will lead to greater harmony between the Muslims of North America on this issue. We emphasize that this is an ongoing effort and we will seek to refine our position in light of the feedback and advice we receive from members of our community.”
Please note that Crescentwatch does not advocate using astronomical calculation, which is promoted by some Islamic organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere (click here for article Excellent discussion against starting Ramadan with astronomical calculation).
Crescentwatch also has posted a forecasted calendar for 1431 A.H. (click here)
*Image copied under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
UPDATE 8/12/10: Crescentwatch.org determined that Ramadan did not start on Tuesday night but on Wednesday night, so the first day of fasting was today, Thursday August 12. See statement below:
"Crescentwatch has not received any reliable reports of the new crescent moon being sighted Tuesday evening. We have received numerous negative reports from reliable moon-sighters throughout North and South America, the only locations to have a reasonable likelihood of sighting the moon on Tuesday evening (see visibility charts here).
"We will thus complete the 30 days of Sha'ban and begin Ramadan Wednesday evening with the first day of the fast on Thursday, August 12.
"We nonetheless encourage everyone to go out and look for the new crescent moon on Wednesday evening, and submit their reports here. The crescent would be visible shortly after sunset, slightly to the left, and above where the sun had set. It is a beautiful experience to sight its emergence, and it is a sunnah of our noble Prophet, sal Allahu alayhi wa salam, that we hope the ummah revives.
"* Crescentwatch.org adheres to the traditional principal that Islamic lunar months begin and end based on the confirmed, verifiable sighting of the new crescent moon." (bold emphasis added)
Please note that I am currently trying to track down why it was claimed that the moon had been sighted in Middle Eastern countries.