In South Africa, the search for the Hilal of Shawwal 1433 commences after sunset on Saturday, 18th August. The community is generally anxious to know the possibility of whether the Hilal will be seen or not.
If the crescent moon is sighted, with confirmation, it would signify the termination of Ramadan and the first day of Shawwal - which is the day of Eid.
The Hilal is usually a very tiny crescent moon, and can be quite difficult to see, even if it is present in the sky.
There are various factors which affect the visibility of the crescent moon. Most people go by the age of the moon after sunset. Generally, a crescent moon that is over 18 hours in age is regarded as being visible, but the other parameters of moon's orbit and position in the sky also have to be favourable for the crescent to be visible.
Some of the other parameters are:
1. Moonset lag - the time difference between sunset and moonset.
2. Moon elevation - the height of the moon in the sky at the time of sunset.
3. Relative angle to the sun - the angular separation of the sun and moon at sunset. There are various ways in which this is measured.
Sometimes, even a 25 hour crescent moon is not visible because one of the other parameters was not favourable. Clouds and other atmospheric conditions also affect crescent visibility.
In South Africa, all the parameters of the moon are favourable for a sighting of the Hilal after sunset on Saturday. The Hilal usually becomes visible about 20 minutes after sunset on the western horizon close to the place where the sun went down and disappeared from the horizon.
Local Muslim communities should look out for the Hilal after sunset on Saturday.
Please contact your local Imam/Alim if the Hilal is sighted.
Darul Ihsan Centre