Saturday, June 08, 2013

Q&A: Is it permitted to use Astronomical Calculations to determine the start of Ramadan?

Question:
Moon-sighting at the beginning of the lunar months is raised every year in our Islamic community in Ramadan. What is our position to those who say using the astronomical calculations is an alternative to sighting to prove the start of Ramadan? Is it only an outweigh opinion or rejected, which is batil (invalid)? In other words, can this evidence (shub'hat daleel) be understood in any other manner or not? And if it is a rejected opinion- as I understand- what is the Islamic judgement (Hukm) for their fast for those who follow this opinion? For your information there are many here in Australia and in other western countries and they are increasing.
And another issue, if it becomes clear to the fasting person that he made a mistake in sighting the moon, what shall he do? Is that not something of severity? And some who discussed this say that the fast based on the sighting of the hilal (crescent) is not practical, simply they attempt to sight the moon but cannot sight it, or they disagree in its sighting which causes a problem! What is the opinion on this issue? Today's calculation precisely determines the new moon; it then determines the sight possibility even if it not seen, so why not depend on calculations, since it makes the issue easier in the same manner we calculate prayer times.
Answer:
The fasting in Ramadan is dependent on the sighting of the moon according to the evidence related to it including:
«صُومُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ وَأَفْطِرُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، فَإِنْ غُبِّيَ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَكْمِلُوا عِدَّةَ شَعْبَانَ ثَلاَثِينَ»
"Fast at its sighting and break your fast at its sighting, and if it vanishes from your vision, then complete the period of Shaaban 30 days."
In regards to those who deem astronomical or lunar calculations as evidence and depend upon it, it is rejected and does not apply to the issue. Commonly referring to the following two:
First: The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
«إِنَّا أُمَّةٌ أُمِّيَّةٌ، لاَ نَكْتُبُ وَلاَ نَحْسُبُ، الشَّهْرُ هَكَذَا وَهَكَذَا»
"We are an illiterate nation; we neither write, nor know accounts. The month is like this and this." (Al Bukhari)
and this Hadith:
«إِنَّا أُمَّةٌ أُمِّيَّةٌ، لاَ نَكْتُبُ وَلاَ نَحْسُبُ، الشَّهْرُ هَكَذَا وَهَكَذَا»
"We are an illiterate nation; we neither write, nor know accounts. The month is like this and this." (Al Bukhari)
Although it contains the concept of illiteracy as noted by the word "illiterate" with some people understanding that as if it is an illah that since today's Ummah is literate then we are able to use calculation to determine the moon sighting for Ramadan. However this NOT the case as it is known in Usool principles since this description is suspended, because of the description (illiteracy) is often taken out of context, since the majority of the Arabs were illiterate at the Prophet's صلى الله عليه وسلم time, in addition to this understanding is suspended by a text which is this Hadith:
فإن غُمَّ عليكم فأكملوا العدّة ثلاثين البخاري
"and if it is hidden by clouds then complete thirty (days)"
And did not mention any conditions or restrictions that if sighting is not possible due to clouds, rain or any other reason preventing its sighting, thus the Hukm (Islamic ruling) determined the completion of a thirty-day month, even if the crescent exists although covered by clouds. Therefore one has to act according to the wording of the Hadith and not based on understanding the Hadith.
This is the reality of the conditions of acting according to the understanding in more than one case, it becomes suspended if it is taken out of context, or if a text suspended like:
وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ
"Do not kill your children out of fear of being poor."
(Al-Israa, 17:31)
so "out of fear of being poor" describes the concept that is fear of poverty, that was in general a description for the Arabs, who used to kill children from fear of poverty, therefore that understanding is suspended with the text,
وَمَنْ يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ
"As for anyone who kills a believer deliberately, his repayment is Hell"
(An-Nisaa, 4:93)
Therefore the understanding here will be suspended, it is not said that the Haram is when you kill your children fear of poverty while Halal during wealth! Rather it is Haram in both cases, whether in poverty or wealth, as stated in the following ayah:
لَا تَأْكُلُوا الرِّبَا أَضْعَافًا مُضَاعَفَةً
"Do not consume usury, doubled and multiplied"
(Al-Imran, 3:130)
thus 'doubled and multiplied' are a described concept, therefore the understanding is derived from the concept, who used to deal with riba (interest) doubled and multiplied, and that understanding was suspended by this text:
وَأَحَلَّ اللَّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا
"But Allah has permitted trade and He has forbidden usury."
(Al-Baqara, 2:275)
Therefore this understanding is suspended. It does not refer to the high interest as haram or the least amount that is permissible, rather all amounts of ribaa are haram due to the concept 'doubled and multiplied' is suspended as we stated.
So the concept of 'illiterate' is suspended as we explained; therefore if one was unable to sight the moon due to clouds or rain, then it becomes obligatory to complete 30 days of the month, whether or not we know how to calculate.
Secondly: Their statements regarding prayer times depend on calculation, therefore the time of fasting depends on calculation... and the answer to that:
Researchers (or anyone who follows the texts) can find that the evidences differ for fasting from those that are related to prayer, since fasting and breaking the fast is linked to this moonsighting:
مَنْ شَهِدَ مِنْكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ
"So whoever sights (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it"
صوموا لرؤيته وأفطروا لرؤيته
"Begin and end fasting when you sight the crescent"
so the sighting is the Hukm.
However, the texts concerning Salah are linked to verifying the time.
أقم الصلاة لدلوك الشمس
"Establish salat from the time the sun declines"
(Al-Israa, 17:78)
إذا زالت الشمس فصلَّوا
"If the sun remains then pray"
Thus the Salah depends on verifying the time, by any means to ensure the prayer time. So if you looked to the sun to see the time of the meridian/disappearance or if you looked to the shadow, then you will see the shadow of everything being the same or doubled in size, as it came in the Ahadith regarding prayer times. If you did this and verified, then your Salah is valid; and if you did not do that, but calculated it astronomically and learned the time of the meridian is at such and such time, and looked to your clock without going to see the sun or the shadow, then the Salah is valid. That is to verify the time using any means, why? Because Allah سبحانه وتعالى ordered you to pray when the time enters, it was left it up to you how to verify when it entered without specifying the manner of verification. As for fasting, He سبحانه وتعالى ordered you to fast by the sighting and specified for you the cause. Furthermore He سبحانه وتعالى said that if the clouds blocked your vision and you could not see, you should not fast even if the crescent existed behind the clouds and you were certain of its presence based on astronomical calculations.
This is our opinion on this issue. Thus the astronomical calculations are not permissible in designating the fast or its breaking of the fast for Ramadan, but rather the Shariah sighting.
-As for the fast of those who use astronomical calculations, if they fasted the days of Ramadan according to the sighting, then their fasting is valid. And if they missed a day of Ramadan according to the sighting, then they are responsible for it and must fast the day (as make up for the missing day).
This is what we are convinced of and we make it clear to people, and we do not use a stick to force people to follow our opinion, we clarify this using good means and proper wisdom to conclude this topic. So we do not make this issue grounds for conflict; instead we draw the straight line next to the crooked line, and Allah سبحانه وتعالى is the Guide to the straight path.
-Regarding the claim that sighting makes the issue difficult, then if a person fasts the month and then another person tells him that it is Eid... Likewise if he was not fasting on the first day of Ramadan and another person came to him and said the new moon was seen so it is Ramadan and in this manner, the issue became difficult for him.
And the answer to this is that the issue is easier than this, so if the Muslim fasts and breaks the fast according to the knowledge of the vision after he investigated it. So if he fasts and breaks his fast based on the non-sighting of the Crescent at his place, and then another person with more knowledge came and said the new moon was sighted, then he has to follow him which is clear from the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم. It was narrated by a group from Al-Ansar:
«غُمَّ علينا هلال شوّال فأصبحنا صياماً، فجاء ركب من آخر النهار فشهدوا عند النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنهم رأوا الهلال بالأمس، فأمرهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أن يفطروا ثُمَّ يخرجوا لعيدهم من الغد»
"The moon of Shawwal was hidden by the clouds so we woke up fasting, then at the end of the day there came riders they testified in front of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم that they saw the crescent the day before, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم ordered them to break their fast and then celebrate Eid the next day." (Ahmad)
In the past, it was difficult to receive news of the moon-sighting from one region to another, as it occurred with the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم when he was informed by a delegation arriving to Madinah during the day in which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Muslims were fasting because they did not see the crescent. Therefore, when the delegation informed the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم of the sighting of the crescent, the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم ordered the Muslims to break their fast, and that day was the last day of Ramadan. So the Messenger fasted the complete period because he صلى الله عليه وسلم was unable to sight the new moon in Madinah. So when the news of the sighting in another area reached them, he ordered to break the fast, because this was a day in Shawwal. In other words: Eid, and not a completion of the period of Ramadan.
This issue is not complicated. In every area - sighting is possible, and if they do not see the new moon and they do not receive reliable information of the sighting from another area, then they have to fast or break their fast. And if they receive news of the new moon sighting, they have to follow it, because the Hadith is a speech is for everyone (صوموا لرؤيته..). "fast at its sighting..."
Regarding your statement: They claim "it is not practical"; so why is it not practical?
If the people of Australia try to sight the new moon of Shawwal but do not see it, and they do not receive news of its sighting from another area, then they have to fast. If they receive news of the new moon sighting during the day, then they have to break the fast, because this is the day of Eid, as the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم did... And so forth.
Today, news arrives easily and without trouble... and therefore the issue of it being unpractical is not an argument for the Muslim, who wants to achieve correctness (al-Haqq) in his worship.
- As for determining the new moon using calculation, this is correct, whereas determining the possibility of the sighting, this is incorrect, because astronomers differ in determining the time period which it takes the new moon to become visible after sunset. Thereby in actuality, we do not fast or break the fast according to the new moon, but to its sighting, as the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم ordered us to do.
«صُومُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ وَأَفْطِرُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، فَإِنْ غُبِّيَ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَكْمِلُوا عِدَّةَ شَعْبَانَ ثَلاَثِينَ»
"Fast on its sighting and break the fast on its sighting, if its covered to you then complete the period of Shaaban with 30 days."
It is possible that the new moon of Ramadan is present but the clouds cover it and you are unable to see it, so we complete the period according to the text of Hadith, thus the time of fasting is by the sighting as defined in the evidences, if the time of the fasting like the time of Salah was without the condition by sighting then the determination of the time using calculation will be correct. However, the evidences for fasting are dependant on the sighting, and the evidence for Salah came for verifying the time without the requirement of sighting:
«إذا زالت الشمس فصلَّوا...»
"if the sun sets then pray..."
as we explained above.
20th Ramadan 1433 AH
8/8/2012 CE

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