Umma Inside Out: Bridging the Gap || Sep, 2014

Submitted by Amin Eshaikher

Ummah Inside Out – Bridging the Gap (Community) Inside to Outside

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Brother Abdul Majid Wahid Mujeeb began correspondence with IIOC last year by mail. Continuous daily studies and da’wah are some things he enjoys while striving to please Allah in prison. However, one of his biggest passions is helping to unite the outside Muslim community with incarcerated brothers and sisters. Brother Abdul Majid submitted this profound reminder about the importance of bridging these two communities together.

“Verily, this ummah of yours is a single ummah and I am your Lord: so serve Me (and no other).” -Surah 21 Al-Anbya, Ayah 92

“Oh mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” -Surah 49 Al-Hujurat, Ayah 13

My name is Kevin D. Washington (Abdul Majid Wahid Mujeeb). I am a convert to the deen (way of life) of Islam since my shahadah (declaration of faith) in August 1997. In my 21 1⁄2 years of incarceration, I’ve had the honor of holding various positions of leadership in the Muslim community in prison. Throughout the depths of darkness of ignorance to the guidance of knowledge in light of the truth, it has become apparent to my heart to seek the unity, bond and love for the sake of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) of the outside Muslim ummah.

We Muslim men only desire to commit ourselves to the cause of Allah, once paroled, to make amends to those we’ve wronged, family we’ve hurt and children we’ve abandoned. Further, we desire to heal the scars of destruction we handed down to the generation under us by speaking to the people and inviting them to the deen of Islam. We are looking and seeking to bridge the gap by correspondence with brothers and sisters to receive much more needed information on what’s desired of us once our feet touch back down in freedom. In conclusion, we incarcerated Muslim men have an oath and obligation to Allah to fulfill and answer our duties to our life aim, goal and purpose of worshiping none but Allah alone.

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Salam au’aliykum,

Beloved Brother

Abdul Majid Wahid Mujeeb

 

Ummah Inside Out is a monthly segment of the IIOC newsletter dedicated to giving a voice to our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters on the inside.

 

Outreach Corner: Sharing The Joy Of Eid || Sep, 2014

Outreach Corner 201408 - 01Submitted by Amin Eshaikher

Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic festival that marks the end of Ramadan, is joyous for Muslims across the world. However, for many incarcerated brother and sisters, each year the day passes without celebration and without family and friends to rejoice with. Last year, the Dawah Outeach Committee sought to help change that by sending 15 greetings cards in the mail to incarcerated Muslims for Eid. This year, the committee mailed out 50 cards to incarcerated brothers and sisters in prisons throughout the country.

Another frequent concern shared by incarcerated Muslims is feeling disconnected from the larger Islamic community. Last month, the Dawah Outreach Committee paired up with the Public Relations Committee and the IIOC office administration to print and mail out copies of the masjid’s monthly newsletters along with copies of Al-Kalimah, a magazine published by the Muslim Student Union at the University of California-Irvine.

The response to both efforts has been extremely positive. Streams of letters came to IIOC complimenting the material received in the mail. Below are a few excerpts from Muslims in prison who received an Eid card and newsletters.

“I’m writing this letter to thank you and your ummah for the Eid card. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. To most, the Eid card is nice but nothing more. To me, it’s more because my own family doesn’t correspond with me. Out of the love of Allah, people who never knew me accept me just because I’m Muslim. Like my flaws and past don’t matter. I’m actually on the verge of tears.”
-Brother Nur, San Luis Obispo, California

“I love to study ilm ul’hadith (knowledge of hadith) so I loved your article on the hadith concerning wiping the socks…I am happy you have a good newsletter to offer the brothers, they truly want reading materials.”
-Brother Abdullah, Folsom, California

“Thank you for your monthly newsletters and magazine. I enjoyed reading everything very much. It is nice to know that you sisters and brothers do a lot for the ummah, community and humanity.”
-Sister Oytun, Dublin, California

“May Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) grant peace, blessing and a gracious reward upon everyone involved in the newsletter and all the Al-Kalimah writers!”
-Brothers Abdul Majid & Mika’el, Blythe, California

“I found the newsletters to be thought provoking and progressive. May you be rewarded for your good deeds and may your guiding light be strong!”
-Brother Shabazz, San Luis Obispo, California

The IIOC Outreach Committee is chaired by Shaykh Mustafa Umar and has been responsible for dawah (outreach) to both Muslims and non-Muslims in the community since 2009.

Meet the Junior Board of 2015 || Sep, 2014

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New School Year. New Faces. And New Junior Board. As the school year begins, IIOC Youth Group is gearing up for another exciting year of fun, educational, and relevant activities and discussions for the Youth. Helping alongside us will be our Junior Board. Masha’Allah we had many Youth apply for Junior Board, but we only had five positions open. After reviewing applications and interviews, alhamduillah, we selected our candidates.

Please welcome our 2014-2015 IIOC Youth Group:

Sameer Khan
10th grader at Canyon High School

Rewa Ousman
10th grader at Brea Olinda High School

Ahmed Abdelmonem
11th grader at Valencia High School

Reema Jlelati
11th grader John F. Kennedy Middle College High School

Danya Rafiqi
1st year at  Santiago Canyon College

Arfa Khan
2nd year at Santiago Canyon College

Henar Abdelmonem
2nd year at Irvine Valley College

The Youth Committee is eagerly excited to work with these wonderful youth and looking forward to what they will bring to the Committee insha’Allah!

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Dr. Sobia Hasan || Sep, 2014

The IIOC mobile clinic-happily serving those in need

Dr. Sobia Hasan,

Family Medicine, Board Certified

As a family practice physician, I see patients with a variety of medical illnesses, as well as social and economic barriers. Every day is a new and exciting adventure with its own challenges and successes. I wanted to utilize my knowledge to help others in our community. That is why I chose to volunteer at the mobile clinic at IIOC.

The health clinic is very basic in its provisions. We have a mobile unit, which is a van that serves as a private room for evaluation of patients, which is shared amongst three physicians (Dr. Sobia Hasan, Dr. Amina Haggag, and Dr. Farah Ameeri,). We don’t have an x-ray or ultrasound machine or sophisticated medical tools that most clinics carry, but we are still able to examine and treat our patients in a satisfactory manner. Most of the patients we see are uninsured or financially challenged. For them, something is better than nothing. We are able to draw basic labs for annual exams and to check for conditions such as diabetes, cholesterol, and thyroid disorders. We can prescribe basic medication for conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, and other conditions. Also, we can help motivate patients to take care of themselves and seek care with an established medical clinic for more complicated medical issues. Finally, we are able to spend time with them to educate them about preventative care. It is fascinating that so many individuals do not realize that sodium (salt) can exacerbate their blood pressure or excess processed sugars or carbohydrates can increase their blood sugars. We practice active medicine as well as preventative medicine with emphasis on appropriate diet, exercise, and psychosocial well-being. In return, we receive gratitude from our patients and pleasure in serving our community. Our patients are so kind and appreciative. Additionally, our staff, including: physicians, medical students, and medical assistants, are compassionate, friendly, and dedicated. It is an invaluable experience for patients and providers, which words cannot describe.

If you know of anyone who could benefit from our services, please refer them to us. The mobile clinic occurs on every first Sunday of the month from 11am-2pm at the Islamic Institute of Orange County. Our next clinic will be held on November 2, 2014 from 11-2PM. Please note there will not be a Clinic in October in observance of the Eid holiday. We wish you a joyous Eid in advance!

Staff Spotlight: Meet Aminah Galal || Sep, 2014

1) Tell us a bit about your background and your career.aminah3

Born and raised in Southern California, I have been living in the Orange County area for the past twelve years with my parents and older brother. I attended the public school system from elementary to high school, and got my Bachelors degree from the University of California, Irvine in History, with a double minor in Education and International Studies. During my undergraduate years I was greatly involved with the Muslim Student Union on campus, which is where my desire to pursue community organizing was solidified. Through my coursework, I also gained a strong drive to further explore the field of education, as I hold firmly to the belief that both formal and informal education are key to any type of social and personal change. So after graduating, I went on to attend California State University, Long Beach where I recently obtained a Masters degree in Social and Cultural Analysis of Education.

In addition to education and community organizing, I have held a lifetime (or since I was a child) love for the arts and entertainment– though I am personally partial to writing. I can proudly claim being a bookworm who still reaches for a notebook and pen before remembering I have a smart phone. Although the busy schedule of being a student had slowed down my pursuit of taking my writing to a more professional level, I have tried throughout the years to keep a connection with my pen (or keyboard if I’m being real) through blogging and writing short stories, spoken word, or random ramblings whenever I get a chance. Or sometimes I just tweet.

Because my personal interests tend to spread across the board, I try to take any chance I get to combine working with all three of my passions – either in one or multiple spaces. I currently work at the Islamic Weekend School at the Islamic Society of Orange County as Programs and Curriculum Developer, where I am able to explore the open field of Islamic education. And I am grateful to additionally join the IIOC team as the College of Islamic Studies (CIS) Administrator and Outreach Administrator – both positions where God-willing, I hope to utilize my educational background, skills, and hobbies to give back to my community.

2) Tell us about upcoming project(s) you will be working on

One of the most exciting aspects for me about joining IIOC is the sheer potential that this community, and specifically CIS and Outreach, has. I am looking forward to working with the community and developing additional ways for the College to become even more accessible to provide more services to its students and the community, especially with the start of Fall semester commencing! I am also excited to begin working on expanding the Da’wah and Outreach committee and reaching more people in our surrounding areas, and to help provide more opportunities for community members to become involved and work on various projects, such as the upcoming Open Mosque Day on October 19th.

3) If community members want to talk to you — how can they reach you? 

To start off with the expected answer, my email is aminah@iioc.com and I can be quickly reached through there, or if it’s specifically regarding CIS: cis@iioc.com. But if it is not yet quite obvious, I love to talk and believe that forming in-person connections is very important for the exchange of ideas and the growth of any community. So, as I am still getting to know this masha’Allah amazing community, I am more than happy to stop and have a conversation, and am actually looking forward to meeting more and more people!

CIS: Learn. Practice. Transform || Sep, 2014

Submitted by Aminah Galal

Only 38 percent of American adults say that they know someone who is Muslim. This is not my own estimate, but a new statistic from a Pew Forum study oScreen Shot 2014-08-27 at 12.59.29 PMn the attitudes of Americans towards various religious groups. With roughly six to eight million Muslims in the United States, somehow we have failed to reach out and connect with 62 percent of the population in the country we are in. Obviously this can be a result of multiple factors, and we can easily point to the effects of media, propaganda, politics, and even economics on the fact that it is 2014 and still most Americans claim they do not know a single living, breathing Muslim. For some reason, despite millions of us living in the country, the majority of Americans have only met Muslims through the eyes of self-interest driven mainstream media and politicians. However, getting caught up in the big picture of the political and social structure of the United States can be overwhelming; so after I read this startling statistic I began to think of what am I, as an individual American Muslim, doing wrong?

If we are to think about it, we have the size and potential as a community to create quite an impact in our immediate and greater societies. That is, if we truly understood and implemented the teachings of Islam in our daily lives. If each of us treated our neighbors the way the Prophet, peace be upon him, showed us to, or if we truly embodied the understanding that there is no racial or ethnic preference between people, or if each of us understood and were confident in the realities behind the common “hot topics” highlighted about our religion – imagine the difference that would make in every single interaction we have!

But as I began to imagine this ideal (but not unattainable) picture of our community, I realized one important thing. In order for me to practically implement Islam in my daily life, to understand how Islam is truly a timeless religion meant to better the entirety of mankind, and to share that understanding with others; I have to know my religion. I have to, for my own self, filter through the propaganda driven narrative and the culturally-infused myths about Islam, and learn about what the Qur’an truly says and what the Prophet, peace be upon him, truly taught.

Yet the idea of adding studying Islam to our already jam-packed schedules is frightening and slightly intimidating. Especially to anyone, like myself, who may have the phrase“ studying Islamic studies” directly associated with the idea of spending a few years overseas. That is why I personally think one of the blessings in our Southern California community is the College of Islamic Studies. Not only is it not a requirement to actually obtain a degree, even though the option exists, but also we can choose how many classes to take, when to take them, and even have the option of online classes and live-stream if we are unable to physically attend the lessons. To a large extent, it does not get much easier than that.

To become great mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, leaders, change-makers, and humans – do we not owe it to ourselves to make the effort to become the most knowledgeable we can be in the ultimate and most perfect message and way of life sent to mankind? Even if a person is struggling with what to believe about Islam, do we not owe it to our own intellect to find out for ourselves rather than to lend our ears and minds to be shaped by someone else’s agenda?

62 percent of Americans have not met a Muslim – let’s all make sure that when they do, they meet a Muslim who knows about, implements, and is confident in their religion.

 

Message from Board President || Sep, 2014

Bismillah al Rahman al Rahimamu.samer.newsletter

Asalaamu Alaikum, Dear IIOC community!

The first act of worship introduced to our community was “IQRA” – Read. We have been instructed to become a literate community that is aware of our Lord, our needs, and the needs of others. At the Knowledge Symposium, hosted at IIOC on September 13th, we were reminded of the sacredness of all knowledge during the programs introduction by Susan Nachawati, PhD. It was beautiful and inspirational to witness the various academic journeys that enrich our community. If you missed the event and would like to watch the video, visit our website at http://www.iioc.com/video/.

We welcome back all of our Teachers & Students at Minaret Academy, College of Islam, Institute of Quran, and Saturday School. May you all thrive in your studies and enjoy a wonderful school year. We also welcome our new 2015 Junior Board members, who we count on to ensure our Youth programs are relevant and engaging for their peers. IIOC strives to create educational opportunities for all in our community. We look forward to hosting a new program for our tiny tots (ages 3-5 years old) focusing on animals, science and exploration. The Little Naturalists Science Class will be taught by traveling naturalist, Sama Wareh beginning Monday, October 13th from 11-12pm. Classes will be offered every first Monday of the month and will cost $90 for all classes or $12 per class.

IIOC & OCCCO (Orange County Community Congregation Organization) hosted a Volunteer Phone Bank Drive to educate voters of upcoming propositions on the November ballots. We thank all the volunteers who dedicated their time to encourage others to vote YES on Measure “L” to require elected officials to live in the district they will run in. This measure ensures Elected officials are in tune with their community’s needs. Phone bankers also encouraged voters to vote YES on Measure “M” to add two seats to the City Council. Currently, there are four seats and adding two seats will ensure there are more representatives serving our communities needs.

We wish our Hujjaj safe travels as they embark on the completion of one of the pillars of our faith. May you all have a blessed time that is filled with self-reflection and nearness to Allah, ameen! Do pencil in the date for our Welcoming the Hujjaj Community Picnic scheduled on Sunday, October 26th. The picnic is open to all community members at the Irvine Regional Park in Orange, CA. The park offers many activities such as bike/boat rentals, a Train, an OC ZOO, & Pony rides. Do purchase your tickets, which include a meal by October 10th for the early rates or by the October 17th deadline.

Our Women’s Committee recently hosted an educational seminar titled, The Last Muslims in Spain with Professor Mariam Saad. The program was so fascinating we asked Mariam Saad to join us for our Friday Family Night program on November 7th. We also look forward to a special international guest, Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor and activist who has been involved in solidarity work for Palestine since the 1970s and became most recently known for his efforts to help Palestinians in the recent siege. We look forward to hearing about his experience in Palestine and how our community can help on Friday, October 24, 2014! Do check our weekly bulletin for upcoming Friday Family Night topics, we look forward to seeing you all very soon.

At IIOC we hope that our center will be a place that facilitates your journey towards your Lord. Where we fall short we ask you to come and share your feedback with us or email us at publicrelations@iioc.com and if you would like to volunteer and share new projects and programs, email volunteer@iioc.com.

Ma’asalama,

Samer Soubra

President of the Board of Directors

Islamic Institute of Orange County

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message from Board President || Aug, 2014

Bismillah al Rahman al Rahimamu.samer.newsletter

Asalaamu Alaikum, Dear IIOC community!

During this life we race to Jannah, pushing ourselves to our limits. We mourn the journeys that have ended unjustly by oppressors across the Ummah and the world at large. During Ramadan we raised our hands acknowledging our Creators strength and ability to bring about peace. With the launch of IIOC’s FAJR MARATHON prayers have continued as many community members strive to compete towards goodness. The Fajr marathon was launched to encourage community members to continue their Ramadan goals. With friendly competition our Fajr community has tripled by the grace of Allah swt. We’ll keep you posted with the winners!

We look forward to resuming our Fajr Inspirations and Breakfast on Sunday August 10th at 5:15 AM. Our monthly breakfast began January 2013, and has become an IIOC tradition. Lets also revive that suhoor like state and have breakfast together as a community. If we ran here on two hours sleep we sure can do it post Ramadan!

This past Ramadan, IIOC’s theme was strengthening the love within our families. Our taraweeh khateras with Shaykh Faqih focused on sacred reminders while our Youth Committee hosted this year’s first Father/Daughter and Mother/Son Iftar. During the last Parent-Youth panel many parents recommended more combined programs with the youth. We look forward to hosting an educational Parent/Youth program per month and social events more often! It was great to see you all at our FFN Game and Dessert Night! A special shout out to the ladies who won the jeopardy competition and a thank you to our volunteer Mariam Jaber for baking 140 cookies and preparing the frosting and sprinkles for the kid’s cookie decorating project!

IIOC’s Social Committee looks forward to inviting the community to a Knowledge Symposium on Saturday, September 13th from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM to celebrate the knowledge and talents within our community. If you would like to present and share your art, poster, exhibit, project, book, published works or patent ideas register online at iioc.com. Another way to pay it forward and encourage others to pursue their talents is to join our Professional Mentor Program! Do register at iioc.com if you have expertise in your field, one hour to spare per month, and genuine interest in a mentee’s growth.

Do join us for our next FFN Potluck & Kits Drive on September 26th with a hygiene kit volunteer assembly line with items to be donated to our community members in need. Please also bring a tasty dish to share with others!

At IIOC we hope that our center will be a place that facilitates your journey towards your Lord. Where we fall short we ask you to come and share your feedback with us or email us at publicrelations@iioc.com and if you would like to volunteer and share new projects and programs, email volunteer@iioc.com.

Ma’asalama,

Samer Soubra

President of the Board of Directors

Islamic Institute of Orange County

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Youth Ramadan Program Spotlights || Aug, 2014

Submitted by Dania Mohammad

rmd.youth

During the blessed month of Ramadan, IIOC was fortunate enough to have several incredible events lined up for the youth in hopes of achieving an increase in not only sisterhood and brotherhood, but an overall stronger sense of taqwa and tawakkul in Allah (swt). One of the most rewarding and enjoyable of which had to be a class taught by Ustadh Mohammed Mana centered around a hadith which speaks of the believer living this life as a stranger. Every week the youth would gather to hear his powerful talks, which served as a great reminder of how quickly we can cease to exist in this dunya and the deceptions which accompany its surface; including all of the material and monetary items we may hold onto so dearly. At the annual youth iftar, Ustadh Mohammed concluded his class reminding us to be aware of our environment. He encouraged the youth to take a stance against any norms society has raised which conflict with the teachings of Allah (swt) and his Messenger (pbuh). Yousuf Salama and Rewa Ousman from our very own youth group were lined up to give great talks which included their view of what it means to live this life as a stranger as well as some reflections on rewards of Ramadan and how to maintain progress in one’s iman. Maryam Adem gave feedback on the youth iftar mentioning how she loved that the youth spoke and gave great khateras, making it an all around great time!

IIOC also had an extremely successful sisters qiyaam where over 200 sisters showed up to worship Allah(swt) together in salah organized by our very own IIOC Youth leaders. The qiyaam was led by female instructors from the Quran Institute. Shaykha Muslema Purmul and Ustadha Lobna Mulla, who all gave moving lectures which reinforced the theme of connecting one’s heart to Allah (swt).

IIOC Youth Group hosted two new iftars centered on the relationship between a parent and their child. The Mother/Son and Father/Daughter youth iftars were a joyous accomplishment, which strengthened the bonds between families as a whole. At the Mother/Son youth iftar, the brothers each gave their mother’s a long-stemmed rose as a token of appreciation and love. Shaykh Mohammed Faqih and Ustadh Mohammed Mana spoke about the importance of treating one’s mother properly and not being dependent on one’s mother to do everything as a child would. Yousuf Salama commented, “The mother son Iftar was an absolute treat! As I have gotten older and gone through college my relationship with my mother has continued to develop in a positive way. Being able to sit with her and share our time and a meal together while learning how to strengthen our relationship through Islamic principles was truly special.” The Father/Daughter iftar took a different approach by focusing on creating or maintaining a strong relationship with our fathers. How can one achieve this? Shaykh Mohammed Faqih gave the perfect solution by instructing the fathers to follow in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (saws) who treated his daughters justly and held them to a status high above any other being in his presence. We were also blessed to be in the presence of Sr. Noha Alshugairi who did an effective exercise which involved both the fathers and daughters to brainstorm a list of what makes them feel as if they connect with one another. They then proceeded to share ideas and each pair was able to come up with a set of ideas for what makes their bond stronger.

Although the thirty days of Ramadan flew by far too quickly, these events created not only lasting memories, but lasting impressions and purification among the hearts of many of the youth at IIOC.

Questioning Visibility Curves for the Sighting of the Moon | From the Education and Outreach Desk || Aug, 2014

sh.mu.pic

This article is a taste of what you will learn in College of Islam at IIOC! 

As the reported sighting came in from Yemen on Friday June 27, 2014, one of my friends remarked, “that Yemeni must have been high.” I laughed, not only because Yemenis are known to chew a semi-intoxicating substance called ‘khat’, but because I had seen four different [amateur] astronomers produce visibility calculation maps, such as the two below, and all of them were clear that it was impossible to sight the moon in that part of the world.

moon2

moon1

Several hours later, I managed to tap in to a live-feed of a long and heated discussion taking place among the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America [AMJA]. They were deciding whether or not to reject the Yemeni sightings based on astronomical visibility calculations claiming it impossible to sight the moon there. As the discussion drew to a close, news came in that the crescent was sighted in Houston by three people and another one in Alabama. Initially I wondered if they were chewing some of that Yemeni ‘khat’ as well. To my surprise, within a matter of minutes, AMJA made the call to confirm both the Yemeni and American sightings.

I immediately phoned Dr. Ahmad Salama, a consultant for NASA/JPL and professor of astronomy. I made him put his dinner on hold and we began to calculate. “How far is the red zone [where the moon could be sighted by optical aid only] from Houston? How many degrees away? When was sunset? When was moonset in Houston?” After a series of questions from him, I put my own question on the table, “What level of inaccuracy is there in these calculation maps? Give me a percentage Dr. Ahmad: 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, or zero?” He responded, “Anywhere not too far from the red area on the map is a huge gray area, scientifically speaking. Under perfect conditions, it is unlikely, but not impossible, to see.”

Nonetheless, many prominent scholars rejected these reports outright based on the colorful visibility maps they had seen, even those living in the Houston area. I didn’t know what to think and chose to defer to the senior scholars. “Let them take the burden on themselves”, I said internally.

Later that night, two more reports came in, one from Tucson and another from San Diego. They were also rejected by the same scholars for the same reasons: those locations are not within the visibility zones on the maps. I know for a fact that people do make mistakes in seeing the crescent [even if they aren’t high], but what if one of these sightings happened to be in the gray area that Dr. Ahmad was alluding to and the calculations used to make these maps were off? I decided to investigate.

I phoned the brother who claimed to see the moon in San Diego. Abu Isa Mateen Khan, 39, is well known to the Muslim community in San Diego. He even happens to live next door to Shaykh AbdelJalil Mezgouri, the Imam of the Islamic Center of San Diego. Mateen was a very friendly brother and sounded very sincere and helpful. Here is his story:

“I went with my wife and kids to go sight the crescent, even though we doubted we would see it and didn’t even buy groceries for breakfast the next morning. We headed for the San Diego State University Observatory on Mount Laguna to see if we would be able to spot the moon there. We were two groups, but we both got lost on the way. Time was ticking, so about a few miles after we passed the 4000ft above sea level mark, we decided to pull over at a viewpoint at 8:02PM. My wife was taking notes. We knew which direction to look because we had been told by some people who know what to do. We glanced in the direction near where the sun was setting and saw something. We thought it might be a jet-stream so we initially ignored it, but it kept coming back in view. I used my son’s toy binoculars and we could clearly see that it looked like the crescent. I couldn’t see it that well without the binoculars but my wife and kids saw it clearly. We observed it from 8:03-8:11PM [with a one minute margin for error]. While observing it, it was very clear and kept moving down a few centimeters. It disappeared at about 8:11 or 8:12. I pulled out my phone and checked the GPS location which showed about 290 degrees northwest. If you were looking at a clock, the illuminated parts were from 4 o’clock to 5:30. I took a picture with my phone but it has a poor quality camera so the moon cannot be seen in the picture. As we were about to leave, we noticed a person not far from us with a telescope. He was not a Muslim but we decided to talk to him. We asked if he saw that thing in the sky and he responded, ‘You mean the moon?’ I responded, ‘Was that the moon?’ He answered in the affirmative and told us that he is an enthusiast who comes up the mountain every few days to stargaze and take pictures. According to him he was sure that was the moon and saw it clearly himself, although he noted that it is very rare to be able to see it on this day because the colors of the San Diego sunsets cause some parts of the moon to fade out. This motivated me to report my sighting to some of the scholars in the area.”

Despite Mateen’s detailed story, many still rejected his sighting because San Diego does not fall on the visibility maps that have been produced. I called Dr. Salama again, giving him all of the details of the sighting he asked for: degrees the moon was from the sun, the horizon to the crescent elevation, etc. After a few days he phoned me back telling me that in his expert opinion as an astronomer, this sighting cannot be rejected based on the elevation of the viewer, sunset and moonset timing, etc.

So I decided to put the question straight to him, “What’s the point of these maps if they are not accurate?!” His answer was very enlightening. I will paraphrase the main points here:

These maps are not deterministic in nature but should be used as a guide to know where the moon can ‘usually’ be sighted. The only thing that is deterministic is the position of the moon relative to the sun, the earth, etc. These maps are calculated based on sighting reports from amateur astronomers who reported whether or not they saw the moon on certain days. However, there are three issues. One, those sightings [or lack thereof] were viewed under certain physical conditions which will be different based on the condition of the sky and atmosphere on another future date. Two, the sightings are not taken from observatories or expert astronomers but rather amateur enthusiasts. Three, the number of observations is limited. If the data points were doubled or tripled, it is probable that the visibility curves would change drastically. In conclusion, the early visibility of the moon has always been a problem due to how the Earth’s atmosphere distorts light and due to other environmental factors. Even the U.S. Naval Observatory is on record to admit that there is a large ‘gray area’ when it comes to commenting on the visibility of the moon in any given place at any given time.[2]

Another interesting find was a new map which adds a zone of impossibility. Strangely, there are two wordings: ‘not possible’ and ‘impossible’. The red zone [i.e. ‘impossible’] is defined as being: “impossible to see the crescent from the areas located under the red color because either the moon on this day sets before sunset and/or the topocentric conjunction occurs after sunset”. A quick glance reveals that neither Yemen nor the USA were in the red zone. This type of red zone, I assume, would be labeled a ‘deterministic’ calculation and thus result in some level of actual certainty. However, anything within what may be termed the ‘gray area’ will remain exactly that: a gray area.

moon2

Will knowing this unify the Muslim community about the start and end of Ramadan? Absolutely not, because there are many more variables involved. Nonetheless, this is a call for people to stop making inaccurate comments alleging that visibility calculations concerning the moon are ‘certain’ and ‘100% accurate’, as is commonly done. Whether or not Brother Mateen, or anyone else, really saw the moon on June 27, 2014 cannot be confirmed with certainty, but it would be unjust of anyone to say he was deluded or high at the time.


[1] Notice the major differences between the two maps.

[2] See http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/docs/crescent.php, last accessed July 6, 2014.

 

Mustafa Umar
Director of Education and Outreach
Islamic Institute of Orange County