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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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Fare Well My Friends

Old Crescent Moon of Ramadan

Near The End

This was the moon early this morning as dawn was breaking.  Still waning in its last few days of its continual cycle before it vanishes for its monthly interlude as it meets up with the sun.  Some time mid-late next week it will reappear in the sky invigorated to start waxing once more.

I don’t pay much attention to the waning crescent in other months and rarely do I photograph it.  Not because I can’t but usually because it does not hold much significance to me.  Ramadan on the other hand is all together different.   Ramadan has a special place in my heart, as it does for most Muslims.  Its a month of reflection, a month of exercising our will in abstinence, a month of foregoing the urges of our caprice, and a month of tightening our belts and getting busy in remembering our Creator.  Its a month of becoming intimate with who we are and what we are capable of.  Its a month of returning to the recognition of the relationship we have with the Lord of the heavens and Earth and all that is between those two.  Its a month of recalling the word of God as revealed in the Qur’an and yearning to be better so that we can follow in the footsteps of the prophets and saints who proceeded us.

For Muslims, Ramadan is met with great anticipation as it approaches and is left with deep melancholy as it departs.  Decades ago I wrote a short Ode to Ramadan titled “The Guest”.  I sent it out in those early days of the internet in an email message to my close friends on an email board through which we communicated. Somehow it managed to escape that circle and make its way out into cyberspace in what we could call today going viral.  Its still floating around out there, you just have to “google” that title along with my name and it will come up, if you are so inclined.

In it I referred to Ramadan as a guest that comes to us bringing blessings with it. It was written near the same time as I am writing today, near the end of Ramadan, in a reflective mood as to what we have earned during this month.  I saw us as stationary and that Ramadan was coming and going.  I bid it a farewell in that ode as it was leaving.

This morning a different thought occurred to me.  As I said to myself, referring to Ramadan, “fare well my friend”, I became confused as to who the friend was.  Did I mean Ramadan or did I mean my self as well as my other friends honoring Ramadan?  My new perspective saw Ramadan being stationary and that we were the ones coming to visit it and then departing with the gifts it gave us.  In fact, we are the ones that are moving through time.  We tend to think of time passing by, but in reality, time is static and we move through it.  I suppose it is all relative, just as if you are sitting in a moving car, is the car moving past the objects outside of it or are the objects moving past the car you are in?  Its relative, and in a sense it does not matter.

However in the case of time, it is a created thing just like everything else.  To the Creator, it is static and known because it has existed since Creation started.  God knows everything at every moment because every moment in time is already there from its beginning to its end all laid out and God sees everything from what was, to what is and to what will be.  Rather than time passing us by like water flowing past a rock in a river, we are like that car moving down the road.  We encounter moments in a static time line much like a car encounters bumps in a static existing roadway.  Our choices and decisions result in different turns we take along our journey to the end of time.  When the end of time occurs is of course unknown to us, especially if we are driving along wearing blinders and refuse to look out the window for the warning signs along the road.

And so as we speed along in time we approach the end of Ramadan.  If we feel that it has come to its end very quickly, maybe it was us who were moving to fast, that we did not slow down from our daily rigor and relish the month long portion of time we were moving through.  Its kind of like when you encounter a designated “scenic highway”, its beautiful.  If we don’t care we will just speed on by and never garner the gifts of that beauty.  But if we slow down, and maybe even stop and get out of the car to breath if only for a moment, we come away with so much more.

So as we see the time-signs of the impending end of Ramadan, (hint: the waning crescent moon) rather than thinking about doubling our efforts to get as much out of Ramadan as we can, think, rather, that we should slow down our pace and possibly stop doing so much of our distracting activities.  By doing so, we can relish and “see” the beauty that Ramadan is, treasure what it has to offer us and once we have gotten out of our time-travel machine, we might actually get to take a breath of Ramadan.  Only then will we have garnered what is contained in Ramadan.

So, my friends, I say to all of you Fare Well on your journey  through time.  I hope you have stopped in Ramadan long enough to gather the provisions you need, for the next “time” you encounter Ramadan again, if at all, will be a long ways down the road.

Peace to you All.

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Ramadan’s New Moon

Good evening all!  Although it was not required or critical to sight the moon this evening, it has become a habit that I just cannot leave.  I did not travel far to find this moon.  Nor did I have to, and neither do you if you are a crescent chaser as well.

Like every other month I go out to see this tiny sliver of light in the sky, when I see it great joy fills my heart and I wear a grin from ear to ear.  It is one of the most remarkable sights in all the world to me.  The moon has been my monthly companion for the last 20 years and it still brings me as much awe and wonder as the first time I ever saw it.

This month the moon ushers in a blessed month of patience, vigilance, fortitude, faith, and spirituality – the month of Ramadan.  It is the Muslim month of fasting in which observant Muslims abstain from food, drink and marital relations from dawn until sunset for the entirety of the month, solely out of obedience to our Loving and Merciful Creator.

So without further a due, here is the harkener of blessings upon blessings.

Ramadan 1434, Crescent Moon

Ramadan 1434, July 9th, 2013 at 8:43 pm PDT from San Jose, CA

To all my Muslim readers…Ramadan Mubarak!

And Peace to all!

 

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Rajab 1434 Begins

This evening the new crescent moon of Rajab for the Islamic year 1434 made its appearance.  It was a delicate moon and had the company of Venus as it set in the western sky.  A mild evening that at first posed some possible cloudy interference.  But as the sun set and the sky cooled, the clouds for the most part dissipated leaving the Moon and Venus in plain sight.

Rajab Crescent 1434 with Venus

Rajab Crescent 1434 with Venus

It was interesting that Venus was spotted first and was brighter in the sky than the crescent moon was, even though the moon is closer to us and many orders of magnitude larger.  We used Venus as our marker to find the moon, as we knew from an ephemeris that the two would be close to each other.

The moon was first sighted around 8:20 pm PDT and it was primarily in blank sky. I photographed it over the next half hour until it was just about to set.  The photograph above was made at approximately 8:45 pm PDT, as the dark band of clouds added an extra dimension to the scene.

Rajab is an important Islamic month as it helps in locking down the start times for the following month Sha’baan and then the month of Ramadan when fasting begins.  It ripples from this day onward for both the start of Ramadan and its end which ushers in Eid Al-Fitr, the festival of fast breaking.

I feel very fortunate living here on the west coast.  We have the best possibility, and in most cases, the last word on any given day for sighting the new moon each month.  I and my assistants were not the only ones who sighted the moon this evening, I did receive one other report from a long time friend and fellow crescent chaser who saw it as well from atop Mount Tamalpais about 60 miles north of my location, also a stunning location in its own right.  We were atop Russian Ridge in the northern reaches of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

To all my Muslim readers, Rajab Mubarak!

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Humble Beginnings – Ramadan 1433

I was out last night and this evening in search for the new crescent moon that marks the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.  Last night, that would be July 19th, 2012, the moon was not seen.  It was only 12 minutes behind the sun and at the same time we had some fog to contend with.  Similarly, the moon was not positively seen anywhere in the world on the evening of the 19th.

This evening was a different story.  The conditions were perfect and the moon was easily seen.  Not that it made much difference, as the 19th was the 29th day of the previous month and was the critical day in determining when Ramadan would start.  However, it is my “thing” to be out there photographing the new moon, so out I went again this evening.

The moon was easily seen and a thought suddenly occurred to me.  For the longest time as I can recall the moons of Ramadan have appeared in a lack-luster entrance.  Quiet, humble and just there.  Suddenly it all made sense to me.

“Oh you who believe, Fasting has been proscribed upon you as it was proscribed on those who were before you so that you might increase in piety” ~ Quran.

Piety, this month is about piety.  Piety is never flashy.  Its not glamorous or forward or vain.

Its about humility, being patient, reserved, and quiet.  This evening it was quiet out there.  Few people, mild temperatures, slight breeze, very unassuming.  The moons of Ramadan have arrived showing us the very qualities that this month is designed to foster in all of us.  I am in awe.

Ramadan Moon

Ramadan Moon

To all my Muslim Readers – Ramadan Mubarak!  Make use of this month to come out as humble and pious as the moon.

To all Peace.

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Ramadan 1432 Begins!

Ramadan Light

Ramadan Light

Well it was a long night.  Reports came in from many locations and they needed to be tracked down and confirmed.  Reports came in from as far away as South Africa, and several locations in the Caribbean and South America.

Here in the States, the best location astronomically was in San Diego, which by the way suffered like we did in the Bay Area with cloudy or foggy skies.

Fortunately there were two separate sighting groups in south Texas that helped us confirm the beginning of Ramadan this year.  In one case there was a group of 16 individuals that saw the moon initially with binoculars and then of the 16, 3 were able to see it again with the naked eye.  In the second case we had four individuals that saw the new crescent with their naked eyes alone, not far from the the other group but completely independent.

Here in the Bay Area, the day played out nicely.  Fog in the morning that burned off by mid morning and mild temperatuers and clear skies for the remainder of the day…that is until the temperature started to drop.

We headed out with a group of nearly 40 adult individuals and counting the children we had to number well in to the 60’s.  We headed up to Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve hoping for clear skies there, but as we neared, the fog started to climb up from the coast and covered us over.  The marine layer had to be nearly 2700 feet thick!

The above photo shows the full extent of the light we saw on Borel Hill, the highest hilltop in the Bay Area’s Peninsula region.

Nonetheless, we managed to get the sighting confirmations we needed to mark the start of Ramadan.  To all my Muslim readers, Ramadan Mubarak.

Peace.

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Mercy: Day 2 – Hunger

Its now 1 PM and my stomach starts to grumble.  I feel hungry but I am in the middle of only the second day of fasting.  Its now that most will start to feel the change of the eating pattern.  That is okay, I can push through.  Its now 4 PM and the grumbles return, but I ignore them.  I start to wonder what it must be like for some one who is under fed, someone who feels like this all the time.  It is an unsettling feeling.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of God upon him, said “Those who are merciful will have mercy shown to them by the most Merciful.  Show mercy to those who are on the Earth and The One who is in heaven will show mercy on you”.  Those are powerful words, and to be reminded of this during these first 10 days of Ramadan, during the days of mercy resonate within me.

My hunger will subside when the sun goes down, but for millions, and maybe for even more, around the globe they will go to sleep hungry, wake up hungry and live their days hungry.  At the same time we walk into a super market and find an unimaginable abundance of food that if it is not sold with in a week’s time is thrown out in the garbage!

I remember growing up and watching my neighbor hauling out boxes of produce from his truck that he salvaged from the supermarket garbage bin.  It was perfectly good food except it came out of a garbage bin.

When I was studying in graduate school at Stanford University, I would love to go into the library and read up on all the various subjects that interested me outside of engineering.  Once I was in the government documents library and ran across a United Nations report on hunger.  It was noted in a study conducted back in 1980 that if the United States would give just 2% of the excess wheat that it dumps into the ocean to keep wheat prices high, they could wipe out world famine! TWO PERCENT of the EXCESS! I was beside myself to say the least.

There is no mercy being on the receiving end of hunger.  There is however great mercy for the one who puts him or her self through hunger voluntarily to know what it means and then does something about it to alleviate it from others.  Showing mercy to others produces a multiplicity effect that continues to grow.

On Saturday, August 15th, 2010 a local charitable foundation and food bank, Rahima Foundation will be conducting their 7th annual Human Dignity Day by feeding the homeless in San Jose, CA.  They are looking for volunteers and it is a wonderful way to help show mercy to those who need mercy.

In The Shadow

Giving is Good.

Till tomorrow, Peace.

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Mercy: Day 1 – Sleep

Its 3:30 AM and I wake in a stupor to the rustling sounds of my wife getting dressed in a rush as she prepares to leave to help a woman give birth as her Doula. Its about 15 minutes before the alarm clock was destined to go off and wake us up for our first pre-dawn meal of Ramadan. In my half asleep state I remind her to eat and drink before she runs out. Asking me what time dawn enters, she dashes out. We have not seen her since.

Once she goes into action sleep is not an option until the miracle of birth is over.  I know the routine, having been in her shoes four times with my own children.  It is incredibly tiring, physically, mentally and emotionally.

So after she leaves, the alarm starts to blare and wakes me again.  Still tired, I wrangle myself out of bed and proceed to wake three of my four kids.  They get very excited to fast with us in Ramadan and they are getting to that age when they will have to fast, so getting used to it is not a bad idea.  The youngest of the three is only allowed to fast until he feels hungry, and the other two, well they insist on the whole day.  With all of us awake we make our way into the kitchen to prepare our meal.

Once we finish eating, I feel like I can return to bed, but the kids are now wide awake and want to get busy with their day.  Its 5 AM and its still dark out!  We do our dawn prayer and then, back to bed before its off to work.  Its now 7 AM, the alarm wakes me once more.  I wake the kids who ended up sleeping anyway.  We get dressed and we are out the door.  First off to grandma’s house to drop off the kids and then to class.

I still feel tired and wish that I could still be wrapped up and cozy in my bed.  But I push through.  The urge to lay myself down and close my eyes is great, I just want a little more rest.

The day comes to a close.  When arrive to pick up my kids, my oldest son is out like a light on the easy chair.  My oldest daughter is groggy and about to go out on the couch, the other two are still bumping around but not for long.  They have been up for nearly 12 hours, my self as well!  On the way home, a 15 minute drive, they all fall asleep, and I am starting to nod off as well.  We clamber out of the car and into the house.  Within ten minutes, we have all found a comfortable place and sleep overtakes all of us.

Sleep is such a blessing.  One of the great mercies of our Creator.  Every thing sleeps in one way or another.  From animals to plants, they all have a down time. To stretch out, to let your body sink in relaxation, to close tired eyes and to take a deep breath and letting go of all the worries of life brings a state of peace and tranquility to the soul. To relinquish all responsibility back to the Lord of the all things, and to put your trust in Him with certainty that all will be fine once we wake brings reassurance to the heart and repose to the mind that we are not in control and need not be.

Sleep brings peace to every facet of who we are and regardless of whether we become tired physically, emotionally, mentally – in any combination or all three.  It is a Mercy for every living thing and is a hallmark of the stamp of the Merciful in all of creation.  I am tried now, so I think I will go get me some Mercy.

Windy Hill Under Moon Light

Nighty Night

Till tomorrow, Peace.

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Ten Days of Mercy

The sun set in silence on the western horizon.  There was a slight breeze that caressed the face.  Suddenly a sliver of light emerged in the sky and the month of Mercy began.  Without fanfare or pomp, the month of Ramadan entered into our lives once again bringing with it the promise of great tidings.  It is a month in which the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God upon him, said “Its first ten days are a mercy, its second ten days are forgiveness and its third ten days freedom from the punishment of hellfire”.

With the ushering in of the crescent moon, the days of mercy begin wherein we slow down, unplug from the madness of the modern world, look within ourselves and find the shortcomings that need rectification and head down that path holding on to the Rope of God in constant remembrance with the hope of becoming better than we are.  Ten days for a settled heart, a calm mind, and a peaceful soul to find the solace they need to regenerate a beleaguered body back to its spiritual and physical center.

This month brings with it many blessings , too many to enumerate, too many to even know.  It is a classroom in ‘time’ that gives us the opportunity to focus on the improvement of ourselves, to strenghten the bonds of freinds and family and to reconnect with the community at large.  This opportunity comes but once a year and not taking full advantage of it, leaves one longing to see it again, with no certainty of ever making back.  Make use of this month to garner all that you can.  These first ten days, are for you to re-engage with your Lord.  So lets get to it.

Peace.

Crescent Moon of Ramadan 1431

Ramadan 1, 1431

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Ramadan 1431 Announcement

It has been a very busy time the last few weeks here. Much teaching and work revolving around the start of Ramadan this year.

But I am both happy and sad to announce that Ramadan of the Islamic year 1431, will commence on the evening of Wednesday August 11th after sunset and the first day of fasting on Thursday August 12 according to the tradition of sighting the new crescent moon.  A valiant effort was made by several people in gathering reports from all over the globe, and in particular in South America where seeing the new crescent had the highest probability.  The was not seen anywhere in the world on this evening, even by yours truly.

So why am I happy, well that we now have Ramadan in our presence and we can begin again , God Willing, our fast in devotion of our Merciful Creator in a couple of days with clear certainty of its start.  And why sad?  Sad that we did not have the great fortune of seeing that amazing crescent moon this evening.  Tomorrow the moon will be much larger and higher in the sky and easy for almost anyone world wide to see it.  I encourage all of you to go out and look at this phenomenal sight, Muslim or otherwise.

The evening was special as it always is, with over 50 adults and probably an equal number of children as well came out this month to look for the crescent with me and many other sighting parties occurred with equal numbers.  Nonetheless the view was captivating and the learning of how to sight the moon was the best I had ever seen.

It is wonderful to see so many people interested in reviving this wonderful tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of God be upon him.

So to all my Muslim friends and readers and to everyone else as well ~

Ramadan Mubarak!

Fog rolling in over Santa Cruz Mountains

Above The Fog

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