Strategic Lessons from the Moon Resolutions

بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ | In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Recently the Islamic Foundation of Toronto (IFTF) announced it is adopting the calculation method for moonsighting. This is a notable shift from an organization that was closely associated with the Toronto Hilal Committee, which spots the moon locally.

My intent isn’t to offer an opinion or perspective on this topic, as there’s already a stockpile of those. Instead, what I offer is a way to see this shift from a process-oriented and systems-oriented perspective that reveals strategic lessons. From this perspective and lessons we can ask what other topics might Muslim community leaders in apply this mode of reasoning towards refining the Muslim experience in Ontario?

IFTF’s jumah khutbah (February 23, 2024) outlines the reasoning behind the decision to adopt calculation method.

Three strategic lessons and reflections that can be extracted from this mode of reasoning…

Lesson 1: Unlocking the harmonizing power of Islam requires that we know the difference between “means” and “ends”
Only when it’s understood that spotting the moon is a “means” towards an “ends” (determining the end and beginning of the month), can we better calibrate our “means” (from a set of permitted options) to best suite the context we live in.

Reflection 1: What other topics, affecting Muslim communities in Ontario, contain tensions through the misidentification of “means” as “ends” by Muslim community leaders? Where and when are “means” and “ends” questioned or reflected upon by community leaders in their decision-making process?

Lesson 2: Recognizing external shifts asks us to revisit reasoning and arrive at new, time and context-bound, preferences
It’s critical we recognize shifts in the environment so we can recalibrate the design of our social systems. The growth in the Muslim population in the Greater Toronto, for example, is an opportunity to revisit our fiqh (فقه) towards a contextually refined (time and space appropriate) preference for deciding when the month of Ramadan begins.

Reflection 2: How do Muslim community leaders gather intelligence about external shifts that affect their communities? Is there a type of environmental scanning or research methods that they use or rely on?

Lesson 3: Bounded-reasoning (time and space) towards enabling the “common good/ease” is a worthwhile Islamic pursuit
Reasoning that is bounded in time and space (i.e. Muslims in the GTHA region in 2024) AND is oriented towards the “common good/ease”, steps us out of absolutist dualistic thinking (right vs. wrong) and into dyadic reasoning (more or less befitting, depending on the circumstance). In the case of using the moon calculation, we can arrive at an arguably higher fit between the practical realities of life for the growing number of Muslims in GTHA today (i.e. booking venues ahead of time, giving notice for time off work, etc.) and their Ramadan experience. From what I understand, getting towards a higher fit and providing ease for people is the direction that Islam is oriented towards.

Reflection 3: When/where else do Muslim community leaders in Ontario explicitly define the specific boundaries of their topics of interest? At what boundary scale does it work well, or become unattainable, to arrive at a common good/ease for people?

الله أعلم / Allah knows best