Saturday, April 13, 2013

Muslim Calendar Needs Immediate Standardization: Shed Me Some Light

This topic is an adapted version of my 2007's post in WordPress [Izat Malezy], which was published on September 2007. I still believe it is an IMPORTANT issue and remains relevant to these days. I'm not challenging or bashing anyone, just consider this as an openness of knowledge. 

"We celebrated Eid on 23rd October. Why you people celebrated on 24th October? Didn’t your country do moon sighting?"
"Though I live in UK, I’m originally from India. So I followed Eid calendar from India. Our country officially celebrated Eid on the 24th"
"Brother, you should have celebrated it on 23rd like us in Saudi Arabia".


The above conversation actually reflects the situation of last year’s Eid al-Fitr. What does this mean? Simple answer isn't it? We Muslims are far from ready from being united. That's the truth! We Muslim are too much divided. Non-standardized Muslim calendar – is it an old issue? Yes it is. We have been talking for long. We like to blame rather than to solve.

I was called to make this homework after a few friends keep on telling me that Malaysia don’t do moonsighting (hilal) but rather fix the date (pre-decided). As far as truth and facts are concerned, I like to keep myself neutral. Therefore I refrain myself from any political and emotional sentiment. What I understand, they do moonsighting, whether there is an element of pre-decided, Allahu a'lam. I don’t want to elaborate the detail in here, because that’s not my aim in this post. Perhaps these links could clarify the misunderstanding.

What I am more concerned about as a Muslim is the unity. Whether we like it or not, we Muslims must be united.

"And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves"
- Surah al-Imran [3:101]


Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha reflect the unity among Muslims around the world. The unsynchronized Eid day is one of many examples showing how divided Muslims are. Take a look at the Eid al-Fitr celebrated last year (tabulated below), in which I used international date line as a point of reference.

Countries with the whole or some parts of the population celebrated Eid al-Fitr on
22 October 2006
Nigeria[1], Senegal and Tanzania[1]

23 October 2006
Bahrain, Djibouti, France, Holland, India[1], Iraq[1], Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria [2], Palestine, Pakistan[1], Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tanzania[2], Tunisia, Turkey, U.A. Emirates, UK[1] and USA

24 October 2006
Algeria, Brunei, Egypt, India[2], Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Japan, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan [2], Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania[3], Thailand, UK[2] and Yemen

25 October 2006
Bangladesh, Pakistan[3] – Lahore

Having known that we Muslims had actually celebrated our big day in FOUR different days across the globe in 2006!!! How sad….

The official Eid al-Fitr for all South East Asian Countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnem and Cambodia) was 24th October, as well as the East Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and China).

In the Middle East, some celebrated on 23rd October (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar and UAE), while some others celebrated on 24th October (Jordan, Syria, Oman, Yemen and Egypt). In Iraq, the Sunnis celebrated on 23rd, while the Shias celebrated on 24th. If we put Iraq aside, still the Sunnis are not united. Very sad isn’t it? I'm sad and shaking my head in disbelief because it happened within the same region.

India, UK and a few European countries also have two Eid days, 23rd and 24th. In UK for intance, at the mosques which were dominated by Indians celebrated their Eid on 24th, while at the mosques which were dominated by Arabs celebrated their Eid on the 23rd.

Pakistan and Tanzania were the worst, in which Eid al-Fitr was celebrated in three different days within the same country.

Upon doing my homework, I read a lot of arguments considering the difference. Among those are:
[1] Astronomical calculations were used instead of the conventional moon sighting method.
[2] Moon sighting technique varies from country to country.

Regarding the first, what I’ve learned - it’s prescribed in the Quran to decide the beginning of Ramadan by the means of moon sighting.
"… So whoever among you sights (the crescent on the first night) the month (of Ramadan), he must observe sawm (fast) that month…"
- Surah al-Baqarah [2:185]

Also in a hadith, Prophet (PBUH) said, "Whenever you sight the new moon (of the month of Ramadan) observe fast, and when you sight it, and when you sight it (the moon of Shawwal) break it, and if the sky is cloudy for you, then observe fast for thirty days."
- Narrator: Abu Hurairah [Sahih Muslim: 2378]

So moon sighting is not a choice but it is MANDATORY. Regarding the second one, whether we like it or not, we must standardize our moon sighting technique. It’s not as simple as looking at the sky and say, "Hey look I can see it!". There is a rule and there is a method of measurement. Do homework please.

Okay, say if we solved argument [1] and [2], do you think we can have a synchronized Muslim calendar?

In my opinion I believe it's a NO. Please accept my apology brothers and sisters. We will never solve this problem UNLESS we have our own Islamic Date Line.


Allah has made the land of the prophets (Middle East) very special. Where is Kaaba located? It is neither located in America, Iran nor Malaysia. The one and only in Saudi Arabia. Most of the important events happened in the land of the prophets. Therefore the land of the prophets should be marked as the starting point for the change of day in Islamic calendar. [You can view the timezone map below in order to see the proposed Islamic Date Line]. I proposed that the Islamic Date Line starts from the Arabian Peninsular, in which Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait bordering the date line, followed by Iraq and Turkey. Other countries that will border the line in the Nothern hemisphere are Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. In the Southern hemisphere, the change of day in Islamic calender will happen first at Mauritius and Reunion Island, followed by Madagascar, Somalia, etc.


If we follow the current International Date Line, Japan, Malaysia and India are ahead of Saudi Arabia by six, five and two & half hours respectively. But if we use the proposed Islamic Date Line, Japan, Malaysia and India are behind Saudi Arabia by 18, 19 and 22.5 hours respectively. Now we take the last year’s Eid al-Fitr as an example. Say all Middle East countries followed Saudi Arabia and celebrated Eid on 23rd October 2006, and all South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia countries celebrated Eid on 24th October 2006 (using the International Date Line as the point of reference). But if we use the proposed Islamic Date Line as the point of reference, Eid al-Fitr was celebrated in the same day (1st Shawwal) by all of these countries, in which Japan, Malaysia and India celebrated 18, 19 and 22.5 hours later (but still in the same date).

What we need to do is to follow the announcement from Saudi Arabia. Is it so hard? No. Some might argue, we must celebrate at the same time in all places all over the world. I hope we can do that but we must remember the earth has been divided into 24 time zones. If my brother prays Zohor prayer in Saudi Arabia, how can I pray Zohor prayer the same time in Malaysia (because at 1 PM Saudi Arabia is equivalent to 6 PM Malaysia)? So one place must go earlier than another. So please be logical.

The question is why can’t we have Islamic Date Line? As I mentioned earlier I’m not challenging anyone, not the Islamic scholars nor the authorities. Who am I to do that? I write this chapter because I believe we Muslims are not doing enough to make ourselves united. We have been divided enough. Enough is enough! What I want to see is the one and only Muslim calendar that applies to all Muslim countries all over the world. Is it too much to ask?

Finally, please forgive me if any of my words offended you. It is a fact that we can’t make everybody happy. I'm just an ordinary person and not trying to be a scholar. So if you think that I’m wrong, please correct me and shed me some light.