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Ramad-amnesia

Ramad-amnesia is a condition affecting millions of Muslims in the UK and around the world yet there have been very few resources invested in diagnosing and treating this illness. It is highly contagious and can be contracted through speech, action and even thoughts. The source of the outbreak is usually a blow to the head or an excessive Eid-hug which causes the sufferer to forget every important lesson learnt in Ramadān. This temporary state of amnesia can last for eleven months until the next Ramadān where the sufferer enjoys a temporarily relief from its symptoms, only to contract the illness once again at the end of Ramadān. Hence the cycle of eleven months of suffering and one month of relief continues year after year, often with the sufferer living in denial of their condition.

I hope we can still remember the vivid scenes, especially in the last ten nights of Ramadān, where Muslims gathered in their thousands in the houses of Allāh to stand, bow and prostrate in unison behind one Imām. I hope we can remember the passionate Qunūt which were made in witr prayer almost lifting the roofs of the mosques where Muslims begged for Allāh to unite our hearts, unify our ranks and remove ill feeling from our hearts for each other. I hope we can remember the sounds of Muslims weeping for forgiveness, creating a sound like a whistling kettle; the very sound which is narrated in Riyād al-Sālihīn about the weeping of the Prophet Muhammad during the night prayer, may Allāh praise and send peace and blessings upon him.

Then how ironic that the very evening where Ramadān draws to a close and where we should be asking Allāh to accept our fasting, prayer and charity, brings about a vicious argument regarding the Day of Eid which will see Muslims make the most terrible accusations against each other hours after begging Allāh to unify our hearts.

Abū 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.’1

Even in the era of the companions they had celebrated Eid on different days in different parts of the world with the Companions in the Shām (Syria) region starting Ramadān on a different day to the Companions in Madīna, a natural consequence of Eid being determined by the sighting of the moon, which appears some nights and is not visible for others.

However, for over a thousand years of Islamic history it is almost unheard of that Muslims within one locality or one city celebrate Eid on different days. That is a mockery of our religion and prevents the Sha‘ā’ir al-Islām (the symbols of Islam) from being clearly demonstrated, especially in a non-Muslim country. The Prophet Muhammad, may Allāh praise and send peace and blessings upon him, said, ‘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.”2

Al-Tirmidhi said, ‘Some scholars explained this hadīth to mean that fasting and breaking the fast should be done with the Muslim body (jamā’ah) or the majority of people.’ Hence the month of Ramadān starts when the Muslim body agrees and ends when the Muslim body agrees, and the leaders of the community are obligated to follow the sighting of the moon or complete thirty days as instructed by the hadīth. I have seen numerous zealous Muslims with laptops, astronomical charts, calculations and teams of physicists attempting to prove or disprove whether a particular Eid day was “valid” or not. If the Muslim body has started and ended the month together, and their leaders have followed a legitimate mechanism to announce the start and end, namely, sighting of the moon or completion of thirty days, then the calculations, predications and charts of the astronomers are of little relevance. In fact the books of Islamic jurisprudence quote a consensus on the view not to consider astronomy or calculations as a tool to confirm the beginning of Ramadān or Eid. (Quoted by al-Jassas al–Hanafi, al-Baji al-Maliki, Ibn Rushd al-Maliki, al-Subki al-Shafi’i, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn ‘Abidin Al-Hanafi).

Now three obvious problems arise:

1) Instantaneous communications: we can now have satellite images relaying back within a split second the announcement of Ramadān and Eid in Makkah, Morroco, Mauritania and the Maldives. Who do we follow, or shall we attempt to sight the moon in the cloudy smog filled skies above Britain?

2) Who are our leaders? To whom shall we entrust the responsibility of announcing Ramadān and Eid? Your local mosque? Scholars? Astronomers? Moon sighting committees?

3) The modern phenomena of a heterogeneous Muslim community with different ethnic origins in one locality, each holding loyalty to different Muslim countries, leading us back to the same problem: which Muslim country should we follow?

Every year there seemed to be two main groupings with regards to Eid. Those who celebrate it following the announcement of Makkah and they comprise a clear majority, and those who celebrate it following the announcement of the Asian sub-continent or the astronomical prediction. While the argument rages on, the overwhelming priority is to have a single and unified beginning of Ramadān and Eid day.

“Sighting of the moon over the skies of London is far fetched with low visibility and cloud cover.”

Following the Asian sub-continent or the nearest Muslim country, Morroco, makes little sense if you don’t happen to be from those countries or have no ethnic attachment to them.

In my opinion a practical solution is following the announcement of Makkah. For better or for worse, Makkah still provides spiritual leadership for the Muslim ummah in this matter. When Islam Channel relays images of the Tarāwīh prayer beginning in Makkah, Muslims in the UK automatically rejoice at the beginning of Ramadān and begin to spread Ramadān greetings. That will never change. Already major institutions such as Regents Park Mosque and East London Mosque along with satellite institutions follow the Makkah announcement. Also it makes little sense contradicting Makkah, especially for Eid al-Adha when the Day of Sacrifice in Hajj will clearly be determined by Makkah. So how does Makkah determine their moon sighting?

The official Saudi calendar is not used as many Muslims claim. The Judicial High Court is responsible for deciding such dates and is based on testimonies that they receive. In most years, the testimony is corroborated by a number of known witnesses. 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. 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.

“We have reached a critical stage where the issue of the beginning and end of Ramadān must be decided on a unified basis within the UK.”

Already around two thirds of Muslims in the UK follow the Makkah announcement which has an Islamic and judicial basis for its announcement. It is more practical for the remaining third to fall into line than to overturn the majority. Within a few years the month of Ramadān will fall completely within the British summer time where there is no clear distinction between ‘Isha (twilight) and Fajr (daybreak). We will then be faced with a challenge which dwarfs the issue of when to celebrate Eid, and that is what time do we actually start fasting?

For further insight into this topic refer to ‘An insight into Moon-sighting’ by Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad at www.islam21c.com

Notes: This article has been reposted. Last posted on 17th August 2012
Source: www.islam21c.com

1. SahĪh al-Bukhāri and Muslim
2. Al-Tirmidhi

About Ustadh Abu Haneefah Sohail

Abu Haneefah is an educationalist and student of knowledge. He has worked extensively in community projects in the UK. He holds regular study circles on reflections on the Qur'ān and his field of expertise is the tarbiyya of young people.

17 comments

  1. I find the disrespectful tone on the part of some of these commenters distasteful. From the person complaining that the title wasn’t funny (grow up!), completely missing the point of the article, to the complaints about moon sightings and minority opinions, the lack of adab is inexcusable. As Muslims, we need to unite instead of allowing ourselves to be divided – which was essentially the point that the brother was trying to make.

  2. Imam Taymiyya
    This great scholar, writing seven centuries ago, correctly concluded that astronomical calculations could not be used to replace naked-eye sighting of the moon because, during his lifetime, no one could calculate the visibility of the new moon accurately. However, 700 years later, many traditionalists erroneously and anachronistically cling to the view of this great authority, or that of earlier expert astronomer-jurists, whilst ignoring the fact that science has progressed exponentially since then and that we are now able to confidently predict the visibility of the new moon with great precision.

    [url]http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/01/islam.religion[/url]

  3. The truth about claimed consensus
    It seems that the article has claimed an Ijma on matter where there is none :

    [quote]In fact the books of Islamic jurisprudence quote a consensus on the view not to consider astronomy or calculations as a tool to confirm the beginning of Ramadan or Eid. (Quoted by al-Jassas al–Hanafi, al-Baji al-Maliki, Ibn Rushd al-Maliki, al-Subki al-Shafi’i, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn ‘Abidin Al-Hanafi).
    [/quote]

    I don’t know about other scholars mentioned but here is an English translation on [url=http://unity1.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/ibn-taymiyyah-fasting-and-moonsighting-v1.pdf]what Ibne Teymiyyah said about this issue[/url]. Any person who reads it can never honestly conclude that Ijmaa was ever claimed or can ever be claimed on this issue as the difference of opinion is recorded clearly.

    Again as has happened many times before on this site a false claim of Ijma is made to shut the genuine debate by [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority]fallacious argument from authority[/url]

  4. From Sunnah to Blind Following
    How sad to see the twists in the article from stating a clear hadith to abandoning it completely in favour blind following of controversial saudi committee. It is preposterous to argue that moon-sighting mentioned in the ahadith is not astronomical but arbitrary consensus. Even Tirmidhi stated it was only the view of “a few” scholars who interpreted the hadith in this manner (to mean follow the majority rather than sight the moon). It is strange to see that the author takes this view as the established view of scholars which is actually to the contrary and this view is a minority view. It is a “fact” that Moon is an astronomical object. Sighting it is about astronomical science. This is the only basis of any reasonable argument.

    One can genuinely argue about the difference of opinons on the basis of interpreting the “seeing” as literal (seeing with naked eye) or figurative (to simply implying achieving of certainty of knowledge). However no argument can be validly considered for an unreasonable basis of denying moon sighting as non-astronomical phenomenon. This is ignorance and a sign of blind following.

    How can one even consider the claims of moon sighting in the absence of moon as has been the track record of so called saudi committee decisions in recent times. They have repeatedly established themselves to be non-competent about the scientific methods and progress of this field. Furthermore they have also proved themselves to be completely ignorant and careless of the world wide pain and grief they cause due to their bad decisions. It was only last year they changed the date[url]http://www.hizbululama.org.uk/highlights/1433ah/muharram/Announcement.pdf[/url] after six days of official start of Muharram. This has happened many times before. In Dec 1996 the date of hajj was changed after three days of official announcement of dhul hijja.

  5. Follow Sunnah
    I agree with Abu Musa’s Comments. Our role model Prophet Muhammad ( sallallaahu alaihiwasallam ) had given clear guidance about this. Either you see moon or complete thirty days of Ramzaan. Thats it. No need of looking for other methods. As I believe Ramzaan is not astronomical month but Muslim month and Eid is not astronomical or scientific festival but Muslim festival.

  6. Follow Sunnah
    I agree with Abu Musa’s Comments. Our role model Prophet Muhammad ( sallallaahu alaihiwasallam ) had given clear guidance about this. Either you see moon or complete thirty days of Ramzaan. Thats it. No need of looking for other methods. As I believe Ramzaan is not astronomical month but Muslim month and Eid is not astronomical or scientific festival but Muslim festival.

  7. Not Funny
    I am sorry but I did not get the joke. The subject of this e-mail scared me. I thought it was some terrible disease and how can NHS ignore it.
    Don’t do this again, some of us are old and already suffering from amnesia.

  8. It is all well and good to say that the Muslims in the UK should unite and follow or create their own council – but those who say this live far away from the realities of what is going in Britian and the deep underlying sectarianism and political divisions that we have. As things stand, it will be a long time before this happens – if it ever does. Wa Allahu alam

    With regards to the Eid problem – the Imams of massajid, and local shayookh know there is a problem here (and has been for many years) – and in fact, one of the ways that they try and solve it is by following Saudi because it seems to be a simple way to have a form of unity. Even the Acadamy in Leic. this year followed Saudi to lessen the fitnah – which is a bold move on behalf of Sheikh Saleem – however, even amongst his own students, there were those that did it on a different day.

    Suliman Ghani has been trying for years to convince mosques to go sight the moon for themselves or set up a committee – he is finding it extremely hard to get mosques on his side – and this year, he was amongst the very few mosques that did Eid on the Wed.

    No offence – but living in the clouds and saying that we need to unite is not only a wasted statement and useless – unless some real progressive steps are made in this area by the Imams of major mosques. Until then, following Saudi will be the best approach.

    We ask Allah (swt) to unite the Muslims

  9. Moon
    Following Makkah for Moonsighting is unfortunately a flawed answer & this is the cause of so many households celebrating Eid on different days. Shaykh Bin Baz, Shakyh Uthaymeen (May Allah have Mercy upon them) both favour LOCAL sighting & issued fatwas NOT to follow Saudi Moonsighting; this fatwa is including Eid ul Adha. (See the 1st URL below).

    Muslims in the UK should set up a local Moonsighting committee & revive the Sunnah to seek the Moon on the 29th of each Islamic Month. I agree in the UK its unlikely we will see the Moon on the 29th , but its a neglected Sunnah in the UK.

    Let the Shaykhs in the UK come together & AGREE to follow either Morocco (nearest Muslim nation) or any other sensible criteria but when the 9 Hilal committes in Saudia say they did NOT see the Moon & the whole world says you could not have seen the Moon in Saudia on xyz night then let us not follow desires & actually take note of what is being highlighted.

    Eid will ALWAYS be celebrated on different days globally but within a locality Eid should not be on different days. It is really tragic major newspapers in the UK are now writing articles saying Eid ul Fitr was celebrated on the wrong day (see last two links below).

    I leave you with a quote of my Imam who tells me Abdullah Bin Masood (RA)said “Follow the Truth even if its only you following the truth”

    May Allah (SWT) unite the UK Muslims & the Ummah, help us overlook our differences & increase our knowledge which is of benefit. Ameen.

    http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/showthread.php?48926-Fatawa-on-moonsighting-of-Shaikh-ibn-al-Uthaymeen-Shaikh-bin-Baz-amp-Shaikh-al-Qaradaw

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/05/astronomers-query-ramadan-end

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/the-fast-and-the-furious-muslims-are-told-ramadan-is-not-over-yet-2346566.html

  10. Confused
    Eid on Friday or Saturday? Is this an old article?

    Ws

  11. Cloud cover
    If Saudi had clouds in the sky on the 29th night – and they couldnt see the new moon (even though it was there) – they would have to fast an extra day – because that is what the advice of the prophet (saw) was. However, Egypt, next door to Saudi geographically, which has its own council that goes to look for the new moon saw it on the 29th night (they had a clear night) – and therefore, they called Eid the following day.
    Either Saudi decides to accept Egypt’s call – say they believe in taking from far off places – or they fast an extra day. Nothing really wrong with that right?

  12. interesting take on this issue. but what wud happen i wonder if saudi announces eid after the completion of 30 days in ramadhan and muslims in other parts of the world sight the new moon after 29 days.

  13. re Sultan
    Salam alaykum, br Sultan, try ro rise above petty matters and actually contribute. Of course the material are similar, the issue is the same, and there is a link to the end of the article to Sh Haitham’s article.
    In addition this article addresses what actually happened this eid, i.e, posted after eid, just to remind everyone of how the sad spectacle is and to urge for a united Eid

  14. mmm………………….suspicious!
    Isn’t this article a regurgitation of Shaykh Haitham Al Haddad’s video?

  15. why has this become such a big problem??

  16. Good article…
    Overall good article, however, a few points:

    1. What would be the problem of having a ‘moon sighting committee’ in Britain?

    2. “Sighting of the moon over the skies of London is far fetched with low visibility and cloud cover”. This point is extremely weak as the Prophet 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.’(Agreed upon). Thus from the hadith, we have a solution to ‘low visibility and cloud cover’.

    3. “Following the Asian sub-continent or the nearest Muslim country, Morroco, makes little sense if you don’t happen to be from those countries or have no ethnic attachment to them”. I agree that people who live in Britain shouldn’t follow the Sub Asian continent, but the argument of ethnicity as a refutation does not hold any weight. On could argue the same thing for one who is not Saudi (which constitutes most British Muslims).

    4. “…images of the Tarawih prayer beginning in Makkah, Muslims in the UK automatically rejoice at the beginning of Ramadan and begin to spread Ramadan greetings. That will never change”. Why not? If it is agreed that everybody will follow a committee in the UK, why wouldn’t the general populace follow them?

    5. “Already around two thirds of Muslims in the UK follow the Makkah announcement” – according to who? Is this a factual statement or a subjective opinion? If it is factual, who carried out the research?

    6. “Within two to three years the month of Ramadan will fall in the British summer time where there is no clear distinction between Esha (twilight) and Fajr (daybreak). I believe simply that we would ‘complete the counting of Sha’ban as thirty days’.

    7. “We will then be faced with a challenge which dwarfs the issue of when to celebrate Eid, and that is what time do we actually start fasting?!” We would possibly follow the closest country as has been suggested by the ulama by way of qiyas (when a country does not have a sun setting).

    My aim is not to refute the article but to demonstrate that although there may be problems, they are not fundamental nor unsolvable. Any argument presented in this debate must be water tight, so to make sure all parties agree so that nobody has a convincing counter opinion. A good article making beneficial points.
    And Allah knows best.

  17. White house ***
    if they did things according to Quran and sunnah. Sadly it seems they do things to please other than the God that is above them. rather the follow the *** who lives in white house. We have overwhelming proof for that. It is not hidden from anyone now.

    *** edited for inappropriateness

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