One of the most commonly re-occurring problem hitting the Muslim population is the determination of the 1st of Syawwal. Not only, this issue has been splitting the Muslim world in (at least) two, the different Eid (al Fitr, mostly) date has also splitted the country and the families in two.   Could you imagine how inconvenience it is to celebrate the eid with nice food and drinks, while our own family members are still fasting? Or imagine fasting on the tashreeq day when some other members of the family are celebrating Eid-ul Fitr… hmm not nice, something is awfully wrong!

The one and only hadith used by those supporting the pro-rukyah group is:

قََالَ رَسُوْلُ ﷲِصَلَي ﷲعليه وَسَلَّمَ صُوْمُوْ لِرُيَتِهِ وَٲَفْتِرُوْ لِرُﺅيَتِهِ فَٳِنْ غَمﱠ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاَكْمِلُوْ عِدﱠةَ ثَعْبَانَ ثَلاَثِيْنَ يَوْماً ﴿رواﮦ البخارى)                                                                                                                 ى

Said the Rasulullah PUBH: “start your fasting by sighting the hilal and you all stop by sighting the hilal. Should there be cloud, complete your Sya’ban counting to thirty days.” (Bukhari).

Bukhari is one of the most trustworthy hadith narrators, however nobody’s perfect, including himself. He might have incidentally forgotten to check the originality of this one. Based on the content itself, this illogical hadith is clearly flawed as it is talking about the length of Sya’ban month which is the month before Ramadhan. What the pro-rukyah group needs is a hadith about the length of Ramadhan month to decide the first day of Syawwal.

On the other hand, the pro-hisab group has got at least six reasons to claim what they believe is the truth. Before we go into details, please keep in mind that the hisab used is actually hisab wujud al hilal, which is a method of deciding the beginning of the new month emphasizing that the Qamariah month begins when the three parameters have been fulfilled:

  1. that the conjunction (ijti’ma) already took place,
  2. that such conjunction happened before the sun sets, and
  3. that as the sun sets, the moon is over the horizon (ufuk).

Their logical reasons are as the following:

Firstly, the spirit of Al Qur’an is to use hisab. It is relected in the Quranic verses e.g. “Sun and moon orbit calculatedly” (Surah 55:5). This verse is not only informing us that the sun and the moon are orbitting in an exact manner so that it can be calculated or predicted, but also encouraging us to calculate them for their numerous advantages. In Surah Yunus (10) verse 5, their advantages are mentioned : to understand the calendar numeric system and the time calculation.

Secondly, if the spirit of the Qur’an is hisab, why then the Prophet PUBH used rukyah? According to Rasyid Ridha and Mustafa AzZarqa, the instruction to do rukyah is a reasonable (ilat) one. The reason was the Muslim at that time were illiterate (ummi), making it impossible to perform hisab. This was emphasized by the Prophet PBUH in a story narrated by by Al Bukhari and Muslim,“Indeed we are illiterate people; we could not read and could not write. The month is such that sometimes has twenty nine days and sometimes thirty days”  In the fiqhiyah section of Islamic law, such regulation is applicable or not, depending on the existence of the ilat. Should there be an ilat being the people’s illiterate condition so that no one could perform hisab, hence the rukyah instruction was applied. On the other hand, when the ilat does not exist (due to the existence of ahli hisab), hence the rukyah instruction was no longer applicable.  Yusuf Al Qaradawi stated that rukyah is not his aim, but just a means. Muhammad Syakir, ahli hadith from Egypt called by Al Qaradawi a pure salafi, emphasized that using hisab to determine the Qamariah month is obligatory in any condition, apart from in a place where no one understand about hisab.

Thirdly, with rukyah Muslims could not make a calendar. Rukyah cannot predict long enough to the future as new dates could only be identified on the H-1 dates. Dr. Nidhal Guessoum commented that it is a great irony that up to now Muslims do not have an integrated clear calendar system whereas 6000 years ago among Sumerian nation a well structured calendar alreday exsited.

Fourthly, rukyah cannot globally unite the starting of Islamic month. On the other side, rukyah force Muslim to differently start all Qamariah months, including ritual months. This is due to the fact that rukyah‘s visiblity  does not cover the entire earth’s surface. On the same day, there are some surface that can perform rukyah, while some others cannot. The earth’s region of 60 degrees North Lattitude and 60 degrees South Lattitude, is an abnormal region, in which one cannot see hilal for quite a long time or late to be able to see it which is when the moon is full. Furthermore, the artic and antartic regions whose days are more than 24 hours long in the summer and whose nights are more than 24 hours long in teh winter.

Fifthly, the coverage of rukyah is limited to only applicable within 10 hours eastbound. People in the East cannot wait for rukyah performed in the West with a distance more than 10 hours difference. Consequently, physical rukyah cannot unite the beginning of Qamariah months all over the world, due to its coverage limitation. Indeed, middle era ulamas stated that if a rukyah is made in a region, the rukyah should be applied world wide. Nonetheless, this view contradicts with astronomical facts and as the science of astronomy is rapidly growing, such argument cannot be well-defended.

Sixthly, rukyah created a problem in performing Arafah fasting. A possibility exists where in Mecca, a rukyah is not yet ruled, while in the western area is already ruled, vice versa. Thus, it is possible that one region is diferrent from another, in entering any Qamariah month. As a result, this condition causes the most western part of the earth cannot perform the Arafah fasting due to the Arafah residing (wukuf) happens on exactly the same day as Eid ul-Adha holiday there. The calendar system would shatter into pieces, should this western region pospone entering the Zulhijjah month, for the sake of the Meccan, eventhough hilal is clearly shown in their horizon (ufuk).

The above arguments shown that rukyah cannot provide an exact and comprehensive time marking and hence cannot manage the time for Muslims to perform their rituals synchronizedly all over the world. This is why in the efforts of organising international Islamic time system has now emerged a call for us to hold to hisab and no longer use rukyah. The 2nd Symposium for Islamic Calendar Formulation Research (Ijtima’ al Khubara’ as Sani li Dirasat Wad at Taqwimal Islami) in 2008 in Marocco gave conclusion and recommendation (at Taqrir alKhittami wa at Tausyiyah) as follows: “The problem of using hisab: all participants agreed that the solution to the problems of determining Qamariah months among Muslims cannot be implemented, unless by the acceptance of hisab in determining the start of Qamariah month, as per the usage of hisab to determine the shalat time.