Posts Tagged ‘islamic astronomy’

Laylat-ul-Qadr (The Night of Majesty and Destiny) and simple astronomy – some reflections

May 22, 2020

Laylat-ul-Qadr (The Night of Glory and Destiny)

& simple astronomy – some reflections

Bismillah.

Laylat-ul-Qadr (LQ – The Night of Glory, Majesty, Decree and Destiny, etc.) is in one sense the climax of the month of Ramadan / Ramzan (R).

* Some of the hadiths about its exact date, even the allegedly authentic ones, are mutually contradictory, which is why scholars try to reconcile them.

* It is night-time for half the earth at any moment; the other half is in daytime. Day and night are relative to each person’s location on earth.

* It is presumably possible for the Angels & the Spirit to descend around the half of the earth that’s in night-time for a period of exactly 24 hours, thus giving a specific date for LQ. Presumably, this would start at sunset for the first location on earth from where the new crescent moon was visible.

* Since Muslims have differed for decades about the beginning of R, and hence about its odd nights, this presents a difficulty in finding LQ in the last 5 odd nights. One solution is to look for it throughout the last 10 nights. But what if LQ falls just before your last 10 nights or just after, i.e. on your Eid night whilst others are still observing R?

* Do the Angels & the Spirit descend throughout the last 10 nights?

* MY SOLUTION: Due to considerations like these, I follow the view of the Companion, Abdullah bin Mas’ood: LQ can be on any night of the year. Or we could say: it is on every night of the year. Every night is LQ!

* This is why the hadiths say: SEEK IT in the last 10 nights of R, etc., because it would be too difficult to seek it all year long. We are prepared with fasting & worship for a whole month to help find LQ during the last 10 nights, preferably in i’tikaf (spiritual retreat). Remember, the Prophet pbuh once did i’tikaf for the whole month of R in order to find LQ.

* These are some of the many wisdoms behind the spiritual practice of Ramadan/Ramzan. May ours have been blessed, and may we have found our Night of Powerful, Glorious Destiny, had all our prayers answered and been illuminated by The Light for at least another year!

PS “Better than a thousand months” means “Better than all of time.”

(khayrun min al-dahri kullihi – Tafsir Qurtubi)

In other words, Laylat-ul-Qadr is an opportunity to transcend Time, or experience Eternity or Timelessness.

I alluded to some of these lessons about Ramadan (Ramzan) & LQ in this poem, based on the famous opening of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:

To break your fast with a wholesome date
And recite noble verses of Light.
To seek Infinity in your unfolding Fate
And Eternity in One Night.

Usama Hasan

22 May 2020 / 28 Ramadan 1441

Tadworth, UK.

ليلة القدر و علم الفلك:

الليل والنهار أمران نسبيان لمكان كل شخص في الأرض، وهما آيتان من آيات الله تعالى.

والأحاديث في تحديد تاريخ ليلة القدر متناقضة، حتى الصحيحة منها، ولذالك حاول علماء الحديث الجمع بينها دائماً.

فنصف الأرض في أي وقت في ظلمة اليل، والنصف الآخر في ضوء النهار.

قد تنزّل الملائكة والروح لمدة ٢٤ ساعة كل عام، فتكون لليلة القدر تاريخ معيّن. ولكن عندنا مشكلة: الاختلاف في بداية شهر رمضان يؤدي الى اختلاف في اليالي العشرة الأخيرة.

من أجل هذه الاعتبارات وغيرها، أرى برأي عبد الله بن مسعود رضي الله عنه أن ليلة القدر قد تقع في أي ليلة في السنة. ولذالك جاء في الأحاديث «إلتمسوا ليلة القدر في العشرة الأخيرة من شهر رمضان» لأن إلتماسها طول العام أمر محرج وصعب جداً على المسلمين.

فشرع شهر العبادة من صوم وصلاة وزكاة وإطعام المساكين وإعتكاف وغيرها من أعمال الخير ليسهل إلتماس الليلة العظمى في العام:

إنا أنزلناه في ليلة القدر، وما أدرىٰك ما ليلة القدر؟ ليلة القدر خير من ألف شهر، تنزّل الملائكة والروح فيها بإذن ربهم من كل أمر، سلام هي حتى مطلع الفجر.

ومعنى «خير من ألف شهر» يعنى: «خير من الدهر كله» كما ذكره الإمام القرطبي في تفسيره. فإن وجدت ليلة القدر، فكأنما خرجت من حدود الزمان ولمست قدسية الدهر وذقت معنى الخلود في جنات النعيم.

اللهم بارك لنا في شهرنا و أيامنا وليالينا، آمين.

APPENDIX: A GLIMPSE OF SOME OF THE VIEWS ABOUT THE DATE OF LQ, TO SHOW THE IMMENSE DIVERSITY ABOUT THIS IN THE ISLAMIC TRADITION

NB: where “[odd nights of the] last 10” is mentioned, even this was disagreed about, e.g.: Ibn Hazm stated that if the month has 30 days, then these odd nights are 21, 23, 25, 27 & 29 but if the month has 29 days, then the last 10 nights are nights 20-29 and hence the odd nights are 20, 22, 24, 26 & 28! This was another argument for seeking LQ in all of the last 10 nights, because in the past, we were unable to know for sure in advance how many days the month would have.

IBN KATHIR

Hadith (Tayalisi): 27 or 29

Hadith (Ahmad): LQ in last 10, odd nights: 29 or 27 or 25 or 23 or the last night of the month.  The hadith has other details.  IK: the isnad is hasan, but the matn has strange, weak content (gharabah) and in some versions, rejected (nakarah) content or meaning.

Hadith (Ibn Abi Asim): LQ in last 10.

Hadith (Ahmad): Seek it in the first 10 or last 10 … Seek it in the last 10 … Seek it in the last 7.

Narration: from Ibn Mas’ood and those who followed him of the people of knowledge of Kufa that it is found throughout the year, and is hoped for in every month equally. (IK disagrees with this view)  Ibn Mas’ood used to say, “If you stand in prayer at night all year long, you will find LQ.”

Hadith (Abu Dawud): LQ may be throughout R.

Narration: from Abu Hanifa: LQ is hoped for throughout R.  This is also a view quoted by Ghazzali [i.e. in the Shafi’i madhhab? – UH] Rafi’i declared this to be an extremely strange view.

LQ is the 1st night of R: Abu Razin.

LQ is 17th R, because it was the night before the Battle of Badr, described as being on the “Day of Decision” (Yawm al-Furqan) in the Qur’an, hence it relates to LQ as the night of decision, decree and destiny: narrated from the Prophet, Ibn Mas’ood, Zayd bin Arqam, ‘Uthman bin Abil-‘Aas, Imam Shafi’i & Hasan Basri.

LQ is 19th R: narrated from ‘Ali & Ibn Mas’ood.

LQ is 21st R: Hadith of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri in Bukhari & Muslim.  Imam Shafi’i said that this was the most authentic narration on the subject.

LQ is 23rd R: Hadith of Abdullah bin Anees in Sahih Muslim – it is a very similar narration to the previous hadith (21 R).

LQ is 24th R: Hadith of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri in Tayalisi. IK: the narrators are trustworthy.  Also narrated as a hadith by Bilal, but a weak isnad. Also contradicted by the next consideration:

LQ is in the first 7 of the last 10 nights: more authentic view of Bilal rA, narrated by Bukhari.  Also narrated as the view of Ibn Mas’ood, Ibn Abbas, Jabir, Hasan, Qatadah & Ibn Wahb, and from the Prophet by Wathilah bin al-Asqa’.

LQ is 25th R: based on the hadith of Bukhari from Ibn Abbas from the Prophet: Seek it in the last 10 nights: in the 9 remaining, 7 remaining, 5 remaining.

IK: Most people of knowledge understood this to mean the odd nights, but others understood it to mean the even nights, e.g. Abu Sa’id (Sahih Muslim). IK: Allah knows best.

LQ is 27th R: narrated from the Prophet, several Companions, a group of the Salaf, the preferred view in the madhhab of Imam Ahmad and quoted also from Imam Abu Hanifa.

LQ is the 7th of last 10 (i.e. 27) or with 7 remaining (i.e. 22 or 23): narrated from Ibn Abbas.

LQ is 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 or last night of the month: Hadith of Imam Ahmad.

LQ is 27 or 29: Hadith of Imam Ahmad.

LQ is the last night of R: Hadith of Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i.

 

 

UK Ramadan fasting times for 2017

May 22, 2017

Bismillah. As I’ve written about before, there are different views on excessive fasting hours in the summer at high latitudes such as the UK. I am not going to repeat those, but try to provide the scientific, astronomical data, information and knowledge to help support others to come to their own conclusions.

In this post, I give the dawn, sunset & possible fasting times for 2017, when mid-summer occurs towards the end of Ramadan: the average fasting times are slightly shorter than last year (2016), when they were maximum in the 33-year lunar/solar cycle, but not by much.

*I urge mosque timekeepers (muwaqqits) or others who develop fasting timetables to be transparent about the method they are using, and not vague references like “fiqh according to Madhhab X” because there are many views in every Madhhab. E.g. using an 18-degree or even 15-degree rule gives no timings for most of the UK. Fasting timetables in the UK summer should clearly state what method is used to arrive at the beginning time of fasting. Many timetables have excessive gaps between ‘dawn’ and sunrise of 2-3 hours with no sensible justification, since this is merely one possibility amongst many others and is indeed the most difficult for people. Indeed, with the summer midnight being at 1am BST, some of these timetables are forcing people to fast from soon after midnight. With the sunset-sunrise night length being 6-8 hours across the UK, the most reasonable view within this paradigm in my view is that of the last 1/6th, 1/7th or 1/8th of the night, giving a fasting time beginning an hour before dawn. However, other approaches are even more preferable. Over to others for discussion and to arrive at their own conclusions.*

Examples of dawn/sunset timings for the UK, 2017 (four UK capital cities)

This data is taken from HMNAO’s Websurf 2.0 website, and was reproduced with permission by the ASCL in their Ramadan 2017 guidelines. I have used the four UK capital cities, with three dates for each, roughly corresponding to the beginning, middle & end of Ramadan.

Date City Dawn (AST) Dawn (15D) Dawn (NAUT) Sunrise Sunset Fasting length (AST) Fasting length (15D) Fasting length (NAUT)
27 May London *** 0220 0305 0454 2103 *** 18:43 17:58
10 June   *** 0139 0245 0444 2117 *** 19:38 18:32
25 June   *** 0122 0243 0444 2122 *** 20:00 18:39
27 May Ed’burgh *** *** 0201 0441 2140 *** *** 19:39
10 June   *** *** *** 0428 2157 *** *** ***
25 June   *** *** *** 0428 2203 *** *** ***
27 May Cardiff *** 0232 0318 0506 2115 *** 18:43 17:57
10 June   *** 0152 0257 0456 2129 *** 19:36 18:32
25 June   *** 0136 0255 0457 2134 *** 19:58 18:39
27 May Belfast *** *** 0245 0500 2143 *** *** 18:58
10 June   *** *** 0159 0448 2158 *** *** 19:59
25 June   *** *** 0134 0448 2204 *** *** 20:30


AST
refers to astronomical twilight, when begins or ends when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizonKey:

15D refers to when the sun is 15 degrees below the horizon

NAUT refers to nautical twilight, when begins or ends when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon

The astronomical definition of “dawn” is disputed, with various Muslim religious authorities adopting one of the three possible definitions given above.

*** in the above table means that the timing is not available, because the sun does not reach that far below the horizon. This happens every year during the summer at high latitudes, such as the UK.

 

NOTES:

  1. As confirmed by HMNAO, there is always a possible error of 1-2 minutes in sunrise and sunset timings: although we can calculate exactly the position of the sun relative to our horizons, refraction of the sun’s rays can introduce an error: the sun may be below the horizon but we see it just above, due to refraction.  (This does not always happen, of course: hence the error will be zero, one or two minutes.) This means that technically, mosque prayer timetables may wish to add 2 minutes to sunset timings and subtract 2 minutes from sunrise timings, just to be safe about the timings of the sunset and dawn prayers, and for breaking the fast.  However, this might also be hair-splitting: I recommend making these adjustments, but would not worry if they are not made.
  2. If we use astronomical twilight (Sun’s depression = 18 degrees) as the start of dawn, this does not occur at all during Ramadan 2017 in any of the four capital cities. Therefore, the fasting start time and fasting length would be undefined.
  3. If we use (Sun’s depression = 15 degrees) as the start of dawn, this does not occur at all during Ramadan 2017 in Edinburgh or Belfast. Therefore, the fasting start time and fasting length would be undefined in those cities. However, it does occur in London and Cardiff, giving fasting lengths of 19.5-20 hours during the month.
  4. If we use nautical twilight (Sun’s depression = 12 degrees) as the start of dawn, this results in fasting hours during Ramadan 2017 in London and Cardiff of 18-19 hours, and in Belfast of 19-20.5 hours. We only get defined fasting hours at the beginning of Ramadan for Edinburgh, of 19.5-20 hours.
  5. Hence, it should be obvious that some ijtihad is required, eg a fraction of the night or a lower angle of the Sun below the horizon to designate the “beginning” of dawn. Another option is sunrise-sunset fasting rather than dawn-sunset, as done by some of the Sahaba (Tafsir Ibn Kathir & Ibn Hazm’s Al-Muhalla), or other, non-literalist options that I have described elsewhere.

NB: Our local latitude determines the lowest angle the Sun will dip below the horizon at mid-summer (~22 June). This angle can easily be calculated by subtracting 66.5 degrees (the latitude of the Arctic & Antarctic Circles) from the local latitude.

E.g.:

Within the Arctic Circle (66.5 deg or higher latitude), lowest Sun angle = zero or higher: the sun doesn’t set at all in the “land of the midnight sun.”

Edinburgh (56.0 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 56.0 – 66.5 = 10.5 deg below the horizon

Belfast (54.6 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 54.6 – 66.5 = 11.9 deg below the horizon

London & Cardiff (both 51.5 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 51.5 – 66.5 = 15 deg below the horizon

*NB: even using these angles of 10.5 deg, ~12 deg, 15 deg & 15 deg for Edinburgh, Belfast, London & Cardiff respectively will give very long fasting hours, as the table of timings above demonstrates.

Btw for Paris (48.9 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 48.9 – 66.5 = 17.6 deg below the horizon, so using the 18-degree rule gives no timings for Paris or anywhere north of it either at midsummer.

Have a blessed Ramadan 1438 / 2017!

Usama Hasan, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, UK

UK Ramadan fasting times for last year (2016)

May 22, 2017

Bismillah. As I’ve written about before, there are different views on excessive fasting hours in the summer at high latitudes such as the UK. I am not going to repeat those, but try to provide the scientific, astronomical data, information and knowledge to help support others to come to their own conclusions.

In the first of these posts, I am including the dawn, sunset & possible fasting times from last year (2016) because then, mid-Ramadan coincided with mid-summer, hence giving the longest average fasting lengths in the 33-year cycle as the lunar years move through solar years.

Examples of dawn/sunset timings for the UK, 2016
(four UK capital cities)

This data is taken from HMNAO’s Websurf 2.0 website, and was reproduced with permission by the ASCL in their Ramadan 2016 guidelines. I have used the four UK capital cities, with three dates for each, roughly corresponding to: beginning, middle & end of Ramadan.

Date City Dawn (AST) Dawn (15D) Dawn (NAUT) Sunrise Sunset Fasting length (AST) Fasting length (15D) Fasting length (NAUT)
07 June London *** 0147 0248 0445 2114 *** 19:27 18:26
22 June (midsummer)   *** 0117 0241 0443 2122 *** 20:05 18:41
06 July   *** 0156 0256 0452 2118 *** 19:22 18:22
07 June Ed’burgh *** *** *** 0429 2154 *** *** ***
22 June (midsummer)   *** *** *** 0427 2203 *** *** ***
06 July   *** *** *** 0437 2158 *** *** ***
07 June Cardiff *** 0159 0300 0457 2126 *** 19:27 18:26
22 June (midsummer)   *** 0131 0254 0456 2134 *** 20:03 18:40
06 July   *** 0209 0308 0504 2130 *** 19:21 18:22
07 June Belfast *** *** 0209 0450 2156 *** *** 19:47
22 June (midsummer)   *** *** *** 0447 2204 *** *** ***
06 July   *** *** 0219 0457 2200 *** *** 19:41

Key:

AST refers to astronomical twilight, when begins or ends when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon

15D refers to when the sun is 15 degrees below the horizon

NAUT refers to nautical twilight, when begins or ends when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon

The astronomical definition of “dawn” is disputed, with various Muslim religious authorities adopting one of the three possible definitions given above.

*** in the above table means that the timing is not available, because the sun does not reach that far below the horizon. This happens every year during the summer at high latitudes, such as the UK.

 

NOTES:

  1. As confirmed by HMNAO, there is always a possible error of 1-2 minutes in sunrise and sunset timings: although we can calculate exactly the position of the sun relative to our horizons, refraction of the sun’s rays can introduce an error: the sun may be below the horizon but we see it just above, due to refraction.  (This does not always happen, of course: hence the error will be zero, one or two minutes.) This means that technically, mosque prayer timetables may wish to add 2 minutes to sunset timings and subtract 2 minutes from sunrise timings, just to be safe about the timings of the sunset and dawn prayers, and for breaking the fast.  However, this might also be hair-splitting: I recommend making these adjustments, but would not worry if they are not made.
  2. If we use astronomical twilight (Sun’s depression = 18 degrees) as the start of dawn, this did not occur at all during Ramadan 2016 in any of the four capital cities. Therefore, the fasting start time and fasting length were undefined.
  3. If we use (Sun’s depression = 15 degrees) as the start of dawn, this did not occur at all during Ramadan 2017 in Edinburgh or Belfast. Therefore, the fasting start time and fasting length were undefined in those cities. However, it did occur in London and Cardiff, giving fasting lengths of 19.5-20 hours during the month.
  4. If we use nautical twilight (Sun’s depression = 12 degrees) as the start of dawn, this resulted in fasting hours during Ramadan 2016 in London and Cardiff of ~18.5 hours, and in Belfast of just under 20 hours at the beginning and end of Ramadan, but not in mid-Ramadan (mid-summer). We had no defined fasting hours throughout Ramadan 2016 for Edinburgh.
  5. Hence, it should be obvious that some ijtihad is required, eg a fraction of the night or a lower angle of the Sun below the horizon to designate the “beginning” of dawn.

NB: Our local latitude determines the lowest angle the Sun will dip below the horizon at mid-summer (~22 June). This angle can easily be calculated by subtracting 66.5 degrees (the latitude of the Arctic & Antarctic Circles) from the local latitude.

E.g.:

Within the Arctic Circle (66.5 deg or higher latitude), lowest Sun angle = zero or higher: the sun doesn’t set at all in the “land of the midnight sun.”

Edinburgh (56.0 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 56.0 – 66.5 = 10.5 deg below the horizon

Belfast (54.6 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 54.6 – 66.5 = 11.9 deg below the horizon

London & Cardiff (both 51.5 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 51.5 – 66.5 = 15 deg below the horizon

*NB: even using these angles of 10.5 deg, ~12 deg, 15 deg & 15 deg for Edinburgh, Belfast, London & Cardiff respectively will give very long fasting hours, as the table of timings above demonstrates.

Btw for Paris (48.9 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 48.9 – 66.5 = 17.6 deg below the horizon, so using the 18-degree rule gave no timings for Paris or anywhere north of it either, at midsummer.

Usama Hasan, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, UK

UK Ramadan dates, 2017-2025

May 22, 2017

Bismillah.

Ramadan dates 2017-2025 (approx.) for the UK

Based on Crescent Moon Visibility data for London from HMNAO’s Websurf 2.0 website

(Moon Visibility is now calculated very accurately on a scale of A-F. The following dates are based on the approximation that A-C represent a visible crescent moon; D-F represent an invisible moon.)

NB: The following dates may vary by 1 or 2 days because even with a visible crescent moon, there are intra-Muslim disagreements over how far this applies geographically.

YEAR Beginning of Ramadan Eid al-Fitr
2017 27 May 26 June
2018 17 May 16 June
2019 07 May 05 June
2020 25 April 25 May
2021 14 April 14 May
2022 03 April 02 May
2023 23 March (~ Spring equinox) 22 April
2024 12 March 10 April
2025 02 March 31 March

 

A beginner’s guide to learning about astronomy

October 9, 2009

Bismillah. Some recommendations:

1) All knowledge comes from God, so continually pray to him to teach you more. This Koranic prayer is great: rabbi zidni ‘ilma(n) – “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.”

2) The first and last learning resource for astronomy is the sky itself, especially the night sky. Get into the habit of watching the movement of the sun and moon, where and when they rise and set etc. (Never look directly at the sun.) Sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times are widely-available online and in good daily newspapers.

The apparent movement of stars and planets would be the next thing to learn. Make sure you know your N-E-S-W directions wherever you are. Learning about the North Star helps here! Binoculars are good for viewing the moon and fainter stars.

3) Visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG), http://www.rog.nmm.ac.uk – free entry with brilliant learning resources, planetarium shows and a good shop for books, software and telescopes.

4) There are many observatories and planetaria around the UK – do try to visit those.

5) Watch “The Sky at Night” on BBC1, it’s a monthly programme. Has a good website, too.

6) There are several national and international astronomical associations and astronomy magazines. The latter include “Astronomy Now” and “Sky and Telescope.” There are hundreds of websites.

7) Software: free, shareware or fairly cheap, and will show you on your PC screen what the night sky looks like at your location, at any time. “Starry Night” is about £10 at the ROG shop, and is excellent. Skyglobe is good shareware, available online. Others include Stellarium, but I’m not familiar with them. A good way to learn to recognise and name the planets, stars and constellations.

8. Many observatories, including ROG, run short courses with weekly sessions, teaching astronomy at beginner and more advanced levels, as do many adult-learning colleges. For children, there are GCSE and AS-level courses in astronomy.

9) My blog (https://unity1.wordpress.com) has a section on astronomy and Islamic astronomy.

10) There are many books on Islamic astronomy. Good websites include ICOP, the Astronomical Societies of Jordan, the UAE and Qatif in Saudi Arabia (qasweb.org) and various moonsighting ones.

TV programme – Moonsighting discussion

August 16, 2009

Bismillah. We just finished recording this, alhamdulillah.

It will be aired on Islam Channel (Sky 836 or http://www.islamchannel.tv) on Tuesday night God-willing, 18th August 2009, 10-11pm.

Panellists (with a studio audience):

Mohammad Ali (Islam Channel)
Qamar Uddin (ICOP)
Suliman Gani (Tooting Mosque)
Usama Hasan (Tawhid Mosque)

Chair: Ajmal Masroor

A good discussion I thought, more civilised and less heated than in previous years. I hope it will be beneficial in advancing public understanding of the issues involved.

Ibn Taymiyyah on Fasting and Moonsighting

July 14, 2009

Ibn Taymiyyah – Fasting and Moonsighting v1 (16 pages including commentary by Usama Hasan)

From the Collected Fatwas of Ibn Taymiyyah (Majmu’ Fatawa Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah), ed. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Qasim and his son Muhammad, Riyadh, 1398 H, vol. 25 (vol. 5 of the Fiqh Section), pp. 98-113.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1 Fasting on the day when it might or might not be the first of Ramadan
1.1 Caution in legal matters
1.2 Does the hilal exist only when it is visible, or does it have an independent existence?

2 How far geographically is a hilal-sighting valid?

2.1 The impact of knowledge and communication constraints on this matter
2.2 Travelling to a place where Ramadan began on a different day
2.3 The importance of information in this matter
2.4 The meaning of “hilal”
2.5 Summary of the discussion so far
2.6 A further discussion about the hilal and the Hajj

An Introduction to the Moonsighting Controversy

July 14, 2009

Introduction to Moonsighting Controversy

A good 10-page summary of the main issues, by Rukhsana Begum.