Use of Modern Science for Crescent (Hilal) Sighting
Use Modern Science for Sighting the Crescent: Al-ObaikanRaid Qusti, Arab News
RIYADH, 1 October 2005 — Sheikh Abdul Muhsen Al-Obaikan, adviser at the Ministry of Justice, a member of the Shoura Council and a well-known religious scholar, has questioned the method being used by the Kingdom’s Supreme Judiciary Council to determine the sighting of the Ramadan crescent by using the naked eye.
In an interview with Arab News, Al-Obaikan said using the naked eye to determine the beginning and end of the holy month in this age of modern science and huge telescopes was primitive.
“There is no other way to put it. It’s pure backwardness,” he said.
The sheikh said that the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which specifies that the beginning of Ramadan and its end should be determined by viewing the crescent did not mention that the viewing should only be by the naked eye.
He mentioned that at the time of the Prophet there were no satellites or huge telescopes that could see the universe, let alone the moon.
“Modern science is always aligned with Islam,” Al-Obaikan said. “Unlike Christianity where the church in the Middle Ages refuted scientific discoveries and rejected them, we as Muslims are asked to embrace science,” he said, adding that, “Islam and science are not two separate things. In fact they work side by side.”
He questioned the logic of still relying on two witnesses to go out in the desert and see the moon, taking upon themselves the responsibility of the fasting of millions of Muslims, when telescopes and satellites could easily determine that without any error.
“I have said this just a couple of days ago on Saudi Arabian Television and I am saying it again: How can we take into account the testimony of an old man, 80 years old, who comes to the court and says that he had seen the crescent in the desert? The guy can barely see his sandals!” he remarked.
He said he had no idea why the Kingdom’s Supreme Judiciary Council continued to use the primitive method of determining the beginning and end of Ramadan by the naked eye, despite the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars saying that it was OK to use telescopes for the purpose.
“The use of telescopes has been OK’d by the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars years ago. I do not know why the Supreme Judiciary Council is so persistent to continue the use of the naked eye for the sighting of the moon,” he said.
Al-Obaikan said that using telescopes and modern science to determine the beginning of a month would rule out any errors made by people.
He noted how last year millions of pilgrims in the Kingdom were confused when the Supreme Judiciary Council suddenly announced that Arafat Day would be changed, just a couple of days before the actual day.
He said a couple of years ago he was the head of a conference that represented Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states to discuss “Al-Ahilla”, which means the sighting of the moon to determine the beginning and end of holy days.
“During that conference I strongly recommended that the viewing of the moon to determine these days through modern scientific methods. It is very unfortunate that nothing has happened since then,” he concluded