Moon Sighting and The Qur’an (Part-4)
Continued after the elaboration on الْأَهِلَّةِ in the following verse in part 3 of this essay:
2/189: يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ
|Translation:||They ask thee, [O Muhammad], about the crescents. Say:|
|They are devices to mark times (dates) for people and Hajj.|
THE MEANING AND PROBLEM OF UNDERSTNDING مَوَاقِيتُ
First of all, مَوَاقِيتُ (mʌwʌqiːt) is the plural of مِيقَاتُ (miːqɑːt) which is on measure مفعال (mif-‘ɑːl) from root و ق ت . Since م has كسره (zeɪr in Urdu), و of و ق ت is replaced by كسره-corresponding voewel ي to harmonize the pronunciation. Thus it becomes مِيقَاتُ . Secondly, the وزن (measure) مفعال is not only for اسم ظرف (noun of place or time) but also for اسم آله (noun of tool) in Arabic language. This is the point where Qur’anic commentators have usually erred; they have counted مِيقَاتُ as either اسم ظرف or a determined act/event in the verse while it is اسم آله there — such as on the same measure (مفعال) are tools ميزان (scale, balance), مفتاح (key), مصباح (lamp), مضراب (plectrum). Most commentators’ chosen meaning do not fit in the verse, so they are out of context. For example:
(i) Mostly read Sahih International, Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Shakir, Muhammad Asad, and Mohsin Khan’s translations say in varying wording, “… new moons … are fixed/appointed periods of time.” Here, the first error is that they have connected أَهِلَّةِ to the first crescent moons of all months while they are waxing and waning crescents of a single month. Next, if their translation of الْأَهِلَّةِ is considered right for the sake of argument, does the first crescent moon tell the time-period of the whole month? Also, doesn’t appointed period mean a period that has been adjudicated beforehand?
(ii) The Monotheist Group translated, “… the crescent moons … are a timing mechanism.” Though this translation is not wrong, it does not clarify what kind of mechanism it is. So it is a vague translation. Is the Qur’an vague or Mubeen (unambiguous)?
It has been the case that most Qur’anic commentators do not think critically, and wholly depend on dictionary entries. As a result, whatever meaning they find there, they take it — without realizing that dictionaries record meanings that are in use by the people and not those senses that are possible but are not in peoples’ use. Arabic is a language that has measures to derive new words, and also comprehend the meaning of a word according to the context. So all possible words or meanings are not feasible to be recorded in Arabic dictionaries. And in pursuit of understanding the Qur’an, one needs to apply As-sarf (the science of etymology in Arabic) at many points.
On considering the subject of the verse plus the root and measure (وزن) of مِيقَاتُ , it is obvious that it has been used as اسم آله (noun of tool) there. Therefore,
|مَوَاقِيتُ||= devices of time|
|> devices to mark times|
|> devices to indicate the dates of days|
By definition — and this definition has been from BCE time, even Science has adopted it — crescents are visible moons less than half-moon. When this lighted, visible characteristics of the crescents are adjusted in مَوَاقِيتُ ,
مَوَاقِيتُ = devices of lighted, visible signals to indicate the dates of days
Today traffic signals are very common. Therefore, everyone knows that the “light signal at crossing X” is for the “drivers and pedestrians at the crossing X” only. And it does not regulate traffic at other crossings. That is:
A light signal is always area-specific. Therefore, crescent moons being light-signals indicating dates (مَوَاقِيتُ) are also area or land specific.
Furthermore, we know today for sure that the Earth is round (oblate spheroid). Therefore, it is impossible that a light signal given at a place can go round all over it.
Another fact of the matter is that lunar signaling system is not stationary like the street traffic-lights. Rather, it keeps moving over the face of the earth. As a result, when new moon appears in the sky of a land x, it signals to the people of land x that the new lunar time (month) has started. And where the new crescent moon does not show up on the 29th eve, the people of that land do not get the signal for starting the new month. As a result, they should continue their ongoing month as the 30th day. This is how signaling system works:
Where there is a visible signal (مِيقَاتُ) to move on, move on. And where there is no visible signal (مِيقَاتُ) to move on, do not move on. No deep science is required to understand it; it is a matter of plain common sense. Even the unlettered can follow it without any difficulty.
Moreover, in order to notice traffic lights, we do not need a telescope or binocular because a public light system is always made so as to be visible to the people of regular eyesight. Therefore:
Claiming telescopes or binoculars are required to see the first crescent moon amounts to calling God dumb that He does not know the basics of a signaling system (مَوَاقِيتُ). The same outrage is committed by those who are insistent that the eye of mathematics is required to see the first crescent moon.
Finally, the signal from a public signaling-system is perceived by all the observers at a place, and not only one/two observers out of tens or hundreds or thousands of people present at the same place.
By definition, a signaling system for the people concerned gives signals where they are at. And to observe the signals, they do not need any telescope or binocular or mathematical calculations.