Another month has gone by. The new moon this time around met with the sun and blocked her out, completely for nearly 6 minutes all across Asia. The longest total solar eclipse that the Earth will see for the next 123 years! If you missed it, like I did, oh well, I guess we will have to figure out how to live another 123 years.
However, every month, the possibility for either a solar or lunar eclipse is there. At each new moon, the Moon comes in between the the Sun and the Earth, that is why we lose sight of the Moon for a couple of days as it passes in front of the Sun. At each full moon, there is a possibility of a lunar eclipse as the Earth comes in between the Sun and the Moon. The reason we do not have two eclipses each month is that the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is not in the same plane as the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. The graphic below should help in clarifying that.
Only when all three bodies line up perfectly on the ecliptic will an eclipse occur. They are not hard to predict, but they also do not occur all that frequently. However when an eclipse does occur, it is a big deal and many cultures have placed significance in its occurrence. But what goes almost un-noticed month after month is the emergence of a new moon a day or so after conjunction. The beauty and subtlety of the new moon is something that words fail to convey. It needs to be experienced to really be appreciated. What is wonderful is that we see twelve new moons every year, so your chances of seeing one are much better than that of an eclipse, and given the conditions, the display is just as impressive.
A few days ago, a day after the big solar eclipse actually, the new crescent moon made its appearance once more. Surely its significance was “eclipsed” by the Solar eclipse itself, but it ushered in the Islamic month Sha’baan, known as the Month of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It is the month that proceeds the month of mandatory fasting for the Muslims, the month of Ramadan, and it is a month preparations – both physical and spiritual.
Great anticipation builds in the Muslim world once the moon of Sha’baan is sighted, for in 30 days worldly pleasures take a back seat for an entire month. Eating, drinking and marital relations come to a screeching halt during daylight hours and at night, the hours are spent in spiritual endeavors from reciting the melodic verses of the Quran in Arabic as in the first chapter Al-Faitha ~ The Opening to standing in prayer, sometimes for up to three or more hours! All with the intention of establishing a connection and closeness to the Creator and Lord of our world. So as this month is whittled away by time and we approach the next new moon it will have immense significance to 1.6 Billion people around the world. And although the heavens will not put on a show as grand as a total solar eclipse, it ushers in a month long exercise that eclipses most others.
Peace to you all.