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The start of Ramadān & the days of ‘Īd

All praise is due to Allāh, may peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.

Many questions are asked by Muslims residing in non-Islamic countries concerning how one assures the start of the month of Ramadān and the days of ‘Īd al-Fitr and ‘Īd al-Adhā.

So what course is one to follow?

It is because of these questions that this clarification becomes necessary. I am able to mention the following and Allāh is the One, without any partner, Who grants accord and aids to arriving at what is correct. The Muslims in non-Muslim countries that are not ruled by the Islamic Law differ greatly concerning how to assure the start of the month of Ramadān and how to assure that it has ended and Shawwāl /’Īd al-Fitr have started.

Some follow the opinion that the new moon must be sighted or that the previous month, Sha’bān, must be completed as thirty days in order to assure the start of Ramadān and the same goes in order to assure the start of Shawwāl. This is the correct position in principle, and there is no doubt concerning this due to the large number of evidences supporting it and it is the opinion of the majority of Muslims amongst the Companions and succeeding generations. The Prophet peace be 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.” [1] Similar authentic ahādīth imply that we depend on moon-sighting in deciding the start of each lunar month.

Others follow the opinion that astronomical calculations should be employed in order to assure the start and end of Ramadān. A third group follow the opinion that they should follow the sighting of their homeland or the country from which they arrived. Some of the Muslims, and perhaps they are the majority in some countries, follow the sighting and announcement made by Makkah because it is the direction of our prayers and an emblem of Muslim unity.

It is clear that all of these opinions mentioned above have those who would criticise them. Those who go the way of sighting the moon criticise those who use astronomical calculations and there is no doubt that this criticism is correct. They in turn are criticised by others who state that sighting the moon is just not possible in the majority of areas of many European and American lands due to the poor visibility as a result of the weather and so these criticisers rely upon the sighting of the moon undertaken by their homeland. Hence you will see some of our Pakistani bretheren fasting and celebrating ‘Īd with Pakistan, some of our Egyptian bretheren fasting and celebrating ‘Īd with Egypt, some of our Moroccan bretheren fasting and celebrating ‘Īd with Morocco etc. Each one thinks that the sighting of the moon made by his homeland is the most valid sighting!

Everyone has his opinion, but there is no doubt that the greater benefit lies in the Muslims of one land fasting as one body, starting the same day and celebrating ‘Īd on the same day so as to display unity.

Unity is one of the greatest features and benefits that the Islamic Law calls to and this is why some of the scholars were of the opinion that it would be good for Muslims living in non-Muslim lands to appoint one leader who would determine the likes of these matters for them. In many cases it is almost impossible to appoint a leader for all Muslims residing in that land, yet they still can appoint some form of leadership to which they refer in matters like this.

However, unfortunately, this matter is absent in these lands thus far and the Muslims remain in confusion as to how to start fasting, when to celebrate ‘Īd al-Fitr and in other matters of dispute. Therefore, we advise the generality of Muslims in this land to follow the opinion of the majority of Muslims in this land with regard to the starting and ending of the month irrespective of the basis of that decision, even if this opinion opposes an individual’s opinion or the opinion of one’s organisation. I have not come cross any scholar neither from the past or from our own time who apposes this approach.

The reasons and proofs for this conclusion are the following:

1) “The fast is the day you all fast…”

The hadīth of Abū Hurayrah in which the Prophet said, “The fast is the day you all fast, the breaking of fast is on the day that you all break fast, the day of sacrifice is on the day that you all sacrifice.” [2] Imām al-Tirmidhi went on to write, “Some of the People of Knowledge explained this hadīth to mean that fasting and breaking the fast should be done with the Jamā’ah (Muslims) or the majority of people.” This is why most of the scholars who spoke about this issue were of the opinion that the Muslim should start the fast when most of the people in his country fast and the same rule is applied for ending the fast and celebrating the ‘Īd. In fact a group of scholars were of the opinion that if a single individual were to sight the new moon and the Imām were to reject this, for some reason, then the people should not fast until the Imām has given the order. The same applies to breaking the fast and celebrating the ‘Īd.

2) Unity in matters of ijtihād

Leaving individual opinion and following the opinion of the majority in matters of ijtihād for the sake of the benefit of unity is something that is well established in the Islamic Law. ‘Abdullāh b. Mas’ūd prayed dhuhr behind ‘Uthmān b. ‘Affān in Mina as four rak’ahs despite his opinion and the fact that the Messenger of Allāh had prayed two as had Abū Bakr and ‘Umar. When asked why he did this, he replied, “Differing is evil.” [3] Moreover the Islamic Law has enjoined one to stick firmly to the Jamā’ah and to all the means that would lead to actualising this. Allāh, Mighty and Magnificent says,

“Obey Allāh and His Messenger and do not differ such that you lose courage and your strength depart, be patient for Allāh is with the patient” [4]

and

“Hold fast to the rope of Allāh, all of you, and do not split.” [5]

To conclude, we advise Muslims to do everything possible to establish unity among themselves and until they do that they should cooperate in enjoining the good and forbidding the evil as Allāh Almighty and His Messenger commanded us to do so in various places in the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Allāh says,

“Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allāh. Verily, Allāh is Severe in punishment.” [6]

We also advise Muslims living in the western countries to do their best to appoint an Imām/leader that they can follow in many essential matters amongst which is the commencement and conclusion of the fast. Allāh knows best.

We ask Allāh, Mighty and Magnificent, to unite the Muslims upon righteousness and taqwa. Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.

Source: www.islam21c.com

This article has been edited and reposted, last posted on 1st August 2011.

Notes:

[1] This hadīth is agreed upon (Bukhāri and Muslim) and was reported on the authority of Abū Hurayrah.

[2] Hadīth recorded by at-Tirmidhi and the wording is his, Abū Dāwūd and others’.

[3] Recorded in Sunan Abī Dāwūd, narrated by ‘Abd al-Rahmān b. Zaid.

[4] Al-Qur’ān 8:46

[5] Al-Qur’ān 3:103

[6] Al-Qur’ān 5:2

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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.

14 comments

  1. Moon Sighting Solution According to Quran & Hadees
    The Prophet SAW had fasted in ten Ramadans during his life time. In these months he had never searched the Hilaal for beginning the fasting or celebrating the Eid. He had not asked his companions to search for the Hilaal in order to begin the month after seeing it. If it had happened like that please give us a hadees explaining this matter.

    In the Hadees it has come down to us: “Soomoo li ru’uyathihi wa afthiroo li ru’uyathihi” meaning “fast when you see it and break the fast when you see it”. This translation of the Hadees however contradicts the Quran. It could never mean that you begin the fasting on the next day after seeing the Hilaal.

    The correct interpretation should be “you begin the fasting according to the view of the Hilaal”.

    Allah SWT has explained this matter very clearly through many verses of the Quran. “They ask you about the phases of the moon; tell them they are dates for the people and Hajj” 2:189. This explains very clearly that people have to use the dates shown by the moon phase in their worldly affairs as well as for fixing the days of the 8, 9 and 10th of Zul Hijjah for the annual Hajj. The word “ahillah” has not been used in any other place of the Quran except in this ayath.

    Linguistically the “ahillah” is the plural of the word “Hilaal”. But Allah SWT has not used the word ‘Hilaal’ anywhere in the Quran. So, we cannot say that the meaning of Hilaal is the first setting crescent that we see in the western horizon in the beginning of the month. Ahillah and Manaazil are interconnected and when one is changed the other must change.

    And moreover, the Thafseers of Ibn Kathir, Kurtubi etc explain 36:39 that the first crescent becomes visible to the world on the first day of the month after sun set. Then if the next day is taken as the first day of the month the actual first day of the month will be lost. Would Allah and His Rasool SAW order the people to do such a thing? Certainly the Prophet SAW would not burden the people with such an impractical task.

    On the last day of the month the moon rises before the sun and in the evening, the moon sets after the sun. The crescent will not be visible due to the proximity and the glare, but the next day must be the first day of the month because the event of the moon overtaking the sun, which is the criterion for the change of the month, has already taken place before the end of that day.

    The Quran informs us: “it is not fit for the sun to overtake the moon and the night is not the forerunner of the day. All of them float in an orbit”. (36:40). The meaning is that the day comes first and the moon overtakes the sun in the course of floating in their orbits. This overtaking is witnessed in every lunar month. In every month after overtaking the sun, the moon moves away from the sun and comes back again to overtake it once again. At the rate of about 12 degrees per day it traverses the stages (manaazil) and changes its phases (ahillah). When the moon and sun are 90 degrees apart the phase is half. When it is at 180 degrees the phase is full. Then it comes back as it had gone away and at 90 degrees it is half and at 0 there is no phase. The moon is not visible to earth on this day.

    The months cannot go wrong if we observed the phases. Making months of 29 into 30 and vice versa will be tantamount to violating Allah’s limits. Allah has informed in the Quran 9:37 “postponing is an increase in disbelief whereby the disbelievers are going astray; they make it legal in one year and illegal in another year thereby they forbid what Allah has allowed. Their bad actions are made pleasant to them and Allah does not guide those who disbelieve”.

    “It is Allah SWT who gave sun, the sunlight and moon, the moonlight and He appointed stages for the moon so that you may know the count of moon ages (the dates) and the calculations. Allah SWT has not created this without purpose. He explains His ayaths for the people who understand.” 10:5. When Allah SWT has explained so well about the months and dates, some people have misunderstood the words of the Prophet and said that if a cloud came in between, 30 days should be completed even to months which Allah SWT has given 29 days! Thus the natural calendar given to people by Allah SWT has been made useless in the world. Clouds cannot change the time shown by the sun and clouds cannot change the dates shown by the manaazil of the moon.

    Source: http://www.hijracalendar.com

  2. Real Unity
    Assalaamou ‘Alaikoum Wa Rahmatoullahi wa Barakaatou
    Well said Dr Muhammad Al Hijaazi.
    People explain Hadiths according to their will and add words like “LAND” which was never mention in the Ahadiths.
    Is unity, Unity of your Land or Unity of the Ummah???
    Let our scholars clarify.

  3. Response to sister
    Bismillah,

    It is of course incorrect to follow the majority in issues of belief and ahkaam. One can only take such issues from the Qur’aan and Hadith. If one were to follow the majority in belief, they would not be muslim as the majority of people on the earth are not. Following the majority of scholars is different to this but is not really relevant here.

    However, in this issue in particular, we know of the following hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said:
    الصوم يوم تصومون ، والفطر يوم تفطرون ، والأضحى يوم تضحون
    “The fast is the day you all fast, the breaking of fast is on the day that you all break fast, the day of sacrifice is on the day that you all sacrifice.”

    So in this particular issue, fasting and breaking the fast with those around you is actually prescribed. This makes it very simple for the general masses, they merely have to see when the community around them is fasting and fast with them. The responsibility is transferred to the leaders of the community who decided when to fast.

    And perhaps if you live in a place where shirk is commonly practised by the muslims, you should consider moving to somewhere where this is not the case.

    And Allah knows best.

  4. Confused
    asslaam alaikum.

    As interesting as the article is, it has left me very confused. All of the respondents so far, in my humble opinion seem very educated on this matter and certainly more than me.
    I wonder if somebosy could explain the following to me;
    1. In the Uk, a majority of the muslims pertain to a specific madhab which has an impact on their aqeedah. In Bradford, the majority of the muslims tend to be made up of barelvis, deobandis etc and there is widespread practice of shirk and innovation and the strongest hadiths are not often followed. For the sake of promoting unity as advised by the sheikh, if we run with a majority consensus, this would cause deviation of aqeedah and fundamental beliefs for those who try to adhere as closely to the practice of the Prophet SAW and the Companions.
    2. Is it thus incorrect to follow the advice and announcements for the start and end of Ramadan made by the High Juidicial Council of Saudi Arabia since in the UK to ensure one is desperately trying to do the right thing?
    3.If we followed the majority within the land, this would lead to inconsistent islamic practice and I would feel I would be cherry picking aspects of my deen and aqeedah to suit a majority who may not always make the correct islamic decision. I do not want to compromise my aqeedah nor follow like a sheep a master(s) who may make a polictical decision as opposed to an islamic decision based upon the Qur’an and Sunnah?

    Perhaps I am too naive but I certainly feel trying to practice one’s deen in this climate, where there are so many different factions (who all insist they are right, by the way) is as the hadith says “holding onto the way of the Prophet will be like holding on to a burning ember”.

    I would welcome your thougths…….

  5. with all respects to all brothers & sisters here who might read the article,
    we shall appreciate the imam who decided upon qur’an and sunnah,
    even tough we may feel a bit (not like it), as long as it is right based upon Allah’s rules, then we shall follow.

    insyallah, let’s pray …
    may allah always lead all of us to the righteous path. amin.
    may allah gather us eventough with different colors, but in a same path, to jannah. amin.
    may allah lead us without hatred and anger. amin.

    Alhaqqu mirrabikallkareeem. (all the right thing is from Allah ~Alkareem).

  6. Abu Abdurrahman

    When we misunderstand what majority means?
    salam alaikum wa rahmatullah

    An excellent article.

    However i see that several commentors have misconceived the author’s point in reference to majority.

    In respect to the salah time entry – the shaikh is not merely referring to a majority, or overwhelming majority inb a given time- but the overwhelming majority of the schoalrs of the Ummah across the various timeframes from the sahabah till this day. That is tantamount in many ways to a consensus (ijma).

    Moreoever in some issues such as the starting and ending of Ramadan it might be that the view of the Quran and Sunnah as understood by the Sahabah actually is to defer one’s own view for the practise of the majority of people in your land that you are in (this is a different majority to the one discussed in the paragraph above). That is because the shariah has certain aims for certain acts; ie there is a purpose behind eid – and that is to do it collectively, not indivudally.

    But the salah times’ criteria has been agreed by the overwhelming majority and ought not be set aside for any personal opinions or that of local masjids.

    Allah knows best

  7. Stick to your argument about the subject please!
    This discussion is not anymore interesting, the goal is not to point fingers to eachtothers, but to give the (best) arguments.
    Why is it not possible for the biggest groupt to adapt to the smallest?
    Is it the islam that comes with: follow the bigger group or some other system?
    One day a big group in Europe will say that we can break fast together with saudie arabie (in the summer time), because it’s not the sun we have to look at, but just the fixed period of approximatelly 12 hours to fast.

    The moon is only one in whole the world, the prophet pbuh , asked Bilal (or someone else?) to do the adhaan, to let people realize that the ramadan has started, why don’t we all use a medium to make adhaan to whole the world??

    What are your sources? Isn’t this important to discus then to point fingers?
    Why isn’t it anymore possible to debate with respect and use arguments against eachtother or to say: yes, you are more correct then I was… ??

  8. non-salafite but 100% Wahhabi

    Here we go again!
    I see Zainab the Salafite has started the ‘I follow the Qur’an and Sunnah mantra’ – as if nobody else does! They claim hizbiyyah for all yet are the first to strat with the sectarian line drawing.

  9. Response to Zainab
    I believe you have taken the extract highlighted at the beginning of the article as a general statement in all matters. That is obviously not what you incorrectly understood and certainly not what was intended by the author.

    “Leaving individual opinion and following the opinion of the majority in matters of ijtihad for the sake of the benefit of unity is something that is well established in the Islamic Law.”

    Earlier in the article he wrote:
    “Therefore, we advise the generality of Muslims in this land to follow the opinion of the majority of Muslims in this land with regard to the starting and ending of the month irrespective of the basis of that decision, even if this opinion opposes an individual’s opinion or the opinion of one’s organisation.”

    It is quite clear the statement is in context with the specific situation of starting Ramadan and ending Ramadan together. In that there are valid difference of opinions on the issue, so what do we do? Do we all begin fasting on different days according to the different opinions we may personally hold? Or is there an importance in this situation to weigh up the benefits of Unity and opening and breaking the Fast together. Otherwise as is sadly common, members of the same family living in the same house start and end Ramadan on different days. And as the great Sahaabi, Ibn Masud said: “Differing is Evil” after praying 4 rak’ah behind the Ameer, Uthman, when his personal opinion was 2 rak’ah.

    So relax….you got the wrong end of the stick.

  10. “Leaving individual opinion and following the opinion of the majority in matters of ijtihad for the sake of the benefit of unity is something that is well established in the Islamic Law.”

    Sorry, but as a staunch believer who follows the Noble Quran, as delivered by Allah Almighty by the beloved Muhammad (SAAW), I cannot agree with this statement. The Noble Quran makes is ample clear that majority aren’t necessarily right. What needs to be judged is the substance of the issue with the Noble Quran as the Furqan or the Criterion. Prior to Islam, the majority in Arabia indulged in shirk. According to them, that was their “Ijtihad.” At present, because of all the misinterpretations and false information being spread by unauthentic ahadith and fatwas, there are many incorrect ideas circulating around that clearly violate the commandments of the Quran. Those incorrect notions may have a high degree of consensus among the people but that must be ignored if the matter itself contradicts or clashes with the princples of the Quran. Thus, Allah says in 116 verse of Surah Al-Anam: “If thou obeyedst most of those on earth they would mislead thee far from Allah’s way. They follow naught but an opinion, and they do but guess.”

    Praise be to Allah (The Highest), and peace, love and blessings to Prophet Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets and Final Messenger.

    I seek refuge in Allah from the misuguidance of the majority.

  11. Muhammad AL-hijazi

    some correction of you artical
    Assalam alaikum wa rahmatollahi wa barakatoh.

    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم ، الحمد لله وكفى والصلاة والسلام عليى نبيه المصطفى وبعد

    My dear brother,

    jazakallah khir for your beautiful article of ” the start of Ramadan and the days of id”.

    i just would like to make some points :

    1. The hadeath you mentioned : ” The Prophet peace be upon him said, “Fast when you see it [i.e., the moon] and cease fasting when you see it,
    This hadeath in Arabic said: ( صوموا لرؤيته وافطروا لرؤيته )
    The word “لرؤيته ” mean: if the moon been sighted not if you see the moon.
    The hadeeth mean if any Muslim ( adl , trustworsy) had been sighted the moon in any part of the land .. All Muslim should fast and all Muslim should break fast for id… this call unity.

    2. Islam defined the unity and benefit. One of the principle of osul al fiqh اصول الفقه ” حيثما يكون الشرع تكون المصلحة ” where ever you find the hukm of allah you will find the banafit .. So the unity and the benefit of the Muslim in western country to follow Islam according the sahabah understood. Not according the majority..
    This is not ijtihadi matter as you said. and we don’t take in majority in hukum sharey. We only take the majority matter ( shurah ) in mobahat only.

    3. in some area at shabah time the fasted in deferent days because the technology didn’t exist at that times. Now, we have TV. Phone, Internet…

    4. As you know the Muslim country has been divided over 50 countries and the rules not implemented Islam as the whole system. We should tell the Muslim to change the reality to fit Islam ..not other way around.

    May Allah bless you and hope to hear from you soon Insha’Allah.

    هذا والله تعالى أعلم

    Dr.Muhammad al-hijazi

  12. Moon sights
    Why is it the method of moon sighting is been put asside and the opinion that has to be followed (to have a unity) is to follows ones country? If we say that this is a matter of critisism based on knowledge ok, but based on how we want to follow the rules … .

    It is so that this country will also see if the moon is sighted (of it will use other method, but point is here that maybe the method of moon sighted is still practised).

    Even if a leader is appointed to organize things, at te end, he has to take a method too. So saying to have a leader will solve the dissagreement among muslims is obvious(if people agree and follow which is not easy), but still the subject of this is which method should be used by us , by the leader… ??

    Regarding my understanding , I find it strange to look for another opinion and base the unity on this opinion. On Huda today 11th aug, it is been also said that it is not correct to follow the unity if for example they say that ramadaan has started in month of shabaan. But one it comes the last days, we just have to follow. So I ask my self, what is the definition of an ummah, unity?? Is the definition fix or does it change in every situation(knowing definition are clear).

    The prohpet Muhammed pbuh was a leader and yet a person came to him who sighted the moon, the prophet asked him if he is a muslim, if he says lè illèhè illa’Allah. … and the leader Muhammed then asked … to to the adhan. Now all muslims are fasting who heard this news. Knowing that the prophet was the leader. So not much rightous persons is needed to confirm.

    Nowadays we know the moon sighting just by turning on the tv, picking up the telephone, … so when the moonsighting (or not so next day has to be fasted) is confirmed. Why don’t we all fast? so if : “1) The hadith of Abu Hurayrah in which the Prophet ? said, “The fast is the day you all fast, the breaking of fast is on the day that you all break fast, the day of sacrifice is on the day that you all sacrifice.”
    Why don’t we practised it as best a possible and don’t make borders (countries) the condition (or the base of an opinion).

    Is it not possible to fast all in every corner of the world that has access to telecommunication and give this hadith more power?

  13. lailatul qadr
    perhaps this is the wisdom in there being numerous hadith from the prophet on this. i.e. in one hadith “search for lailatul qadr in the last 10 nights” and in another “search for lailatul qadr in the odd nights of the last 10″. It is possible for a nation to get the start date of ramadan wrong unintentionally – thus i suppose we should seek lailatul qadr in all of the last 10???

  14. Does this affect when lailatul qadr is?
    If you agree to follow an opinion, that you feel incorrect, will this affect when lailatul qadr falls, will it still be an odd night?

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