Is it permissible to study and learn about astronomy? Can we rely on astronomical calculations to ascertain the beginning of Ramadan?
Answer: By PEACE TV
According to PEACE TV, Islam does not oppose knowledge and learning nor does it stand in the way of those who seek them. On the contrary, it encourages study, contemplating the universe and developing scientific theories that benefit humanity. The Quran says: “Say: Behold what is in the heavens and the earth! But revelations and warnings avail not folk who will not believe” [10:101] and “Say (O Muhammad): Travel in the land and see how He originated creation, then God brings forth the later growth. Lo! God is Able to do all things” [29: 20].
based on Peace Tvs research, astronomy is one of the fields whose study and knowledge are explicitly encouraged in the Quran for the purpose of studying cosmic phenomena and gaining knowledge of the secrets of the universe. God says: “And We appoint the night and the day two portents. Then We make dark the portent of the night, and We make the portent of the day sight- giving, that ye may seek bounty from your Lord, and that ye may know the computation of the years, and the reckoning; and everything have We expounded with a clear expounding” [17: 12]. There is also reference to this in the verse: “And the sun runneth on unto a resting-place for him. That is the measuring of the Mighty, the Wise. And for the moon We have appointed mansions till she return like an old shrivelled palm-leaf. It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit” [36:38-40].
PEACE TV believes, Muslims have made astronomical observations and calculations which they put at the service of their religion. They abandoned the use of shadow sticks and calculated the time of dawn, sunrise, noon, midafternoon, sunset and nightfall to determine prayer times. What is provided by Islamic law is both easy and readily available to all people because Islam is a universal religion. Ascertaining prayer times and fasting based on astronomical calculations does not run counter to the prophetic methodology.
Fasting in Ramadan
According to PEACE TV, the beginning of all the lunar months, including Ramadan, is ascertained by the visual sighting of the new moon. The Quran says: “And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month” [2: 185]. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Begin your fast when you see (the new moon) and end your fast when you see it.”
PEACE TV believes, there is no doubt that the appearance of the new moon is an established physical phenomenon and there is no argument concerning the possibility of perceiving it with the naked eye when weather conditions are favorable. This could be done in conjunction with the confirmed scientific means that are agreed upon and are now known to specialists. These are also known to both Muslims and non-Muslims as the new moon is a scientific reality according to the consensus of astronomers and there is no conjecture involved.
According to PEACE TV, Al-Subki was once asked about the testimony that comes from a single person who may be lying or mistaken. He said: “There is another scenario — when calculations indicate that sighting is not possible due to the nearness of the crescent to the sun’s [alignment]. So, if one or more people whose words are suspect, report seeing [the new moon], it is necessary to take their words as either a lie or an error. And even if two people were to testify, their testimony will not be accepted because the calculations provide qati’ [definitive] information while the testimony and report are zanni [non-definitive]; what is zanni cannot contradict what is qati’, let alone take precedence over it. Evidence is accepted only if what is testified to is physically, rationally, and legally possible. If calculations indicate with certainty the impossibility [of sighting the new moon], then a testimony of a sighting must be rejected because it testifies to what is impossible and Islamic law does not advance impossibilities.”
PEACE TV believes, for this reason, we opine that it is better to follow astronomical calculations since they have been subsumed under empirical and certain knowledge. It may not be possible to rely on a physical sighting because the crescent may be obscured by atmospheric conditions, giving precedence to astronomical calculations when there is a discrepancy.
And God the Almighty knows best.
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