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'Abd-al Latif
09-29-2008, 09:29 PM
:salamext:

Shaikh Haitham addresses the issue of moon sighting indicating important events such as Ramadan and Eid. There has been much confusion surrounding the issue and he seeks to clarify the problem and offer advice by using Islamic juristic (fiqhi) and logical arguments.

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'Abd-al Latif
09-29-2008, 09:32 PM
Is moonsighting essential?


Question:
Is it essential for the people to sight the new moon of Ramadaan?.

Answer:
Praise be to Allaah.

The majority of scholars are of the view that sighting the new moon of Ramadaan on the first night of the month is a communal obligation, and if all the people fail to do it then they are sinning. This is also the Hanafi view.

Some of the fuqaha’ were of the view that moon sighting is mustahabb.

It says in Majma’ al-Anhaar (1/283): It is a communal obligation for the people to seek the new moon on the evening of the twenty-ninth of Sha’baan or Ramadaan, and also of Dhu’l-Qa’dah, and it is obligatory for the ruler to enjoin the people to do that.

It says in al-Fataawa al-Hindiyyah (1/197): It is obligatory for the people to seek the new moon on the twenty-ninth of Sha’baan at the time of sunset, and if they see it they must fast. If it is cloudy then they must complete the month as thirty days. End quote.

See: Fath al-Qadeer (2/313).

It says in Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’ (2/300): It is mustahabb for the people on the night before the thirtieth of Sha’baan to sight the new moon of Ramadaan.

It is mustahabb to sight the new moon so as to be on the safe side with regard to fasting and so as to avoid disputes. It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to count the days in Sha’baan more carefully than at any other time, then he would fast when he sighted (the new moon) of Ramadaan. Narrated by al-Daaraqutni with a saheeh isnaad.

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah in a marfoo’ report: “Count the days of Sha’baan for the sake of Ramadaan.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi. End quote.

This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi (678).

It says in Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi: Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: They should strive to count its days accurately, and that is by means of watching the waxing and waning of the moon, so that they will be certain of when to expect the new moon of Ramadaan and will not miss any of it. End quote.

In al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (22/23) it says: Sighting the new moon is something that is decreed by the fact that some acts of worship are connected to specific times. It is prescribed for the Muslims to strive in seeking it and it is more important on the night before the thirtieth of Sha’baan, in order to find out whether Ramadaan has begun, and on the night before the thirtieth of Ramadaan in order to find out whether the month has ended and Shawwaal has begun, and on the night before the thirtieth of Dhu’l-Qa’dah to find out if Dhu’l-Hijjah has begun. These three months have to do with two of the pillars of Islam, namely fasting and Hajj, and the setting of the dates for ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) encouraged seeking the sighting of the moon. It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when you see it and break the fast when you see it, and if it is too cloudy then complete the number (of days) of Sha’baan as thirty.” And it was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The month is twenty-nine days, so do not fast until you see it, and if it is cloudy then complete the month as thirty days.” The first hadeeth enjoins fasting the month of Ramadaan when its new moon is sighted or when the month of Sha’baan is completed with thirty days, and it enjoins ending the fast when the new moon of Shawwaal is sighted, or when Ramadaan is completed with thirty days. The second hadeeth forbids fasting Ramadaan before the new moon is sighted or before Sha’baan has been completed if it is cloudy.

And there is a hadeeth narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in which he enjoined paying attention to the new moon of Sha’baan because of Ramadaan. He said: “Count the days of Sha’baan carefully for the sake of Ramadaan.” This hadeeth shows the importance of paying attention to the month of Sha’baan in order to work out when Ramadaan starts. It was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to count the days in Sha’baan more carefully than at any other time, then he would fast when he sighted (the new moon) of Ramadaan, and if it was cloudy he would count thirty days and then fast.

The commentators said: i.e., he would make sure to count the days of Sha’baan carefully in order to begin the fast of Ramadaan at the right time. During the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and after he died, the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) were concerned with sighting the new moon of Ramadaan and they used to look for it. It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The people sighted the new moon and I told the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about that, and he fasted and told the people to fast.

It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: We were with ‘Umar between Makkah and Madeenah and we looked for the new moon. I was a man who had keen eyesight and I sighted it, but no one else claimed that he had seen it except me. I started saying to ‘Umar: Do you not see it? And he could not see it.

The Hanafis regard sighting the new moon of Ramadaan on the night before the thirtieth of Sha’baan as a communal obligation, and if they sight it they should fast, otherwise they should complete the month (as thirty days) and then fast, because that which is essential to performance of an obligatory duty is also obligatory.

The Hanbalis say that it is mustahabb to sight the new moons so as to be on the safe side with regard to fasting and so as to avoid disputes. We did not find any clear view from the Maalikis and Shaafa’is on this issue. End quote.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked: Are all the Muslims sinning if none of them sights the new moon at the beginning or end of Ramadaan?

He replied: Sighting the new moon of Ramadaan or Shawaal is something that was established at the time of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them), because Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The people looked for the new moon and I told the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that I had seen it,so he fasted and told the people to fast.

Undoubtedly the way of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) is the best and most complete guidance. End quote from 48 Su’aalan fi’l-Sawm, no. 21.

So it seems that sighting the new moon of Ramadaan, Shawwaal and Dhu’l-Hijjah is a communal obligation, because it is connected to two of the pillars of Islam: fasting and Hajj.

And Allaah knows best..


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'Abd-al Latif
09-29-2008, 09:35 PM
Do different times of moonrise matter, and what should Muslim communities in the West do



Question:
Since the prophet said "Begin fasting after sighting the moon", how can muslims be fasting one on Tuesday in one part of the world and wednesday in another part. We should all begin our fast at the same time regardless of where we live.
We are students in the U.S. and Canada, and we face the same problem every year at the beginning of Ramadaan, because the Muslims are split into three groups:A group that fasts when the new moon is sighted in the city in which they live.
A group that fasts when fasting starts in Saudi Arabia.
A group that fasts when they hear news from the Muslim students’ union in the U.S. and Canada which watches for the new moon in different parts of America, and as soon as the new moon is sighted in one city, they spread the news to different Islamic centres so that the Muslims in America can start fasting on the same day, despite the great distances between the different cities.
Which group should we follow? Whose sighting of the moon should we rely on? Please give us a fatwa, may Allaah reward you.


Answer:
Praise be to Allaah.

Firstly: the fact that the moon rises at different times in different places is a well-established fact; no scholar disputes this. However, the scholars differ as to whether this matters or not.

Secondly: the question as to whether different times of moonrise is something that matters is a theoretical question in which ijtihaad is permissible. Those who have knowledge of science and religion differ on this matter, and this difference of opinion is permissible; the one who has the correct opinion will have two rewards, one for being right and one for making ijtihaad; the one whose opinion is wrong will still be rewarded for his ijtihaad.

The scholars’ differences on this matter may be described as one of two: some of them thought that the differences in the times of the moon’s rising was of significance, and others thought that it was not. Both groups cite evidence from the Qur’aan and Sunnah, and maybe even quote the same text, such as the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “They ask you (O Muhammad) about the new moons. Say: these are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage…” [al-Baqarah 2:189] and the hadeeth, “Fast when you see it [the new moon] and stop fasting when you see it…” The difference is one of interpretation of the texts, as each group has its own methods of deriving evidence.

Thirdly: the committee has looked at the issue of confirming the new moon by calculations and what was said on this matter in the Qur’aan and Sunnah, and they have studied the opinions of the scholars on this matter. They decided unanimously that astronomical calculations do not count when it comes to confirming the new moon for shar'i purposes, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when you see it [the new moon] and stop fasting when you see it…” and also: “Do not fast until you see it [the new moon] and do not stop fasting until you see it…”, and because of the evidence that is derived from these ahaadeeth.

The Standing Committee on Scientific Research and Fatwas (al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah li’l-Buhooth al-‘Ilmiyyah wa’l-Iftaa’) thinks that the Muslim students’ union (or any other group representing the Muslim community) in countries where the government is not Islamic should take the place of an Islamic government in the matter of confirming the new moon for the people living in those non-Islamic countries.

On the basis of the above, this union has the choice of two options: either to consider the differences in times of moonrise to be of significance, or not to do so. Then they should inform all the Muslims in their country what their opinion is, and the Muslims have to follow what they have been told, so as to unite the Muslims in their fasting and to put an end to disputes and confusion. Everyone who lives in those countries should try to sight the moon in the place where they are living, and if one or more trustworthy persons sight the moon, they should fast according to that and tell the union to spread the news. This is at the beginning of Ramadaan; at the end of the month there has to be two witnesses to see the new moon of Shawwaal or the completion of thirty days of Ramadaan, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when you see it [the new moon] and stop fasting when you see it, and if it is cloudy then complete the month with thirty days.” And Allaah knows best.



Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/109

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'Abd-al Latif
09-29-2008, 09:36 PM
We should rely on sighting of the moon, not on calculations



Question:
As-salamo Alikum Wa Rahamtu Allah Wa Barakatoh
I pray that Allah grant your Tech. by his mercy. Still he in sha;a Allah got the reward of this valuable home page.
Please, visit the following web-site,
XXXX it is concerning Hilal sighting and calculation, they claimed that in XXXX they never sight the moon and every thing run according to astronomy calculations.
My question, Is this information is right or worng, and what is the real authentic way to decied the begining of Hajrii moneth?


Answer:

Praise be to Allaah.

Islam is easy and its rules apply to everyone, mankind and jinn alike, regardless of whether they are scholars or illiterate, settled or nomadic. So Allaah made it easy for them to know the times for the acts of worship, and made their beginning and end signs which everyone can know. He made the setting of the sun the sign for the beginning of Maghrib and the end of ‘Asr, and He made the disappearance of the red glow in the sky the sign of the beginning of the time of ‘Isha’. He made the sighting of the moon after its disappearance at the end of the month the sign of the beginning of the new lunar month and the end of the previous month. He did not give us the task of knowing the beginning of the lunar month from something which is known to only a small number of people, namely astronomy and its calculations. Thus the texts of the Qur’aan and Sunnah make the actual sighting of the new moon the signal for the Muslims to start fasting Ramadaan; they stop fasting when they see the new moon of Shawwaal; the dates of Eid al-Adhaa and Yawm ‘Arafaat are similarly determined. Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings):

“… So whoever among you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadaan), he must observe sawm (fast) that month…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]

“They ask you (O Muhammad) about the new moons. Say: these are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage…” [al-Baqarah 2:189]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when you see it [the new moon] and stop fasting when you see it, and if it is cloudy then complete the month with thirty days.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made the beginning of the fast conditional upon the confirmed sighting of the new moon of Ramadaan, and the ending of the fast conditional upon the confirmed sighting of the new moon of Shawwaal; he did not connect this to calculations of the movements of stars or other heavenly bodies. This is how it was done at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), during the rule of the Khulafa’ al-Raashidoon, at the time of the four imaams, and during the three centuries which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said were the best. Referring to calculations of the lunar months to start and end periods of worship, instead of actually sighting the new moon, is a bid’ah (reprehensible innovation) that has no good in it and has no basis in sharee’ah. The best of all is to follow the salaf in religious matters, and the worst of all is to follow newly-invented innovations in religion. May Allaah protect us and you and all the Muslims from tribulation, both obvious and hidden.



Fataawaa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/106.

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'Abd-al Latif
09-30-2008, 02:03 PM
When Do We Start Fasting (Opinion #1)?


Shaykh Saalih ibn Muhammad al-Luhaydaan

Reference: Tape: Istiqbaal Shahr Ramadaan (Welcoming the Month of Ramadaan), Side B 21st of Sha'baan, 1425

Category: Fasting


It is well known to your eminence the presence of Muslim minorities in some non-Muslim countries and the disputing that occurs between some of them as it relates to the beginning of the fast of Ramadaan. So what is the best way to unify them and eliminate any splitting and differing amongst them? May Allaah reward you with good.


My advice to those minorities in the other countries is that they call the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia]. And they do [in fact] call: they call the Higher Judiciary Council in the Kingdom from France, Britain and America. They ask about the sighting of the crescent and are informed about it. So they should strive to do that.

Also, from the things that are well established and undoubtedly known is that if the crescent is sighted in an eastern country, the possibility of sighting it in a land west of that country is even more likely... Hence, if it is seen in the Kingdom, the likelihood of seeing it in America is greater. However, they may not spot it, or they may not be skilled at sighting it, or they may be busy with other things. So they should call the Kingdom. If it is announced that the fast has started in the Kingdom and it's broadcasted through the media - visual and audio – then whoever hears it should follow it.

The problem is when it's sighted in the Kingdom and it hasn't been sighted in the Far East, since [the difference in time zone] between us and the Far East is almost a whole night. So if we [in KSA] have sighted it at the time of sunset, it will be the end of the night or the time of Fajr in the Far East. Thus the countries of the Far East are not bound to fast according to our sighting. Rather, those bound to follow our sighting are the ones who are west of this country.


Translator: Tahir Wyatt, Abu Abdur-Razzaaq

Date Published: Wednesday, 05 October 2005




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متى نبدأ الصوم - 1
الشيخ صالح بن محمد اللحيدان

المرجع: والشريط بعنوان: استقبال شهر رمضان المبارك, 21/8/1425ه

الباب: الصوم

لا يخفى على معاليكم وجود بعض الأقليات المسلمة في الدول الكافرة وما يحصل من بعضهم من نزاع في ابتداء صيام رمضان. فما هو الحل الأمثل لتوحيد كلمتهم وإبعادهم عن التفرق والاختلاف؟ وجزاكم الله خيرا
نصيحتي لهؤلاء الأقليات في البلاد الأخرى أن يتصلوا بالمملكة. وهم يتصلون، يتصلون بالمجلس القضاء الأعلى في المملكة من فرنسا وبريطانيا وأمريكا؛ يسألون عن دخول الهلال ويُخبرون بذلك. فينبغي لهم أن يحرصوا على ذلك. ثم إن من المستقر المعلوم قطعاً أن القمر إذا رُؤي في بلد شرقي أنّ إمكان رؤيته في بلد غرب ذلك البلد تكون أقوى... إذا رؤي في المملكة فإمكان رؤيته في أمريكا تكون أشد قرباً, لكن قد لا يرونه وقد لا يحسنون تحريه وقد تشغلهم شواغل. إذاً فليتصلوا بالمملكة. ثم إذا أعلن الصيام في المملكة وبث في وسائل البث – المرئي والمسموع – فمن سمع فعليه أن يعتني بالاقتداء. المحرج لما يُرى في المملكة ولم ير في الشرق الأقصى، فإنّ بيننا وبين الشرق الأقصى قرابة ليلة كاملة. فإذا رأيناه ونحن عند غروب الشمس يكونون في الشرق الأقصى في آخر الليل أو عند طلوع الفجر. هذا البلد المشرقي لا تلزمه رؤيتنا وإنما تلزم رؤيتنا من كان غرب بلادنا. معالي الشيخ صالح اللحيدان - حفظه الله تعالى الملتقي العلمي الأول في أحكام الصيام المقام في جامع الأميرة حصة بنت عبد العزيز بالرياض
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'Abd-al Latif
09-30-2008, 02:06 PM
When Do We Start Fasting (Opinion #2)?

The Permanent Committee for Islaamic Research and Verdicts

Reference: ataawaa al-Lajnah ad-Daa'imah (10/112; #2149)

Category: Fasting


Is it permissible for Muslims residing in a non-Islaamic country to form a committee responsible for determining [the sighting of] the crescent of Ramadaan, Shawaal and Dhul Hijjah?


It is permissible for Muslims present in a non-Islaamic country to form a committee comprising of Muslims that will take responsibility for determining [the sighting of] the crescent of Ramadaan, Shawaal and Dhul Hijjah.


Translator: Tahir Wyatt, Abu Abdur-Razzaaq

Date Published: Sunday, 02 October 2005


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متى نبدأ الصوم - 2
اللجنة الدائمة للبحوث العلمية و الإفتاء

المرجع: فتاوى اللجنة الدائمة (10/112 رقم:2149)

الباب: الصوم

هل يجوز للمسلمين الذين يقيمون في بلد ليست بإسلامية أن يشكلوا لجنة تقوم بإثبات هلال رمضان وشوال وذي الحجة أم لا؟
هل يجوز للمسلمين الذين يقيمون في بلد ليست بإسلامية أن يشكلوا لجنة تقوم بإثبات هلال رمضان وشوال وذي الحجة أم لا؟
المترجم: أبو عبد الرزاق طاهر وايت
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------
10-01-2008, 03:58 PM
:salamext:

We should rely on sighting of the moon, not on calculations
INDEED!!
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'Abd-al Latif
07-26-2009, 04:04 PM
There is nothing wrong with using modern equipment to sight the moon

Q.Is it permissible to rely on the calculations of the astronomical observatory regarding the beginning and end of a month? Is it permissible for the Muslim to use the modern equipment to sight the moon? Or must it be seen by the naked eye?.

A.Praise be to Allaah.

The shar’i method of proving that the new month has begun is for the people to sight the crescent moon. That should be done by people whose religious commitment and strong eyesight are to be trusted. If they sight it, then it is obligatory to act upon this sighting, by fasting if it is the new moon for the month of Ramadaan and by breaking the fast if it is the new moon for the month of Shawwaal.

It is not permissible to rely on astronomical calculations if the moon is not sighted, but if there is a sighting, even if it is done by an astronomical observatory, then it counts, because of the general meaning of the words of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him): “When you see it then fast, and when you see it, then break the fast.”

With regard to calculations, it is not permissible to act upon them or to rely on them.

With regard to using a telescope to see the crescent, there is nothing wrong with it, but it is not necessary, because the apparent meaning of the Sunnah is that we should rely upon ordinary sighting and not anything else. But if it is used and the moon is sighted by a trustworthy person, then this sighting may be acted upon. In the past, the people used that because they used to climb up the minarets on the night before the 30th of Sha’baan and the night before the 30th of Ramadan and look for it by means of a telescope.

Whatever the case, once it has been proven that it has been sighted by any means, then it becomes obligatory to act upon this sighting, because of the general meaning of the words of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him): “When you see it then fast, and when you see it then break the fast.” End quote.

Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (May Allaah have mercy on him).

Fataawa ‘Ulama’ al-Balad al-Haraam (p. 192, 193)

we have quoted a fatwa from the Standing Committee for Academic Research and Issuing Fatwas concerning this issue in the answer to question number 1245, in which it says: It is permissible to use telescopes etc. to sight the moon, but it is not permissible to rely on astronomical data to confirm the beginning or end of the blessed month of Ramadaan. End quote.

See: Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (9/99)

Thus it is clear that those who claim that our scholars say that it is haraam to use modern equipment to sight the moon and say that it is obligatory to sight it with the naked eye are lying and making things up.

We ask Allaah, may He be exalted, to show us the truth as truth and enable us to follow it, and to show us falsehood as falsehood and enable us to avoid it.

And Allaah knows best.

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'Abd-al Latif
07-26-2011, 01:53 PM
An insight into Moon sighting



Image Similarly, we can also say that we have two types of months; the first is the legal month, which is known as Ramadan and the second is the astronomical (scientific) one, which is the 9th month of the lunar calendar. All Islamic rulings are based upon the first month which may or may not coincide with the astronomical month.

The issue of moon sighting has never been as divisive as it has become today. In the past, Muslim scholars agreed on a certain method to decide the start and end of the month of Ramadan. In the last few years, advancements in communications and media have turned the world into a small village creating a new context where matters concerning inter-countries relations are involved. A second new context may also be related to the presence of many Muslims in countries that lack one single Muslim authority. Resultantly, readily understood issues related to a number of Islamic rituals have now become controversial and confusing. This confusion is further fuelled by the influence of a Western lifestyle upon Muslims; generally speaking, Muslims are often accused of being anti-Western or even unscientific in their spheres of life. This can influence them to react emotionally and unreasonably. One such observable sphere in which many Muslims have reacted in this manner is with regard to moon-sighting and the establishment of the start of the month of Ramadan, ‘Id al-Fitr and ‘Id al–Adha.

In this article, I would like to draw attention to specific principles in an attempt to remove misconceptions surrounding the ongoing debate.

Shari’ah Principles related to the confirmation of the beginning of Ramadan and the ’Id

I believe many readers will be aware of these principles yet some of them may not be aware of specific fundamental issues within them. In order to gain a deeper understanding we have to differentiate between the principles used by those in authority in any Muslim community including the Muslim nation [ummah] under the Caliph [khalifah] or other leaders in his absence, and the principles used by ordinary Muslims.

Leaders or those in charge are commanded to employ one of two principles. The first is to sight the moon with the eye. The basis for this doctrine is numerous Prophetic traditions [ahadith]; Abu Hurayrah relates that the Prophet, may Allah praise and send peace and blessings upon him, said, ‘Fast when you see it (i.e., the moon) and cease fasting when you see it, and if it is hidden or cloudy, complete the counting of Sha'ban as thirty days.’ This hadith is agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim; similar authentic ahadith are also recorded. The second principle applies only in the absence of the first, which is to complete thirty days for the month of Sha’ban. The basis for this is also the previous hadith and many other similar statements. It is worth noting that the overwhelming majority of scholars unanimously agreed upon using these two principles. {quotes}Furthermore, it has been stated by a number of scholars that the overwhelming majority of scholars also agreed not to consider astronomy or calculations as a tool to confirm the beginning of Ramadan or ’Id.{/quotes}

Scholars who quoted this consensus include al-Jassas al–Hanafi1, al-Baji al-Maliki2 Ibn Rushd al-Maliki3, al-Subki al-Shafi’i4, Ibn Taymiyyah5, Ibn ‘Abidin Al-Hanafi6 and others. They added that the effective cause [‘illah, ratio legis] for confirming these events is the visual sighting of the moon or the completion of the month of Sha’ban. This means that the only basis for fasting is one of these two principles.

It is important to clarify this point further; the Shari’ah in many cases may consider a variety of factors including scientific ones that could have an effect on the ruling. However, the scientific factor may or may not influence the end ruling of the Shari’ah since in some cases it is totally outweighed by other factors to the degree that it appears to be ignored completely. There are numerous examples to help explain and corroborate this. Take the following instance, in a well known hadith, the Messenger of Allah said, ‘The child belongs to the bed and the adulterer deserves the stone’7. This hadith explains the case of a man who states he was involved in an illicit relationship with a married woman and claims the child she later bears. Allah, the legislator, paid no attention to this claim and affirmed that the child remains the legitimate descendant of the woman’s lawful husband. This is the explanation of the statement, ‘the child belongs to the bed’. The lawful husband can deny this association with the child only by li’an8, the process of taking an oath by Allah and invoking His curse after an allegation of adultery.

To explore the workings of this principle let us suppose after the death of both parents, the other siblings dispute the legitimacy of this child and their claim is supported by DNA tests which show that this child is not a descendant of their father, and is not their full biological brother or sister. However, the only legislated way of depriving the child of any right9 is through the process of li’an. With the death of both parents this is not possible so the child must remain the legitimate child of both parents in the eyes of the Shari’ah.10 Without the process of li’an the child is considered the legitimate child of both parents even if science proves otherwise. Here we can say for the sake of clarification that this child has two fathers, the biological (or scientific one) and the legal [shar’i] one. As far as the Shari’ah is concerned, the latter is the real father and the former holds no significance whatsoever; he is deserving of punishment for his admission of adultery.11

Similarly, we can also say that we have two types of months; the first is the legal month, which is known as Ramadan and the second is the astronomical (scientific) one, which is the 9th month of the lunar calendar. All Islamic rulings are based upon the first month which may or may not coincide with the astronomical month. The latter has no significance in the eyes of the Shari’ah and hence no Islamic rulings are based on it. This means that we are dealing with two different spheres that have no connection with each other; the sphere which is defined by the Shari’ah and that which is defined by astronomy. Therefore, once the sighting of the moon is confirmed and accepted by the leader of Muslims or by the majority of Muslims then there is no need to investigate further let alone claim that the sighting was invalid or not possible due to astronomical calculations. Who has the authority to judge that it is wrong? Someone with astronomical facts? No, not at all, as the astronomical facts are dealing with a different type of month which is different from the one which governs the timings of certain acts of worship. Our month or field of discussion is something else. We are not denying the astronomical facts; rather we are not fasting the astronomical month. This is very similar to the previous case of biological vs. legal father. If we come to know for a fact that we started fasting Ramadan on a day which was different from the astronomical calculation, then that will have no effect at all on our fasting or ’Id. This is a fundamental line of reasoning that many people have ignored or are unaware of. It sets aside the following oft-quoted principle, which although correct is not applicable here: many proponents who favour considering astronomical calculations state that a person’s account of having sighted the moon is speculative [zanni] whereas astronomical calculations are definitive [qat’i] and the Shari’ah gives credence to the definitive over the speculative. As stated however, even if we for the sake of argument ‘accept’ the calculations as being definitive (ignoring the differences within astronomers themselves), the point is that the Shari’ah did not consider scientific and astronomical calculations as determining factors in the first place with regard to the sighting of the moon. I will avoid delving into the discussion around the accuracy of astronomical calculations and the claim that some astronomers make that there is a level of uncertainty in calculations; this is beyond the scope of this article and does not really make a substantial difference on account of the aforementioned argument.

Recall the different occasions during the time of the Prophet where a number of people testified that they, as individuals, sighted the new moon; there is the possibility that these individuals erred or even lied. The Prophet on one occasion questioned the witness about his faith and upon hearing his testimony of faith, the Prophet commanded Bilal to announce the month of Ramadan. Advocates of astronomical calculations respond to this by saying that the witnesses were Bedouins who were skilled at knowing the start and end of lunar months so their reports were more likely to be accurate. The reality is even if we were to accept this assumption, those who use this argument do not accept testimony even from someone skilled and experienced unless it is confirmed by astronomy; their criterion is astronomy and not experience in moon-sighting. The acceptance of the Prophet of such testimony is a clear guidance for us to follow without any reluctance. Allah says in the Qur’an, ‘And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it), and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment.’12

The Prophet’s instruction to complete the thirty days of Sha’ban when the moon is not able to be sighted lends further support to this reasoning of differentiating the Islamic month of Ramadan from the astronomical month; the famous scholar, Ibn Hajar, said, ’This (completing thirty days of Sha’ban) is an indication that we should not refer to calculations or astronomy. The Prophet guided us to completing thirty days of Sha’ban while he could have guided us to consider other means that enable us to know the beginning of the astronomical month’. The day that follows the 29th of Sha’ban could be the first day of Ramadan or the last day of Sha’ban. However, if we are unable to sight the new crescent due to poor visibility, then we consider the following day as the last day of Sha’ban without any doubt, even though it might be the first day of the astronomical month. Our month of fasting, Ramadan, will start in this case after the 30th of Sha’ban is completed. This is again a matter of consensus between all scholars. Similarly, if the new moon of ’Id al-Fitr in this case is seen on the 28th of Ramadan, then the Muslims should commemorate their ’Id based on the new moon and then compensate the 29th day of Ramadan the day after the ’Id or any other day. There is no disagreement about this.

The principle for the masses

Their guiding principle is mentioned in the hadith, ‘The fast is the day you all fast; the breaking of fast is on the day that you all break fast; and the day of sacrifice is on the day that you all sacrifice.’13 Al-Tirmidhi said, 'Some scholars explained this hadith to mean that fasting and breaking the fast should be done with the Muslim body [jama’ah] or the majority of people.'

This means that the common person does not have his own sighting of the moon or follow his own decision. The matters of beginning Ramadan and confirming ’Id are not private affairs; they are decisions which affect the ummah and therefore have to be taken on that level. None can do this except the leader of the Muslims. When there is no leader then the majority of Muslims represent the opinion of the ummah. Today, the same ruling should be applied on all sections or communities of Muslims due to the nature of Muslim countries being separated and each making its own decisions.

If we consider this principle we will find it in agreement with common sense as failure to implement this leads to confusion. One can imagine an individual fasting alone, but is it possible for a person to establish ’Id with all its rituals such as the congregational prayer, takbir, exchanging greetings and celebrating alone? Can we have two different days of ’Id in one city or country? The answer is no we can not and should not. This is not a matter open to dispute. Therefore, the Muslim individual is left with no choice but to go with the flow of the majority on this matter and to act according to the meaning of this hadith. Here, it is appropriate to mention a case elaborated upon in works of jurisprudence [fiqh]: the ruling for a Muslim who starts the month of Ramadan according to the country he is residing in and then travels to another country that had started Ramadan on a different day. Ramadan for Muslims in the destination country may end before or after Ramadan in the home country. If it ends before then this means that he may fast only 28 days while if it ends after then he may end up fasting 31 days! What do scholars say about this case? They say that the person should follow the country he has arrived in which means he must fast with them and end the month with them even if it is more or less than a ’month’. If he fasts 28 days, then he must fast one more day after ‘Id to complete 29 days which constitutes the minimum number days in a month. A similar case in point occurs when a person sees the new moon on a specific day and then travels to perform Hajj. Obviously he will follow Muslims in Makah and will not follow his own moon-sighting even if he is pretty sure that their decision is wrong according to astronomy.

Some may question the basis for differentiating the lay person’s conduct from one in authority; there are some commands that address every single Muslim irrespective of position. An example is, ’O you who believe, establish the prayer’. There are also some other commandments that addressing specific people according to position, gender etc. For example, Allah says in the Qur’an, ‘Cut off (from the wrist joint) the (right) hand of the thief, male or female, as a recompense for that which they committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise’.14 This command is directed to those in authority and it is not addressed to the individual; individuals cannot arrest a thief and cut his hand off!

Prayer calculations vs. moon-sighting calculations

It is allowed for us to rely on scientific facts that can provide accurate information in deciding the prayers times; we are allowed to use watches, computer programs and other technologies to decide these times. Why is this not the case for deciding the start and end of Ramadan? I will summarise the answer as given by a number of scholars including the famous Maliki scholar al-Qarafi.15 A very similar understanding can be also found with Ibn Taymiyyah. There is a major Islamic difference between the prayer timings and the timings for the beginning and ending of Ramadan and the Hajj day. Allah says in the Qur’an, Establish the prayer from midday till the darkness of the night (i.e.. the Thuhr, 'Asr, Maghrib and 'Isha' prayers)’16 and He also said, ‘So glorify Allah , when you come up to the evening (i.e., offer the Maghrib and 'Isha' prayers), and when you enter the morning (i.e., offer the Fajr prayer).’17 Allah has commanded us to pray in those specific times and hence we are commanded to determine the time by any means. In contrast, Allah never commanded us to begin Ramadan in a specific time or due to the birth of the new moon rather he commanded us to fast once we ‘witness’ the new moon as it is mentioned in the aforementioned hadith and in the verse in the Qur’an, ‘The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion. So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month, he must observe the fasts that month”. Therefore, our concern is not in the actual time or the birth of the new moon which is identified by the moon leaving the conjunction; rather we are concerned with ‘witnessing’ the new moon. In the case of prayers the actuality of the time is of concern to us.

Practical alternatives?

Some Muslim individuals and organisations repeatedly call Muslims in the UK and some other non-Muslim countries to abandon following Saudi Arabia in determining Ramadan, ‘Id and Hajj. A section of these voices are driven by certain agendas to attack the Saudi government and ultimately to attack the religious ideology adopted by Saudi Arabia. In any case, they are unable to provide a practical and workable alternative. The suggestion for Muslims in the UK and other European countries to establish their own moon-sighting has proven over the years to be both an impractical and a non-approachable solution for numerous reasons. Muslims in the UK for example have not agreed on any one organisation to represent them in this issue due to their wide and diverse nature. They differ on the course to be followed in case of failure to sight the moon on the possible dates of visibility; some recommend following astronomical data, others recommend following the sighting of the nearest Islamic country. Again, they differ between themselves on which country to follow. Others suggest that when the moon is not sighted then Sha’ban should be completed as thirty days irrespective of the astronomical data as this is mentioned in the Prophetic guidance. However, this recommendation is not widely accepted as it means that for the most part Ramadan will start after the thirty days of Sha’ban due to the cloudy conditions in most European countries including Britain. Another opinion put forward is for each Muslim to follow one’s local mosque; this is the worst recommendation as it divides Muslims on a matter which should unite them as a single community; what does one do if there are two local mosques? Another option is to follow the first country that announces the sighting; while this is a very logical and legitimate opinion; it is unlikely to be accepted due to the political climate, diversity and disunity of Muslims living in the UK as an example. Moreover, those supporting astronomy as their basis will again question the sighting if it does not meet their criteria.

After considering all these opinions and taking into account that almost two thirds of the Muslims in the UK, for example, follow Makkah for spiritual reasons, one will find himself compelled to support this judgment. As we have declared before that the basis of this is textual and rational evidences. Unity is not the determining factor for this conclusion but is one of the prime factors for sure. It is also worth noting that the masses in many countries follow Makkah and not Saudi Arabia; their attachment is to Makkah as their holiest place and not to Saudi Arabia.

The process of moon–sighting in Saudi Arabia

To conclude the discussion, I would like to state that the Saudi moon-sighting is not a matter of personal attachment to myself for many reasons. One reason is the fact that I am not promoting following Saudi Arabia in deciding the beginning and ending of Ramadan. Nevertheless, I would like to clarify a misconception related to the Saudi moon-sighting as it is criticised in both Muslim and non-Muslim media. These criticisms include the claim that they rely on ordinary Bedouins who emerge from the desert knowing nothing about moon-sighting and the stages of the moon. Some claim that the main motivation for such individuals who testify to seeing the new moon is to gain a reward or seek fame. This criticism is further used to attack the Shari’ah as a whole as it is always linked to Saudi Arabia. It is important for us all as Muslims to not falsely accuse others and ignorantly support a non-Islamic agenda.

Firstly, the official Saudi calendar is not used at all in deciding the beginning and ending of Ramadan and the day of ‘Arafah. I have heard many times that the Saudis are following the Jewish methodology in their calendar and therefore Muslims fast according to the Jewish moon-sighting. Such a ridiculous statement is unworthy of a response. The Judicial High Court is responsible for deciding such dates and is based on testimony that they receive. Secondly, some accuse the Saudi authorities of not paying attention to verifying the testimony that comes from a single unknown person who may be lying or mistaken. I would like to say that in most years, the testimony is corroborated by a number of known witnesses. In 1424 AH there was a controversy concerning sighting the ’Id moon and its visibility; it was announced that the moon was sighted in Saudi Arabia and many astronomers and others accused Saudi Arabia’s system of being daft and paying no attention to the important matter of a Muslim’s worship. I happened to be visiting a friend a few days later who was watching a documentary presented by Al-Majd TV channel about moon-sighting. In this documentary, the channel interviewed the person who sighted the moon; it was apparent that this man was not just a simple lay person with little intelligence. He was well educated, experienced and knowledgeable in both visual sighting as well as astronomy. He even took the camera crew to the actual location and his set up where he would watch for the new moon. He also added that it was his habit for many years along with a group of people to monitor the new moon every month. At times they would accompany one of the judges of that area. In addition, a famous Saudi astronomer Dr. Mohammed Bakheet al-Maliki wrote an article published in Ramadan 1421 AH (Dec 2000) that in 1413 AH astronomers announced that it was impossible to see the new moon due to its disappearance half an hour before sunset, yet it was announced that the moon was sighted by more than ten people in Saudi Arabia and in the United Arab Emirates. He also added that some sighted the moon without intentionally going out to look for it. The number of witnesses rose to the extent that the Judicial High Court ceased to accept any more testimonies. The famous scholar Dr. Bakr Abu Zaid, who used to work for the Ministry of Justice that is in charge of dealing with witnesses, mentioned that in 1406 AH astronomers announced that it was impossible to sight the new moon of Shawwal. However the moon was sighted by more than twenty different people in various places in Saudi Arabia and some other neighbouring countries. In addition, I came across a PhD thesis by a researcher who said that in 1425 AH it was also announced that it was impossible to sight the new moon of Shawwal yet it was witnessed by more than forty people and the authorities officially recorded more than ten of those testimonies. I relate these incidents to provide more clarity about the issue and to advise people not to accuse other Muslims, especially knowledgeable people, of committing trivial mistakes concerning major matters.

Finally, I would like to emphasise to my brothers and sisters living in any non-Muslim country of the conclusion of this discussion. The evidence compels us to follow the opinion of the majority of Muslims in our country irrespective of the how the opinion is arrived at. There are further details that need clarification to answer many questions for Muslims living in the West; it is not the intention of this article to address such detailed matters but to clarify the main misconception about moon-sighting and the role of astronomy.

__________________________________________________ _________
Notes:
Source: www.islam21c.com

1. Ahkam al-Qur’an 1/280.
2. Al-Muntaqa Sharh al-Muwata 2/38.
3. Bidayah al-Mujtahid 1/283-284.
4.
5. Majmu’ al-Fatawa (25/132-133).
6. Hashiyah Ibn ‘Abidin 2/387.
7. Narrated by Abu Hurayrah, related by both Al-Bukhari and Muslim.
8. As mentioned in Surah al-Nur. This process involves both the husband and wife going to a judge and testifying by Allah that they are truthful and if not invoking the curse of Allah upon themselves if they are lying about the alleged act of adultery. Once this process is finished then the child will be associated with the mother and have no connection with the father.
9. This includes the right to claim lineage to the father (and his family), the claim to maintenance costs and inheritance. These and other rights are discussed in the books of Islamic jurisprudence.
10. Some scholars may consider tacit approvals from both sides as another legitimate way of depriving him this right. This case is only offered as an example here and its details are not able to be discussed here.
11. There is more to be said about the part of the hadith where the Prophet commanded his wife Sawdah to don the hijab before the disputed person. However, that is outside the scope of this discussion.
12. Surah al-Hashr 59:7
13. It is recorded by al-Tirmidhi and the wording is his, Abu Dawud and others.
14. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:38
15. al-Furuq vol. 2, pg. 179
16. Surah al-Isra’ 17:78
17. Surah al-Rum 30:17



Article by Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

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