A teacher at a school in London asked what day Muslims' Eid al-Adha will start so they can plan the holidays. A Saudi Arabian student answered: “We are not sure. Our holiday starts when the crescent moon is sighted.” Turks, Iranians and Muslim students living in Europe gave different dates.
Around about the same time this conversation was happening, the Muslims who went to Sheikh Ibrahim Mosque in the US for Eid prayer saw that the congregation was not there. But at Washington Diyanet Center the Eid prayer was happening, yet only Turks had come for the prayer.
That day, a group of Salafi Muslims in France started an argument that would go as far as accusing each other of rejecting the religion, as one group claimed the other did not fast when they should and the second group claimed the other fasted on Eid day.
The most recent of the seven meetings held in the last 65 years was held in Istanbul on May 30, 2016. The objective was to solve the calendar issue, one of the most important mutual problems of the Muslim world. If the calendar problem was solved, then the problem of announcing the start of Ramadan and Bayram also would be solved.
There were Islamic jurisprudence and astronomy experts from more than 50 countries at the meeting. Astronomer Nur İşlek, who participated in the scientific presentations section said, “Today we can scientifically determine with a certain calculation on what day, hour, second, millisecond the crescent moon will appear even a century after. Unless an Armageddon happens, it is not possible for this to deviate even a millisecond.”
Another scientist said, “Surah ar-Rahman, verse 5 says, 'The sun and the moon [move] by precise calculation.' Hence, it is possible for the science of mathematics and astronomy to determine the new crescent based on these calculations without any confusion.”
The Saudi authority, who looked at the calendar on his iPhone that morning to determine the prayer time and set his alarm accordingly to wake up for morning prayer, objected at the meeting: “There is a hadith that says, 'Whenever you sight the new moon [of the month of Ramadan] observe fast, and when you sight it [the new moon of Shawwal] break it.' We need to abide by this.”
It was proven at that meeting that this objection had no scholarly or scientific logic. Decisions were made. A switch was going to be made to a common calendar. Sighting the appearance of the crescent moon determined by the science of astronomy additionally with the naked eye or technical devices were also included in the decision. A critical decision was made in terms of the unity of the Muslim world.
As the meeting concluded, someone got into Presidency of Religious Affairs President Mehmet Görmez's arm and whispered in his ear: “We signed these decisions, but I do not know if we can convince the president of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council.” Görmez was assailed by doubt.
Millions of people at the Kaaba did not know when they were going to perform the Eid prayer. A team assigned by the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia climbed to the highest hill in Mecca and was watching to sight the new crescent with binoculars. Everybody was waiting for the decision they would receive from this team. Court President Sheikh Abdulaziz was told the crescent could not be sighted. So he ordered everybody to complete Ramadan at 30 days. The crescent had actually appeared, but Saudi Arabia could not see it because the horizon line was hazy. Since the astronomers assigned by Turkey's Presidency of Religious Affairs knew, based on their mathematical calculations, that the crescent would be sighted in Chile, they went there with technical devices to confirm it. They sighted it and confirmed it. According to the second article of the decisions taken in Istanbul, the entire Muslim world was required to abide by this.
However, Saudi Arabia did not abide. All the Muslims waiting in Mecca performed the Eid prayer on different dates. Naturally, many Muslim countries abided by the Eid day announced in the Islamic center, Mecca, and this is how the confusion happened.
Görmez, like all Muslims, was greatly aggrieved by the bombing of Medina on the eve of Eid. He received the Saudi sheikh's decision while he was preparing the Eid sermon and writing that the Muslim world needs unity. His grief further multiplied. He called the Saudi authorities who had signed the joint decision in Istanbul. They told him, “We discussed it for two hours but we could not convince the sheikh, please excuse us.”
On the day accepted as the first day of Eid according to Turkey and the 30th day of Ramadan according to the Saudis, NASA held a press conference. It announced that after an almost five-year journey, 869 million kilometers from the Earth, spacecraft Juno successfully entered Jupiter's orbit.
Surah al-Yunus, Verse 5:
“It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases – that you may know the number of years and account [of time]. Allah has not created this except in truth. He details the signs for a people who know.”
Peace and blessings to the souls of great Muslim scientists al-Kindi, Farabi, al-Khwarizmi, al-Biruni, Ulugh Beg and Ali Kuşçu, who established the first observatory, made the greatest contribution to the science of astronomy and laid the first foundations of today's space age. How fortunate they are not to see today.