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Comments on Eclipse
Posted by admin on Thursday, October 08 @ 22:46:44 AST (1100 reads)
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Fraud of Eclipses or Eclipsed Fraud

Q. From Awny Al-Omari, Wisconsin, USA, 25 January 1996:

If the Ahmadiyyas maintain that a solar eclipse can sometimes occur on the 27th of a lunar month, then presumably a lunar one should be feasible on the 12th? However, they regard the 13th as the earliest possible day.

A. It is actually difficult to see how a solar eclipse could be witnessed as early as the 27th (see separate file). A sighting at dusk next day would terminate the month incorrectly after just 28 days. Of course they could postulate hazy conditions at the beginning and end of the Islamic month - thereby delaying the identification of the crescent (at a location specifically selected for their purpose).

Indeed, atmospheric visibility is one of the parameters they are prepared to vary, when it suits them. In particular, they need to assume that the Ramadan crescent was not seen from Qadian (near Lahore) on 8th March 1894. Only by postponing the start of the Holy Month, were they able to regard the date of the lunar eclipse as 13th Ramadan. However, it is likely that the New Moon would have been spotted on 8th March from places at higher altitude to the north or east, where the air was thinner, cleaner and drier.

Naturally, the Ahmadiyyas do need to be consistent with their criteria. And with the right combination of cir*****stances, there will then be situations which result in lunar eclipses occurring even earlier - on the 12th of an Islamic month.

This will happen at locations (i) where thick haze delays the beginning of the month by an extra day or two, (ii) where the inclination of the ecliptic is unfavourable for moonsighting, and (iii) whenever the interval between New and Full Moon is less than 14 days; (this is not at all uncommon: see the histogram in question 2 above).

For example, poor atmospheric visibility would also have obscured the Ramadan crescent on 8th March 1894 at latitude 40 South, longitude 120 West. If based on observations made just at that point, the new month would then have had to wait till the evening of the 9th. And the subsequent lunar eclipse on 21st March would have been in the early hours of the morning - which at that particular place was still the 12th of Ramadan.

So as you suggest, the 12th (not the 13th) is the first date when lunar eclipses can be witnessed (using criteria which the Qadianis themselves have adopted - but which can cause problems - see question 16). Thus, their March 1894 lunar eclipse did not occur on the earliest day possible. [See item 18 in this file].

Also refer to the article at http://www.dlmcn.com/qadfl.html  

CALCULATIONS & REFERENCES

At dusk on 8th March 1894 at 40º South, 120º West, the base of the crescent was only 7.2º above the centre of the sun (ignoring refraction but allowing for parallax). Azimuth difference was 16.3º.

There are well-do*****ented cases where the moon was not visible under similar cir*****stances:

"Visibility of the lunar crescent" by B.E. Schaefer (1988). Q.J.R. Astron. Soc., 29, 511-523. (See observations 16, 22, 28, 99 and 100 in his Table I).

"Lunar crescent visibility" by B.E. Schaefer (1996). Q.J.R. Astron. Soc., 37, 759-768. (See his Figure 3).

"Limiting altitude separation in the New Moon's first visibility criterion" by M. Ilyas (1988). Astron. Astropys. 206, 133-135. (See his Figures 1, 2, 3 and 5).  

However, if someone feels that the New Moon would probably have been visible on 8th March 1894 at 40º South, 120º West (even in hazy conditions), then we could recalculate for an observation point slightly further poleward - say at 45º South, 120º West - where it will be much harder to spot the crescent.

In addition, lunar latitude on 8th March 1894 was only -0.3º, so it could easily have been more unfavourable. For instance, on 8th February 2008, lunar latitude will be almost +1.0º, and at the beginning of nautical twilight (at 42º South, 50º East, say) the crescent will be extremely close to the horizon - impossible to see even in moderate haze. A locally determined new month at that particular place will have to wait till the evening of 9th February. Thus, the subsequent lunar eclipse on 21st February 2008 will be observed there (before dawn) on the 12th of the month.

October 1986 provides a similar illustration, this time from the northern hemisphere.

Dr. David McNaughton

http://www.alhafeez.org/rashid/

 

FLAWS IN THE AHMADIYYA ECLIPSE THEORY
Posted by admin on Thursday, October 08 @ 22:37:15 AST (1208 reads)
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Fraud of Eclipses or Eclipsed Fraud

FLAWS IN THE AHMADIYYA ECLIPSE THEORY

Dr David McNaughton Summarised in: http://www.dlmcn.com/qadsum.html#beg Urdu translation by Muhammad Baig [of ICOP, UK] at http://DLMcN.com/ahmadiurdu.pdf [abridged version]

The Holy Month of Ramadan 1311 (March/April 1894) contained both a lunar and a solar eclipse. The Ahmadiyya community attaches great importance to them, believing that they conferred unusual and special status on their leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed1.

Fundamental to their thesis is a claim that the lunar eclipse occurred on the earliest possible date in an Islamic month - which they argue is the 13th. For them, it was also significant that (according to their reckoning) the subsequent solar eclipse took place on 28th Ramadan, supposedly occupying the 'middle' of the permissible range of dates2.  

Question-marks against eclipses on the 27th

The Ahmadiyyas maintain that a solar eclipse may be witnessed either during the 27th, or on the 28th, or on the 29th of a lunar month. At first glance the 27th does seem questionable, because a crescent sighting on the following date would terminate the month incorrectly after just 28 days. Remembering that a New Moon is born during a solar eclipse, its age just after sunset next day would exceed 24 hours - almost certainly rendering it visible somewhere in the world.

Admittedly, if people are following an Islamic calendar based on observations made just at one point, then even a 30-hour crescent will sometimes be missed, particularly if the sun-moon azimuth difference is quite great. (Under these cir*****stances, incidentally, reports from the opposite hemisphere3 are usually positive).

However, by referring back to the beginning of the month, we notice a larger obstacle confronting eclipses on the 27th.

For the illustration in Figure 1, a lunation of 29.4 days was adopted4 - less than the mean value of 29.53 days. Figure 1 uses a solar eclipse time near the end of the 27th day - with conjunction occurring 26.9 days after the commencement of the Islamic month. Subtracting that from 29.4 yields a 2½-day interval between the previous New Moon's birth and the onset of the month concerned (which is at sunset, as is customary). To make that possible, the crescent would have had to be invisible 24 hours earlier, i.e. approximately 1½ days after its conjunction (see Figure 1).

This could happen at a time and place with a comparatively shallow angle between the ecliptic and the horizon5, although it will probably need the additional handicap of poor atmospheric visibility.  

Postponements due to haze - and the associated 28-day problem

Local haze is indeed a factor sometimes invoked by the Ahmadiyyas when determining Islamic dates. The prime example of that, involved postponing the start of Ramadan 1311 to the evening of March 9th, because the crescent was not visible from Qadian (near Lahore) on the 8th. This meant that the date of the subsequent Full Moon and lunar eclipse (21st March) became 13th Ramadan rather than the 14th, in accordance with the Ahmadi requirement.

At Qadian on 8th March 1894, vertical separation between the centre of the sun and the base of the crescent at dusk measured 10 degrees (allowing for parallax but without refraction). This placed the moon in the grey area between a positive sighting and a failure. However, the crescent would probably have been observed from high-altitude stations to the north or east of Qadian - where the air tends to be thinner, less dusty, and drier.

At Qadian, it would have been sounder to commence Ramadan 1311 on 8th March. Whenever haze prevents identification of a New Moon, as a general rule it is advisable to inquire whether it was detected elsewhere, and if so, to begin the new month immediately. This is because the sky could become quite clean at the end of the same month, revealing the crescent perhaps only 16 to 20 hours after conjunction. And if the first day of that month had been 'lost', it might then have to finish incorrectly after just 28 days. Two (or even three) successive 29-day months can occur naturally: in those cir*****stances the 28-day anomaly is possible with the later one - if its start is postponed due to local bad weather.

Dhu al-Hijjah 1411 (13th June to 12th July 1991) at 25º South, 65º East - provides a specific example of that problem, as discussed in URL http://www.dlmcn.com/questions9q.html#q16  

Lunar eclipses on the 12th of a month

Rules for determining Islamic calendars vary according to community and nationality; one cannot be dogmatic as to whether any particular system is "right" or "wrong". However, it is essential to be consistent - always retaining exactly the same criteria through the entire year (otherwise 28-day and 31-day months will occasionally be experienced).

If the Ahmadiyyas wish to base their decisions on observations made just at a specified point (like Qadian, where haze may hide a young moon), then lunar eclipses will sometimes be witnessed on the 12th of an Islamic month. This is because crescent identification is occasionally impossible even after 1½ days (as in Figure 1), and also because the interval between New and Full Moon can be less than 14 days.

The distribution of possible values of that interval6 is depicted in Figure 2. Short intervals occur when lunar perigee falls close to the moon's First Quarter; long intervals straddle the apogee. Fluctuation between the two extremes follows a 412-day cycle7 - which is about 14 lunar months. (That is the average time taken for the perigee point to complete a full circuit, i.e. migrating from New to Full Moon, and back to New Moon).

Here is an illustration of a late start to an Islamic month resulting in an eclipse falling on its 12th day. At the beginning of nautical twilight on 8th February 2008 at 42º South, 50º East, the crescent was quite close to the horizon - very difficult to see, (impossible in hazy conditions). A locally determined new month at this particular place (at sea level) would probably not have commenced until the evening of 9th February. In that case, the subsequent lunar eclipse on 21st February 2008 would have been observed there (before dawn) on the 12th of the Islamic month. These dates could well have prevailed even at 38º South; the haze on 8th February just needed to be slightly thicker.

Article on Eclipses
Posted by admin on Thursday, October 08 @ 22:30:38 AST (1513 reads)
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Fraud of Eclipses or Eclipsed Fraud

Bismillah al-Rehman al-Raheem

Anti Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam 26th May 2000  

The following article was sent to me by a Qadiani from Singapore. Since the article is not currently available on any Qadiani/Ahmadiyya website, I am putting it on my website. Dr. David Mcnaughton has very kindly looked into the technical aspect of this article which is also being posted alongside it. - Dr. Rashid.  

Subject:         The Truth About Eclipses Date:         Thu, 25 May 2000 20:28:37 -0600 (MDT) From:         Mohamed Yazid To:         Rashid , Mohamed Yazid CC:         zarina , Mohd Ali ,         Sine Wave , aisyahmd ,         alfurqon@cyberway.com.sg, arini99@hotmail.com, ghulam_ahmad@hell.com,         MasBakawali ,         Abdul Sukor , jasni@cyberway.com.sg,         ALKHWARIZMI , lanang ,         nasha@pub.gov.sg, rafiee@pacific.net.sg, Shasha Sayang ,  

The Truth About Eclipses

By Saleh Mohammed Alladin Retired Professor of Astronomy Osmania University–Hyderabad, India

 

In an article entitled the Fraud of Eclipses Idare Dawato-Irshad of the USA has made several allegations of falsehood against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. The eclipses relate to a prophecy of the advent of the Messiah.

The prophecy regarding eclipses is given in the following Hadith (i.e. Sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw)):

For our Mahdi (Spiritual Reformer) there are two Signs which have never occurred before since the creation of the heavens and the earth, namely, the moon will be eclipsed on the first night in Ramadhan (i.e., on the first of the nights on which a lunar eclipse can occur) and the Sun will be eclipsed on the middle day of Ramadhan (i.e., on the middle day on which a solar eclipse can occur) and these Signs have not happened since the creation of the heavens and the earth (Dare Qutani, Vol.1, p.188)

We have inserted the brackets in the text of the Hadith in order to elucidate the meaning. We shall discuss this point later. In the quotation from Roohani-Khazain, Vol.17, p.133, given by the author the meaning of the Hadith is given instead of a literal translation, and no brackets are used.

If the lunar month is reckoned from the first sighting of the lunar crescent, the dates on which a lunar eclipse can occur are the 13th, 14th and 15th, and the dates on which a solar eclipse can occur are the 27th, 28th and 29th. The prophecy thus requires that the lunar eclipse should occur on the 13th Ramadhan and the solar eclipse on the 28th Ramadhan.

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian, the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat received his first revelation regarding his appointment as a the Divine Reformer in 1882. In obedience to Divine command he declared that he is the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the 14th century of the Islamic era. In 1891 he claimed, on the basis of Divine revelation to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose advent was foretold by the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). He asserted that Almighty God had sent him to give spiritual life to the people. But the contemporary theologians rejected his claims and he met a storm of very violent opposition.

The prophesied eclipses then occured over Qadian on the specified dates of Ramadhan. The lunar eclipse occured after sunset on March 21st, 1894 (13th Ramadhan 1311 H) and the solar eclipse occurred on the morning of Friday April 6th, 1894 (28th Ramadhan). The Promised Messiah(as) then wrote the book Noorul Haq, (Light of Truth) Part-II, in which he declared that these eclipses were Divine Signs in support of his claim. The Promised Messiah(as) also drew attention in this book to several properties of the eclipses which make the signs very impressive.

Allegations

The following allegations have been made in the article under review.

1.      The Hadith of Dare Qutani regarding the signs of the eclipses is not authentic.

Reply to the first allegation:

The authenticity of the Hadith is supported by the following facts:

(a) The root of the prophecy lies in the Holy Quran since the eclipses of the moon and the sun are mentioned as important signs of the approach of Resurrection in the Holy Quran and the time of the advent of the Promised Spiritual Reformer is also the Latter Age. The Holy Quran says:

He asks: When will be the day of Resurrection? When the eye is dazzled, And the moon is eclipsed, And the sun and the moon are brought together, On that day man will say, whither to escape? (Ch. 75: vs.7-11)

When the solar eclipse occurs, the sun and the moon are in conjunction, i.e. they are in the same direction as viewed from the earth. Hence the words and the sun and the moon are brought together signify solar eclipse. The Hadith of Dare Qutani supports this interpretation and gives valuable details about the prophesied eclipses.

(b) The Holy Quran says:

He (Allah) is the Knower of the unseen, and He reveals not His secrets to anyone, except to whom He choses, namely a Messenger of His. (Ch.78: vs.27-28)

The unique nature of the prophecy and its magnificent fulfillment also indicate that the source is the Holy Prophet(saw). When the prophecy in the Hadith has been fulfilled the criticism against the narrators loses significance. The Promised Messiah(as) has discussed this point in his book Zameema Anjame Atham, Roohani Khazain, Vol.11, pp.333-334. We shall also revert to this in our reply to the sixth allegation. The Promised Messiah(as) has also replied to the objection raised against the narrators of the Hadith in Tohfae Golarviya, Roohani Khazain, Vol. 17, p.133.

(c)     Hadhrat Ali Bin Umar Albaghdadi Ad Dare-Qutani, the compiler of the Hadith, was a very respected saint and was scrupulously careful in recording the saying of the Holy Prophet(saw). Hadhrat Shah Abdul Aziz, Muhaddis of Delhi, another eminent elite of Islam, comments about Imam Dare- Qutani in his book Naubatul Fikr thus:

Imam Dare-Qutani once said, ‘O residents of Baghdad. do not even think that any narrator would be able to refer any false or incorrect statement to the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw) during my life time.’ Naubatul Fikr, (Footnote p.52).

(d)     The article under review has expressed doubts as to whether the narrator of the Hadith is really Hadhrat Imam Baqar. Muhammad Bin Ali is considered as Hadhrat Imam Baqar in Iqtirabus Saat by Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan Saheb (p.1061). A photocopy of the relevant page is given in The Advent of Imam Mahdi - A Great Heavenly Sign by Muhammad Azam Ekseer, Rabwah 1994, p.88. In this connection it may also be noted that Allama Shaikh Shahabuddin Ibn Al Hajar-al Hashimi wrote:

Muhammad Bin Ali, an elite among the Ahle-Bait, narrates that there will be two signs for Imam Mahdi which have never been shown to mankind since the creation of the heavens and the earth. One of these is the eclipse of the moon on the first of its nights in the month of Ramadhan, and the eclipse of the sun on the middle of the days. (Kitabul Fataw Al Hadeeslyya, p.31, Egypt)

(e)     The signs of eclipses are mentioned in the collections of Hadith of both Sunni and Shia sects. Eminent Muslim scholars have mentioned these signs in their books. Books of other religions also mention eclipses as signs of the Promised Divine Reformer. For details see Review of Religions, November 1989, The Advent of Imam Mahdi - A Great Heavenly Sign, (in Urdu); The Great Heavenly Sign of Eclipses of the Moon and the Sun, by Muneer Ahmed Khadim, Qadian 1994 (in Urdu); The Truth of Hadhrat Imam Mahdi as vindicated by the Signs of Solar and Lunar Eclipses by Saleh Mohammed Alladin, 1988, (in Urdu); Article entitled Fulfillment of Celestial Signs - Veracity of the Holy Prophet of Islam, by Anwar Mahmood Khan, Minaret, April-June 1994.

2.      The Hadith has been misinterpreted. The words first and middle stated in the Hadith do not signify 13th and 28th but signify 1st and 15th.

Reply to the second allegation: In the article under review, the Hadith has been understood as meaning the lunar eclipse would occur on the first of Ramadhan and the solar eclipse would occur on the 15th of Ramadhan. As the author has himself admitted this event is astronomically impossible. Interpreting the Hadith in this way makes the Hadith meaningless. As the Promised Messiah(as) has mentioned, the purpose of the Hadith is not to promise some extraordinary prodigy but to provide a criterion for the recognition of the Imam Mahdi which is not shared by any other person (Zameema Nuzoolul Masih, Roohani Khazain, Vol.19, p.141).

The notion of a lunar eclipse occurring on the first of Ramadhan is also very unreasonable. The lunar crescent of the first night is often seen with difficulty. Detecting the eclipse on it would be a formidable problem. It may also be noted that the lunar crescent of the first of Ramadhan is called Hilal and not Qamar. In the Hadith the word Qamar is used and not Hilal.

According to the laws of nature, a lunar eclipse occurs at full moon (and this happens only on the 13th, 14th and 15th of the month) and a solar eclipse occurs at conjunction when the moon cannot be seen at all (and this happens only on the 27th, 28th and 29th of the month). The Hadith therefore implies that the lunar eclipse would occur on the first of the possible nights, i.e. on the 13th and the solar eclipse would occur on the middle of the possible days, i.e. on 28th.

These properties of the eclipses were known not only to the scientists but also to others who were not scientists. Thus Nawab Siddeeq Hasan of Bhopal wrote in his book Hijajul Kiramah that according to astronomers the lunar eclipse does not occur on any date other than 13th, 14th and 15th and the solar eclipse does not occur on any date other than 27th, 28th and 29th (Hijajul Kiramah p.344).

3.      The eclipses did not occur on 13th and 28th Ramadhan in 1894, but occurred on 14th and 29th of Ramadhan. Hence even our inter-pretation is not justified.

Reply to the third allegation: The third allegation has been that the eclipses had occurred in 1894 on the 14th and 29th of Ramadhan and not on 13th and 28th. This is not correct. The date of Ramadhan depends upon when the lunar crescent was first sighted and this cannot be decided with certainty by the astronomical calculations alone in many cases since this depends also upon meteorological conditions. The calculations do indicate that there was a possibility of sighting the moon on the evening of 8th March 1894 if meteorological conditions were good but meteorological conditions were not favorable and the lunar crescent could only be observed in the evening of 9th March from Qadian (see Review of Religious, July 1987). The age of the moon at sunset on 8th March was 22.7 hours (Review of Religions, September 1994).

As Dr. Mohammad Ilyas has mentioned: On the basis of recorded accounts, sightings of the moon younger than 20 hours are rare and sightings of more than 24 hours are not uncommon although the visibility may at times require it to be more than 30 hours old. (Islamic Calendar, Times and Qibla, by Dr. Mohammad Ilyas, Berita Publishing SDN BHD, 22 Jalan Liku, Kuala Lumpur, 1984).

The lunar eclipse was seen from Qadian after sunset on 21st March. Hence it was the 13th of Ramadhan when the lunar eclipse occurred. The solar eclipse occured in the morning of 6th April. Hence it was the 28th of Ramadhan when the solar eclipse occurred. The Promised Messiah(as), has been repeatedly mentioning that the eclipses have occurred on the dates required by the prophecy, see for example, Noorul Haq Part II, Roohani Khazain, Vol.8 p. .209; Zameema Anjame Atham Roohani Khazain, Vol.1, p.334.). Even our opponent Muhammad Abdullah Memar has written that the eclipses were seen on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhan.

4.      The lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on 13th and 28th of Ramadhan thousands of times whereas the Hadith states that these events have not occured before.

Reply to the fourth allegation: The fourth allegation is that lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhan thousands of times whereas the Hadith states that these events have not occurred before.

In reply to this allegation we state that the Hadith does not imply that eclipses did not occur on the 13th and 28th Ramadhan ever before but it implies that such eclipses never happened before as signs. The Promised Messiah(as) wrote:

We are not concerned with how often solar and lunar eclipses have occurred in the month of Ramadhan from the beginning of the world till today. Our aim is only to mention that from the time man has appeared in this world, solar and lunar eclipses nave occurred as Signs only in my age for me. Prior to me, no one had this cir*****stance that on the one hand he claimed to be Mahdi Mauood (Promised Reformer) and on the other, in the month of Ramadhan, on the appointed dates, lunar and solar eclipses occurred and he declared the eclipses as signs in his favor. The Hadees of Darqutani does not say at all that solar and lunar eclipses did not occur ever before, but it does clearly say that such eclipses never occurred earlier as Signs, because the word ‘Takoona’ is used which denotes feminine gender; this implies that such a Sign was never manifested before. If it was meant that such eclipses never occurred before, ‘Yakoona’ which denotes masculine gender was needed and not ‘Takoona’ which denotes feminine gender. It is clear from this that the reference is to the two signs because signs are feminine gender. Hence if anybody thinks that lunar and solar eclipses have occurred many times before, it is his responsibility to show the claimant to Mahdi who declared the solar and lunar eclipses as his signs and this proof should be certain and conclusive and this can only happen if a book of the claimant is produced who claimed to be Mahdi Mauood and had written that the lunar and solar eclipses which occurred in Ramadhan on the dates specified in Darqutani are the Signs of his truth. In short, we are not concerned with the mere occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses even if they had occured thousands of times. As a sign this has happened at the time of a claimant only once and the Hadees has proved its authenticity and truth through its fulfillment at the time of the claimant to Mahdi. (Chashma-e-Marifat, Roohani Khazain, Vol.23, pp. 329 - 330)

Eclipses during Ramadan
Posted by admin on Thursday, October 08 @ 22:22:10 AST (1192 reads)
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Fraud of Eclipses or Eclipsed Fraud

Eclipses during Ramadan

by David L. McNaughton In "Hamdard Islamicus" (Karachi, Pakistan), vol. XIX no. 1 (Spring 1996): pp. 81-86.

 

Characteristics of Solar Eclipses

The sight of a total eclipse of the sun is an awe-inspiring experience. Daylight quickly becomes near-darkness, and all birdsong ceases as those creatures are deceived into thinking that night has fallen.

However, only a small area of the globe enjoys the privilege of admiring the total phase of such an eclipse whenever one sweeps across our planet. Even so, astronomers can now predict accurately those places and their times - enabling many of them to go and witness such an event. Total solar eclipses provide by far the best opportunity to study the seething activity in the sun's outer atmosphere, so scientists are always present to take photographs and carry out spectrographic and other measurements.

A solar eclipse can occur only at New Moon, but not every New Moon produces a solar eclipse. That is because the plane containing the lunar orbit is inclined to the plane defined by Earth's much larger orbit round the sun (called the "ecliptic" plane). Thus, at the instant of its birth a New Moon's position in the celestial firmament is usually either above or below the sun: under those cir*****stances the sun cannot become eclipsed.

About twice every year, however, New Moon happens to take place just as the moon is passing through the ecliptic plane. That produces almost perfect alignment of the three celestial bodies, enabling the moon to hide the sun from some terrestrial observers. The moon's umbra (full shadow) traces out a comparatively narrow path across Earth's surface; people there see a total eclipse. At the same time, a much larger area of our globe falls within the moon's penumbra (its partial shadow); observers there are close enough to the axis of alignment for the sun to appear partially covered.

Sometimes the umbra just misses the Earth, but a portion of our planet still lies within the penumbra - experiencing a partial eclipse. On rare occasions the umbra can just graze the Earth - but without the axis of the moon's shadow-cone ever intersecting the surface of our planet: such eclipses are termed "total but non-central".

If the lunar orbital plane remained pointing in the same direction, then solar eclipses would always occur near the same Gregorian date, year after year. However, the lunar orbital plane gradually swings round, completing a revolution every 18.6 years; inevitably that movement affects the dates of solar eclipses. The result is that the interval between them tends to be either six or (less commonly) five lunar months. That is why solar calendar dates of eclipses are often slightly earlier than ones experienced during the previous year.  

Lunar Eclipses

To produce a lunar eclipse, Earth must lie between the sun and moon. Once again, alignment needs to be nearly exact, so the moon needs to be on or near the ecliptic plane. This time it is Earth which is casting the shadow - sometimes over the entire lunar disc (total eclipse); on other occasions on just a portion of it (partial eclipse). A lunar eclipse can take place only at Full Moon, and may be observed from absolutely anywhere in Earth's night-hemisphere.

About two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse, there is always some sort of solar one - because alignment on the first occasion means that there will still be sufficient alignment for the second. In fact, in rare instances it is even possible to have a small partial solar eclipse just prior to the beginning of an Islamic month, followed by a lunar one in mid-month, and then by another small partial solar eclipse near the end of the same month. (A "small" partial eclipse affects a very restricted area of Earth's surface, with just a minute fraction of the solar disc appearing to be covered).  

Preferred dates for Ramadan Eclipses

Every now and again, there is an eclipse during the Holy Month of Ramadan - either a lunar eclipse near the middle of the month or a solar one near the end. Islamic months cannot begin until a day or two after a sun-moon conjunction (to give time for the crescent to become visible), so it is not possible to experience a solar eclipse at the beginning of an Islamic month.

A detailed analysis of Ramadan eclipses reveals a surprising pattern: they seem to be restricted to certain dates in the Gregorian calendar. Every total lunar eclipse which has ever occurred during Ramadan, for example, has fallen within one of three short intervals: 22nd February to 13th March, 20th June to 11th July, or 16th October to 7th November (1), which together add up to less than 20 per cent. of the entire year. (To maintain continuity, dates recorded in the old Julian calendar prior to AD 1582 (or 1752) were converted to "extrapolated" Gregorian-style dates for this particular illustration). Thus, there has never been a Ramadan total lunar eclipse in December/January, nor April/May, nor in August/ September. (Eventually there will be, but not for many thousands of years) (2).

Dates of central solar eclipses occurring during Ramadan have ranged from 12th November to 25th December, or from 20th March to 26th April, or from 16th July to 22nd August (3): (as above, these are Gregorian dates). Here, it is appropriate to include annular as well as total eclipses provided they are "central" (i.e. lying on the lunar umbral axis). The only difference with annular eclipses is that they display a narrow ring of sunlight around the dark lunar disc - caused by the moon being slightly further away from us, or by the sun being closer to Earth than normal.

So why do Ramadan eclipses prefer certain dates? They appear to be tuned to a near-synchronisation between three and a half revolutions of the moon's orbital plane - and the 65-year period during which the date of mid-Ramadan migrates twice round our solar calendar. The full explanation for the "date-clustering" is complicated, involving periodic readjustments caused by slow ac*****ulation of the difference between the cycle-lengths in that near-synchronisation (4).  

Double Eclipses during Ramadan

Sometimes a Ramadan will contain a solar and a lunar eclipse. That inevitably provokes comment, because of traditions that such a "double-eclipse" is a portent for some unusual event. Ithna'asheri Shi'ites, for example, believe that their Twelfth Imam will reappear after a Ramadan double-eclipse (although those two phenomena will supposedly take place in reverse order, with the solar one occurring in mid-month (5); that will require the moon to suddenly double its speed of movement after the onset of the Holy Month!)

In March/April 1894 (Ramadan 1311), Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (founder of the Ahmadiyya or Qadiani movement in Pakistan) interpreted a double-eclipse as a sign that he was a genuine modern-day prophet (6). The lunar eclipse during that particular month was only partial, although the solar one two weeks later was total in a few places in eastern Asia (7). However, there was nothing at all extraordinary about those two eclipses: every 22 or 23 Islamic years there is at least one Ramadan featuring a pair of eclipses two weeks apart (8) - one of which is usually partial; see Table 1.

Very much rarer is a Ramadan containing two total eclipses. Table 2 lists all such occasions since AH 1, as well as during the next 200 years (9); (its solar eclipses are all central, with annular ones also included).

It will be interesting to see whether the two total eclipses scheduled to occur during Ramadan 1424 (AD November 2003) - are cited to support a claim similar to that made by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, or as proof of the significance of some extraordinary event.    


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