An Australian Muslim delegation invited by Malaysian Government’s Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM) visited Malaysia from 29 May to 3 June 2022 to conduct official moonsighting exercises towards determining commencement of the month of Dhul-Qa’dah.

The group was led by Mirza Uzair Akbar, President, Council of Imams QLD and Imam of Holland Park Mosque, accompanied by Ahmed Nafaa, Al-Azhar scholar, Youcef Kouidri, Imam, United Muslims of Brisbane, Dr Shabbir Ahmad, Coordinator, Moonsighting Australia, and Imam of Mt Druitt Mosque and Dr Daud Batchelor.

 

  .

Imams were warmly received by JAKIM and State Mufti Departments while the Prime Minister’s Department provided transport. They conducted moonsighting at Teluk Kemang, Negri Sembilan (30/5), Khwarizmi Observatory, Tanjung Bidara, Malacca (31/5), and the 250-metre-high KL Tower, Kuala Lumpur (1/6).

The moon was not sighted on 30 May as the sun set before conjunction. It was however, sighted by telescope on 31May, establishing that Dhul-Qa’dah 1443H commenced on 1 June. The hilal was sighted by telescope and naked eye on 1 June evening.

This tour was very enlightening and established closer relations between Australian and Malaysian ulama’ and astronomers, and strengthened Australian Imams regarding use of regional moonsighting. Imams discovered Malaysian experts are genuinely Islamically exercising the Sunnah of moonsighting, as well as displaying competence in Islamic astronomy (falak), to the extent that Imams believe Malaysia can be world leader in moonsighting.

Opportunities for discussion and engagement with Malaysian falak experts in theory and practice, provided knowledge, experience and benefit for all imams, including Dr  Shabbir, who clarified the situation regarding past Hijri determinations. It provided them confidence in the validity of the Malaysian approach. Dr Shabbir will share his experience with other imams who follow local moonsighting and discuss the applicability of regional moonsighting.

Imams of certain Queensland  mosques have begun incorporating consideration of sightings from neighboring South-East Asian countries into their Hijri calendar determinations. A major issue in Australia is that hilals are younger so difficult to sight. Hilals from neighboring Asian countries are easier seen because firstly, the moon is older compared to East Australian sites, secondly, because of the numerous observer sites, 29 in Malaysia and 99 in Indonesia, and thirdly, because of the sophisticated astronomical equipment, telescopes and theodolites, and training of observers in the expected azimuth, altitude and hilal movements using precise astronomical calculations.

Initial collaboration began a year ago with Dr Zambri bin Zainuddin, Professor of Islamic Astronomy, at the Academy of Islamic Studies, University Malaya, which the group also visited. In Malaysia, JAKIM D-G hosts a twice-yearly meeting of the Expert Falak Panel to discuss calculated dates for Ramadhan and the Eids, and decides for each.  Subsequently, a regional meeting of Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore (MBIS) representatives discusses and agrees upon forecasted dates, which are used by their governments to pre-determine festival dates, subject to actual sightings.

For Eid-ul-Fitr  1443H this year in Australia, the earlier than expected regional sightings of the Shawwal moon brought coincidence in Eid determinations between the Queensland Imams and ANIC, which resulted in 80% of Australian Muslims celebrating Eid together.

With the conviction of the Islamic validity and benefits from incorporating regional moon-sightings for Hijri date determinations in Australia, clearly the cherished aspiration for unity based on an Islamically sound methodology, is achievable if ANIC can contribute in the field of best practice Imkanur-ru’yah calculated (hisab) sightings for the region.

Consequently, together with increasingly sophisticated astronomical instrumentation and guidance regionally, should facilitate the highly probable regular coincidence of forecasted dates and actual sightings, which would be a great blessing for all Australian Muslims providing joy and ease on their celebration days.