I used to follow www.moonsighting.com in the past to check the possibility of the new moon being sighted. They publish the angle of the moon from horizon and what time the moon set, as well as the time when the sun set.
But lately, the website has been down.
Well last year, www.moonsighting.com went a step further than predicting when the new moon was suppose to appear and suggest to Muslims look out for the new moon (hilal) to ascertain the start of Ramadan and Syawal. Khalid Shaukat of www.moonsighting.com announced the start of Ramadan and Syawal based on his calculations. Yes some Islamic Associations in North America followed suit.
Hmm talk about a genius being confident with his ability...even Prophet Muhammad SAW didnt do that.
But Alhamdulillah FIANZ in New Zealand still follow hilal, some people are still being sent out or voluntarily go out and look out for new moon.
here is the website:
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ
Global Moonsighting, a Modern Bid‘ah
Ironically, one Muslim website (from a certain masjid that "calls to the sunnah") quite openly stated the following on its main page before this article became public. Now it can only be found on their Yahoo Groups message list:
"As you know, Masjid ______ follows the opinion of wahdatul matale' (unification of the horizon), so if the moon is visually sighted anywhere in the world (without relying on calculations), then we break fast as numerous hadeeth on the subject expressly indicate. Our position on this has been same from day one."
First of all, what they are essentially doing is calling people to bid‘ah, because,
- Nowhere will you find a single hadith that tells about one country (like Egypt) following the sighting of another country (like the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula). I challenge any shaykh to find such a hadith, because no one could travel great distances or use telephones and satellites to report such sightings until about 50 years ago, if even that early. On the contrary, we find that Muslims living much closer to one another with different sightings never bothering to follow one another:
A narration of Ibn ‘Abbas in Sahīh Muslim indicates that local moonsighting alone was the prevailing method in the time of the Blessed Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and was a part of the teachings of the Blessed Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) to the Sahābah. The narration goes like this:
بيان أن لكل بلد رؤيتهم وأنهم إذا رأوا الهلال ببلد
حدثنا يحيى بن يحيى ويحيى بن أيوب وقتيبة وابن حجر قال يحيى بن يحيى أخبرنا وقال الآخرون حدثنا إسمعيل وهو ابن جعفر عن محمد وهو ابن أبي حرملة عن كريب أن أم الفضل بنت الحارث بعثته إلى معاوية بالشام قال فقدمت الشام فقضيت حاجتها واستهل علي رمضان وأنا بالشام فرأيت الهلال ليلة الجمعة ثم قدمت المدينة في آخر الشهر فسألني عبد الله بن عباس رضي الله عنهما ثم ذكر الهلال فقال متى رأيتم الهلال فقلت رأيناه ليلة الجمعة فقال أنت رأيته فقلت نعم ورآه الناس وصاموا وصام معاوية فقال لكنا رأيناه ليلة السبت فلا نزال نصوم حتى نكمل ثلاثين أو نراه فقلت أو لا تكتفي برؤية معاوية وصيامه فقال لا هكذا أمرنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وشك يحيى بن يحيى في نكتفي أو تكتفي
Sahīh Muslim Book 6
Chapter 5: THERE IS A SIGHTING OF THE MOON FOR EVERY TOWN
THE SIGHTING AT ONE TOWN CANNOT BE HELD VALID FOR THE
OTHER TOWN SITUATED AT A CONSIDERABLE DISTANCE FROM IT
Kurayb narrates that Umm al-Fadl sent him to Mu‘āwiyah in Sham for something.
Kurayb says, "I went to Sham and finished the job. I was in Sham when the month
of Ramadān began and we saw the moon the night of Friday. When I reached
Madinah at the end of the blessed month, Ibn ‘Abbas asked me about Sham.
(After answering him) He then asked me when we saw the moon.
I said, 'We saw the moon the night of Jumu‘ah.'
He asked, 'Did you see it as well?'
I said, 'Yes, I saw it too and many others saw it and we all kept fasting and so did
Mu‘āwiyah (that is according to that moonsighting).'
Ibn ‘Abbas said, 'But we saw the moon on Saturday night, therefore, we will keep
fasting for thirty days according to that unless we sight the moon on the 29th.'
I asked, 'You don’t think the moonsighting of Mu‘āwiyah and his fasting is enough
Ibn ‘Abbas replied, 'No, this is how the Blessed Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) taught us.'"
(Muslim H.1819, Tirmiðī H.629, Nasa'i H.2084, Abū-Dāwūd H.1985, Musnad Ahmad H.2653 Dar-qutni H.2234)
This hadith is clear evidence. When Ibn ‘Abbas was informed by the person who himself sighted the moon that the people of Sham had begun Ramadān one day before, he responded that it was not only his opinion, but also the teachings of the Blessed Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) that the moonsighting of another locality was not compulsory upon them.
Shaykh ‘Uthaymīn has issued a very clear fatwa to Muslims in the Americas and other lands outside the Arabian Peninsula with no ambiguity whatsoever regarding this matter:
It is well known amongst astronomers that the time the moon rises differs from place to place. The moon might be seen in one place and not in another. Therefore, according to the verse, whoever does not see it is not obliged to fast. . . . If, therefore, each place has its own ruling due to the variation in the time that the sun rises and sets, the same also applies due to the variation in the time that the moon rises and sets. . . .
Therefore, the answer to the question is clear. It is obligatory for you to follow the sighting of the new moon in the place where you are. Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymīn
al-Aqalliyāt al-Muslimah - Page 84, Fatwa No.23
- In the system of "global sighting" (wahdat-ul-matale') one is de facto not following any moon sighting at all, rather one is following calculations instead! You see, Saudi Arabia is always the first to announce the beginning of any new month because they follow either their calculated Umm-ul-Qura calendar, (which is generated by mathematical calculations of the New Moon, a phase that precedes the actual hilāl!), the Jewish Calendar, or sometimes the Kuwaiti Algorithm implemented by the Microsoft Windows operating system. Here is the evidence: Is Saudi Arabia following the Sunnah, the Jews, or Microsoft?
According to the Islamic Crescents' Observation Project (ICOP), "Most people think that Saudi Arabia always adopts the actual sighting of the crescent as the basis to start Islamic months. But during the previous years, it was very clear to the public as well as to astronomers that most of the Saudi months were wrong if the actual sighting is the basis for starting the Islamic month. Fortunately, the Jordanian Astronomical Society (JAS) received a telegram from The Highest Religious Council "Majlis al-Ifta' al-A‘ala" in Saudi Arabia confirming that Saudi Arabia adopts the astronomical calculations and totally ignores the actual sighting. Below is a literal translation of this telegram." (see ICOP - The Actual Saudi Dating System)
One experienced moon sighter, Salman Zafar Shaikh, writes, "In the case of ‘Īd-ul-Fitr 1420 AH, I myself went with the Makkah committee to a sighting point on a hilltop of Shamesi outside the city of Makkah Mukarramah on Thursday evening. Neither I, nor the other 5 committee members sighted the Hilāl. But we came back to the Harām Sharīf and were astounded to hear the announcement that ‘Īd-ul-Fitr was next day (Friday). In fact moonset was before sunset in Makkah for Thursday evening. In this case the error was quite brazen" (see Hilāl Sighting in Saudi Arabia: A First Hand Report). Brother Salman goes on to explain, ". . . apparently it is the same few [Saudi] people at certain locations, reporting on those occasions when the claims are extraordinarily early in Saudi Arabia, year after year. WAllāhu A‘alam!"
If you look at 15 years of the Umm-ul-Qura calendar one will be surprised to see that only 20.6% of the dates correspond with possible naked eye sightings of the hilāl under good weather conditions:
Color Code Visibility possibility
How many times
this condition is
met in 180 months
Percentage of times
this condition is
met in 180 months
Green Visible with the naked eye 37/180 20.6% Yellow Visible with optical aid 31/180 17.2% Brown Not visible at all 110/180 61.1% Pink Month begins before new moon 2/180 1.1%
Shaykh Qaradāwī has given a fatwa on what to do in case one has gotten caught up in this mess of Saudi using calculations instead of calling the new month by actual sighting, as was the case on January 07, 2000 which they claimed was ‘Īd-ul-Fitr 1420 AH, but was actually only the 30th of Ramadān.
On December 31, 2005, the sun should set (drop completely below the Makkan horizon) at 17:49 local Saudi time with the moon already dipping below the horizon 5˚ to its left at 18:03, insha'Allāh. At 18:08 (only 19 minutes after sunset) the moon too will be compelely below the Makkan horizon, insha'Allāh, making it totally impossible to see any hilāl. All experienced moon sighting observers know that with only 0.5% phase and less than 8 degrees of separation between it and the sun, no hilāl can be sighted under such poor conditions. But just wait and see, Saudi Arabia will officially announce that they "sighted the hilāl" like they always claim, so that it matches their calendar, making January 1, 2006 the 1st of Ðūl Hijjah, and thus, ‘Īd-ul-Adhā will fall on January 10, 2006, unless of course, the Saudi regime repents from following calculations and goes back to the sunnah of actually sighting the hilāl.
Update: Saudi Arabia came through again and delivered as expected, announcing that Ðūl Hijjah 1426 started on January 1, 2006, just as predicted by their pre-calculated calendar.
If Saudi Arabia really did see the hilāl on Oct. 03, 2005 around 18:08 local Saudi time, with only 2 minutes between sunset and moonset for sighting it, why could it not be seen with much better visibility chances further to the West? Consider how the moon moves around the earth in its orbit while looking at this sky charts in which the horizonal line just above the sun represents the horizon, i.e. everything below that horizontal line in the middle has already set (gone down below the horizon) and cannot be seen, even with a radio telescope from that location.
Sky Charts at sunset on Monday, October 3, 2005:
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (the moon actually set before the sun!)
Makkah, Saudi Arabia
Madinah, Saudi Arabia
Los Angeles, California, USA
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, USA
Allāh says in His book: الشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ بِحُسْبَانٍ which has been translated by Khan in the Noble Qur'ān (the English translation preferred by those who support "global" sighting) as: "The sun and the moon run on their fixed courses (exactly) calculated with measured out stages for each (for reckoning, etc.)." (Sūrat-ur-Raĥmān 55:5)
Since the scientists have measured the synodic period of the moon to be 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds, i.e. the length of time it takes for us to observe a complete orbit of the moon from earth, if the Saudis report having seen a crescent moon on Monday, October 3, 2005 around 18:08 local Saudi time, that means an observer like myself with excellent viewing conditions should see and even bigger crescent 30 days, 7 hours, and 32 minutes later, espcially given the quality Nikon 7x50 binoculars and a 35mm SLR camera equipped with 300mm telephoto lens using FujiFilm:
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
Even in the case of ‘Īd-ul-Adhā, there is no evidence from the Qur'an or sunnah that the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) or any of the Sahābah ever tried to establish a so-called "Wahdatul Matale' (unification of the horizon)":
"If, as we are told by those postulating the 'Day after Arafat' position, that ‘Īd-ul-Adhā is dependent on the Hajj date, then why did the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) make no effort to ascertain the Hajj dates in Makkah for his ‘Īd celebration in Madinah? After the conquest of Makkah in the seventh year of the Hijra there would have been no problem in finding out when the Hajj was going to be since there would be ten days for a rider to travel to surrounding areas with the glorious news. The Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) made no attempt to know, or to inform the Muslims in the areas around Madinah about when the Hajj was in Makkah. Every Muslim community prayed according to its own sighting of the crescent of Ðūl Hijjah. Accordingly, all the scholars of Islām are unanimous that ‘Īd-ul-Adhā is on the 10th of Ðūl Hijjah which is determined by the sighting in each locality, and NOT ON THE 10th OF ÐŪL HIJJAH IN MAKKAH. It is a bid‘ah to try to impose a Vatican-like dogma on the Muslim ummah, although the propagators would tell you that they are simply following a 'universal horizon.' Don't be fooled. In Ramadān of 1999 it was claimed that the moon was seen in Yemen and Libya, and the Muslims of those countries began fasting on December 8, 1999. Those who claim to accept any sighting anywhere in the world conveniently ignored those Muslims, opting for the 'universal sighting' of their choice. The Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) opposed every attempt to impose the moon sighting in one town over the others, even in close proximity, when it was not seen on a clear horizon, or when the horizon was cloudy on the 29 day of the Islamic month." (The Community News, a newsletter published by TARIC, vol. 107, March 8, 2000.)
To call people to follow a "global sighting" is to defy the laws of Allāh. Just as He has ordained for us to pray five times a day at times according to the position of the sun relative to our own horizon where we happen to be at that time, so has He ordained for us to look for the hilāl and sight it where we happen to be living or staying during that time of the month. To say there is one universal horizon, or a "unity" of the horizon is absolutely absurd. It would be the same as arguing that we should follow the prayer timings of Masjid Al-Ĥarām for the sake of unity. To call people to pray in perfect global synchronization with Makkah would be a profound bid‘ah, just as it is to call people to the falsehood of "one horizon," would be to ignore that the planet earth is round, and imitate the ignorant Christians of earlier centuries who fought science tooth and nail, maintaining that the earth was flat.
There are inifinite horizons since the earth is round and covered with many visible obstructions of a clear horizon. If you don't believe it, try to go outside and watch the sun set just before Maghrib. Chances are, you'll need to drive outside of the city to avoid having tall buildings obstruct your view, or you'll have to move a few meters to the left or right of that tree that's blocking your view.
You see, just moving a few meters has changed your view of the horizon, so let's examine the situation of the sun and the moon. At any given time, the sun is hidden to half of the planet earth, while the other half can see it, and thus has daylight. As the earth turns on its axis, Maghrib is constantly happening for a thin band along the surface of the earth where late afternoon is turning to night. Likewise, on the other side of the planet, the first light of dawn is rapidly moving along a narrow band of the earth's surface towards the West. So, Fajr is constantly happening somewhere in the world, 24 by 7, never stopping. Even though we may be eating our dinner, for someone, somewhere, it's their Fajr time.
The moon, just like the sun, is never visible to more than 50% of the earth's surface at any time, day or night. What the proponents of "wahdat-ul-matale" have never seemed to grasp is a simple truth, a decree of Almighty Allāh, that the moon moves ever so slowly apparently from West to East, i.e. it is slowing moving in the same direction that the earth is spinning! If these people who call to the bid‘ah of global sighting would take the time to reflect on this simple fact, they might understand this all-important second fact:
"North America lags the rest of the world in time (they are 10 hours behind South Africa), quite often they will see the new moon before the rest of the world, and thus start the new month ahead of the rest of the world. This is a consequence of the fact that the sun sets last over the American continent, giving the new moon more time to age and become visible."
Jamiatul Ulama (KZN) - Hilaal Committee
So, this is why global sighting is wrong, why it was never implemented by anyone until less than 50 years ago: Allāh has made it impossible to implement!
Proof: If a new moon (not a hilāl, but an "invisible" moon) has been born and only develops into a mature visible hilāl by 20 minutes after sunset in Honolulu, Hawaii, which would mark the beginning of Ramadān for them, what are the Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Bahrainis going to do about their fasting? It's 18:30 at night in Honolulu and by the time they got to a phone and called anyone in Saudia it was 19:00, that's 07:00 in the morning, the next day in Saudi Arabia. Too late to get on Saudi TV 1 to announce the beginning of Ramadān. Oops! They also missed out on the first night of praying tarawīĥ! For Manila in the Philippines and many places in Australia, their Muslims will have no chance whatsoever of starting Ramadān on time since it is already 12:30 in the afternoon (or later in some Australian time zones) the NEXT DAY! How can someone say that Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى) would prefer this type of unfairness to be imposed on His slaves just west of the International Dateline?
From this proof, we see their is no ĥikmah whatsoever in the so-called "global" moonsighting (wahdat-ul-matale'). Please note that this proof is completely devoid of "calculations" or the use of star charts. This is just plain common sense that shows how ridiculous "global" sighting really is. With local sighting, Muslims are not following any ethinic group, tribe, political affiliation, or regime/government. No one feels slighted. No nation/state is preferred over another. That's the Islamic way: the fair way, the just way, the way that Allāh (سبحانه وتعالى) commands us to follow, and the way His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) taught Ibn ‘Abbas (remember the Kurayb Hadith?).
Any so-called fatwa from any of the four great Imāms supporting "global" moonsighting (wahdat-ul-matale') can never be applied to this current bid‘ah simply because none of them lived during a time when travel across thousands of kilometers could be achieved in the same day, nor could they speak with someone sitting on the other side of the planet over a telephone to inquire about hilāl sightings.
Any fatwa from any of the four great Imāms would at best be considered a "local," "regional," or if one wished to stretch it very far, a "national" sighting. From an astronomical point of view, the differences between positions and phases of the moon for positions on the earth that could be reached by a fast horse in less than a day are for all practical purposes, exactly the same. Please review the following star charts for Makkah and Madinah:
In conclusion, there is no evidence from the Qur'ān or the sunnah, supporting a so-called "global" moonsighting (wahdat-ul-matale') that relies on sighting attempts from observation points spanning thousands of kilometers around the globe. Until 50 years ago, it was technologically, logistically, and financially impossible to implement. Regarding the fasting of Ramadān, a proof was given in point number 4 that is not even possible to implement this so-called "global" moonsighting (wahdat-ul-matale') according to the sharī‘ah.
Shaykh M. Ibrahim Memon quite eloquently states, "During the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), moon sighting was always conducted locally and the people of Makkah and Madinah maintained their own [separate] Islamic calendars. One of the proofs for this can be found by carefully analyzing the sīrah.
"When Rasūlullāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) performed his one and only Hajj, the 9th of Ðūl Hijjah was a Friday. He passed away three months later in Madinah on Monday, the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal. These historical facts are established through hadith. However, when one tries to reconstruct the Islamic calendar given those days, the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal does not fall on a Monday, any which way you try.
|Based on the local Makkan moon sighting, if every month was 29 days, 12th of Rabi al-Awwal would fall on Thursday.||Based on the local Makkan moon sighting, if every month was 30 days, 12th of Rabi al-Awwal would fall on Sunday.|
Concerning local sighting Shaykh M. Ibrahim Memon states, "not only is this way easy, but it is actually a of the tradition of the Blessed Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and of the people after him throughout the history of Islam."
Report of Six Official Saudi Hilāl Sighting Committees
"Majlis Al Qadah Alala started Ramadān, Shawwal, and Ðūl Hijjah 1426 AH utilizing the calculated dates of the Umm-ul-Qura civil calendar which corresponds exactly to the first starting day for the months of the Calculated Rabbinical Calendar of Israel namely Tishrei (4th October/1st day of Ramadān in Saudi Arabia), Cheshvan (3rd November/1st day of Shawwal-‘Īd-ul-Fitr in Saudi Arabia) and Tevet (1st January/1st day of Ðūl Hijjah in Saudi Arabia), respectively. Many of our Islamic Scholars who know the truth continue to be silent."
It seems the report forgot to mention that the calculated "Saudi" 1 Ðūl Qa‘idah 1426 for December 2, 2005 is also exactly the same as the 1st of Kislev 5766. Looks like a good starting point for some Interfaith Dialogue between the Saudi Royal family and the Likud Party of Israel!
U.S. Naval Observatory: Crescent Moon Visibility and the Islamic Calendar: "The record for an early sighting of a lunar crescent, with a telescope, is 12.1 hours after New Moon; for naked-eye sightings, the record is 15.5 hours from New Moon. These are exceptional observations and crescent sightings this early in the lunar month should not be expected as the norm. For Islamic calendar purposes, the sighting must be made with the unaided eye.
"If we ignore local conditions for the moment, and visualize the problem from outside the Earth's atmosphere, the size and brightness of the lunar crescent depend on only one astronomical quantity - the elongation of the Moon from the Sun, which is the apparent angular distance between their centers. For this reason the elongation has also been called the arc of light. If we know the value of the elongation at any instant, we can immediately compute the width of the crescent.
"This large range of possible elongations in the one-day-old Moon is critical, because at this time the width of the crescent is increasing with the square of the elongation, and the surface brightness of the crescent is also rapidly increasing. Some of the earliest reliable sightings of the crescent occur near elongations of around 10 degrees. Obviously, simply specifying the age of the Moon cannot tell the whole story. Of course, the elongation of the Moon does not tell the full story, either. But, of the two parameters, the elongation is a much more reliable parameter to use as a starting point in assessing the lunar crescent visibility at any given date and time.
Moon Sighting Fundamentals by Youssef Ismail
Moon Sighting - an audio lecture by Hamza Yusuf
Causes and implications of the Saudi confusion about the dates for Hajj and ‘Īd
"The Saudi regime also manipulated the start and end of last Ramadān, as they had done many previous ones. While the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide celebrated ‘Īd-ul-Fitr on Saturday, January 8, the Saudis had announced the sighting of a non-existent moon on Thursday January 6 to 'celebrate' ‘Īd-ul-Fitr on Friday, January 7.
"One Saudi newspaper, Arab News at least had the decency to admit later (February 11) that the January 7 celebration was based on false information. The regime, however, kept mum. The Arab News story followed the discovery that there was a partial eclipse of the sun on February 5 which lasted until after sunset, thus making any sighting of the moon impossible even had the moon been there to be sighted. According to this analysis, the month of Shawwal, according to the Saudi calculation, ended up having 31 days, an impossibility from the Islamic point of view (lunar months can only be of 29 or 30 days).
"This regular confusion is despite changes made to the Saudis' calendar arrangements following criticism from around the world of their arbitrary practices. The Saudi regime has now set up Hilal (crescent) sighting committees in six cities: Makkah, Riyadh, Qassim, Hail, Tabuk and Asir. The committees comprise religious scholars, quddah (plural of qadi), astronomers, scientists and other qualified people, as well as volunteers. Yet the regime does not follow the information provided by these committees, instead apparently relying on sighting claims by laymen without applying any standard for verifying the information. Neither the Shawwal (‘Īd-ul-Fitr) moon nor the Ðūl Hijjah moon was sighted by the experts in the committees on the dates on which they announced their sightings. These committees have been appointed but they are virtually powerless.
Moon Sighting Announcements in Saudi Arabia Valid?
"Further, if the argument of the [former ISNA] article is accepted and it is held that the real intention of Qur'ān and Sunnah was to link the celebration of ‘Īd-ul-Adhā with the Saudi dates, as a mandatory provision for all Muslims in the world, it means that the sharī‘ah has stressed a principle which was not acceptable for 1300 years. It is not against the Quranic declaration that Allah does not make a thing mandatory unless it is practical for the human beings.
"If the authors [of the former ISNA article] argue that the celebration of ‘Īd-ul-Adhā was not linked with the dates in Makkah in the past but it has become a mandatory requirement of the sharī‘ah now, then the question arises, who has abrogated the previous principle and on what basis? There is no provision in Qur'ān or the Sunnah which orders the Muslims to celebrate ‘Īd-ul-Adhā according to their local dates up to a particular time and to link it with the dates in Makkah thereafter. Whoever considers this and similar questions arising out of this unprecedented theory advanced in the article can appreciate its fallacy.
(Source: Ask the Imam Online. Mufti Ebrahim Desai)
Moonsighting (Hilāl) in Saudi Arabia and its implications worldwide
"In view of the present discrepancies in moon sighting, the view that Ikhtilāf-e-Matālih is considered may be adopted and each country should make their own independent decisions. It is incorrect for the Muslims in North America (especially the Arab brethren) to follow Saudia Arabia's ruling on ‘Īd-ul-Fitr and ‘Īd-ul-Adhā due to the moonsighting being inconsistent with sharī‘ah laws of sighting the moon."
(Source: Ask the Imam Online. Mufti Ebrahim Desai)
Which Hilāl (Islamic Crescent) to Follow?
"Synchronizing ‘Īd-ul-Adhā worldwide with hilāl sighting in Saudi Arabia is not appropriate because it is neither ikhtilāf-ul-Matāle (multiple horizons/local sighting), nor wahdat-ul-matāle (single horizon - follow first report of hilāl - no matter from which country). . . . According to the Shaykh ibn ‘Uthaymīn (r.a) fatwa, and other scholars, Ðūl Hijjah determination is no different from other 11 months and should be by local sighting (ikhtilāf-ul-matāle). . . . Using sighting in Saudi Arabia for here [in North America] can force us to ignore our earlier local hilāl sighting. (The world is round - for certain years, e.g. North America should see hilāl one date before the Middle-East)."
Wikipedia article on the Islamic Calendar "Nevertheless, the religious authorities of Saudi Arabia also allow the testimony of less experienced observers and thus often announces the sighting of the lunar crescent on a date when none of the official committees could see the lunar crescent."
WebExhibits: The Islamic calendar
"Saudi Arabia doesn't rely on a visual sighting of the crescent moon to fix the start of a new month. Instead they base their calendar on a calculated astronomical moon."
A sample moon sighting
Friday evening, 02 December 2005: first hilāl of Ðūl Qa‘idah 1426
Cloudless weather conditions
Sunset was at 17:15 EST.
Sighted with Nikon OceanPro 7x50 7.2° CF WP compass binoculars at 17:28 EST.
Sighted with a 300mm telephoto lens at 17:34 EST.
Sighted with naked eye at 17:39 EST. Can you see it? It's already 31 hours and 38 minutes after the new moon. Pretty old for a first day hilāl. Remember the record sighting listed above of 15.5 hours by the U.S. Naval Observatory? There is nothing record breaking about his sighting, yet without knowing exactly where to look, a novice probably would not have been able to spot it.
Keep in mind that this hilāl, barely visible with the naked eye, boasts a 2.7% phase (percentage of surface visible) and is 17° away from the sun.
The so-called "sighting" reported by Saudi officials on Oct. 03, 2005 marking the premature beginning of Ramadān 1426 had a phase of 0.00% and was only 1.63° away from the sun. The moon was already partially below the horizon after the sun completely set! This so-called "sighting" happened only 4 hours and 40 minutes after the new moon! Remember the all-time record of 15.5 hours by the U.S. Naval Observatory? A hilāl sighted only 4 hours and 40 minutes after the new moon? I don't think so!
In the photos above, the moon was stayed in the sky almost 48 minutes after the sun went down completely, yet one had to wait 13 minutes before the sky was dark enough for the hilāl to be visible, and 24 minutes after sunset for one to be able to spot it with the naked eye, although the exact position with binoculars had been established 11 minutes before! Now tell us how the Saudis could see any hilāl with only 2 minutes of viewing after sunset and a visible lunar surface area of 0.00%.