It is not always possible to sight the youngest crescent moon (Hilal) every month on the UK horizon due to the continuous adverse weather conditions. Therefore, we have requested clarifications of the Moon Sighting process in Morocco on behalf of some UK scholars. A copy of the ICOUK letter sent and the response received from Morocco are shown below, together with their English translations.
From: The Kingdom of Morocco Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs Dated: 19th January 2016 To: Islamic Crescent Observation for the UK Regarding: Information on the moon sighting method Reference: Your letter dated 11th December 2015 As-Salamu ‘Alyakum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Following your letter as detailed in the above reference, in which you have requested to know the methodology and practices of moon sighting in Morocco. It is my honour to provide you with the attached response that contains all the details as well as the answer to your enquires; and similarly the astronomical results of the moon in London for Jumada Al Ula 1437 AH. With Best Regards Wa As-Salamu ‘Alyakum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Stamp: The Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs with Authorisation of the Director of Islamic Affairs Signed: Kostas Ahmed
- How many Hilal sighting zones do you have and how many sighting points are there under each zone, which adds up to 278 points mentioned in your faxes?
The process of crescent moon (Hilal) observation is carried out by the [Ministry of] Islamic Affairs that are spread [across the country] according to the  administrative regions of the Kingdom [of Morocco]. Each branch has observation points in accordance with the size of the area the branch covers. The observation points were chosen based on the topographic, geographic, and meteorological conditions that gives the best possible Hilal observation experience. [There are 16 zones with a varying number of observation points in each (see Regions/Zones Map) – Editor].
How do you receive the Hilal sighting report from each point (e.g. by fax, email, phone call etc.) and how do you verify the reports from different sighting points?
On the 28th day of each Hijri month, the Ministry [of Islamic Affairs] issues an initial announcement broadcasted via the national media channels which is aimed to assist the periphery branches (Islamic Affairs, Awqaf trustees, etc) and the Royal Armed Forces in the Southern Region as well as the public to participate in the observations. The announcement reminds them of the date and time of conducting the observation and asking them to relay the results [to the Ministry].
The Central Hilal Committee based at the administration Headquarter of the Ministry manages this process and receives the results via all means (phone, fax, email, etc) from all the [regional] branches. The regional branches collect the reports from the observation points under their administration, signed by all the observation members. The [final] report is sent by fax to the Central Hilal Committee at the administration Headquarter of the Ministry. The sighting report contains detailed information about the result, together with the astronomical and meteorological conditions. The same is done by the Royal Armed Forces unit in the Southern Region.
Each [regional] branch has two representatives appointed by the Adjudicating Judge as members of each Observation Committee. Their task is to complete the legal document containing the result of the observation (positive or negative) which is then signed by them and by the Adjudicating Judge. This report is then sent to the Central Hilal Committee, as mentioned earlier.
- What Hilal sighting criteria do you use to determine if a sighting report has met the Shariah requirement (e.g. number of witness)?
All the observation reports received [by the Central Hilal Committee] are signed by all the members of the observation committee as well as many Justices selected for participation in this activity.
- What Hilal sighting experiences do the regular observers have and do new observers receive any Hilal sighting training before their claims are accepted?
All the members of the observation committee (observers) are very religious and are employees of the Ministry [of Islamic Affairs] who have tremendous experience in this regard. This beneficial experience is shared with the new observers who join the committees. Furthermore, we have other courses (on Mawaqit/Timing) which are delivered in training programmes at the University of Muhammad VI in Rabat, to train Imams and female Alimas.
- Do you require a large number of witnesses in clear sky conditions and if so how many witnesses are required?
The number of observers are in the hundreds in each month and so we never thought of having a count, regardless of the sky is clear or not.
- When it’s cloudy, do you wait for reports from all the sighting points before making a decision and how long after sunset does it usually take to reach a decision?
If the sighting conditions are difficult as indicated by the astronomical calculations, then we wait until we receive the last report from the last observation point [location]. Our requirement is that all the reports we receive are negative before we decide that the Hilal was not sighted. We also wait for the moon to set at the last observation point [location] within the Kingdom [of Morocco], which takes between an hour to hour-and-half, depending on the astronomical seasons.
- When there is a positive sighting report from one location, do you wait for other reports from all the remaining locations before making a decision?
If a positive sighting report was received from one of the locations, then we do not have to wait for reports of other locations before reaching a decision. This does not prevent us from requesting all the later reports for the purpose of documentation and other beneficial use in future.
- Do you use the possibility of crescent visibility (Imkan Al-Ruyah) based on astronomical calculations to verify sighting reports and if so, what are the lunar parameters?
No sighting claim is accepted when the astronomical calculations indicate impossibility of such sighting. For example, if [astronomical] calculations indicate that the moon sets before the sun, then no sighting claim is accepted. However, note that we have never received such a [impossible] sighting claim in the past.
Enclosed with this letter, an example of these calculations for Tuesday 9th February 2016 for London. (click here for calculations)
It is clear from the above answers (and from the personal visits by some UK scholars) that Morocco has a robust Moon Sighting procedure in place that is most reliable for UK to follow (after exhausting all efforts to sight the moon locally on the UK horizon), inshaAllah. See related link: Morocco Faxes (access via login)
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to email us via our on-line Contact Us form.