Ru’yah and Hisab: Marking the start of the month

2014 June Brunei Newsletter
2014 June Brunei Newsletter

Source: The Department of Information, Prime Minister’s Office,
 Brunei Darussalam Newsletter June 2014 (Download)

Predicting the first sighting of the new crescent has been attempted since the time of the ancient Babylonians. The ancient methods of moon sighting depended on the astronomical calculation of the Moon and the time difference between moonset and sunset.

The first sighting of the new crescent moon is used as the basis of various calendars to signal the start of the new month. For instance, Islam requires that the sighting of the new crescent moon should be made with the naked eye.

More modern techniques nowadays among others use the angular separation of the Sun and Moon, altitude difference between the Sun and Moon, as well as their relative azimuths and the width of the crescent.

The determination of the new crescent moon varies in several countries. There are some countries that only used the Ru’yah, while the others use Hisab or both of them.

Despite Muslim countries mastering the advanced technology of astronomy by using the Hisab method, some countries apparently still prefer to use Ru’yah by referring to a hadith (Prophet’s tradition) narrated by Imam Bukhari that stated, “Do not fast unless you sight the crescent, and do not break your fast till you sight the (following) crescent.”

Brunei Darussalam is one of the countries that follows the hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari as mentioned above and has its own moon sighting hills throughout the country. The moon sighting locations in Brunei are Bukit Shahbandar in Jerudong, Bukit Ambok and Padang Tembak Bukit Agok in Tutong, and Bukit Lumut in Belait.

The sightings of the new month will be reported to the authority and announced through radio and television by the high court Syariah judge. Moon sightings in Brunei Darussalam in the past were conducted at the minaret of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan as it was considered one of the higher places in the country. Whether the moon was sighted or not, it will be presented to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam before it is announced.

Brunei has a community of astronomers who called themselves “Persatuan Astronomi Negara Brunei Darussalam” (The Astronomical Society of Brunei Darussalam). They diligently conduct observations and give services on the current development of astronomy, including moon sighting, Kiblat direction, schedules of the Sun and the Moon, schedule of the planets, as well as star charts and planet positions.

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