Advancement and Postponement of the Umm al-Qura Calendar

Strictly speaking, the Umm al-Qura calendar is intended for civil purposes only. Their makers are well aware of the fact that the first visual sighting of the lunar crescent (hilāl) can occur up to two days after the date predicted by the Umm al-Qura calendar.

Since 1419 AH (1998/99 CE) several official hilāl sighting committees have been set up by the government of Saudi Arabia to determine the first visual sighting of the lunar crescent at the begin of each lunar month. However, the religious authorities of Saudi Arabia also allow the testimony of less experienced observers and thus sometimes announce the sighting of the lunar crescent on an evening when none of the official committees could observe the lunar crescent or even on an evening when the lunar crescent actually set before sunset.

This often leads to confusion when the dates of important religious events in Muḥarram, the month of fasting (Ramaḍān) or the month of pilgrimage (Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja) are changed. In nearly all of these cases, a retrospective analysis indicates that these extremely early reports of the lunar crescent are impossible and were based on false sightings. Most of these false sightings were probably caused by a bright star or planet (such as Venus) or an airplane contrail viewed near to the western horizon.

A study of 42 reports of sightings of the Ramaḍān new moon, as announced by the High Judiciary Council of Saudi Arabia (Majlis al-Qadāʾ al-Aʿlā) between 1962 to 2001 (1381 AH to 1422 AH), confirms that more than half of these were too early and based on false sightings of the lunar crescent (Kordi, 2003). A similar result was reached by a later study covering the years 1380 AH to 1425 AH (Gadi, 2007).

The following table compares the Umm al-Qura dates for the begin of the months Muḥarram, Ramaḍān, Shawwāl and Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja with the dates announced by the High Judiciary Council of Saudi Arabia (source: Fatwa-Online):

year 1 Muḥarram 1 Ramaḍān 1 Shawwāl 1 Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja 10 Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja
computed announced computed announced computed announced computed announced computed announced
1422 26 Mar 2001   16 Nov 2001 16 Nov 2001 16 Dec 2001 16 Dec 2001 13 Feb 2002 13 Feb 2002 22 Feb 2002 22 Feb 2002
1423 15 Mar 2002   6 Nov 2002 6 Nov 2002 5 Dec 2002 5 Dec 2002 2 Feb 2003 2 Feb 2003 11 Feb 2003 11 Feb 2003
1424   4 Mar 2003   26 Oct 2003 27 Oct 2003 25 Nov 2003 25 Nov 2003 23 Jan 2004 23 Jan 2004 1 Feb 2004 1 Feb 2004
1425 21 Feb 2004   15 Oct 2004 15 Oct 2004 14 Nov 2004 13 Nov 2004 12 Jan 2005 11 Jan 2005 21 Jan 2005 20 Jan 2005
1426 10 Feb 2005     4 Oct 2005   4 Oct 2005   3 Nov 2005   3 Nov 2005   1 Jan 2006   1 Jan 2006 10 Jan 2006 10 Jan 2006
1427 31 Jan 2006   24 Sep 2006 23 Sep 2006 23 Oct 2006 23 Oct 2006 22 Dec 2006 21 Dec 2006 31 Dec 2006 30 Dec 2006
1428 20 Jan 2007   13 Sep 2007 13 Sep 2007 13 Oct 2007 12 Oct 2007 11 Dec 2007 10 Dec 2007 20 Dec 2007 19 Dec 2007
1429 10 Jan 2008     1 Sep 2008   1 Sep 2008 1 Oct 2008 30 Sep 2008 29 Nov 2008 29 Nov 2008   8 Dec 2008   8 Dec 2008
1430 29 Dec 2008   22 Aug 2009 22 Aug 2009 20 Sep 2009 20 Sep 2009 18 Nov 2009 18 Nov 2009 27 Nov 2009 27 Nov 2009
1431 18 Dec 2009 18 Dec 2009 11 Aug 2010 11 Aug 2010 10 Sep 2010 10 Sep 2010   7 Nov 2010 7 Nov 2010 16 Nov 2010 16 Nov 2010
1432   7 Dec 2010     1 Aug 2011 1 Aug 2011 30 Aug 2011 30 Aug 2011 28 Oct 2011 28 Oct 2011   6 Nov 2011   6 Nov 2011
1433 26 Nov 2011 27 Nov 2011 20 Jul 2012 20 Jul 2012 19 Aug 2012 19 Aug 2012 17 Oct 2012 17 Oct 2012 26 Oct 2012 26 Oct 2012
1434 15 Nov 2012     9 Jul 2013 10 Jul 2013   8 Aug 2013   8 Aug 2013   6 Oct 2013   6 Oct 2013 15 Oct 2013 15 Oct 2013
1435   4 Nov 2013   5 Nov 2013 28 Jun 2014 29 Jun 2014 28 Jul 2014 28 Jul 2014 25 Sep 2014 25 Sep 2014   4 Oct 2014   4 Oct 2014
1436 25 Oct 2014   18 Jun 2015 18 Jun 2015 17 Jul 2015 17 Jul 2015 14 Sep 2015 15 Sep 2015 23 Sep 2015 24 Sep 2015
1437 14 Oct 2015 15 Oct 2015   6 Jun 2016   6 Jun 2016   6 Jul 2016   6 Jul 2016   2 Sep 2016   3 Sep 2016 11 Sep 2016 12 Sep 2016
1438   2 Oct 2016   27 May 2017 27 May 2017 25 Jun 2017 25 Jun 2017 23 Aug 2017 23 Aug 2017   1 Sep 2017   1 Sep 2017
1439 21 Sep 2017 21 Sep 2017 16 May 2018   15 Jun 2018   12 Aug 2018   21 Aug 2018  

In eight cases (Ramaḍān 1424 AH, Muḥarram 1433 AH, Ramaḍān 1434 AH, Muḥarram & Ramaḍān 1435 AH, Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja 1436 AH and Muḥarram & Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja 1437 AH) the lunar crescent was first sighted on the evening after the evening predicted by the Umm al-Qura calendar. However, in seven cases (Shawwāl & Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja 1425 AH, Ramaḍān & Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja 1427 AH, Shawwāl & Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja 1428 AH and Shawwāl 1429 AH) the lunar crescent was supposedly first sighted on the evening before the evening predicted by the Umm al-Qura calendar with moonset occurring just before or even well before sunset.

In some cases the advancement of the month can result in a month length of 31 days which is awkward as Islamic tradition only allows for month lengths of 29 or 30 days. In such cases one of the days in the month is reckoned twice. For instance, both Friday 28 December and Saturday 29 December 2007 were reckoned as 19 Dhu ʾl-Ḥijja 1428 AH.


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