October 05, 2003

an Islamic Calendar CFC

so far i've built CFCs for the Hebrew and Buddhist calendars, both based on IBM's standup ICU4J java lib. now its time for the Islamic calendar. and whether you like it or not, here comes the usual background info dump. resistance is futile, you will be globalized. the Islamic calendar (also known as "Hijri" since it starts at the time of Mohammed's emigration or "hijra" to Medinah on thursday, july 15, 622 AD ) is the civil calendar used by most of the Arab world and is the religious calendar of the Islamic faith. it is a strict lunar calendar. an Islamic year of twelve lunar months therefore does not correspond to the solar year used by the Gregorian calendar system. an Islamic year averages about 354 days, so viewed from the Gregorian calendar, each subsequent Islamic year starts about 11 days earlier. the civil Islamic calendar uses a fixed cycle of alternating 29 and 30 day months, with a leap day added to the last month of 11 out of every 30 years (oh joy, 11 days shorter and now this--i've run out of fingers and toes). that makes the calendar predictable so it is used as the civil calendar in a number of Arab countries. the Islamic religious calendar is based on the observation of the crescent moon. sounds simple enough. but that observation varies from where you at when you look (your geography), when you look (sunset varies by season you know) , moon orbit "eccentricities" (i'll take the astronomer's word for that), and even the weather (too cloudy and you obviously can't see the moon). all this makes it impossible to calculate in advance, so the start of a month in the religious calendar might differ from the civil calendar by up to three days. that makes knowing which calendar variant folks use very important. in any case, ICU4J short cuts all this, for the sake of speed, by using approximations of the astronomical calculations. the islamicCalendarCFC test bed is here. if you've looked at the other two calendar CFC you should notice i've tried to maintain function and argument conventions across these CFCs. the islamicCalendar CFC differs in that it has an optional boolean "useCivil" argument to tell the CFC which calendar variant to use. this CFC will bubble up in the devnet gallery soon enough. next up is the Japanese calendar.


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