Hilal (crescent moon)
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Hilal (Arabic: هلال, Turkish: hilal) is an Arabic term, first developed in pre-Islamic Arabia, meaning crescent moon--specifically, the very slight crescent moon that is first visible after a new moon. Muslims look for the hilal when determining the beginning and end of Islamic months, but do not worship it. The need to determine the precise time of the appearance of the hilal was one of the inducements for Muslim scholars to study astronomy.
The Quran says: "And from among His Signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Prostrate not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah Who created them, if you (really) worship Him." (Fussilat:37). In another verse, “They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, ‘They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj.’” (al-Baqarah:189)
The hilal came to be used as a powerful symbol of Muslim states early on in Islamic history.
- Hilal - Oxford Islamic Studies Online