[Editor’s Note: As a billion Muslims observe the Holy Month of Ramadan, we are honored to present this column from Sultan Rahman Muhammad, the Student National Imam of the Nation of Islam.]
The Holy Month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim lunar calendar, which consists of 12 months. “Surely the number of months with Allah is twelve months by Allah’s ordinance, since the day when He created the heavens and the earth.” (Holy Qur’an, 9:36).
According to the lunar calendar months, the number of days in the month are calculated in accordance with the phases of the moon. Muslims around the world follow these phases to mark a new month by the observance of the first sighting or calculation of the waxing new moon, in Qur’anic Arabic called the hilal. “Hilal” literally means to appear (new moon) or begin (of lunar month).
This year, projections to begin the Month of Ramadan were made for the 2nd or 3rd of April 2022. The Nation of Islam and the majority of Muslim communities began the fast during the daylight hours on Saturday, the 2nd of April. Praise be to Allah, Ramadan Mubarak!
Allah (God) has Revealed, “They ask thee of the new moons. Say: They are times appointed for men.” (Holy Qur’an, 2:189). Based upon the Holy Qur’an, Muslims are appointed times of the month according to the lunar calendar. Buddhists and many early calendars also share in the calculation of the lunar calendar months.
In contrast, the solar Gregorian calendar system introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 CE, widely used in Western societies today, does not tell us anything of the phases of the moon. The Gregorian calendar has been used as a global standard for only about a century and deeply reflects European colonialism and commercialism. “I, Allah, am the Seer. A Book which We have revealed to thee that thou mayest bring forth men, by their Lord’s permission, from darkness into light, to the way of the Mighty, the Praised One …” (Holy Qur’an, 14:1).
Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in sound narrations has reported, “Observe fast when you see it (the new moon) and break fast when you see it (the new moon of Shawwal), but when (the actual position of the month is) concealed from you (on account of cloudy sky), then count thirty days.” “A month has twenty-nine days in it. Do not start the fast or break it until you see the new moon. If the new moon is obscured from you, then work out (when it should be).”
The Muslim world is guided by the lunar calendar, which tracks the movement of the sun, moon and stars precisely to the fraction. The average lunar month consists of 29.5 days, therefore making it necessary from time to time to adjust the length of the month between 29 and 30 days. The calculation of the days of the month when sighting the moon simply stated is, “If you can see the crescent Moon on the 29th, that month has 29 days. If you cannot, it means that month has 30 days.”
In fact, the “new moon” is a full black moon and lies directly between the sun and Earth making its illuminated face completely dark. The crescent moon waxes or grows every consecutive night until the entire face of the moon is seen and becomes a “full moon.” The face of the “full moon” then wanes until it again is not visible from Earth. The new “crescent moon” or hilal is seen as the moon moves in its orbit on the first night marking the new month, accordingly the night precedes the day in counting the days of the lunar calendar among the Muslims. Allah (God) has Revealed in Chapter 3 Al-Imran, Verse 190, “In the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day, there are surely signs for men of understanding.”
Some Muslim communities strictly rely on a visual sighting of the new moon phase to start the fast during the Month of Ramadan, and others begin the month based on calculated astronomical projections of the moon’s phases. Since the lunar cycle has either 29 or 30 days, the start days can vary according to the method used to mark the Holy Month.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches, Allah (God) conceived creation out of the material darkness of nothingness. “In Our Saviour Has Arrived,” page 122, “Out of darkness and the thoughtless and invisible, He Brought Out the Visible Vision and Thought and Idea.” The Bible and the Holy Qur’an both bear witness to this foundational Truth of Creation, “The Earth was without form and void; darkness was upon the deep.” (Gen. 1:26)
From darkness, Allah (God) has created all things. He has created the heavens, the Earth and man from triple darkness: three phases or coverings of darkness. It is from the darkness of the Earth in which the seed is buried from which vegetation grows. The Holy Qur’an was Revealed during the Holy Month of Ramadan in the Night of Power or Majesty, in the darkness of a cave, in the darkness of ignorance on the “Mountain of Light,” in Arabic Jabal an-Nur. “Beneficent God! By the Book that makes manifest! We revealed it on a blessed night … ” (Holy Qur’an, 44:1-3).
The concept of day and night in Islam is in accord with the natural order that has been established in Allah’s (God’s) creation, not that of the opposers of Allah (God) that seek to reject His signs. Allah (God) Revealed in Chapter 6, The Cattle, Verse 1, “Praise be to Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, and made darkness and light. Yet those who disbelieve set up equals to their Lord.” The Honorable Elijah Muhammad writes in his book the Flag of Islam, page 2, all creatures of Allah (God), “enjoy equally the natural benefits of the SUN, MOON and STARS (the Islamic Flag) which are essential for our existence regardless of religious belief.”
The Earth’s orbit around the sun takes approximately 365 days, while a lunar year, or 12 full cycles of the Moon, is around 354 days, about 11 days shorter than the solar Gregorian calendar. This is why the Islamic lunar calendar, or Hijri calendar, the Month of Ramadan falls in various seasons throughout a calendar year. So it is through the struggle of The Great Fast, during the Holy Month of Ramadan, we uncover ourselves in phases in alignment with the natural forces to rediscover mental and spiritual life after death.
We also uncover the mental and spiritual death of a world in which the Knowledge of God, Satan, and The Time has been obscured that we may return to our Original disposition of righteousness. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan teaches in “Closing the Gap,” on page 130, “Out of the darkness of space and the adversity of overcoming nothingness, came sun, moon, stars, life; all forms of life.”
(Sultan Rahman Muhammad serves as the Student National Imam of the Nation of Islam and resident Imam of Mosque Maryam National Center, Chicago. Visit NOI.org/ramadan, follow @ImamSultanM on Twitter, or email: [email protected].)