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An insight into moon-sighting

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 Ramadān. 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 trans-national 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 Ramadān, ‘Īd al-Fitr and ‘Īd al–Adha.

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

Sharῑ’ah Principles related to the confirmation of the beginning of Ramadān and the ‘Īd

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 Allāh 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’bān 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’bān. 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. 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 Ramadān or ‘Īd.āā

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

It is important to clarify this point further; the Sharῑ’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 Sharῑ’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 Allāh 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. Allāh, 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 Allāh 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 Sharῑ’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’] one. As far as the Sharῑ’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 Ramadān 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 Sharῑ’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 Sharῑ’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 Ramadān on a day which was different from the astronomical calculation, then that will have no effect at all on our fasting or ‘Īd. 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 Sharῑ’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 Sharῑ’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 Ramadān. 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. Allāh says in the Qur’ān, ‘And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it), and fear Allāh. Verily, Allāh is Severe in punishment.’12

The Prophet’s instruction to complete the thirty days of Sha’bān when the moon is not able to be sighted lends further support to this reasoning of differentiating the Islamic month of Ramadān from the astronomical month; the famous scholar, Ibn Hajar, said, ’This (completing thirty days of Sha’bān) is an indication that we should not refer to calculations or astronomy. The Prophet guided us to completing thirty days of Sha’bān 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’bān could be the first day of Ramadān or the last day of Sha’bān. 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’bān without any doubt, even though it might be the first day of the astronomical month. Our month of fasting, Ramadān, will start in this case after the 30th of Sha’bān is completed. This is again a matter of consensus between all scholars. Similarly, if the new moon of ‘Īd al-Fitr in this case is seen on the 28th of Ramadān, then the Muslims should commemorate their ‘Īd based on the new moon and then compensate the 29th day of Ramadān the day after the ‘Īd 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 Ramadān and confirming ‘Īd 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 ‘Īd with all its rituals such as the congregational prayer, takbir, exchanging greetings and celebrating alone? Can we have two different days of ‘Īd 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 Ramadān according to the country he is residing in and then travels to another country that had started Ramadān on a different day. Ramadān for Muslims in the destination country may end before or after Ramadān 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 ‘Īd 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, Allāh says in the Qur’ān, ‘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 Allāh. And Allāh 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 Ramadān? 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 Ramadān and the Hajj day. Allāh says in the Qur’ān, 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 Allāh , 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 Allāh has commanded us to pray in those specific times and hence we are commanded to determine the time by any means. In contrast, Allāh never commanded us to begin Ramadān 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’ān, ‘The month of Ramadān in which was revealed the Qur’ān, 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 Ramadān, ‘Īd 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’bān 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 Ramadān will start after the thirty days of Sha’bān 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 Ramadān. 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 Sharῑ’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 Ramadān 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 ‘Īd 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 Ramadān 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 Shawwāl. 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 Shawwāl 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

Source: www.islam21c.com

This article has been reposted, last posted on 25 July 2011.

Notes:

1. Ahkām al-Qur’ān 1/280.

2. Al-Muntaqa Sharh al-Muwata 2/38.

3. Bidāyah al-Mujtahid 1/283-284.

4. Majmu’ al-Fatāwa (25/132-133).

5. Hashiyah Ibn ‘Abidin 2/387.

6. Narrated by Abu Hurayrah, related by both Al-Bukhāri and Muslim.

7. As mentioned in Surah al-Nur. This process involves both the husband and wife going to a judge and testifying by Allāh that they are truthful and if not invoking the curse of Allāh 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Al-Qur’ān 59:7

12. It is recorded by al-Tirmidhi and the wording is his, Abu Dawud and others.

13. Al-Qur’ān 5:38

14. al-Furuq vol. 2, pg. 179

15. Al-Qur’ān 17:78

16. Al-Qur’ān 30:17

 

About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Sharia Council (UK & Eire). He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Sharia Council as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.

34 comments

  1. Ma sha Allah, this is a very well written and illuminating article.

  2. Moulana Ismail Limbada
    Assalamu alaykum
    YA AKHEE ABA MUSA
    SHUKRAN JAZEELA LI TA’LEEQIK.

  3. Sighting
    Salaam bro Abu Hanifa

    Regarding the sighting in the UK – I know that in Leicester Sh. Saleem at the academy went with Saudi and called Eid on Tuesday. Some people I know who were with him said that this was to lessen the ‘fitnah’ (i.e. keep with the majority in the UK) – and some of his students actually did it on the Wednesday because they disagreed with him regarding this point.

    Regarding moon sighting itself – I have once seen some knowledgeable people go and ‘moon sight’ on the first night – and it was actually very difficult because the hilal kept appearing and then disappearing very quickly. Not only this, it actually only appears in certain points in the sky – all of this needs to be known (and studied). Therefore, it is possible that it can be hidden from the human eye even without cloud cover. However, I know in the USA, there is a big group of muslims that are very much into ‘going out to see the moon’ and some of their locations are ideal for moon sighting (unlike the UK where it is quite hard) – and it was spotted on Tuesday night (i.e. Eid was on Wednesday) and there were only ‘negative sightings’ on Monday night. This is also recorded on some of their websites.

    Like I mentioned before – I was told by someone in the UK – that there were some in Saudi that followed the hilal before sunset – and then actually caught it after magrib (as they followed it) – and then called it. And this is what the Saudi committee went with.
    As for false claims by Saudi – this is a very common statement – however, I believe also in 2005, there were callings by scientists that the moon would not have been visable in Saudi the evening it was spotted – yet, there were over 20 spottings through the country that slowly got fed to the moon sighting committees in Saudi.

    Allah knows best akhi – like I said earlier – our faith is also based on trust of the Muslims (and sometimes even if there is a lie, but the Eid has been established for the community then it is valid.) – however, in recent times, perhaps because of the nature of where we live (the west) and their underpinning teaching that all needs to be questioned – we have started to do this when perhaps we do not need to

    Wa Allahu alam

  4. Moulana Ismail Limbada
    Dear brother Abu Musa
    Assalamu alaykum
    Thank you for your comment.
    I totally agree with your comment regarding the sighting reported by Darul Ifta in Egypt. Not only this, here in the UK many Hanafi Ulama have also accepted the news of the sighting of Hilal from Saudi Authority and made Iftar. However my question still remains the same: why a group of Muslim could not view the Hilal despite the weather and sky being clear. (Please read the Crescent Observation Result in ICOP page) The Hilal was not sighted by the naked eye nor with binoculars or a telescope by groups of Muslims in Makka and Madina. Where has the moon which was sighted ten minutes before sunset, disappeared to after the sunset?
    Our common sense says that the moon which was sighted ten minutes before the sunset should have been more visible and more illuminated after the sunset. More over it should be clearly visible if the sky and weather were apparent.
    My dear brother, remember that the same mistakes were repeated many times in the past too by the Saudi Authority. To read more regarding this, please type in Google “the umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia”. On the bottom of the page please read on Advancement and postponement of the Umm al-Qura Calender.
    Finally I would like to quote a Hadeeth. “ISTAFTI NAFSAK W IN AFTAKAL MUFTOON.”
    Ask yourself even if The Muftiyan have given you a verdict.
    Remember me in your Dua.

  5. Al Azhar – Hanafi
    As far as I have been told (but I have not checked this personally) – there were some Muslims in Saudi that saw the moon before sun set (hilal) and tracked it until the sun has actually set, then made the call to whomever they needed to.

    In Egypt, Al Azhar (and Dar Al Ifta) called the hilal and have reported 6 different places of sighting (which range from north to south Egypt).

    Remember, Al Azhar is actually a Hanafi institute (oficially) and many of the main teachers are still Hanafi by mathab.

    Wa Allahu alam

  6. Moulana Ismail
    My dear brother Abu Musa
    Wa alaykumus salaam warahamatullah
    Thank you for your comments.
    Once again I write that on 29th of Ramadan this year the sky was superb in Makkah, Madinah and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia. A few individuals who witnessed the sighting of Hilal, they sighted it ten minutes before the sunset. On the other hand a large group of Muslims including some members of ICOUK and astronomers have reported a negative sighting even after sunset.
    Please keep in mind that my question is only aimed at you if you follow FIQH HANAFI.
    Will our Hanahi Mutiyan still commence to announce to the end of Ramadan even in the above circumstances?
    Please remember my brother that our debate or discussion should be only to acquire the pleasure of Allaah Subhanahu wa ta’alaa.
    Thank you once again for your comments.

  7. Negative sighting
    Salaam Abu Hanifa
    Regarding your question about negative sighting:

    The new month is established for the community (or ummah) by positive sighting only – You cannot say that a group of people went to see the moon, and because they didn’t catch it (i.e. negative sighting) – then the new month didn’t start. What if they missed it? And one Muslim (or two, or a group depending on the your opinion for acceptable number of witnesses), then they would be sufficient for the Ummah and we would call the new month.
    Actually – Even if the entire ummah went out to look for the moon, and non one caught it (i.e. a negative sighting), which could be for many reasons – they simply missed it in the sky – they were not looking in the correct direction, or because the hilal kept appearing and then disappearing (which it does at birth) and they missed it, or for any other reason…) and then one muslim (or 2 muslims or a small group) see the hilal – then we have the new month.

    If it appears in the East (i.e. the new moon is born) and is meant to be visible in Saudi, then by the time ‘magrib’ comes in by America, it would be more established in the sky – however, there again, could be a few reasons that it was not spotted – i.e. cloud

    This year, there were a few committees in Saudi and Egypt that said the moon was visible – including Al Azhar and Dar al-ifta in Egypt, plus the Saudi main committee.

    If they are rejected and called liars because ‘scientifically’ they ‘couldn’t have seen the new moon’ – then you have to question your approach to the Sharia – because our new moon is not based on science – rather by vision and trust of the ummah. It seems that this trust issue has been thrown out the window in recent times

    And Allah (swt) knows best

  8. Moulana Ismail Limbada
    Dear all
    My question is only to those who follow Hanafi Jurisprudence.
    1)What Fiqh e Hanafi says to determine the beginning of the month of Shawwal in the state of clear skies. Is it adequate if a few individuals witness the sighting of Hilaal? Especially if on the other hand a large group of Muslims reported NEGATIVE SIGHTING. For instance, this year on the occasion of Eidul Fitr, despite the clear skies the hilal was not sighted in Saudia Arabia neither in Makkah nor in Madina. Neither by hilal committees nor the masses. Neither by naked eye nor by binocular or telescope.

    2)If hilal was sighted in Saudi Arabia, why is it that the other Muslims and experts can’t sight the hilal when it is Magrib time in America even after 8-11 hours after Saudi sunset?

    Shaikh Ibne Taymiyya RA who is popular with Saudis writes:-

    The sighting can differ in the east and west. If the hilal has been located in the east then it is Wajib to sight in the west it won’t be the other way round. This is because the time of sunset in the west is after the time of sunset in the east. If the moon has been sighted (in the east) then one will observe a much brighter an illuminated moon in the west as the moon will be moving further away from the sun and its rays at the time sunset. Therefore it will be much easier to observe in the west. This won’t be the case if the moon has been observed in the west, because the reason for them (in the west) to sight was delay in sunset time. {Majmuah Al Fatawa Vol 13 P 62}
    My learned brothers,
    Allah Ta’laa has provided us a good sense. What is your opinion regarding the above saying of Shaykh Taymiyya RA? Does it not make sense? Do you still not believe that Saudi Authorities make errors in announcing the beginning of the Islamic month?

  9. Moon
    O’ beautiful moon! possessor of serenity and splendour!
    Guide for the ones navigating the ships of grandeur

    You are a sign from the signs of the All-Mighty
    Be not a means of confusion and disunity

  10. Muslim intellectuals have solved this problem 16 years ago. But Jahiliyah prevails.
    http://www.moonsighting.com and http://www.icoproject.org are utterly wonderful facilities for the Muslims the world over. These have been providing absolutely trustworthy Shahahdah i.e. eye witness account of crescent observation from across the world, every month since the last 16 years. The Shahahdah shown on the above websites are indeed, the commands of Lord Almighty(swt). Every faithful Muslim obeys no one but Him. Taferqah among Muslim Ummah, comes when some people calling themselves Muslims give more importance to the words of their Malah than to the words of Lord Almighty (swt). The trustworthy Shahahdah as shown every new month on the above websites solves all the problems of all the Muslims as far as moon sighting is concerned. But rampant Jahiliya among the people calling themselves Muslims is the real problem. Such people are seen to be rejecting what Allah show in the sky i.e. trustworthy Shahahdah for the sake of the “falsehood” they hear from their chosen Malah. Anyone can easily find out the Truth when prepared to compare the trustworthy Shahahdah with whatever fiction they hear from their Malah who operate from Riyadh. The honourable Saudi Ulamah and especially those in Musjid ul Heraam seek refuge of Allah when “falsehood” is enforced upon the holy Musjid ul Heraam from Riyadh every now and then. The Ulamah true to their character want to follow the Shariah of sighting of Helaal in Arabian sky but are under duress to give in to the “falsehood” that is enforced upon them from Riyadh. In other words those Ulamah suffer in silence. So the question is that what should be course of action of the Muslim Ummah when they come to know that “falsehood” is enforced upon the most sacred mosque of Islam?
    Anyone and everyone can look up the trustworthy Shahahdah and compare it with the what they hear from Riyadh to find out whether “falsehood” is or is not the content of the announcement that come from Riyadh. Is it any bit difficult? But alas, while the Arabian Ulamah suffer in silence Jahiliyah is the code of conduct of those who call themselves Muslims.

  11. Siddique Katiya

    An insight into Moon sighting
    You have cited few published testimonies of the moon sighting in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,to support that the Saudi moon sighting accordance with Sunnah – this is not a adequate proof – there are similar claim in some part of Pakistan (near Afghanistan) who always sees the moon on the same day of Saudi

    First you must explain the discrepancies

    1 Why the Umm al-Qura calendar (commercial purpose) predicated dates coincide (almost always) with actual moon sighting that accepted by the Judicial High Court of Saudi
    2. If the moon is sighted in Saudi – why there is no confirm sighting west of Makkah such as North America, in same date, where the sunset occurs 10 to 12 hours following the sunset at Makkah
    3.The nearest Muslim country east of Makkah is Pakistan where there is a established and entirely transparent National moon sighting committee, independent of Government, accessible to the Media, represented by all four provinces and dozen of major cities that generally declared new moon one day after some case two days after from Saudi – for example Shaban 1432, the Saudi began Shaban on July 2 2011 Saturday – in that day there is no confirmed moon sighting west of Makkah upto west coast of America on the same day – and furthermore Pakistan began Shaban two days later July 3, 2011 Monday
    Therefore In my view, citing few testimonies is not a good proof
    Siddique Katiya Montreal Canada

  12. Political Problem Needs Political Solution
    Good point by bro Jawaad.
    Indeed this issue is a political one, mainly because the disease of ‘asabiyah (nationalism/tribalism) has affected the majority of us. Not suprisingly in the absence of the Khilafah, this issue of moon sighting continues to create conflict & animosity among Muslims.
    But does the Shariah give the Khalifah the authority to adopt one opinion in areas of conflict? Actually yes: for instance at the time of the Khilafah of Abu Bakr (ra), there were differences of opinion of what constitute divorce. Divorce, albeit a personal matter, is liable to lead to social breakdown if a couple adopts different opinions on how many pronouncements constitute the ending of a marriage.
    So Abu Bakr (ra) settled the whole issue by adopting an opinion on divorce which was then binding upon all Muslims, including Umar (ra) despite the fact that Umar (ra) held a different opinion. This constitutes a Shariah principle which states that “the order of the imam settles the difference”
    One more reason why sincere Believers, men & women, should focus their energy to re-establish the Caliphate, which is without doubt, the Vital Issue, the Highest of All Obligations.

  13. Moon Sighting
    Assalamu Alaikum Rahmatulla Wa Barakatu, Ramadan Kareem to all my Brothers and Sisters in deen.

    Jazak Allahu Khiran for this very well written article, I am especially happy to see the Sheikh addressing moon sighting – Saudi Arabia with such clarity and details, and examples with proof.
    Alhamduililah!

    May Allah continue to guide and bless Sheikh Hayathum with knowledge and wisdom so that he will impart to us what is good and keep us from what is not good. Ameen!

  14. Suleyman Qasim Ghani

    Mashallah
    Mashallah enlightening article, unfortunately some people still wont learn from it, even if the Prophet SAWS was to directly tell these people they will still insist on there stubbornness

  15. Only the Khilafah can Settle this Issue
    Jazakallah for this article. It is true that most Muslims have an emotional attachment to Makkah & not to the corrupt Saudi regime. But Islam has obliged sticking to the jama’ah of Muslims under an Imam (Khalifah) not to the majority.
    Generally in the West, the ritual chaos we all suffer year after year is not as a result of this unique lunar phenomenon but more as a consequence of the way different communities, imams, committees and organisations handle this sensitive issue:
    1.Do we use local or global sighting?
    2.Can we trust some of our local community leaders in the UK who are more interested to be awarded knighthood by the Queen than enjoining good & forbidding evil?
    3.How can we verify sighting in Muslim countries by corrupt governments (Saudi & all the other Zalimoun) with vested interests?
    The bottom line is that no scholar or group has the support base, popularity or ability to compel everyone to follow one opinion or sighting declaration. With all due respect their pronouncements are nothing more than non-binding opinions.
    This issue of moon sighting is one upon which there are divergent opinions, some of which are islamically legitimate. But when differences lead to societal fragmentation one opinion must be adopted for all Muslims. The very matter of who chooses this one opinion in areas of conflict is the main sticking point for Muslims, yet the shari’ah deems this to be the remit of the Khaleefah whose responsibility is to ensure Islam is applied.
    Conclusion:
    It is clear that this is a political problem & as such only needs a political solution, which unfortunately our present situation does not afford a resolution.

  16. Following the ‘majority in UK’ divides local community
    We have one local Mosque committee/authority in Watford which the vast majority of the local Muslims naturally follow in such matters. So the minority (in Watford)following the announcement of KSA divides the community in Watford. The minority (in Watford)celebrate ‘Eid whilst the majority (in Watford)are still fasting.

  17. Faraz Choudhry

    Division
    As long as there are divisions in the `Ummah then our calendar will remain as so.

  18. moon .sighting
    may ALLAH REWARD shaikh haithum for his effort,and may ALLAH guides those who argue for the sake of argument

  19. may ALLAH reward the shaikh for his effort,and guide the people who argue for the sake of arguement.

  20. jazakallah khair for such a detailed article,ALLAH guides those who are causing disunity amongest muslims.

  21. jazakallah khair for such a detailed article.ALLAH guides those who causing disunity amongest muslims.

  22. Lorraine Muhammad

    Allah Is Sufficient
    I don’t understand why people all over the planet would expect to see the moon at the same time. Salat is at different times in different locations. The sighting of the moon is more exact than any man made science or calculation. I will stick with what was prescribed for all man-kind. Allahu Akbar!

  23. Why the redundant comments?
    Ahmed, Siraj,sfgf and zainab should read the article again. Better still they-and those of similar persuasion- should try and learn the basics of the science of Islamic Jurisprudence and discern what it means to adhere to prophetic instruction in light of Divine legislation and not scientific advancement and ‘psuedo-enlightenment’.

    In light of the address of the Shaikhs words their contribution to this forum is akin to emotional rambling.

    Allah increase us all in Comprehending His Deen and cause us to be true adherents to what was revealed unto the Prophet.

    Allah reward the Shaikh for his time, effort and concern for the Ummah.

  24. So who is the majority?
    Insightful. Mashallah.

    How would you recommend one ascertains the view of the majority? Shouldn’t there be a central forumn where the leaders of the various Muslim communities can come together and decide what the majority of them have decided..?

  25. Thanks again to our Shaikh for providing guidance.
    May Allah swt reward, bless and protect our shaikh for his efforts in clarifying this important issue which the ignorant muslims in the west have themselves confused and confusing other muslims.

    p.s. there goes moonsighting dot com out of the window for me :D
    as the website is all about calculations.

  26. Great Article
    Couldn’t agree with you more. One scholar who encourages local sighting said a few years ago in his pre calculated moonsighting book that it would not be possible to sight the moon anywhere including South Africa that some people claim to follow.
    However 100’s of people sighted the moon in South Africa that year and even people in Saudi said that they saw the moon. Why is it that you falsify one and accept the other.
    Some people irrespective of when Saudi does their Eid or Fasting they would still do it on a different day.

    You see them there at the Haram and they dont perform salaah behind the Imaams of the Haram.
    Local sighting is not practical here,
    There are months when the moon is not on the horizon for upto 3 days. what do you do then, 31 days, where does your 1984 criteria go then.
    This issue is creating dissunity in the Ummah.
    Ittabiu Sawaazal Aazam, Fa innahu man Shazza shazza fin naar. Follow the majority, the one who leaves the majority will fall and slip into the fire.

    98% on one day and 2% on another day.

    doesn’t make sense

    All the Darul Ulooms and institutions all follow the majority, they also read and teach the same hadeeth but at the same time they know the importance of unity and this is far from that.

    Jazakallah to Shaykh Haytham

  27. Local Moonsighting vs Saudi
    Saudi Arabia detemines the start and end of Ramadan based on their LOCAL moonsighting. If the moon is seen elsewhere in the world they will not accept it, and the argument should carry vice versa. Why should we in Europe accept Saudi moonsightings, when they will not accept our moonsighting, arguing (rightfully) that they are only doing it for their local population. Finally, in many Muslim minority countries the people are able to unite on a day for Ramadan, eg India, Sri Lanka, the Balkans and Russia. Why is the case of (West) Europeans any different

  28. Bigger issues
    I think that we are wasting our time on this issue, when we have bigger ones to confront. Calander determination is a secondary issue, though we need a more predictable calendar for better planning.

    Employees/Managers of companies need to plan days off, meetings etc in advance. Students need to inform authorities of Eid days in advance for the purposes of exams, school trips etc. Depending on moonsighting makes such planning cumbersome. The current context demands calendar predictability.

    Any hadith text should be studied in the light of its context. The moon sighting text was based in a context where better technology wasn’t available. The context has changed: Scientific knowledge is now available. We should not be raising previous rulings to a divine level, for that is why Islam has remained fossilised, and causing continued backward thinking among its adherents.

  29. moonsighting
    saudia has been proved wrong , sighting or proof of sighting has to be local

  30. moonsighting
    a whole load of nonsense, just check moonsighting .org or com

  31. Mohammad Shoaib Siddiqi

    Mashallah, excellent well researched and well presented article!
    May Allah reward you for clearing this misconceptions for Muslims all over the world (all most of the world is on web now).

  32. Moon sighting
    Well, it’s not really a matter of astronomical confirmation. According to present technology, the correctness of the lunar sighting itself can be proven by the meteorological departments all over the world which study weather conditions in the atmosphere. Therefore, let us thank Allah Almighty for giving humankind this benefit of acquiring accurate information. This should lessen our dependency on people who claim to have sighted the moon with their bare eyes.

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