Sunday, July 31, 2011

Moon sighting – Distinguishing between nationalism, political allegiance & fiqh (jurisprudence)

The following is an updated version of an article that was published previously about this topic. 

Allah (swt) says:

“Whoever witnesses the crescent of the month, he must fast the month." [TMQ 2:185]

Today, the matter of when to begin the month of Ramadhan and when to celebrate the day of Eid ul-Fitr is a subject of controversy, dispute and debate the world over. In many countries such as those in the west or the Indian sub-continent Muslims begin the month of fasting on different days, this variance often exists in the same country, city, locality, community and even within families. In some places like India in most years there are even three different days where people begin the blessed month.

To get to the strongest Islamic view on this subject we have to put our emotions, national, tribal, political or even scholarly allegiances aside and sincerely study the reality of the subject, the Islamic evidences that apply to this reality and commentary of the respected Mujtahideen and jurists upon this issue.

This article will explain the reality of the lunar month, the evidences from the Islamic sources of law and the opinion of respected Islamic scholars throughout history and will prove that in most cases today the differences that exist are not based on valid juristic differences (ikhtilaf) but rather on un-Islamic bases such as nationalism, tribalism or blind allegiance.

The reality (maanat) of the lunar cycles & astronomical new moon

A lunar calendar is one that is based on cycles of the lunar phase. What is known as a lunar phase or phase of the moon is the appearance of the illuminated (lighted) portion of the Moon as seen by an observer on Earth. The lunar phases change cyclically as the Moon orbits the Earth, according to the changing relative positions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. One half of the lunar surface is always illuminated by the Sun (except during lunar eclipses), and hence is bright, but the portion of the illuminated hemisphere that is visible to an observer can vary from 100% (full moon) to 0% (new moon).

Allah, Almighty the creator of the sun and the moon said:

“They ask you about the crescents. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in the affairs of men and for pilgrimage.” [TMQ 2:189]

The moon orbits around the earth in a predictable way and the earth orbits the sun in a predictable way. From earth we see the moon appearing at the beginning of a lunar month as a crescent, then gradually increasing day by day until it becomes a full moon in the middle of the month and then gradually wanes, the crescent gets thinner and thinner until it vanishes and the new month begins. People refer to this vanishing of the moon by using the term ‘the Astronomical New Moon’, or ‘the invisible New Moon’, this is the moment when the moon is almost directly between the earth and the sun. At this moment the moon’s dark surface faces the earth. Therefore it is completely invisible even if it occurs in the middle of the night. The Astronomical New Moon occurs every 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds. The date and time of this invisible New Moon is commonly found in almanacs, newspapers and calendars.

The obligation to begin Ramadhan & Eid based on sighting

The final Prophet and Messenger to mankind our master, Muhammad (saw) described to us the Hijri lunar month and gave us specific instructions as to when to begin the month of Ramadhan. He (saw) did not order us to begin the month of fasting with the birth of the astronomical new moon but rather instructed us to look for the new crescent moon on the twenty-ninth night and begin Ramadhan if it is sighted or otherwise to complete thirty days.

Bukhari reported on the authority of Ibnu Omar (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "The month consists of 29 nights, so do not fast till you have sighted it (i.e. the new moon), and if the weather were cloudy, then complete it as thirty days."

In the narration of Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "The month of Ramadhan may consist of twenty-nine days. So do not fast until you have sighted it (the new moon) and do not break fast, until you have sighted it (the new moon of Shawwal), and if the sky is cloudy for you, then complete it (thirty days)."

Bukhari and Muslim reported on the authority of Abdullah Ibnu Omar (may Allah be pleased with them) that the Messenger of Allah (saw) mentioned Ramadhan and said: "Do not fast till you see the new moon, and do not break fast till you see it; but if the weather is cloudy complete it (thirty days)."

Muslim also reported on the authority of Abdullah Ibnu Omar (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw) made mention of Ramadhan and with a gesture of his hand said: "The month is thus and thus. (He then withdrew His thumb at the third time indicating 29). He then said: Fast when you see it, and break your fast when you see it, and if the weather is cloudy do calculate it (the months of Shaban and Shawwal) as thirty days."

Muslim also reported on the authority of Abdullah Ibnu Omar that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “The month of Ramadhan may consist of twenty-nine days; so when you see the new moon observe fast and when you see (the new moon again at the commencement of the month of Shawwal) then break it, and if the sky is cloudy for you, then calculate it (and complete thirty days)."

These Ahadith are clear and unequivocal, in them the Messenger of Allah (saw) orders us to fast when the sighting of the new moon of Ramadhan is confirmed, and orders us to stop fasting and make Eid when the sighting of the new moon of Shawwal is confirmed; these orders are binding and their violation is a sinful act just like the abandoning of any other duty or the committing of an unlawful act.

In Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) the sighting of the moon is thus referred to as the Sabab (cause) for beginning of the month of fasting. Al-Sabab is defined as a sign the presence of which necessitates the existence or application of a Hukm (ruling) and that which, if absent, necessitates an absence of that Hukm. It is not as some confuse the reason (‘illah) behind the legislation of the rule, so the reason why we fast is not because of the moon, we fast as a worship (ibadah) however we begin the month of fasting when the moon is sighted or if not sighted upon the completion of thirty days.

Using Calculations

What some governments in the Muslim world practice and what some Muslims in the west have started  doing  in pre-determining the month based on the calculation of the astronomical new moon or the possibility of sighting the moon is a clear violation of the of the command of the seal of the Prophets, Muhammad (saw).

We cannot substitute the actual sighting of the moon, as the aforementioned texts mention  “ru’yatehe”(sighting) specifically. All these Ahadith connected to the sighting of the moon contain this Arabic word “ru’yatehe” which is derived from the word “ra’a”. People who support the idea of calculating the birth of the moon for Ramadan misuse the word “ra’a”. While the word ra’a could mean knowledge, it is not correct to apply this meaning here because of the following reasons:

1. Ra’a, when referring to a single object, means to visualize that object through the eye, i.e. he saw the moon. However, if ra’a refers to two objects, it could mean to know, i.e. he knew the correct opinion.

2. If ra’a is used in reference to a tangible object, it means to visualize the object through the eye. However, if it is used to present an idea or an abstract thing, then it could mean knowledge. Thus, since the Ahadith refer to the moon, which is a tangible object, ra’a here means to visualize sight.

Umar (ra) reported that the Prophet (saaw) said: (in translation): “We are ummiyah (unlettered) people, we neither write nor calculate. The month is this way and that, sometimes 29 days and sometimes 30.”

Those who have substituted the sighting for pre-calculating the month say that the command in this Hadith, i.e. to sight the moon, is accompanied by a reason (‘illah) which justifies the command. This justification being that the Ummah was unlettered (“We neither write nor calculate”). The ruling in terms of its validity goes only as far as its justification. If the Ummah has emerged from its “unlettered state” and is able to write and calculate, it becomes essential to rely on calculation alone. However, this argument is incorrect due to the following:

1. The description of the Ummah in this Hadith, “Ummiyah”, does not imply an illah (legal reason). “Ummiyah” could mean “Arab”. [TMQ 62:2]. “We neither naktub (write) nor nahsib (calculate)...” “Nahsib” in the Hadith carries several meanings such as: we do not use astronomical calculations to determine the legal Shari’i beginning and end of the month; nor do we practice astrology, etc. “Nahsib” does not mean general calculations because Muslims are commanded by the Shar’iah to follow the laws of Zakah, inheritance etc. which  does  involve extensive calculations.

The claim that the Hadith describes the condition of the Ummah at the time of the Prophet (saw) is false. Further, the claim that this condition serves as an illah is also preposterous.

2. Furthermore , even if this “condition” is considered an illah (reason), Qiyas (analogy) on this issue is invalid. Firstly, there can be no Qiyas in Ibadaat (ritual worships). Secondly, it contradicts the definite meaning in texts of the numerous Ahadith which clearly illustrate that the “sabab” (cause) for fasting is the sighting of the moon (like the setting of the sun is the sabab for maghrib prayer).

Therefore, it is quite clear that the arguments presented to justify the beginning of Ramadan through the use of calculations are invalid and haram. The only way to determine the arrival of Ramadan is through sighting the moon.

Referring to the hadith, “and if the weather were cloudy, then complete it as thirty days." Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said, “This (completing thirty days of Sha’ban) is an indication that we should not refer to calculations or astronomy. The Prophet guided us to completing thirty days of Sha’ban while he could have guided us to consider other means that enable us to know the beginning of the astronomical month”.

In the Tafseer of Imam Al-Qurtabi, Ibn Nafi'e (ra) reported that Imam Malik bin Anas (ra) said: "If you see an Imam who does not begin and end fasting by way of sighting, but begins fasting by calculation, he should not be followed in prayer or emulated." The renowned scholar Ibn Al'Arabi said, "Some of our people erred when they reported that Imam Shaf'i relied on calculations." Ibn Al-'Arabi commented, "The report is baseless and false."

There is however no harm in using the calculations to help determine the appropriate time to start monitoring the new moon.

Local or Global Sighting?

The command of fasting and ending the month of fasting in the Ahadith mentioned earlier is general: "Do not fast till you see it and do not break fast till you see it," "Do fast when you it is sighted and break fast when it is sighted." The verb
صوموا  Soomu’ ‘Do fast’ is in the plural form includes all Muslims all over the world. Furthermore, the word  لرؤيتهRu’yatehe’ 'sighting' has also come in a general form: "When it is sighted" or "If it is sighted."; this means that it includes any sighting, and it does not merely apply to the person who sights the new moon, nor does it specifically apply only to the people of a specific  country, for the address which orders the fast and the breaking of the fast is general and comprehensive, as is the address concerning the sighting, therefore, the rule is undoubtedly general.

The command is not for individual Muslims to sight the moon and then begin fasting or to make Eid based upon their personal sighting. Even the Prophet (saw) used to begin fasting when he had not personally seen the moon but a Muslim had reported to him that they had seen it. Ibn Umar (ra) reported, "During the time of the Prophet (saw), the companions went looking for the new crescent. So I told the Prophet (saw) that I saw it. So he fasted and told the companions to fast." [Abu Dawud & Hakim]

Therefore, the command of fasting and of breaking the fast when the new moon is sighted is a command which addresses all Muslims all over the world. So for example if the new moon was sighted in Rabat on Friday night, and was not sighted in Jakarta on Friday night but on Saturday night, the people of lndonesia must act upon the sighting of the new moon in Morocco, they must therefore begin the fast on Friday if the new moon was that of Ramadhan; if they did not fast that day they should compensate for that day because the obligation to fast has been confirmed by the sighting of the new moon by any Muslim anywhere in the world. Also, if the new moon was that of Shawwal, they should break their fast when news about the sighting reaches them even if they did not sight it themselves, for the moment the sighting is confirmed, they must break their fast, and it would be sinful for them to continue fasting.

Therefore, the Shari'ah rule states that if the people of one country sighted the new moon, it would be exactly as if all the Muslims have sighted it as well, therefore they should all fast if it is the new moon of Ramadhan, and they should all break fast if it is the new moon of Shawwal. This is the rule of Allah (swt) according to the Shari'ah texts.

During the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (saw), the Muslims used to begin the fast on the same day and break it on the same day despite the fact that they lived in different areas, and this serves as another Shari'ah evidence that the sighting of the new moon in one area obliges all the Muslims to fast together on the same day and break fast together on the same day.

Many of the classical scholars have stated this view[1], the following are a selection:

The famous Hanafi scholar Imam Sarkhasi (died 483 AH) in Al-Mabsoot quotes the narration from Abu Dawud (2333, 2334):

حَدِيثُ عِكْرِمَةَ عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى عَنْهُ { أَنَّ النَّاسَ أَصْبَحُوا يَوْمَ الشَّكِّ عَلَى عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَدِمَ أَعْرَابِيٌّ وَشَهِدَ بِرُؤْيَةِ الْهِلَالِ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : أَتَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ فَقَالَ : نَعَمْ فَقَالَ : صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ يَكْفِي الْمُسْلِمِينَ أَحَدُهُمْ فَصَامَ وَأَمَرَ النَّاسَ الصِّيَامِ وَأَمَرَ مُنَادِيًا فَنَادَى أَلَا مَنْ كَانَ أَكَلَ فَلَا يَأْكُلَنَّ بَقِيَّةَ يَوْمِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَأْكُلْ فَلْيَصُمْ }
That the Muslims did not begin fasting since they did not see the moon. Then a man, from out of Madinah, came and told the Prophet (saaw) that he had seen it (the moon). The Prophet (saaw) asked him if he was a Muslim to which the man answered in the affirmative. The Prophet (saaw) then said: “Allahu-Akbar! one is enough for all Muslims” The Prophet (saw) fasted and asked the people to stop eating and start fasting. [Al-Mabsout by Imam Sarkhasi; 3-52]

There is also a variation of this narration from Ibn Abbas: “An Arab came to the Prophet (saw) and said: ‘I saw the Hilaal (of Ramadhaan)’ He (saw) said: ‘Do you bear witness that Laa Ilaaha illa Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger?’ He said ‘Yes’ So The Prophet (saw) said: ‘Get up and announce to the people that we are fasting tomorrow’.” It was narrated by Ibn Khuzaimah (1923) and Ibn Hibbaan, An Nisaa’i, At Tirmidhi and Ibn Abi Shaibah. Al Haakim and Adh Dhahabi verified it as Saheeh.

In fact the Hanafi school of thought strongly argues against any other view. This position can be found in the books of many of its scholars and its fiqh manuals. 

Imam Kasanee  in Bada as-Sana’i
said that following other than one sighting for the whole Ummah is Bid’a (innovation). This indicates how weak he felt that the other Ijtihad was.

Imam Hafizud-deen an-Nasafi (died. 537 AH) has discussed it in Al-Bahr ar-ra’iq sharh kanz al-daqaíq. [Vol. 6, p.180]

The Hanafi fiqh manual Durr al-Mukhtar states: "If people living in the West sight the moon, it becomes obligatory for the people living in the East to act on that." [Durr al-Mukhtar, Vol. 1, p. 149]

Imam al-Juzairi in first volume of Fiqh al Madhahib al Arba’a (The Fiqh of the four schools of thought) gives two views of the Hanafi’s regarding this: 1) The sighting of the moon by any Muslim should be accepted whether slave, free, man or woman without inquiring whether they are just or not, 2) The justness should be verified by a Qadi (judge).

Fiqhul Ibadat of the Maliki’s also states that it is obligatory to follow the sighting of the crescent moon by any Muslim regardless if they are close,  or far away from you :
فقة العبادات المالكى 1/305
 يجب الصوم ويعم سائر الأقطار إذا ثبت الهلال بقطر منها لا فرق بين القريب والبعيد من جهة الثبوت ولا عبرة باختلاف المطالع مطلقا

Even more contemporary scholars like the founding and well known scholars of the Deobandi and Barelvi movements of the Indian subcontinent have clearly stated this as the correct view in their Fatawa. It is unfortunate that today many who claim to follow them ignore following this hukm.

The co-founder of Dar al-Uloom Deoband, Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi said: “If the people of Calcutta sighted the moon in Friday, whereas it was sighted in Makkah on Thursday itself, but the people of Calcutta did not know of it (the sighting on Thursday); then whenever they come to know of this, it will be obligatory for them to celebrate eid with the people of Makkah and make up (Qada’) for the first fasting.” [Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, Sharh Tirmizi (Explanation of Tirmizi), Kaukab un Durri, p. 336 Urdu edition].

“Wherever the sighting is confirmed, however far  away  it may be, even if it were to be thousands of miles; the people of this place will have to abide by that.” [Fatawa Dar ul Uloom Deoband, Vol. 6 p. 380, Urdu edition]

“Question: There has been some dispute in Amritsar etc. regarding sighting of moon for Ramdhan and Eid ul fitr. So should we the residents of Mandla (CP), which is located very far off, follow that sighting or not?
Answer: In the maslak of Hanafiyyah, there is no consideration of Ikhtilaf al Matale’ (difference in sighting); the sighting of the people of east is binding upon the people of the west and vice versa. This is also demanded by the hadith (soomoo li ru iyatihi we aftaroo li ru iyatihi) “Fast when it is sighted and stop fasting when it is sighted”, because the address ‘soomoo’ and ‘aftaroo’ is ‘aam (general) and for everyone. In conclusion, when sighting is confirmed in whichever place, everyone is supposed to start his fast and break it in accordance with it, i.e when the sighting is confirmed.” [Fatawa Dar ul Uloom Deoband, Vol 6 p. 385 & 386, Urdu edition]

“Irrespective of how far the news of sighting came from, it is to be relied upon. For instance if the people of Burma did not sight the moon, and a person from Bombay testifies to them of having sighted the moon; it will be incumbent upon the people of Burma to make up for the (first) fasting i.e. Qada’.” [Mufti Kifayat ullah, Ta’leem ul Islam, vol. 4, section sighting of moon: Urdu edition]

“When the moon is sighted in one place it is not just for that region but for the entire world.” [Maulana Amjad Ali, Bahar e Sharee’at, Vol 2 p. 108, Urdu edition]

The founder of the Barlevi's said: “In the correct and authentic mazhab of our Imams, with regard to the sighting of moon for Ramdhan and eid, distance of the place of sighting is of no consideration. The sighting of the east is binding upon west and vice versa i.e. the sighting of west is similarly binding on east.” [Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan, Fatawa Rizwi; Vol 4 p. 568, Urdu edition]

If we scrutinise the various arguments that are utilised to attempt to prove the following of a local sighting or the sighting of a particular place, they can be summarized in the following:

1- The first argument: They claim that to each people living in one country their sighting, for each people should follow their own times just like the times of prayer; this is why they said: The precept lies in the Matali', i.e. the time of rising (of celestial bodies). In answer to this claim we say the following: The times of prayer are subject to their scheduled times and these are different even in the one region, for the signs which the Shari'ah has specified would occur at different times; as far as fasting is concerned, this difference also applies at the time of Imsak (beginning of fast) at dawn and at the time of Iftar (end of fast) just after sunset, this is so because the text has indicated this difference: Allah (swt) says:

"And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread; Then complete your fast until the night appears" [TMQ 2:187]

The Imsak and the Iftar times differ from one place to another just like the times of prayer, which also differ from place to place, this difference happens in the one single day, however, the beginning of the month of fasting must begin on the same day all over the whole world, and the difference occurs only in the parts of the single day. This is what the texts of the Ahadith have clearly indicated; and this is what is confirmed by the understanding deduced from the Shari'ah rule. The difference in the rise of the new moon between the farthest two points in the world does not exceed twelve hours; and the classical Mujtahids are excused for not understanding this deduction from the Shari'ah rule, for at the time, they were not in a position to clearly realise the movements of the earth, sun and the new moon. And now that the deduction made from the rule is understood, there are no pretexts or excuses left for those who claim that the difference in the time of rising could exceed one day, let alone those who claim that it could be even a few days. Therefore, the month of fasting begins for the Islamic Ummah all over the world on the same day and the end of the month of fasting and the beginning of Eid also occurs on the same day for all the Islamic Ummah all over the world.

2 – The second argument: That people should follow the announcement of the Saudi Arabian government, some especially those supported by the corrupt Saudi regime espouse this view and play on the emotion of Muslims due to the presence of the two holy mosques in Makkah and Medina . Of course if Muslims in Saudi Arabia search for the moon on the 29th night and sight it, the rest of the Muslims globally should accept this and begin Ramadhan or make Eid, however according to the shariah evidences the Muslims in Saudi Arabia must equally accept the sighting of Muslim anywhere in the world whether in Pakistan, Indonesia or Iran regardless of the Saudi governments official announcement.

Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, the classical literalist (Zahiri) scholar often referred to by the Salafi clerics in Saudi Arabia concluded: "To summarize: a person who learns about the sighting of the moon in good time to be able to utilise it for fasting, for ending his fast, or for sacrifice, he must definitely do so. The texts [of Islam] and the reports about the Salaf point to this. To limit this to a certain distance or country would contradict both the reason and the Shar` (Islamic law)." [Al-Fatawa, volume 5, page 111]

Even the most famous Salafi scholar of the twentieth century, Sheikh Nasir ud-Deen al-Albani espoused the view that the global sighting must be taken, he explained the term in the hadith,
صوموا لرؤيته ... "  “Do fast when you it is sighted,” was general to all Muslims irrespective of locality. [Al-Silsilah as-Saheeh, Vol 6, p. 123]

Some try to use the argument about the ‘obedience to the Imam of the Muslims’ in relation to Saudi Arabia, this has no basis whatsoever as is clearly established currently Saudi Arabia is not an Islamic state, its economy is based on Riba, it is a corrupt un-Islamic monarchy that openly allies with America. Thus its ruler is definitely not the Khalifah or Ameer of the believers.  It is true that when the Islamic state is re-established that the Khalifah of the Muslims will organise the congregational rituals and will declare the beginning of Ramadhan and Eid after ascertaining the sighting of the moon.  

3 – The third argument: Some argue that the ruling of following one global sighting is impractical due to the time difference that exists in the world, where if the moon was sighted in one part of the world it is conceivable that another part may have already passed the time of fajr prayer. In answer to this we must realize that that no two places in the world are more than a day apart i.e. twenty four hours so we exist within the same time frame. We have an answer from the hadith on what we should do if the news was to reach us late.

It is also reported in a Saheeh hadith: Abu ‘Umayr ibn Anas reported from his paternal uncles among the Ansaar who said: “It was cloudy and we could not see the new moon of Shawwaal, so we started the day fasting, then a caravan came at the end of the day and told the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that they had seen the new moon of Shawwaal the day before, so he told the people to stop fasting, and they went out to pray the Eid prayer the next day.” [Reported by the five. It is sahih; al-Irwaa’, 3/102, Abu Dawud 1153]

4 – The fourth argument: There are those who say we should stick to what the majority of people are practicing, they misquote Islamic evidences about “Holding on to the Jama’a (collective)”, they misinterpret these to mean the ‘Jumhoor’ (majority). It is true that Islam has obliged sticking to the jama'ah of Muslims under an Imam (Khalifah) not to the majority.

Al-Bukhari narrated about Bisr ibn Obaydellah al-Hadhrami that he heard Abu Idrees al-Khoolani say that he heard Huthaifah ibn al-Yaman saying: "The people used to ask the Prophet of Allah (saw) about the good and I used to ask him about the bad in fear that it might catch me. So I said: O Prophet of Allah! We were in times of jahilliyah and mischief then Allah brought us this good, so is there any mischief after this good? He (saw) said: Yes. I said: Will there be any good after that mischief? He said: Yes, and it has smoke. I said: What is its smoke? He said: (Some) people guide without any guidance, you recognise some (from them) and deny some. I said: Will there be a mischief after that good? He said: Yes, (some) people who invite at the doors of hell, whoever accepted their invitation they throw him in it (hell). I said: O Prophet of Allah, describe them to us. He said: They are of our own skin (of our people) and talk our language. I said: What do you order me to do if that (matter) caught me? He said: Adhere to the jama'ah of Muslims and their Imam. I said: What if the Muslims have no jama'ah nor an Imam? He said: Then you abandon all those groups, even if you have to grab with your teeth the trunk of a tree till death comes to you as such."

This hadith is clear in its expression that the Prophet (saw) orders Muslims to adhere to the jama'ah of Muslims and to adhere to their Imam, and to leave those who invite people to the doors of hell. When the questioner asked him that in case the Muslims have no Imam and no jama'ah what he has to do in regard with those who call at the doors of hell, the Prophet (saw) ordered him to abandon these groups, not to disassociate himself from the Muslims nor to abstain from the action for establishing an Imam. So his order is clear, disassociate yourself from all those groups, and he emphasised the dissociation of those groups even to the extent that his isolation from them would make him clench to the trunk of a tree until death comes to him. It means adhere to your deen by staying away from the misleading callers who are at the doors of hell. In this hadith there is no excuse or permission (for anybody) to abandon the work for establishing a Khaleefah, it is, rather, confined to the command of adhering to the deen and abandoning the callers at the doors of hell, and the sin will remain on him if he does not work to establish a Khaleefah. So he is ordered to abandon the misleading groups in order to save his deen from the callers of the misguidance, even if he had to clench to the trunk of a tree, but not to distance himself from the Muslim community and abandon the work for establishing the laws of the deen and establishing an Imam for Muslims.

The concept of following the majority rather than the Islamic verdict is not based on evidence from the Quran and Sunnah and contradicts many evidences about enjoining the good and forbidding the evil even in the face of hardship, the Prophet (saw) said: "The master of martyrs (sayyid al-shuhada) is Hamza, and a man who stands up to a tyrant ruler and gives him nasiha (advice). And so the ruler kills him".

If the concept of following the majority existed then Abu Hanifah would not have imposed the killing a Muslim in retaliation for killing of a dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen), Imam Malik would not have allowed praying the Salah with the hands beside the side of the body, Imam Shafi’ would not have accepted the testimony of the individual, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal would have succumbed to the view of the Mu’tazilla about the Quran being created rather than vehemently opposing it and facing hardship even by the Khalifah at his time. They understood the statement of Ibn Masud (ra): “The Jama’a is Haq (truth) even if it is one person”.

5- The fifth argument: This one is the only one that is based on shubhat daleel (semblance of an evidence) and thus is a weak but legitimate ijtihad
for those who actually follow it sincerely.  Some of Shafi’ school held the view of following a local sighting of the moon based upon a narration reported by Muslim on the authority of Kurayb who reported that Umm-ul-Fadhl Bintu-l-Harith sent him to Mu'awiya in Al-Sham; he said: “I arrived in Al-Sham and did business for her (Umm-ul-Fadhl Bintu-l-Harith). It was there in Al-Sham that the month of Ramadhan commenced. I saw the new moon of Ramadhan on Friday. I then came back to Madina at the end of the month, Abdullah Ibnu Abbas (R) asked me about the new moon of Ramadhan and said: "When did you see it? I said: We saw it on the night of Friday, He said: Did you see it yourself? I said: Yes, and the people also saw it and observed the fast and Mu'awiya also observed the fast; whereupon he said: But we saw it on Saturday night. Some would continue to observe fast till we complete thirty (fasts) or we see it (the new moon of Shawwal). I said: Is the sighting of the moon by Mu'awiya not valid for you? He said: No, this is how the Messenger of Allah (saw) has commanded us."

They claimed that the beginning of fasting and Eid may vary, use this Hadith as evidence; they argue that Ibn Abbas ignored the sighting of the people of Al-Sham and said at the end of the Hadith: This is how the Messenger of Allah (saw) has commanded us. This indicated that Ibn Abbas learnt from the Messenger of Allah (saw) that the people of one region are not obliged to act upon the sighting of another region; they also argue that this Hadith serves as a specification and an explanation of the Hadith of the sighting. They therefore claimed that the people of each region are commanded to act upon the sighting of the new moon in their region only and not in other regions, thus the beginning of fast and the beginning of Eid vary from one region to another and according to the times of rising.

The answer to this claim lies in the fact that this report is not a Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (saw) but the Ijtihad of a Sahabi, and the Ijtihad of the Sahabi is not comparable to the Hadith of the Prophet (saw). The fact that Ibn Abbas (ra) did not act upon the sighting of the people of Al-Sham reflects an Ijtihad and it cannot be used as a Shari'ah evidence; and besides, the Ijtihad is always nullified by the general Shari'ah evidence, thus the Hadith must be acted upon ahead of the Ijtihad which has to be abandoned. Furthermore, the Ijtihad of the Sahabi cannot specify the general term of the Hadith. As for the saying of Ibn Abbas at the end of the report: "This is how the Messenger of Allah (saw) commanded us.", it is not a Hadith but merely the way Ibnu Abbas understood the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (saw) in which he (saw) said: "Fast when you see it and break fast when you see it." This indicates that Ibn Abbas understood the Hadith as such; though he did not say: This is how the Messenger of Allah (saw) reported it, nor did he say: This is how we learnt it from the Messenger of Allah (saw), but he said: This is how the Messenger of Allah (saw) commanded us.

Imam Al-Shawkani explained the Hadith as follows, he wrote in his book Nayl-ul Awtar the following:
وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْحُجَّةَ إنَّمَا هِيَ فِي الْمَرْفُوعِ مِنْ رِوَايَةِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ لَا فِي اجْتِهَادِهِ الَّذِي فَهِمَ عَنْهُ النَّاسُ وَالْمُشَارُ إلَيْهِ بِقَوْلِهِ : " هَكَذَا أَمَرَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ " هُوَ قَوْلُهُ : فَلَا نَزَالُ نَصُومُ حَتَّى نُكْمِلَ ثَلَاثِينَ ، وَالْأَمْرُ الْكَائِنُ مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ هُوَ مَا أَخْرَجَهُ الشَّيْخَانِ وَغَيْرُهُمَا بِلَفْظِ : { لَا تَصُومُوا حَتَّى تَرَوْا الْهِلَالَ ، وَلَا تُفْطِرُوا حَتَّى تَرَوْهُ فَإِنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ ثَلَاثِينَ } وَهَذَا لَا يَخْتَصُّ بِأَهْلِ نَاحِيَةٍ عَلَى جِهَةِ الِانْفِرَادِ بَلْ هُوَ خِطَابٌ لِكُلِّ مَنْ يَصْلُحُ لَهُ مِنْ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

"I realise that the evidence is derived from the report of Ibnu Abbas and not from his Ijtihad (exertion) which people understood as such, and what is referred in his saying: "This is how the Messenger of Allah (saw) commanded us.", is his saying (i.e. Ibnu Abbas): So we are still fasting until we complete thirty days; and the command of the Messenger of Allah (saw) lies in the Hadith extracted by the two Sheikhs (i.e. Bukhari and Muslim) among others with the following wording: "Do not fast till you see the new moon and do not break fast till you see the new moon, and if the sky were cloudy, then complete it as thirty days." And this does not specifically apply for the people of one region to the exclusion of others but to all the Muslims." [Nayl ul- Awtar, volume 4, page 268]

Therefore, what Kurayb has reported does not qualify as a Hadith, but remains as it is, i.e. an opinion of Ibn Abbas; it does not qualify as evidence and cannot be used as such; it also cannot be used to specify the general term of a Hadith, i.e. the general evidence. Therefore this is a weak opinion.

Unfortunately today many who claim to follow this opinion do not actually follow it as when we scrutinize their actions the contradiction becomes apparent. For example, some in the Indian subcontinent refer to this hadith to justify the adherence to the declaration of their national moon sighting committee. Upon scrutiny the reality becomes clear, as they reject the sighting of Muslims in Pakistan even though it borders India and was one land before the division in 1947 yet they accept the sighting of Muslims in south India who are much further in distance from capital (Delhi) to Pakistan. If they were to actually follow the opinion based on the narration of Ibn Abbas, each region in India would have to follow their own sighting rather than a national committee based upon territorial lines drawn by the British. Similarly we see some Muslims in the west who claim to follow this opinion and then defer to following the sighting of the closest Muslim country like Morocco yet reject the sighting of Muslims in other countries, this is contradictory and not in accordance with the actual opinion of local sighting.

In many cases this is not an issue of juristic difference, it is more to do with power and allegiance to national/regional committees or governments.

The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “He is not one of us who calls for ‘asabiyyah, (nationalism) or who fights for ‘asabiyyah or who dies for ‘asabiyyah.” [Abu Dawud]

We should not begin fasting by the command of those Muftis who are more anxious to please the rulers rather than to please Allah (swt). Mu'az narrated: I said: O Messenger of Allah. What do you think if we had leaders who do not follow your Sunnah and do not adopt your order; in what do you order regarding their affair? The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “There is no obedience to the one who does not obey Allah 'azza wa jall.”

This is a serious matter and therefore must be taken as such, as has been elaborated the meaning established from evidence derived from the real meaning of the texts would stand, which implies that all the Muslims are commanded to fast when the new moon is sighted anywhere in the world as indicated by the clear-cut meaning of the Hadith of Allah's Messenger (saw): "Do fast when it is sighted."

And all the Muslims are commanded to break fast when the sighting of the new moon is confirmed in any part of the world, and to make that day their Eid day as clearly indicated in the Hadith of Allah's Messenger (saw): "Do break fast when it is sighted."

We should beware of the consequences of fasting on the day of Eid. Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that, “The Messenger of Allah (saw) forbade fasting on two days, the day of al-Adha and the day of al-Fitr”.

May Allah (swt) unite us soon under the shade of a rightly guided Khilafah.

Abu Ismael al-Beirawi

[1] A compilation the Arabic quotations from various scholars is available on: 


Anonymous said...

As-salaam Aa-Laikum.

Thanks for this wonderful article. I've shared this a number of people. In-spite of a number of efforts, I am unable to find online version of mentioned books:
1.[Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, Sharh Tirmizi (Explanation of Tirmizi), Kaukab un Durri, Urdu edition]
2.[Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan, Fatawa Rizwi; Vol 4, Urdu edition]

Please can you share if there is one with you.
JazakAllaah Khair

Islamic Revival said...

Salams, we got those quotes directly from the urdu print edition of those books and haven't seen them available online.

Anonymous said...

Salams! Why Are the ijtihad wrong which supports local sighting?

Anonymous said...

Asslam YA AI - May I have the Arabic versio... of this article?

Unknown said...

Abu Sabri said...

Jazakallahu khairan. It is one of the best articles I have read on the issue of Moonsighting..
We have discussed and debated and have come to the conclusion that ,if one comes to
know the moon has been sighted by a trustworthy person,we should accept.
There is the instance where the people of MADINAH were fasting and a caravan arrived
in the morning and they told the Prophet SALLALLAHU ALAIHI wa SALLAM that they
had seen the moon the previous night. He accepted it and BILAL RA to inform the people
to break the fast and he said that they would pray the next day as the time for Eid Prayer
was past. There are many instances . So we do not have any doubts about the sighting
of one being sufficient for everyone..Allah knows best

Unknown said...

As Salam alaikum
I cannot find page 385 in Fatawa Dar ul Uloom Deoband, Vol 6 p. 385 & 386, Urdu edition

Vol 6 has only 360 pages.
Please check and reply

Anonymous said...

To the people looking for the Fatawa Dar al-Ulum Deoband reference in the edition available online, then please note this seems to be a newer edition where some editing for brevity and clarity has been applied such that Amrtisar and Mandla are not mentioned but the editor has used "some places" to make the question more general.I tend to think this has improved rather than detracted from the book.

Anyhow, the reference to the moonsighting matter is in volume 6 on page 253 (page 254 of the pdf) under question 83.