Many moons ago, it was said "They ask you about the new moons..." and it was answered "...Say they are timetables for the people...". Amazing both the question and the answer, and ever since then the moon has been used to tell time. Not in the sense of how we tell time today, from a dial on which two hands continuously revolve giving time the appeance that it is never ending and reiterating, nor on a digital display with distinct numbers that continually repeat, but rather in the sense of young and old.
Telling time by the moon or rather, watching the birth of the new moon and the evanescence of the old moon brings about an awareness of the nature of the entire universe. That fundamental nature is that of createdness. That it was brought into being and after several stages of growth and maturation it will start to decline and fade away into non-existence. Not only is it a sign of the nature of everything out there, but itís also a sign of our nature as well. We will eventually cease to exist in this world; we will die.
However, witnessing the birth of the new moon, not just seeing the new moon, but actually seeing it come into existence somehow brings about great joy. It enlivens the viewer and brings with it a sense of hope and redemption, a chance to start over again. It moves the spirit and hints at the evidence of God's greatness. A perfect celestial clock marking time flawlessly from the beginning of time itself.
New Moon Ramadan 1425, October 15 2004 5:35 pm.
One thousand four hundred and twenty-five years ago, a small community of outcasts established themselves in the earth by answering the call of the Lord of the universe. And upon seeing the new moon during their flight from persecution, a call went out to it and they joined it by recognizing that the Lord of men and the Lord of the moon is one in the same, God Almighty. For Muslims the new moon marks the beginning of each of the twelve lunar months of the Islamic calendar. Each month in a tradition that goes back to that very flight from persecution, Muslims the world round, go out to witness a miracle, the birth of the new moon. It is the last remaining community on earth that uses the moon solely to mark the beginnings of the months of the year. In a world dominated by technology and a scrutinizing scientific accuracy capable of knowing the exact moment of lunar and solar conjunction as well as predicting when and where the new moon can and cannot be seen, Muslims still opt to go out each month in search of that tiny sliver of light.
New Moon Shawwal 1425, November 13, 2004, one minute after birth, 5:05 pm.
In the blink of an eye the new moon appears. And as of late, in another blink the new moon reappears once more, only now, an entire month has passed. And at the same time, for those few minutes after sunset, while the sky is being searched, time seems to drag on forever. What an incredible nature time has, fleeting and yet infinite at the same 'time', recurring and at the same 'time' finite. Each moment itself is a sign of the very nature of time as a created entity. Like the rest of the universe, it comes into existence and then passes away.
When we count the moments, one by one, time seems to stand still and when we don't it flies by faster than we can imagine. And at the same time, depending on what we want out of time, we always seem to get its opposite. When we are rushed and running up against a 'deadline', time is definitely a most priceless commodity that is in very short supply. While it is painstakingly slow when we need something or someone to arrive into our lives. When we are young we look ahead to the future and it seems so far away, and once we have reached our old age we look back and ask where did all the time go? Time in this world is linear in that each moment of time is of an equal quantity to the moment before it, and at the same time, 'time' is non-linear, with future moments being much longer than past ones. Itís truly a most unusual nature.
New Moon of Shawwal 1425, 15 minutes old.
Time, however, is our most precious asset, one that can never be increased in the least. Each and every entity in the universe has been allotted a fixed amount of time for its existence. Once that allotted time has been used, it ceases to exist. When everyone comes to the moment of his or her death, everyone asks for just a little more time. Just one more day, or an hour in order to do what they were supposed to do instead of wasting their time away on useless and meaningless things. But there is no going back. The moments that we let slip away unused to our benefit cannot be regained or bought back. The awareness of that brings both remorse and urgency.
To make every moment count, we need to live in the present. Each moment needs to be utilized to its fullest. Wringing our hands about the past cannot change what has already happened and worrying about what is to come cannot affect its outcome. What these two behaviors do accomplish is the wasting away of the present. They prevent us from making use of our time in doing what it is that we were created to do, to glorify our Lord. And that has many forms, from praying to remembrance to striving on the path of truth and justice. Living the moment with God Almighty in mind is a moment well spent.
New Moon of Shawwal 1425, 30 minutes old.
The four photos in this essay span a time of almost exactly one month and one hour. In that time more than 3.7 million individuals in the world have died. You might have known one of them. Time ran out for them. They will count no more moons. We on the other hand still have some time left; we can still count the moons as they pass before our eyes. So before we see that last moon set we need to give it our all in making use of whatever time we have left. It has been two days since I saw and photographed the new moon of Shawwal and this essay is all that I have to show for it. Woe is me! What do you have to show for your time now that you have finished reading it?