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Ramadan 1430 Begins

Ramadan Mubarak to all!  This evening August 21st, 2009 at 8:06 pm PDT the new crescent moon of Ramadan 1430, was sighted by a group of over 30 men and women, not counting the numerous children as well at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, just west of Palo Alto, CA in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  We had clear skies with some dark thick marine layer atmospherics close to the horizon.  It was a fine crescent that was about 3.5 degrees in altitude above the horizon and at a true azimuth of 265 degrees.

The group of sighters started out at about 20 people and over the next 15 minutes it grew to well over 35 people.  As the evening progressed everyone became quite joyful that the Blessed Month of Ramadan was upon us.  As the moon approached the horizon, we packed up and headed off into the night with the intention of commencing our Fast for the next 29 or 30 days, until we see the next new moon.  So Congratulations to all for having another opportunity to benefit from Ramadan.  May all your prayers and fasting be accepted this month.

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30 Days

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.

Shabaan 1, 1430

Sha'baan 1, 1430

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.

~ Youssef

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Out Of Control

Controlled Chaos
The month of Ramadan is just about over. In less than 24 hours, the search for the new crescent moon will begin for those who follow the tradition set more than 1400 years ago in marking the beginnings of the months. The day the follows the end of Ramadan is known as Eid Al-Fitr, the festival of fast breaking, and is celebrated the world round by observant Muslims. It is a joyous day that marks not only the end of a month-long devotion to our Creator but also that as Muslims we were able to stay away from and curb our desires during daylight hours. It is a month where those who observe it hope to gain the self-control and discipline to tame our egos, grow more conscience of the Divine, and foster love, mercy and compassion to all of humanity.

And so it is with this as a backdrop that the current events unfolding leave me somewhat introspective on our future. Continue Reading »

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Ramadan 1429 Begins

Today was the first day of fasting for the month of Ramadan this year.

Enjoying the afternoon

Enjoying the afternoon

I lead a trip up to the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the northern Santa Cruz mountians on Sunday after noon with about 20 people attending. We spent about two hours along one of the ridge trails in the preserve waiting for the sun to set so that we could start searching. We had a good time while we waited.

It was another perfect day for moonsighting. The sky was clear and visibility was excellent. Although it was clear and sunny we had mild temperatures in the upper 60’s.

As the sun began to set, we all anxiously waited to start searching. Although the sunset was quite impressive with its deep orange color, we had to really stop ourselves from looking to prevent the green spots from appearing in our eyes which would hamper seeing the delicate crescent moon.

Finally the sun had vanished below the horizon. It left us with sublte pastel colored skies.

However, try as we did, we could not see any sign of the new crescent moon. Even though is was a 30 hour old moon, its age determine from the moment it is in conjunction with the sun, it was low on the horizon, only about 3.5 degrees in altitude, and was only in the sky for 20 minutes after the sun set. Most 30 hour old crescents are easy to see in the sky after sunset, but this one was to low ont he horizon and set too soon after sunset.

In the end, no one in North America saw the crescent moon that evening. Making the month of Sha’ban a 30 day month and with Ramadan beginning on Tuesday September 2, 2008.

With one day now complete we look forward to a blessed month ahead of us.

Peace – Youssef

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