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Every year, a common occurrence is a dispute between followers of various sects about when so-called Ramadan starts and ends. This year is no exception and some countries ended their so-called Ramadan one day before others.
In the so-called Islamic calendar the start of Ramadan depends on the sighting of the new crescent moon. The sighting of the new crescent moon is not an easy task and only expert observers under optimal viewing conditions can see the new-moon crescent. Hence, the vast majority of people never sees the new-moon crescent and only sees the 1-2 day old crescent. This difficulty is a major reason for the annual dispute about the timing. What many people don't know is that the start of so-called Ramadan depends on a myriad of other factors other than the sighting of the new-moon crescent.
The current so-called Islamic calendar was established during the time of Caliph Omar, long after the death of the prophet and the revelation of the great reading. This is confirmed by archeological evidence from coins and manuscripts of the era. [Please see: Alan Jones, "The Dotting Of A Script And The Dating Of An Era: The Strange Neglect Of PERF 558", in Islamic Culture, 1998, Volume LXXII, No. 4, pp. 95-103.]
Interestingly, the word "hijri" doesn't appear on manuscripts until much later so we don't really know what this arbitrary dating of the new era was based on.
One of the factors that affects when present-day so-called Ramadan starts depends on when the start of the so-called Islamic calendar was set. For example, had its start been set for three years earlier, then this year the dating of Ramadan would have been a month earlier. As I mentioned above, we know from verifiable archeological evidence that the new calendar was established around 638 AD, long after the prophet's time. Several generations later, a story circulated that Omar decided after consultation with others to make the year of the "hijra" the first date of the new era. So the timing of Ramadan today is dependent not only on the sighting of the new crescent moon but on an arbitrary decision that was made many centuries ago.
As a side note, traditionalists also contend that the prophet first started to abstain in the second year after migration/"hijra". So according to them this means that 2:185 was revealed early in Yathrib. The traditionalists contend that Chapter 9 (where they claim there is the alleged calendar modification order) was revealed in the last year of the prophet's life. By holding to this traditional view and backdating the so-called Islamic calendar to the alleged first year of "hijra" sectarians imply that all his life, the prophet abstained on the wrong dates (see Appendix).
Another factor that the start of the present so-called Ramadan depends on is the order of the months at the time the new calendar system was adopted. In "pre-quranic" times, the Arabs didn't use a single standard calendar. Arabs used calendars based on 4, 5, and 6-season system. Some "pre-quranic" Arabs used the calendar system of the Persians. Others used the calendar system of the Jews and some used the calendar system of the Romans. The Nabataeans used to align the months with the zodiac and hence some Arabs used the star based calendar system. Rabi3 months etymology denotes grazing in spring and fall. In Arabia the rainy season, which would promote the growth of grasses for grazing, occurs during autumn. This is confirmed by what is known about Arabs using a 6 season system that split fall into Rabi3 Althani (early fall) and Kharif (late fall) prior to the so-called Islamic calendar. In this system each season lasted two months. The new Omar Calendar that we have today has a different order for the months. The arbitrary decision to rearrange the order of the months also affects when the present day so-called Ramadan occurs.
Hence, in addition to the sighting of the new crescent moon, we have two other completely arbitrary factors affecting when so-called Ramadan starts. Hence, for all intents and purposes, the current so-called Ramadan is completely arbitrary and it is no different than randomly picking a month for abstaining.  
The problem of pinpointing an arbitrary month called Ramadan is the same type of problem that the Jews, Christians, and sectarians face in pinpointing their "holy" days in the arbitrary week. For example, sectarians claim that Friday, which they named Al-Jum3at (as opposed to the common noun "ywm al-jum3at"/time of gathering in the great reading), is a special "holy" day where, according to their traditions, Adam was created. What is hard for many people to understand is that the week is completely arbitrary. Hence, the fact is that the week has not always been seven days. Weeks from 4 to 20 days were observed. For example, the ancient Egyptians used a 10-day week while the Mayans used a 20-day week. The week was typically the interval from one market day to the next. Four to 20 days gave farmers and craftsmen enough time to gather and transport products to sell. Hence, when Friday occurs depends on when the present seven day week was arbitrarily adopted and which day it started with.
There is nothing wrong or forbidden with an arbitrary timeframe in itself. The problem is to act as if The God somehow has to conform to the man-made arbitrary timeframes and to say to people that The God ordered you to fast in this or that completely arbitrary timeframe or take that arbitrary day as "holy". Another problem with such arbitrary timeframes is that errors made at the beginning of their adoption are propagated into the future and get larger and larger. This shouldn't be the case because we are not responsible for the errors of those who came before us. Hence, an effective method of specifying a timeframe shouldn't be one that allows such errors to propagate. It should be one that allows those who have faith at any point of time to obey The God's command correctly irrespective of what their predecessors decided to do or not to do. This is impossible with the current so-called Islamic calendar, which as we saw is influenced by decisions made centuries ago. Another problem is that, as we saw earlier, now and in the past people used different calendars, a universal command that is to be understood by everybody would best be based on clear cosmic phenomena and not on man-made calendars.
Now that we presented the problem, let's look in the great reading for the solution.

2:185. "shahr ramadhan" is when the reading was descended as a guidance for people and clarifications from the guidance and the criterion, so whomever witnesses "al-shahr", let him abstain it. And whomever was sick or traveling so a count of other days. The God wants to facilitate and not make it hard on you. And so complete the count and magnify The God for what He guided you and perhaps you would be thankful.
A common misconception is that the word "shahr" means month. However, the term "shahr" doesn't mean month. According to Classical Arabic dictionaries, the Arabs used to call the moon "shahr". But what phase of the moon does the word "shahr" imply?
Classical Arabic Dictionaries deal extensively with the etymology of the word "shahr". For instance in the discussion of "shahr", it gives "ash-harat", a derivative of "shahr", as meaning a pregnant woman whose belly is round. It also gives the meaning of "shahira(t)" as a big wide woman. It also gives the meaning of "ash-har" as the bright white color of flowers. The primary meaning of the word "shahr" is "something obvious", "something public", "something wide", and "something bright". Hence, all the etymology of the Arabic word "shahr" indisputably and clearly points to it being the obvious, wide, round, and bright full-moon and not the thin, unobvious, and dim new crescent moon.
There is no evidence that there was a "pre-quranic" month named Ramadhan. The common noun "ramadhan" means "scorching heat". The only derivative from "R-M-Dh" in the great reading is the word "ramadhan", which occurs only once. Hence, there is no way to compare directly the meaning with how it is used in other verses.
However, one can indirectly verify the meaning. Verses such as 2:217 indicate that there was big fighting during "al-shahr al-7aram". We also know that the whole context of chapter 9 (or the second half of the very long chapter 8, since the "bism Allah" are the only separators) is about fighting the idolaters who broke their treaty. A sign in verse 9:81 indicates that the time of a particularly big fight that the hypocrites were fearful from was a hot time of the year. Shortly after 9:82, 9:86 talks about a chapter descending at that time and from 2:185 we know that "shahr ramadhan" is when the great reading was descended so that provides an additional link between "shahr ramadhan" and "al-shahr al-7aram". Hence, circumstantial evidence from the great reading supports that "al-shahr al-7aram"/"shahr ramadhan" is a hot time of the year and confirms the dictionary's meaning.
With this understanding, let's now complete the translation of 2:185 that we started above:
2:185. The full moon of scorching heat is when the reading was descended as a guidance for people and clarifications from the guidance and the criterion, so whomever witnesses the full-moon, let him abstain it. And whomever was sick or traveling so a count of other days. The God wants to facilitate and not make it hard on you. And so complete the count and magnify The God for what He guided you and perhaps you would be thankful.
Now 2:185 contains the complete information that we need to know when to start the abstinence. It is the complete information irrespective of what calendar system each nation or group uses because it doesn't rely on any calendar system and instead relies on easily witnessed cosmic phenomena.
When does scorching heat begin to take place? The time of scorching heat starts after the summer solstice. This is the time when the sun is at its highest point and hence the shadow is smallest. Verse 25:45 talks about the indicative relationship between the sun and the shadow. It is after the summer solstice that the weather starts to become hot.
Interestingly, the full-moon around the summer solstice is special because it follows a lower path across the sky compared to the rest of the year's full moons and for some reason our brains are wired to perceive such full-moons as larger than normal. In fact, not only will the full-moon seem bigger than normal, but the low-hanging full moon takes on an orange hue as a result of scattered moonlight in Earth's dusty atmosphere. For the same reason that warning lights are orange, this orange hue creates a strong visual response, preserves the observer's night vision, and allows him/her to better see the shape and details of the moon than the normal white moon light (while driving, we all experienced how looking into white headlights degrades those abilities). Hence, the full-moon after the summer solstice is easier to witness. Moreover, because this orange moon appears while the days are longest, at the time of its appearance it is still daylight and it is still hot outside. All these signs are certainly not coincidental.
Now the next question to ask is about the year. Is the year in the great reading solar or lunar?

10.5. It is He who made the sun a shining brightness and the moon a light and made it stages; so that you might know the number of years and the calculation. The God didn't create this except with the truth, He explains His signs to people who know.
From 10:5, it can be seen that the learning of the number of years and calculation are helped by either or both the sun and the moon, however there is no mention of a specific stage of the moon. Another sign that makes it absolutely clear that the year is solar is in 17:12:
17.12. We have made the night and the day as two signs: the sign of the night We have obscured, while the sign of the day we have made visible so that you may seek favors from your Lord, and so that you may know the number of years and the calculation, and We have explained all things in detail.
Given that night and day is certainly determined by the sun and not the moon, the sign in 17:12 leaves absolutely no doubt that the year is solar.
More confirmation is in 12:47-49 that talk about the "year" definitely as a solar year because of reference to agricultural cycles and planning of crops that would have to be done according to seasons that don't change from one year to the next.
A verse that is often mistranslated and hence confused is 2:189. Here is the mistranslation of Yusuf Ali:
YUSUFALI: They ask thee concerning the New Moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men, and for Pilgrimage. It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back: It is virtue if ye fear Allah. Enter houses through the proper doors: And fear Allah: That ye may prosper.
Please notice that Yusuf Ali and most other translators translate "ahila(t)" (the plural of "hilal") as new moons. On the other hand, the meaning given for "hilal" by Arabic lexicons such as Al-Mo7it, Al-Wasit, and Lisan Al-3arab is different. The lexicons say that the "hilal" is the moon in both its beginning and its end. Yet for some reason, most translators ignored this fact and instead claim that "hilal"/"ahila(t)" means only the new moon. Let's now replace new-moons with the correct translation:
2:189. They ask you regarding the crescent moons, Say: "They are timings for the people as well as for the debate." And piety is not that you would enter a home from its back, but piety is whomever is righteous and come to the homes from their main doors. And be aware of the God that you may succeed.
According to the corrected translation, crescent moons in general (both the thinning crescent and the widening crescent) can serve as timing devices.
Another verse that talks about timing/"myqat" is 7:142 where Moussa is described as completing the "myqat"/timing. So "myqat"/"mawaqit" can signify timing/timings for completion of something.
7:142. And We appointed for Moussa thirty nights, and We completed with ten: thus was completed the timing of his Lord, forty nights...  
We also hear about 10 nights in 89:2.
Interestingly, 10 nights is exactly how long it takes for the full-moon to reach the crescent stage. Note the relationship between the 10 extra nights in 7:142 and the 10 days of "7ajj"/debate in 2:196. We hear about 10 days in 2:196, three during the "7aj"/bargain and seven when those whose family was not in the institution of hearing and obeying the restriction/"al-masjid al-haram" return. As for those whose family is in the institution of hearing and obeying the restriction, they would stay the whole 10 days. This makes sense because those whose family are not oriented to the truth from our Lord, should go back earlier to teach them based on what they heard. Hence, putting 2:189, 7:142, and 2:196 together, we can see that the "ahila(t)"/crescents provide timing for the completion of the "7ajj"/debate not its beginning.
We also know from 2:189 that we should come into houses from the obvious front doors and not from the obscure backs. This hints to us that the "7ajj"/debate starts with the obvious full moon and that the unobvious crescent is what ends the "7ajj"/debate. This way it lasts for 10 total days, which is the exact period from full-moon to crescent:
<full moon ><---10 days--><-- thinning crescent 4-5 days--><-- widening crescent ---4-5 days--><---10 days--><full moon>
This is how the crescents provide timing for the "7aj"/bargain. Moreover, the "7aj"/bargain is a known counted days at the four restriction "ash-hur"/full moons. They are the 10 days between the full moon and the crescent moon for four consecutive full moons, starting with the full moon of scorching heat/"ramadhan" after the summer solstice. This gives people 4 opportunities per year to meet up for the "7ajj"/debate.
Verse 2:184 talks about abstaining for a few/"ma3doodat" days. The word "ma3doodat" typically indicates a number from 3-10 as the term is used for numbers which can be simply counted even by the fingers of the hand. As we saw already, 2:196 indicates that the full time of "7ajj"/debate is 10 days for those whose family are in the institution of hearing and obeying the restriction and three days for those whose family is not (could be shortened to two according to 2:203). Thus, in 2:185 the complete count is 10 days, which again is the exact period from full-moon to crescent. Hence, the crescent once again serves as a timing device, in this case to time the abstinence.

This would be a good time to find out how the restricted full-moons fit in all this. First, let's see the traditional view. The reason for the so-called Islamic calendar is always given as verse 9:37:
9:37. But the "nasi'a" is an increase in rejection, whereby those who have rejected are misguide with it. They make it permitted one year, and they restrict it one year, to circumvent the count that The God has made restricted; thus they make lawful what The God made restricted! Their evil works have been adorned for them, and The God does not guide the rejecting people.
The whole lunar calendar was adopted to avoid the "nasi'a". Interestingly, despite this there is no consensus about what the word "nasi'a" means. Some people claim that it is the addition of an intercalary month. Others claim that it is the haphazard assignment of the restricted "ash-hur" at the beginning of each year. All the classical Arabic dictionaries say that "nasi'a" means "delay" and that the Arabs used to delay the start of the restricted "ash-hur" by making the month of Safar restricted instead of Mu7aram. Given the etymology of the word that points to "delay" then most probably the dictionaries are the most correct and their meaning has nothing to do with changing the calendar to lunar, since the arbitrary assignment of a restricted "shahr" can be delayed in a lunar calendar just as easily as in a solar one.
Another verse that is used to justify a fully lunar calendar is 9:36. Here is a translation of 9:36 that is based on our findings:
9:36. The count of the full-moons with The God is twelve full-moons in The God?s book the day He created the heavens and the earth; four of them are restricted. This is the correct obligation; so do not wrong yourselves in them; and fight those who set-up partners collectively as they fight you collectively and know that The God is with the forethoughtful.
Now, people will point out that in some years the number of full-moons is actually 13. However, we are not concerned about the number ("3adad") of full-moons in a year. We are concerned about the count ("3idat") of full-moons in a year.
To illustrate the difference between "3adad" and "3idat", let me use an example. In so-called Islamic countries the laws for divorce state that there is a 3 months waiting period before a divorce becomes final. Hence, a couple who divorced on September 7th would have their divorced finalized on December 7th, if using the Georgian calendar. Or applying the same principle in the so-called Islamic calendar, a couple who divorces on the 12th of Mu7aram would have their divorce finalized on the 12th of Rabi3 Al-Thani. Hence, the number of months is 3 and the waiting period in both cases is approximately 90 days. As we will see, this is different than the count "3idat".
Verse 2:228 provides interesting clues into how the count is different than the absolute number. It shows us how waiting periods and "shahr" are measured.
It can be seen from 2:226-228 that in case the couple decides to divorce after the initial 4 "ash-hur" waiting period in 2:226, then 2:228 prescribes an additional waiting period of 3 menstruations.
What is interesting here is that assuming that the average is 28 days for a menstrual cycle and it lasts for a week, counting 3 menstruations could be between 56+7=61 days (if the lady happens to have her menstruation right after the divorce) and 82 days (if the lady happens to finish her menstruation right before the divorce). This is certainly different than the 90 days we found earlier by waiting for 3 months.
In 2:226, assuming a cycle of full moon to full moon is 30 days, then waiting for 4 "full moons" could range from 90 days (if a full moon occurs right after the couple is estranged) to 119 days (if a full moon occurred right before the couple is estranged). This is again different than the 120 days of the absolute 4 months.
Another interesting observation is that 2:234 talks about 4 "ash-hur" plus 10 (days?/nights?) for the woman whose husband died. What are the 10 days/nights after the full moon? As we saw earlier, it is the time it takes for the full-moon to reach the crescent stage again. So here we have the crescent used as a timing device for the purpose of counting the waiting period.
There is a sign in this that can help us to correctly understand 9:36. If The God was telling us about the number (i.e., an absolute number), then given that a few billion years passed since He created the moon and the earth, the absolute number of full-moons would not be twelve but would be in the billions. Hence, what is meant here is not an absolute number but how to count the full moons in a year. What The God is telling us is that we should always count 12 full moons in a year, out of which, we should count four as restricted. We start with the marker given to us. So in a solar year starting from the summer solstice, the first full-moon to count would be the one after the summer solstice and that is the full-moon of "ramadhan"/scorching heat. So what happens in the occasional years where we have 13 full-moons from one summer solstice to the next? The answer is that we simply do not count the 13th moon. This would automatically readjust the count and the full-moon of "ramadhan" would always be the first moon after the summer solstice. It is a very clear and surprisingly simple mechanism. All it requires is that we put our faith in The God and count only 12 full-moons in a year despite that we occasionally see 13.

So now that we have this puzzle finally solved, let's turn our attention back to the restricted full-moons. We already determined that the first full-moon after the summer solstice (the full-moon of "ramadhan") is the first restricted full-moon. Hence, counting four full-moons beginning with the first full-moon after the summer solstice would give us the restricted four full-moons and as usual, the crescent times the end of the period (a period of about 90+10 ≈ 100 days). The solstice happens towards the later part of June (June 22 or so). The full-moon of scorching heat would be 0-30 days after that. Thus, the start of the restricted full-moons would be on average around the beginning of the second week of July and would end around the third week in October (this is average but it could be sooner or as late as end of October depending on when the full-moon occurred after the summer solstice). So the restriction full-moons cover the time from about mid summer to mid fall.
The timing of the restriction is significant, especially given that the restriction is on hunting wild-life. Interestingly, the restriction doesn't cover domesticated livestock animals (see 5:1). Why is that? The answer may be because summer is the time when most wild animals and even wild birds give birth. By killing a wild female animal, you are not only killing it but you would also be inadvertently killing all its new-born off-spring who cannot feed and fend for themselves. Also, finding the new-born animals gives the hunter an unfair advantage because the mother is sometimes reluctant to leave them or the hunter can just wait close by until the mother comes back for them and easily bring her down. On the other hand, when a mother of a domesticated livestock animal is killed, her new-born can be easily cared for by people and they will survive fine. Of course, our analysis indicates that the restriction period would be different between the southern and the northern hemisphere. This is fine. There is nothing in the great reading that indicates that they should be the same for people all over the world. We should orient our direction to the truth from our Lord wherever we are, whether in the Southern or Northern hemisphere (see 2:149).
In conclusion, we can see that The God gave us a clear marker for the restriction month. This clear marker is independent from any man-made calendar system and instead relies on easily witnessed cosmic phenomena. The orange full-moon after the summer solstice that appears clearer and larger to the observer and is directly in the line of sight can be witnessed by almost everybody so that even primitive societies with no means to calculate the moon cycles ahead of time can witness it. 2:185 doesn't say "whoever was told by someone, who was told by a Mullah about "al-shahr"", it says "whoever witnessed "al-shahr"". This is the simplest and most straightforward method that would generate the least discrepancies no matter how primitive or advanced a society is and no matter what man-made calendar system they use. Moreover, this marker is unaffected by the arbitrary decisions of people who came before us and we don't have to implicitly blindly accept those decisions. Hence, those who have faith can always now and in the future make a fresh start and reset the system to the true marker. So clearly this is a robust timing solution that is not affected by any errors propagated from those who came before us.
Interestingly, after completing this article, we inadvertently found out exactly when the night of destiny ("laylat al-qadr") occurs. Simply, the great reading was descended in the night of the full-moon of scorching heat.
Although we answered several questions, as usual many questions remain. For example, what is the difference, if any, between "3am" and "sana(t)"? Both are equally translated as "year" but this seems unlikely because of 29:14 where both are used.
2:2. This is the book no doubt in it, a guidance for the forethoughtful.
This article reflects my personal interpretation of the verses of the reading as of November 14, 2004. I will try to improve my understanding of the great reading and the universe, except if The God wills and perhaps my Lord guides me to what is nearer in rationality. Please verify all information within for yourself as commanded in 17:36, and remember that simply "none" is the forethoughtful answer to 45:6. If The God willed, the outcome of this article will be beneficial.


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