UAE Astronomy Expert Calls for Fatwa Based on Astrophotography

new moon

A prominent United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based astronomer has proposed a fatwa concerning astrophotography, a move that potentially change the way the start of a new lunar month is determined.

According to a report on the Khaleej Times, Mohammad Shawkat Odeh, the Director of the Abu Dhabi-based International Astronomy Center, has proposed a fatwa — the issuance of a new Islamic decree — on how the beginning of a new lunar month is determined. At present, it is based on how the moon appears to the naked eye. Odeh has proposed that be changed to how the moon appears through a camera.

“We are in dire need of a meeting like this to exchange knowledge,” Odeh says. “Astrophotography has been around since 2006, and now we want the Islamic community to consider it carefully and issue a fatwa.”

There has apparently been a large amount of misinformation on how astrophotography works in the Muslim community and the proposed intersection of technology and traditional methods may make some purists uneasy. However, Odeh and advocates argue that if astrophotography’s benefits are acknowledged, the start of a new lunar month would be far more precise.

If embraced, the result would be a melding of technology and traditional beliefs that have shaped religious practices for hundreds of years and bridge the gap between science and spirituality, advocates say.

“By acknowledging the potential of astrophotography, we are recognizing the advancements of technology while honoring the traditions that have shaped our religious practices for centuries. Through this harmonious integration, we can embark on a new era of precision and inclusivity in timekeeping,” TS2 writes.

While the argument for a fatwa is practical and based on science, not all are in agreement.

“We need to have real rules to find solutions for the crises we are facing now,” Dr. Qays Mohammed Al Shaik Mubarak, Professor in the department of Islamic Studies at King Faisal University, says.

“However, people are giving fatwas but not following rules. Fatwas must be based on more than one school of thought of fiqh. We are looking at collective opinions and approaches.”

Odeh, who has written a paper on the subject of Islam and astrophotography, had the best chance of convincing his peers at the UAE Council for Fatwa conference where he made his call for the change earlier this month.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.