The Joy of Fasting

Years ago I heard a fabulous Hadith, a tradition from the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing s of God upon him.

Abu Hurairah (May God be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of God upon him) said: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied, a Hasanah (a good deed) will be multiplied to ten its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, said: ‘Except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward for it. He gives up his desires and his food for my sake.’ The fasting person will have two moments of joy: Joy when he breaks his fast, and joy when he meets his Lord. And indeed the smell of his mouth is better to Allah than the fragrance of musk.” [The Book of Fasting: Sahih Muslim]

Today I experienced this first moment of joy when I broke my fast.  I was not particularly hungry or thirsty, but a little run down and tired.  However when I bit into that date my mouth danced!  And when I drank that cool water, my throat was beyond what words could explain.  A smile came across my face and I was so happy.  Not that I broke my fast, but that I was experiencing what God said would be one of the two moments of joy.  I can’t even imagine what the other must be like for the fasters.

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Here is Ramadan!

Last night we ventured out in search of the new crescent moon, not just my team and I, but countless number of Muslims all over the world.  There was not a single verifiable positive naked eye sighting.  Yesterday was the 29th day of Shabaan. Today it was the 30th and final day of Shabaan with no other option than to start Ramadan tomorrow.

While many people devised an abstract construct to signify the start of the months in the Islamic Lunar calendar, nothing can be as simple and beautiful as going out to search for the new crescent moon.  The sight of the new moon has significant spiritual value for the heart.  By its vision it ingrains in the heart a firm certainty that serves as the foundation for actions that make up the worship of the One who created us.  Through that certainty our hearts find ease, calm and peace and dispells difficulty, angst and chaos.

The need to go out once again to search for the moon on the 30th day is redundant, but to help those who still might question whether they should have fasted today or not and did not go out to settle their own hearts, I hope this photo will settle it.

Ramadan Crescent Moon

Ramadan 1435

Ramadan is a wonderful time where we are given the opportunity to look at our selves in its mirror and see our shortcomings and work towards making ourselves better.  Its an exercise in self-discipline and fortitude, a time for reflection and contemplation, and a means for forgiveness and salvation.  Welcome this month with open arms, grasp onto it and garner as much benefit from it as you can before it moves on.

Ramadan Mubarak and Peace to All!

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Where Is Ramadan?

We had a nice group come out this evening to search for the new moon of Ramadan. To our disappointment, we did not see the moon here on the west coast of North America. We are the last word In the world on Moonsighting reports and we can only say Ramadan will begin on Sunday June 29th based on the prophetic tradition of sighting the moon. Taraweh prayers will start Saturday evening after sunset, insha Allah (God willing).

(Update:  The conditions this evening on the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains was not ideal for seeing the moon, but it was certainly beautiful.)

Sunset on the 29th day of Shabaan, 1435.

Encroaching Fog

This was a moving scene.  A family stands watching the sun set as fog continues to enshroud everyone along the ridge.  The quest to find the moon is growing.  Hearts are not satisfied with abstraction but rather they long for certitude, the certitude that can only come from seeing the moon with ones own eyes.  I am hopeful that the swell will continue and tradition will prevail.

The search for the new moon of Ramadan

Family Quest

I will be going out tomorrow evening as well to photograph it so stay tuned for that.

To all my Muslim readers, Ramadan Mubarak! And to all, Peace.

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Color and Light

Each month my team and I go out to look for the new crescent moon.  We never know what we will find.  Some days the sky is very bland, the moon appears, we make a photo and go home.  Other times we go out to be met with clouds.  The clouds might be thick and dense carpeting the sky with no hope expecting them to let the sky come through.  Sometimes the clouds are broken up teasing the eyes with glimpses of sky and raising the hope of seeing the new crescent.  The reward of seeing the moon with skies like that becomes greater.  Then there are days when the sky is hazy.  When it is filled with what you can tell are a light veil of clouds high up in the atmosphere.  You know the sky will put up a great show, but with that show comes the possibility that the atmospherics will obliterate seeing the moon.  It has happened many times to me.  The sky of May 29th, was just such a sky.

Cirrus Clouds After Sunset

Wispy Sky

Shortly after sunset, the western sky came to life with an abundance of cirrus clouds that just danced in the expanding color.  Faint crescent moons are difficult to see on their own without the help of little wisps of condensed water shimmering in the evening light adding confusion and deception to the mix.  After the sun set, my team starts to ask for the particulars about where generally the moon should be in the sky, its orientation and how long before it sets.  They impressed me by asking all the right questions.  Given that the moon was not to set until nearly an hour after sunset they continued to goof around until the searching became serious.

As the evening unfolded, the colors in the sky began to change and intensify. The thin veil of clouds began to stratify the color as they tend to do and a soft gradient of pastel colors lit the sky on fire.  Watching it unfold, its hard not to be impressed by the colors, and it mystifies good judgement as to why one would and would not make a photo of it.  In the end I made the photo anyway and I am glad I did.

Color Gradient at Sunset.

The Color Of Light

The color soon started to fade away with the sinking sun as it continued moving away from the horizon.  As the sky darkened we all became more intent on looking for the moon.  We searched across the sky and then suddenly my phone chimes. A text message flashed across it with a note that the moon was seen in southern California or Arizona.  I quickly reply asking for details and then continued to search.  Suddenly a cry goes out, “I think I see it!”  We all thought we did.  Hiding there amidst the clouds we all thought the lower limb of the moon was poking through.  Yet it did not seem to move as it should have been.  We dismiss it and continued to look.  I started to get worried that we were just to far north this month to see it on this evening.  How was it seen in the south?  I needed more details.  My phone rang.  I did not answer it and chose to continue looking when all of a sudden, my younger son calls out – I see it! Allahu Akbar!

We all came to him and within moments we all had seen the delicate thread of curved light in the sky!  Even my youngest team member, the 8 year old, who always needed help seeing it, saw it as quickly as the rest of us, very impressive given the faintness of this month’s moon.

New Crescent Moon of Shabaan 1435

First Sighting – Shabaan 1435

As the evening waned on the variations in the colors were subtle but certainly there for those willing to stay and enjoy the show.  The clouds start to change in both appearance and color as well.  The entire sky takes on a completely different feel.  Placing the moon in these photos is sometimes a chore.  How many different places can the moon be placed in a frame and not have the photos become completely repetitive?  Rarely do I place the moon in the lower portion of the frame, but for this one I did.  It gave the impression of the moon feeling from a darkness chasing after it.

New crescent Moon and Dark Clouds

Fleeing From Darkness

With the complaints now mounting as my intrepid team members lost patience now that the deal was sealed, I continued to track the moon and photograph it as it approached the horizon and mingled with trees that now were merely silhouettes against the now dark crimson sky.  I finally called it quits when the moon settled in between this V-shaped notch between some pine trees.

Crescent Moon Between Trees

In The Notch

The monthly appearance of the crescent moon has occurred far before we have ever been here on Earth and will continue until the end of time.  It has been my endeavor for the last 23 years.  It ceases to bring me great joy each month, and each time it is like I am seeing it for the first time.  Its vision expands my chest and lifts the weight of my world off my shoulders.  Knowing that we have a divinely ordained celestial clock as our guide in time is a great succor in my life and my hope is that it can be for you as well.

Ramadan is just on the horizon.  May we all reach it in good health and host it in our lives once more.  Peace to all.

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Countdown Begins – Shabaan 1435

This evening the new crescent moon for the 8th month of the Islamic calendar, Shabaan, was sighted in San Jose, CA.  This puts everything in motion and the countdown begins for the approach of the Ramadan, the month of fasting.  It was first seen this evening at 8:42 pm PDT.  At an azimuth of close to 274° with an altitude of about 8° above the horizon.  It was very faint.  Beautiful as always however and always a bringer of great hope.

New Crescent Moon

Shabaan 1435 Crescent

A more detailed account of the unfolding evening light and colors is coming, stay tuned.

Peace to All.

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Still Out There?

Of course I am.  Still wandering, still wondering, still marveling and chasing the light.  Still looking for that moment that strikes awe in my heart and reminds me of my place in this vast universe.  Sometimes its not anywhere to be found.  Then at other times it just sneaks up behind you and smacks you across the head and says ‘Wake Up Dummy!’.  And then there are those times when it can be seen coming from far off giving you the time to prepare to be wowed!

Such is the case when an eclipse of either the sun or the moon is pending.  A few millennia ago seeing such an event struck fear in the hearts of the onlookers as they took such things as bad omens of pending tribulation.  However, such phenomena are not causes but circumstances of the obedience of Divine law. The “laws of nature” that govern how our universe works, stated as such, makes it appear as if nature is in and of itself an independent and self regulating.  That statement makes it appear as if nature controls itself.  What we so casually call a law of nature should be called a Law of the Divine.

I find it amusingly interesting that we refer to the creation of the universe as creation without attributing to it a creator.  Creation is an act, thus there must be an actor, who is that?  That act of creation, bringing something into existence that was previously not in existence, is an awesome act.  Seeing it is not enough to make one believe it, especially in today’s world.  It has to be experienced wholly.

In addition, the act of creation is taking place at every instance in time.  As I move my fingers across the keyboard typing, each minute movement comes into existence, a movement that a moment ago did not exist.  The attribute of motion being attributed to my fingers is created and then as suddenly as it comes into existence, it becomes annihilated out of existence as well.  Objects that are described using attributes that are created and destroyed are themselves as their attributes, namely created and destroyed likewise.  Since we did not create ourselves nor, in most cases, annihilate ourselves, there must be something outside of us that does that.  Dare I call that ‘The Creator’?

It was not all that long ago that most every person on our little planet believed in the Divine.  An entity, spirit or power greater than ourselves that governed the known universe, brought it into existence and brings about its annihilation.  We were reverently awed by the Divine such that we followed a path that would be pleasing to the Divine and beneficial to all of us.   However, given who we are as humans, that seed of illness that sprouts into a myriad of destructive ills known as arrogance found a seat in the heart of one of us and took hold.  It quickly spread infecting the hearts of those around and we began to see ourselves as better than others.  Unable to see past our own hubris we slowly ascended to the illusionary throne of greatness crowning ourselves the masters of our own destiny, and the Divine died in our hearts.  Lost and cutoff from the sustenance of our souls we wander in a make-believe world where things happen just because they do without any rhyme or reason.  We do as we please as if our actions bear no consequences concerned with only our selfish gains.  And when we are done destroying everything that crosses our path we will invent new virtual things to destroy so that our now covetous capricious self can revel in as being its master. Oh what we have become.

Then suddenly an act that we cannot control driven by forces we do not understand occurs that, if we have any semblance of life left in us, would put us back in our rightful humble place, the onset of an eclipse. Even though we can calculate the occurrence of an eclipse with our mathematical models the majority of us have no understanding of the models let alone the motions of these heavenly bodies.  They occur in silence and, for the most part in today’s world, they go unnoticed because who looks up at the sky anymore?  Furthermore, who has the time to watch a silent event that can take up to several hours from its beginning to its end?  In a world where we have become accustomed to  moving at megabits per second and if we have to wait a few seconds for some gratification, the eclipse is just too long and super-boring.

Here is the grabber.  Whether we notice the natural world or not and whether we care for the natural world or not it is still out there adhering to the laws set in place by the Divine.

Still Out There – Eclipse of April 14th, 2014

This photograph of the eclipse of April 14th, 2014 was made at near its peak at 12:53:20 PDT.  The sky had a light veil of clouds that dimmed the vibrancy of the moon for most of the duration of the eclipse.  There was s brief period of time when a break in the clouds occurred and this photo was the result.  It could not have been captured as such if I was not willing to stand there in the dark for the entire duration of the eclipse.  A minute or two later the clouds diminished the brightness of the moon and stars and remained that way until its end.

Again, just like with the eclipse photo made on the solstice of 2010, this photo is a combination of two exposures.  Even though I could see the stars with my eyes, the camera needed a little help.  Exposing for just the moon, produced a sufficiently dark sky where only Spica, the very bright star on the right side of the frame could be seen.  When exposing for the stars, the moon was over exposed. Two exposures were made in rapid succession so as to minimize any variation in the positions of the heavenly bodies when they were combined in a single frame. Each bright “bit” in the dark sky can be identified using an ephemeris.  Starting from the upper left and working clockwise the stars pictured are the following.

TYC 5545-1356-1: 367 light years (ly)

76 Virgins: 265 ly

TYC 5548-516-1: 682 ly

TYC 5548-294-1: 977 ly

TYC 5548-138-1: 370 ly

TYC 5547-392-1: 418 ly

Spica: 264 ly

TYC 5548-374-1: 187 ly

TYC 5548-1547-1: 213 ly

TYC 5548-392-1: 1212 ly

TYC 5548-193-1: ???? ly

and finally

TYC 5548-1468-1: 1320 ly!

Oh and the moon’s distance…well it only takes 1.2 seconds for light reflected from the moon to reach the earth. A light year is the distance that light can travel in one year’s time as measured here on earth.  Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles/sec and so in one year’s time a photon of light can travel 5.86 trillion miles! The moon’s distance from the earth in light years is 0.000000038.  Looking at the moon is seeing 1.2 seconds into the past.  Looking at one of those stars is seeing deep into the past.

The creation is vast!  The Creator, well, immeasurable! We are small, very small.

Till next time, Peace.

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Sparks Of Light – 3/13/14

The Earth is sick. It has a fever. And like us, we develop a fever when our bodies have been invaded by a pathogen. The fever helps accelerate our antibodies to exterminate the pathogens.

Only now with the Earth, we are the pathogen making her sick. The Earth is doing what it must to survive. Guess who won’t?

I suppose its true…you get what you pay for.

Peace.

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Sparks Of Light – 1/15/2014

Mother Earth will perish at the hands of the greedy and will not saved by the bleeding hearts. This is so because the greedy love money more than the bleeding hearts love our Mother. The greedy will stop at nothing in pursuit of money and bleeding hearts stop when they die with no one left behind to take up the fight.

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Sparks Of Light – 9/23/2013

God takes care of children, old folks and fools, while the devil plays with the rest of us tools.

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Speaking In Silence

Each month this lone natural satellite of ours cycles through its phases always returning to the waxing crescent and appears in its performance after the sun has gone down. Each month, it seems, that its performance falls increasingly on an ever growing number of deaf ears.

Crescent Moon of Dhul-Hijjah Setting over the Santa Cruz Mountains

Speaking In Silence

Now you might be asking, how can we hear the moon when it is a visual experience? And to that I would reply, do we really hear with our ears? I had a teacher once who gave me advice. Be careful about what you do, people are listening to you with their eyes. In an age that is filled with imagery, actions speak much louder than words. And in an age where truth has been tipped on its head such that lies are believed to be truths and truth taken as lies, it is becoming harder to ascertain the truth. Nothing man touches anymore is free from the corruption of lies.

Twenty years ago I ventured out with a camera in my hand determined to vindicate the veracity of my tongue by photographing the new crescent moon as solid proof that I was seeing it. Along the way I became enamored by the natural world and have pointed my lens at much of. The world is vast and it has kept me occupied in preserving the moments it presented to me. In all that time, however, I never stopped photographing the moon. I rarely, if ever, shared the photos of the moon with many as I thought they would be of little interest; to simple for the sophistication of the modern mind, to boring for the eyes vexed by the virtual chicanery of our time. Yet in the past couple of years I have started sharing the photos of the new crescent moon and to my surprise they have been welcomed with a refreshing enthusiasm. Perhaps simple is best. After all was it not Albert Einstein who said “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler”?

These photos of the moon cannot be any simpler with regards to the subject and still call them photos of something. A sliver of reflected light set against a colorful post sunset sky. As simple as they may seem, they are a far cry from having nothing to say.

At times the color of the sky is vibrant while at other times quiet and tame. The color moves the eye up and down the frame touching upon all the emotions associated with the spectrum from passion to power to peace and sadness, stopping only for the pearly-white glow of the small sliver of light that interrupts the flow. The subject is always the same but placed in the specific context the photos take on many levels of complexity. At times I am treated with a varied sky mixed with silhouetted clouds giving the photo a sense of mystery or a dastardly ominous presence and the crescent provides a glimmer of hope that balances the image.

I also see the moon as a marker of time.  Each day it waxes larger until it becomes full and rises as the sun is setting and then wanes away into a crescent once more before it vanishes for  day or two as it interludes with the sun hidden to our naked eyes.  Its mansions in the sky remind me of the passing of time, or more starkly the running out of time.  I only have a fixed amount to time in this life as do each of you.  Once my time, and your time for that matter, runs out, we cease to exist here.  Our ability to do something to effect change for the better comes to an end.  So it reminds me each month to get busy and not waste the precious amount I have left.

The Moon, Venus and Spica

The Trio

Rarer still, are those times when the moon is hanging in the sky next to other celestial travelers, such as Venus or Mars or other orbs of light that reach out from deep in the galaxy or from other galaxies that are light years away. These little sparks of light not only grace the image with another point of light to aid in giving the eye a place to rest but also giving us a glimpse into the past. For many of the stars that do show up, are so far away that their light reaching us now left those stars long before we ever existed and in some cases their light is as old as the universe itself. For us, looking up at the sky, these celestial beacons all appear the same distance away. Light reflected from the moon however, reaches us in a little over 1 second. From Venus, a regular companion of the Moon in the sunset sky, its reflected light reaches us in as little as 2 minutes or as long as 14 minutes depending on where it is in its orbit around the sun relative to where we are in our orbit. Light from the sun, which on average is 93 million miles away, reaches us in just over 8 minutes.  The next closest star to us is Proxmia Cantauri which is 4.3 light years away, meaning light from that start reaching us tonight left that star 4.3 years ago.  The additional star that showed up on the evening that “Trio” was made, Spica in the constellation Virgo, is the 15th brightest star in the sky and the light that left that star did so 250 years ago!  That was before anyone of us reading this article right now was even born!  And the faintest object that we can see by the naked eye under a sufficiently dark sky is the Triangulum Galaxy M33 which is 3 million light years away from Earth.  Its light seen tonight left it 3 million years ago!  When we look up at sky we are seeing the ancient past.

Then there are those times when I decide to not only include the moon’s neighbors in the sky, but also Terra Firma.  I will place it as an anchor at the bottom of the frame, silhouetted against the colorful sky.  Most times I will wait until the moon is close to the horizon allowing the diffraction effects of the atmosphere to play its magic in making the moon appear bigger than it really is.  And yet, by doing so I emphasize the size of the moon to indicate that it is much more important than we esteem it to be.  Without the moon, the tides on the oceans would not exist as they do.  The variation of high tide and low tide would not be present.  And although the sun and wind would still send waves onto our shores they would be tame compared to what we now see, and coastlines for the most part would remain static, much like those of any lake.  By virtue of the orbiting moon, we have dynamic oceanic coastlines that team with a variety of unique life accustomed to the cyclic nature of the rising and dropping tides.

Further yet, the moon was the first means of marking time beyond a day, ushering in calendars into the human civilization that were used to mark sacred days as well as the counting of years.  Through the discovery and understanding of the cyclic nature of the moon, the cyclic nature of the rising and setting locations of the sun and stars soon followed allowing our ancestors to learn about the changing and cyclic seasons – giving rise to the understanding of agriculture of knowing when and when not to plant.  The relationship of the Moon and Mother Earth is one that runs very deep and the two are intimately connected through an invisible force now known as gravity.  It was the sight of the moon up in the sky and simultaneously seeing an apple fall from a tree that prompted Sir Isaac Newton to question – if an apple falls from a tree to the ground, why does the moon up in the sky not fall to earth as well?  It led him to the rationalization of what we now call Newton’s Laws of Motion which describe the very nature of the motion of our world and those objects in it as well as the motion of heavenly bodies. Through Newtonian mechanics, the motion of objects described by Newton’s Laws of Motion, humans have walked on the surface of the very moon that prompted Sir Isaac Newton to formulate those laws some half a millennium ago.  And yet, to this day, we still do not know what gravity really is.

Yes these photos of the new crescent moon are simple, but by no means are they empty.  The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, spoke succinctly with few words but with much meaning.  His blessed face was described to shine more than the full moon on a dark night.  He changed the world for the better and left for us in the moon a tradition of going out each month in search of it.  Each month the moon appears is a reminder of the character building lessons that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, came to teach us.  I see the moon as his final lesson.  If he spoke succinctly in his lifetime he is now speaking to us in silence – through the silence of the moon.  These photos of the moon as simple as they may be, speak volumes, without even saying a word.

New Crescent Moon

More Than Words

Till next time, peace.

 

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