hilal.jpgOut of all the symbols that Muslims could have chosen to symbolize the unity of Islam, it is indeed ironic that they chose the crescent, which for many signifies the greatest manifestation of division amongst Muslims, at least in Western lands!

Yes, it's that time of the year again when brothers and sisters frantically begin calling family and friends, asking, “What did Shaykh so-and-so say?” and“Did they see the moon yet?” and, the single most effective question that seals the fate of one's own fast, “What are YOU going to do?” In this post, I don't want to go into a detailed tangent regarding which opinion is 'correct' or not, but rather lay out some of the issues surrounding the controversy, and offer some practical advice.

The precise conditions required to sight a credible hilaal is just one of the many hundreds and thousands of issues of fiqh that our scholars have differed over, since the time of the Companions. And, in the multi-madhab milieu of North America, we are exposed to many such fiqh differences on a regular basis, to the extent that most of us have come to live with and accept the rich diversity of opinion present in our traditional legal schools of thought. However, what makes the issue of the moon-sighting stand out from the usual run-of-the mill fiqh issues is that it affects a joint and communal festival of the Ummah. Other issues, such as whether zakat should be given on jewelry, or whether the qunut be prayed in witr or Fajr, or the finer details of how one prays, do not affect the Ummah as a whole. Typically, these other differences can be left to one's individual preference with little or no detrimental effect on fellow Muslims. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the date of the two Eids and the beginning of the month of Ramadan, as this difference will affect entire communities, and form fault lines between two neighboring masjids, or even within the worshippers of the same masjid.

But why is there such a controversy in the first place? Well, as is typical with such controversies, there are two primary reasons why such differences exist. Firstly, of the few hadeeths that we have regarding moon-sighting, various scholars have understood them in different manners, leading to a difference of understanding that manifests itself in contradictory opinions. Secondly, issues arose in later generations that the earliest Muslims were not exposed to, hence no explicit, unequivocal ruling exists regarding them.

The classical scholars of Islam were only concerned with a few issues, and their modern counterparts have added even more issues, apparently just to spice up the whole debate! To elaborate: classical jurists were primarily (but not exclusively) concerned with two issues. Firstly, what is the minimum requirement for the number of witnesses needed for verifying the beginning and end of Ramadhan? One for the beginning, and two for the end? Or vice versa? Or one for both? Or two for both? Or a large, unspecified quantity? Or, was it different for a clear day versus a cloudy one? Plenty of opinions within this issue, and even within one madhab it is common to find variant opinions. With regards to this issue, a number of authentic hadeeths appeared to give different rulings, hence scholars had to use their respective usool in formulating answers to this question.

The second issue that was of major concern to them was: should the Muslims of one province take into account sightings from a different province? Once again, a wide selection of opinions to choose from: each province should follow its sighting only; or only the sightings of the provinces neighboring it; or the sightings of all provinces within one matla (i.e., on the same longitudinal plane); or the sightings of all provinces as long as the news arrived in time.However, unlike the first issue, there exists no clear, unequivocal hadeeth dealing with the subject (albeit some narrations from the Companions exist). Hence scholars had to use analogy (qiyas) and other general principles to formulate their respective opinions. And once again, we find that even within madhabs there is a significant difference of opinion in the finer details of this issue.

These two issues are discussed in practically every book of fiqh. Other issues were not as pressing to the people of those times as these two, hence references to them are typically only found in the larger and more cumbersome commentaries. Such issues include: must one see the crescent from 'ground' level, or is it permissible to climb, say, a tall mountain to see the crescent? Or, what if an instrument, such a telescope (yes, later Muslims had telescopes), is used, does this count as an 'acceptable' sighting? Or, what if it is a cloudy night, can one refer to astronomical calculations and, based solely on such calculations, declare the beginning and end of the month? And more issues besides these, some of which are more relevant to our times than others.

In our times, even more issues have surfaced, the most important being: what if someone claims to see a crescent, yet astronomical data clearly tells us that the crescent was not born at that time, and hence could not have been seen? Should we give precedence to a visual sighting, or claim that such a person is mistaken? Another issue is the determination of the exact degree of the arc of elongation to claim that a new crescent has been 'born': 9 degrees, or 12, or more, or less?

As can be seen, putting all of the various issues together and calculating out all the possible scenarios, it is easy to extrapolate these differences into hundreds of opinions. The point that I wish to stress here is that many Muslims simply do not realize the level of complexity surrounding issues of fiqh, including this one, and woefully bemoan, “Why can't our scholars just unite on one opinion and save us from the hassle of disunity?!” As can be seen, it's not as simple as that, and indeed it is of the wisdom of Allah that such a rich diversity exists in fiqh.

Thankfully, on a practical level, the issue of moon-sighting never reached a level of complication involving all of the above factors. Rather, a few years ago, the single major issue that split the community was that of 'local' versus 'international' sighting (or, to be more precise, 'local' versus 'Saudi' sighting). Of recent, however, another major opinion has been added to the stew: that of completely ignoring sightings in the first place, and basing the beginning and end of the month solely on astronomical data.

As far as I know, no reputable Sunni scholar in our classical (i.e., pre-modern) history has claimed that a community could completely ignore visual sighting, and rely unconditionally on astronomical data. The fiqh details have been hashed out in enough articles, and it is not my intent to repeat them here (for those who are interested, see some of these articles below – in particular the article by imam Hamza Yusuf, and the one by Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad).

In any case, the decision to follow calculations has been taken by a very large and reputable national body, and the decision to follow a national, visual sighting has been taken by other reputable institutions. Added to this, there are still communities who wish to follow an 'international' (i.e,. Saudi) sighting, and there are even those who will only follow a sighting that occurs within their own city. Facing a myriad of options, it is the average Muslim who is left with the confusion of having to make up his or her mind and figure out what exactly to do.

Some words of advice:

Firstly, just for the record, in my humble opinion the strongest fiqh position, independent of other factors (see below), seems to be that we should follow a visual sighting within North America. If one trustworthy Muslim physically sees the moon, and it was seen at a time when we know from astronomical data that it was born and possible to see, then such a sighting should be accepted for all Muslims of this continent.

Secondly, this opinion is just at a theoretical level. At a practical level, it is essential that one looks at the situation of the community, and keep the best interests of the community in mind. So, if one is in a position of authority and respect, and his decision will have an impact on the community, then and only then should he research the various opinions and come to a conclusion that he will feel comfortable with asking others to follow, whatever that position may be. However, if one is not in a position of authority, and is just a regular Muslim following others, then in this case it is not the role of the average Muslim to perform ijtihad on such fine matters. Rather, one should follow the local masjid that he or she typically refers to for other issues, and that one feels a sense of affiliation with. A Muslim must realize that this issue, along with all other fiqh differences of opinion, are issues that should not cause disunity and hatred amongst the Muslims. Trusting an authority and following one opinion over another is a matter completely permissible, or even obligatory, in the Sharee`ah, but fighting and bickering and disputing with other Muslims is completely prohibited by the unanimous consensus of all scholars of Islam. In other words, even if two masjids are celebrating Eid on two different days, this should not lead to one masjid looking down at another, or feeling superior to them, or arguing with them.

Thirdly, if someone feels that he or she would prefer to follow an opinion that their local masjid is not following, based upon their fiqh preference, then even though this would not be sinful in and of itself (as there is no consensus in N. America regarding this issue, unlike in most Muslim countries), there is no reason to announce such a decision publically, or debate or convince others of the merits of one's own opinion. Rather, let the people do what they are doing, and this particular brother or sister may follow another opinion in private. This would be better to preserve the unity of the Muslims. Additionally, regardless of the actual day that one celebrates Eid, it is completely permissible, rather I would say encouraged, that one attends the Eid celebrations of the community on other days as well. Even if this means that one is fasting that 'Eid' day, there is no problem in attending the prayer, but of course the one who is fasting will intend it to be a voluntary (nafl) prayer, and not his own Eid. This would give the impression of Muslim unity, andincrease the number of Muslims at all Eid festivals. (And hey, you get to enjoy the benefits of Eid twice!!)

Lastly, out of all of the hadeeths that should be emphasized regarding the issue of moon-sighting, I believe the following one is the most important, yet oft neglected as well.

Abu Hurayrah narrated, as reported in the Jami of al-Tirmidhi (2/37), that the beloved Prophet (salla Allah alayhi wa sallam) said, “The fast [starts] on the day that you all are fasting, and the [Eid] al-Fitr is the day that you all break the fast (i.e., stop fasting).”

Imam al-Tirmidhi commented on this hadeeth and said, “This has been interpreted to mean that one fasts and celebrates the Eid with the group of Muslims and their majority.” The famous Yemeni scholar al-San`ani wrote in his Subul al-Salaam, “This hadeeth proves that what counts for claiming that it is Eid is that the people agree to the fact that it is Eid. And so, if a single person sees the crescent (but is not followed for some reason), he still must still follow the community (and not his sighting).” And the great student of Ibn Taymiyyah, one of the finest ulamaa that our history has seen, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, wrote regarding this hadeeth, “This is a refutation of those who claim that someone who knows when the moon is born by astronomical calculations should follow it in starting and finishing the fast, ignoring the rest of the people. Another interpretation of this tradition is that one who witnesses the crescent and whose sighting is subsequently rejected by the judge should not fast, just like the people are not fasting” (Tahdheeb al-Sunan 3/214).

In other words, what this hadeeth tells us is that what's important regarding the beginning and end of Ramadhan is not when the moon is sighted or not, but rather following the community of Muslims and keeping the local Ummah unified. Therefore, even if the crescent was 'born' and could have been sighted, if the community does not fast on a particular day, for whatever reason, then it is not permissible for an individual to break away from the community and fast or break his fast separate from them.

Of course, in our times, even Muslims of one city are typically following different opinions, but if there is a clear and apparent majority, then this hadeeth should be followed and the individual should stick with that majority, regardless of the fiqh opinion that they are following.

Brothers and sisters, the beginning of Ramadhan is upon us, either tonight or tomorrow night. Surely this is not the time to bicker amongst ourselves, fighting over an issue of fiqh that will not be resolved for decades to come. Whatever opinion you follow,alhamdulillah good for you, just don't make an issue of it in the community.

This Ramadhan, let's permanently bid farewell to moon-fighting, and concentrate on having our sins forgiven and our fasts accepted.

May Allah bless us all in this Ramadhan, whenever it starts and finishes!!!

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Articles Related to this Topic (notes and comments below added by ibnabeeomar)

National Moonsighting Conference (May 2007):

  • Adopted calculation methods are flawed because they depend on the astronomical new moon calculations. This is different from the crescent moon in that it is completely dark and invisible. The Qur'an does not mention this astronomical new moon (Qamar Jadeed), but to the thinly visible crescent instead.
  • To fix Saudi Arabia as the place of sighting is incorrect as it does not abide by the opinion of local sighting or a truly global sighting.
  • Astronomical data is secondary to the testimony of a trustworthy Muslim according to the Shari'ah
  • Ru'yah as it occurs in the Qur'an in this context refers to physically sighting the moon with the eyes, not a ru'yah with intellect ('aql)
  • To say that ru'yah is not an act of ibadah is a newly invented idea.
  • We need to approach this issue in terms of working to solve this problem for the community.
  • Concluded to establish Islamic dates by a naked-eye sighting in the contiguous states of USA and Canada.

 

An Islamic Legal Analysis of the Astronomical Determination of the Beginning of Ramadan by Mokhtar Maghraoui (Summary | Full Text)

  • Hilal means a crescent and does not refer to the birth of the moon, and ru'yah is interpreted as literally, not metaphorically.
  • The text used to support calculation is restricted to the condition that the moon is obscured from vision.
  • Classical scholars did not allow calculations despite their existence in those times.
  • Calculations neither increase unity nor decrease hardships.
  • Just as one cannot switch Ramadan with another month because of hardship, the method of sighting cannot be substituted for another method.
  • The hadith about the ummah being an 'unlettered' nation is informational, and does not give an operative reason cause for why calculation was not done. Moreover, to say that this was the cause, and then to claim that the text of ibn Umar commands calculation is a contradiction. We would then be commanded something we are unable to fulfill, violating a clear maxim of Islamic law. It is intolerable to subject the texts to such inconsistencies.
  • Science cannot forecast when the crescent will be available with certainty.
  • Texts regarding the prayer times differ from those for establishing the months. For Ramadan it is said “do not fast until you see the moon,” but we do not find anything saying something like “do not stop eating until you see the rise of dawn.” Since this level of explicitness is not found for prayer times, the door is opened to using other methods.
  • Even in modern times there are only a handful (five) of scholars who support astronomical determination of the moon, and countless who do not. Not a single classical scholar supports this position.
  • Staying up past midnight one night a year does not constitute excessive hardship – how many people stay up later watching tv and socializing at least once a week?
  • How can calculation increase unity when it is a departure from centuries of Islamic scholarship?
  • The vast majority of scholars, many of whom were very competent in astronomical calculations, held the sighting of the crescent as an act of worship.

Cesarean Moon Births by Hamza Yusuf (Part 1 | Part 2)

  • The ayah about the crescent moon was revealed when people were asking about the science of it, however instead of answering how, the Qur'an gave the more important answer of why. This is the essential difference between science and religion.
  • Over 2,000 years ago, Hpparchus of Nicaea (d. 125 B.C.) determined the length of the average lunar month to be within 1 second of today's accepted value, and gave accurate calculations of the inclination of the ecliptic and of the change of the equinoxes.
  • For over a thousand years the Jews followed a lunar calendar based on naked-eye observations of new moons. When persecution of them intensified in 337-361 C.E., they were unable to communicate the new moon sightings to each other. They then adopted a calendar based on calculation. In the principles of Islamic law, when the hardship that allowed the exception in the first place is no longer present, the license is no longer valid, and the original ruling must be restored.
  • The Prophet (saw) warned us against following in their footsteps of abandoning prophetic practices, and predetermining dates by calculations is falling into this.
  • One pre-Islamic calendar produced a calendar that is more accurate then the Gregorian calendar we follow today!
  • The lexical meaning of the word hilal necessitates humans to visually confirm it.
  • Ijtihad is not allowed in determining the crescent due to the unambiguous Quranic text on this matter.
  • The text used to calculate the moon in case of obscurity was interpreted by classical scholars to mean completing 30 days of the month, not a consideration of astronomy. This comes from a principle established by imam Malik in which the other texts on this issue clarify the meaning.
  • Calculation often differs from the sightings established in observational astronomy.
  • General Jawhar of the Fatimid dynasty [359/969] tried to force the use of calculations in Egypt but was rejected by the scholars of the time as an unacceptable bid'ah (innovation).
  • Early scholars who permitted calculation did so if the moon was not visible, they did not allow for calculations to bypass the sighting process
  • Using the calculation of prayer times is an incorrect analogy. For prayers, only the times are given based upon the sun, and we are able to determine them by any means possible. The beginning of the month though is restricted to the actual sighting of the moon.
  • The schools of jurisprudence (madhhabs) agreed that calculations are not given consideration in the establishment of dates for the start of fasting.
  • The arc of elongation used in calculation is 9 degrees (whereas the schools of Islamic law stipulated 12 degrees). At this angle, the moon is impossible to be seen except in perfect weather conditions.
  • We wish to fit God's plans into our plans instead of fitting our plans into God's plans.
  • It is ironic that the month which teaches us patience is no longer patiently waited for by eager Muslims to see what God has in store for them.

An Insight into Moon Sighting by Haitam al-Haddad

  • Even if we 'accept' the calculations as being definitive, the Shari'ah did not consider scientific and astronomical calculations as determining factors in the first place with regard to the sighting of the moon.
  • It is not necessary for the “Islamic” month governing our worship to be the same as the “astronomical” month.
  • There are many examples of reliable sightings of the moon when it was “scientifically” impossible for it to be seen

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Lastly Shaykh Yaser Birjas shared a joke with us regarding this topic:

In the past whoever saw the hilal first would be awarded something. So one time a bedouin who heard about the generous prizes, dressed up nicely and went to testify before the governor.When he was asked about it he said, “Yes I saw the hilal there,” pointing to the sky on one direction. When he was awarded with 1000 dirhams his eyes widened and then he said, “I saw another one on this side too” (pointing in the opposite direction).

39 Responses

  1. ...

    our community center is fasting here in NY tomorrow =)
    but ICNA and Zaytuna didn’t announce it yet =((((
    ( i hope zaytuna announces 4 tomorrow cuz it will make me feel better that tomorrow was right- if they dont then ill always remain doubtful whether tomorrow was 1st ramadhan or not =(

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  2. Khadija

    I know. I would love to follow Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and the Zaytuna peeps, but my community is fasting tomorrow, so I fast tomorrow inshaAllah. Ramadan kareem! everyone.
    Shaykh Hamza’s article is really good by the way.
    :)

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  3. jinnzaman

    Assalamu alaikum

    May Allah (swt) reward Shaykh Yaser for bringing clarity upon this issue. Ameen.

    This seems to be the first time in a while that all the Masajid are performing Ramadhan roughly the same time. :)

    masalama

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  4. Abdul Majeed

    What’s ironic about it, i.e. the sighting of the moon – first paragraph? No Muslim CHOSE to use the sighting of the moon: it was revealed in the Quran, e.g. http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/002.qmt.html#002.189

    Is it not disbelief to say that Allah’s decree is ironic or to attribute to the creation something which has been done by the creator?

    Amend these words. I haven’t read the rest of the article, but if that is how it starts off, how is it going to go the rest of the way? I imagine that to be the case.

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  5. Amad

    Abdul Majeed, why don’t you read the article first and then complain. You may be surprised that your first paragraph read does not justify the conclusion that you seem to be deriving.

    w/s

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  6. Working sister

    Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah

    Ramadan mubarak to all!

    @Abdul Majeed. You read the paragraph incorrectly bro. The shaykh’s comment about irony had nothing to do with choosing the sighting of the moon. I believe he was referring to the fact that many Muslim communities have taken the hilal to be a symbol of their Islam, such as Pakistan and Turkey, who use it on their national flags. Look at the Ramadan Mubarak and Eid Mubarak greeting cards: hilal. Symbols on masjid timetables and islamic society handouts: hilal. What do you find sitting on the top of masjid domes: hilal. The Red Crescent charity: hilal! The hilal has become synonymous with Muslim culture. So when one Muslim sees any paperwork, a building or a flag with the hilal printed on it, he/she knows that it belongs to another Muslim, and thus, the hilal has become a symbol of Muslim unity. Upon realizing this, the irony of the hilal-sighting wars becomes immediately apparent.

    I’m glad the shaykh mentioned the irony, cos i never noticed it before now. It’s quite funny, in a very sad way…

    Anyway, Ameen to the shaykh’s duas!

    Wa’salam

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  7. AnonyMouse

    At last! I had to read this post from three different browsers before the comments section finally showed up (on Firefox).

    Anyway, a very interesting article, especially the point about following the community regardless of when the hilaal was seen. I think that for me, as well as others, this is a point that we haven’t heard of often…

    Ameen!

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  8. dawud

    Shukran ustadh Yasir, for a brief and honorable statement which covered both the disputes and a straightforward explanation on resolving certain differences or at least dissolving some of the confusion.

    I would just add that when you offer your opinion, inasmuch as it is fiqh-based, the ‘humble opinion’ (true as it may be) might not be necessary. The internet is full of people with their IMHO which aren’t very humble, and when someone who actually understands the subject can speak, we appreciate them not being arrogant, but also knowing that their opinion is based on sound scholarship (as is evident with the reasoning of the tulaab-ul-ilm, Hamza Yusuf and Haytham al-Haddad)

    again, JazakamuLlahul khayran – Ramadan mubarek

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  9. inexplicabletimelessness

    As salaamu alaikum

    Barak Allahu feek ya Shaykh.

    Alhamdulillah this is the first year I am totally disassociating myself from these moonfighting debates, let alone conversations.

    My mind and heart are completely at ease and I feel so much happier. :) Alhamdulillah.

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  10. mvaid

    Asalamualaikum wa rahmatullah,

    Jazak Allah khayr shaykh Yasir for another excellent article. I feel as though my knowledge regarding moon sighting has increased as a result, and I pray that Allah rewards you for writing it.

    I have a quick question based on what was written:

    I know often times the concern that I come across is the idea of making taqleed when my understanding (based on the little knowledge that I have) of the situation conflicts with that of my communities . I know and understand that it’s better to follow your community in such situations and to avoid fitnah at all costs, but what I was taught is that calling to the truth should never be considered a fitnah, even if people dont want to hear it. I also know that the people who have made the ijtihaad are much more knowledgeable than me and I trust them in these matters, but once again I was taught that each person will testify for himself and no one will be able to testify for you on the Day of Judgment.

    How do we understand the decision within this context and reconcile between the two opinions/feelings?
    Jazak Allah khayr in advance.

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  11. Faizan

    Shaykh Yasir, Please explain on what is the wisdom of Allah behind the diversity of fiqh ruling. “… As can be seen, it’s not as simple as that, and indeed it is of the wisdom of Allah that such a rich diversity exists in fiqh.”

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  12. Yasir Qadhi

    Salaam Alaikum

    Jazak Allah to everyone for the comments.

    @mvaid
    You are right that every single soul is responsible for himself, however Allah does not place a burden on a soul more than he can bear. And of these burdens is to understand every single legal ruling. There is no sin whatsoever in making taqlid in a finer issue of fiqh, such as this one. The same will not apply, however, to an issue of shirk, as generally speaking shirk is something clear.

    @Faizan

    This is a very drawn out topic, perhaps I can comment on it in an entire post dedicated to this subject. Ibn Taymiyyah’s Raf al-Malaam and Shah Wali Allah’s Hujjat Allah al-Baaligha (both of which are translated into English) deal with this issue in much more detail.

    Yasir

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  13. Takumi

    Isn’t it just common sense to preserve unity rather than arguing about it? I like the article but praise to God that I have already adapted the attitude of preserving unity in the community even though I did receive several emails that were trying to impose the international moon sighting on me.

    Scholars are human beings and they make mistakes. I wonder, during the time when the muslim empire comprised of 2/3 of the world, how did the moon sighting news get spread around? Did local muslims have local moon sighting? Surely, not all of them saw the moon.

    So, is bypassing the moon sighting a big sin? If I didn’t take part in it, must I feel guilty about it? What if I inherently believe that the calculation is more precise, am I committing bid’ah? Since all bid’ah leads to hell fire, am I destined to hell?

    I’m a muslim. Shouldn’t I feel good about myself?

    :(

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  14. Asma

    JazaakaAllah khair brother Yaser. I was especially interested in the information about “fasting beginning when the people fast”.

    I wanted to comment on this statement:
    “in my humble opinion the strongest fiqh position, independent of other factors (see below), seems to be that we should follow a visual sighting within North America. If one trustworthy Muslim physically sees the moon, and it was seen at a time when we know from astronomical data that it was born and possible to see, then such a sighting should be accepted for all Muslims of this continent.”

    In my understanding, this is not a valid opinion because the north american continent is not just 1 matla’. I have understood that the 2 valid opinions of local vs. global sighting pertain to either sighting in one city (not a large nation or continent) or accepting the sighting of any muslim anywhere in the world (of course not just in saudi). Have you read Shawkani on this? He gives a very detailed consideration of all of the opinions and settles on 1 universal sighting as the strongest opinion.

    Above, ibn abee omar wrote that “To fix Saudi Arabia as the place of sighting is incorrect as it does not abide by the opinion of local sighting or a truly global sighting. ” Likewise, fixing “north america” as the place of sighting is not truly local sighting, and of course it isn’t global sighting.

    onto the time when the khilaafa spread far across the world, my impression was that news of a sighting was spread across the land by lighting large torches that could be seen from far away, and those who saw it would light their own in succession to pass the message rapidly across the land. Can anyone verify that?

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  15. Mohammad

    Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatollah

    I just wanted to ask Sh. Yasir where the above two books, particularly raf’ al malaam can be found in the English language.

    Do you have any details?

    JazakAllah

    wassalamu alykum

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  16. Amad

    assalaamlikum Sr. Takumi. I am glad that you were able to apply the principles of unity before reading this article.

    I only caution you in one thing: every “unity” decision is not the right one either. So, we should go to our scholars to understand issues. It is similar to one who has a disease or has a question about his health… some things he can figure out with his own little research, but for serious matters, he has to go a doctor. The scholars are the doctors of Islam, so we need to use their expert services inshalah.

    So, is bypassing the moon sighting a big sin? If I didn’t take part in it, must I feel guilty about it? What if I inherently believe that the calculation is more precise, am I committing bid’ah? Since all bid’ah leads to hell fire, am I destined to hell? I’m a muslim. Shouldn’t I feel good about myself?

    Bypassing the moon is not a big sin… I don’t even know if is a sin at all. After reading this article, you should know some of the basic rulings in this matter and that the majority of the scholars would not accept calculations.

    Bid’ahs “lead” to the fire but it doesn’t mean that you will be in fire. Just like sinning will also lead you to fire, if you insist on it and engage in bigger and bigger sins. Everyone is destined to whatever their deeds takes them to.

    Yes, feel good… its great to be a Muslim! Do the best you can and fear Allah as much as you can.

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  17. Abdullah

    Jazakum Allahu Khair for the reminder Sheikh Yasir.

    I am an avid moonsighter and have been for a while. I try and go out and sight the moon every month and not just ramadan. I have done extensive research into all the opinions regarding moonsighting and local sighting is the correct opinion. I say “correct” here and not “strongest” because the word “global” for scholars in the past is the same as the “local” of today. I will explain later in the response.

    From my experience, most people who call for a global sighting do not understand moon phases. They also try to relate unity in moonsighitng with the unity of the ummah which has no basis.

    I have a question for my global sighting brethren: If the muslims in the Polynesian Islands see the moon first will you be willing to accept it? How about if we see it in America? Do you think the Middle East will start when we see it?

    The answers are of course no. People’s definition of a global sighting is a Saudi sighting which makes no sense. Even huge Saudi scholars support the local sighting opinion (see fatwa of Sh. Uthaymeen). Another thing is that if people understood moon phases they would realize that people in the Western hemisphere can usually see the moon first. And since it is already the NEXT day in the middle east than it is impossible to start on the same day.

    Sister Asma, you have to ask yourself what the definition of “global” was to Imam Shawkani and other Imams in the past. Imam Shawkani was in the 18th century. Global could not have meant more than a few cities since you would have to dispatch a horse to spread the news. There was no lighting fires in the mountains like Lord of the Rings or tying a note to a bird and sending it to the Muslims in China. Ramadan is already done by the time the message gets across.

    Of course now we have email and phones but I don’t think people really realize the communications effort that would be required to ensure everyone started on the same day. It is actually impossible both astronomically and technically.

    Ibn Taymiyah said that “illiterate nation” meant simple nation since Allah made it easy for us to perform our acts of worship.

    Alhamdulillah progress has been made since there have been numerous books, articles, and conferences addressing the issue with the majority agreeing on local sighting. The problem is that the general community is unaware of the scholarly consensus. There is also the problem of unreliable sightings and miscommunication (e.g., my fave is when someone says they saw the moon in NY when what really happened is that in NY someone heard that they saw the moon in Saudi).

    A few things have to be done to solve the problem:

    1. ISNA must abandon their calculations based on the Saudi new moon! That completely boggles the mind and just added to the confusion.

    2. There needs to be official moonsighting committees that are in charge of official local sightings.

    3. Communication between the reasonable local area must be faster and smoother.

    It really is that simple. In sha Allah I will be working on this project for the coming year.

    May Allah guide us all and accept our fasts! Ameeen.

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  18. Brian G. Seymour

    My thanks to you for an informative article. As a non-Muslim, I did not previously understand how complex an issue setting events by the lunar calendar could be, nor what were the practical implications of that complexity. You have signally contributed to my understanding of your faith.

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  19. umyusuf

    In terms of Ramadan, I understand the “complexities” and “differences of opinion” of having everyone start/end on the same day. My question now is in regards to Eid-ul-Adha – specifically the day of Arafat. Do we not know, 9 days in advance which day Arafat will occur (for those performing hajj), and hence Eid-ul-Adha. Does it make sense that some Muslims around the world would be fasting their own “day of Arafat” when in fact there is not a single person on the mountain of Arafat? Also, when those performing hajj are slaughtering the animals, is it permissible for others to be fasting? Although one can argue for Ramadan, I believe that this argument cannot be validated for Eid-ul-Adha as the basis that this Eid is based on the completion of hajj. And since we all know the Kaaba is located in Saudi Arabia (not Asia or North America), our hajj dates are dictated by the Saudi calendar. Hence, the reasoning why some groups follow the Saudi calender year-round, leaving the onus on them to justify their moon-sighting methods.

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  20. Zaheer Hussain

    As Salaam Alaikum.

    I agree with your view that we should follow moonsighting in North America.

    I see three problems:

    1. Saudis announcing incredible sightings that defy scientific verification.

    2. ISNA coming up with a pre-calculated calendar that is trying to impose its dates on the whole world, which will never be accepted outside the USA. This aim is ruining their calendar.

    3. Half of the US masaajid rushing to accept the Saudi Eid dates.

    Why can’t we forget the outside announcements and concentrate on the USA?
    Why are we coming up with all sorts of excuses to follow Saudi Arabia?

    The appointment of hilal by Allah as the sign of the new month itself points to the fact that each region is autonomous. Otherwise, it was easy for Allah to appoint a khalifah, ruler or a qaadi to pronounce the new month for the entire ummah.

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  21. Zaheer Hussain

    >>> “My question now is in regards to Eid-ul-Adha – specifically the day of Arafat. Do we not know, 9 days in advance which day Arafat will occur (for those performing hajj), and hence Eid-ul-Adha. Does it make sense that some Muslims around the world would be fasting their own “day of Arafat” when in fact there is not a single person on the mountain of Arafat?”

    Br. UM Yusuf, Fasting has nothing to do with Hajis in the Arafat. Just 100 years ago, no one knew where were haajis on any day.

    >>>”Also, when those performing hajj are slaughtering the animals, is it permissible for others to be fasting?”

    Again, same answer. How could Muslims were to find this information in say 1850?

    >>>”Although one can argue for Ramadan, I believe that this argument cannot be validated for Eid-ul-Adha as the basis that this Eid is based on the completion of hajj.”

    No Eid-ul_adha is not based on hajj. Hajj was made fard in 8th Hijri while Eid-ul-Adha was started in 2nd Hijri.

    >>>”And since we all know the Kaaba is located in Saudi Arabia (not Asia or North America), our hajj dates are dictated by the Saudi calendar. Hence, the reasoning why some groups follow the Saudi calender year-round, leaving the onus on them to justify their moon-sighting methods.”

    Did the Prophet, phuh, followed Makkah dates in Madinah? Or did he try to find out dates so that he can adjust Madinah calendar? Or did the older generations do that? Doing this sounds like, “Bid’ah.”

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  22. Amad

    Br. Zaheer, unfortunately, it is not as simple as you state. For instance, here is an article from Shaykh Waleed:
    http://www.aussiemuslims.com/forums/archive/index.php?t-15997.html

    All I can say is that both sides on this issue have solid evidences and opinions. So, like Ramadan, we should follow our local communities and enjoy Eid with them.

    Personally, I find fasting on the Day of Arafah much more pertinent when it does somewhat correspond to the Day of Arafah… so even if my community prayed 2 days later, I would probably fast both yesterday and Thursday and then do Eid with the community on Friday, even if I believe otherwise (i.e. Eid was today).

    I think we need to be careful when we paint things in black and white. If it was as simple as you point out, I think the argument wouldn’t be as complex and as contentious as it has become.

    So, advanced Eid Mubarak to you.

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  23. Zaheer Hussain

    Br. Amad, a lot of brothers are trying very hard to link Eidul Adha with Hajj & Hajis.

    There is no evidence at all that non-Hajis should link or adjust their calendar and events with Hajis. Prophet, Pbuh, never adjusted Madinah calendar when he had enough time to do so. Not a single incidence has been recorded where either the Prophet or the Khalifah fasted or celebrated the Eid “just because Hajis finished their Hajj.”

    It is that simple. Until 50-60 years ago, Saudi Arabia really sighted the moon and all countries around and west of it saw the moon. In all Middle-Eastern countries Eid naturally occured the day after Arafah so people started believing that Eid must follow the Day of Arafah. The problem started when Saudia started announcing totally incredible dates based on some calculations totally unrelated to moon sightings.

    Just think. Was it possible for the previous generations without the telecommunications to follow the Hajj and fast and celebrate Eid with them?

    What we have done is we are celebrating the Hajj of our friends and relatives rather than the sacrifices of Prophet Ibrahim. Sadly, I am seeing this in newspaper and magazine articles that this Eid is about Hajis completing their Hajj.

    It is nice you are fasting on two days and may Allah reward you for that. But Allah does not burden anyone with impossible tasks, and He would not force you to ensure that your fast coincide with Hajis’ stay in Arafah. This would have been simply impossible to do a few generations ago.

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  24. ismaeel marikar

    Assalamu alaikum.Day of arafat is 9th dhul hijjah when pilgrims gather at arafat. Fasting is prohibited for pilgrims while it is recommended for others as it is an expiation of sins of two years.The day after arafat, yaum un nahr is the day of stoning and sacrifice in mina and according to both imaam shafi and ahmad it is the day of eid for the others.There is no ambiguity at all
    Pl. read book Sh.albanis book’Rites of hajj and umrah”

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  25. ismaeel marikar

    Let us follow the Quran and sunnah according to the understanding of our
    Salaf. In matters of fiqh, let us follow
    those who are qualified to do ijthihad.
    It is not for everyone of us, but for the
    Imamas of the past and the Ulema of our time

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  26. Traveler

    JazakumuAllahu khairan for the article.
    Reminds me of the 3 M&Ms of Shs. YQ & Suhabi Webb talked about in SS. :)

    Our masjid in Milwaukee, WI will be fasting on Monday, iA. (most probably following ISNA)
    I think most masjids in USA either follow Saudi Arabia or ISNA, WAllahu A’laam.

    May Allah grant our ummah Unity, and true guidance. Ameen.

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  27. ISMAEEL MARIKAR

    ISLAMIC EVENTS ARE BASED ON A LUNAR CALENDAR..THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE OF OPINION ON THIS.
    WE ARE TOLD TO FAST BY SIGHTING THE MOON AND BREAK THE FAST THAT IS END THE MONTH OF RAMADHAN BY SIGHTING THE MOON. THE ORDER IN THE QURAN IS NOT TO PEOPLE IN DIFFERENT AREAS, BUT TO THE UMMAH IN GENERAL AS CLEARLY STATED BY SIDDEEK HASSAN KHAN A GREAT SCHOLAR FROM THE INDIAN SUB-CONTINENT. WE LOOK FOR THE MOON IN OUR LOCALITY AND COUNTRY, THEN CHECK WITH OTHER COUNTRIES AND IF WE HAVE NO EVIDENCE OF SIGHTINGS, CHECK WITH SAUDI AND MAKE A FINAL DECISION.
    COMING TO EID AL ADHA. THE EID IS ENTIRELY LINKED WITH THE HAJ.IN FACT THE DAYS ARE REFERRED TO AS “YOUAM UT TARWEEYAH”, YOUM UL ARAFAH” AND ‘YOUM UN NAHR” AND THE
    THE THREE DAYS AFTER AS “AYYAMUT THASHREEK”
    WITH IMPROVED COMMUNICATIONS AND THE OBTAINING OF INFORMATION, VERY QUICKLY, THERE NEED BE NO CONFUSION AS TO OBSERVING THESE EVENTS..
    THE PROBLEM IS THAT THERE ARE CERTAIN DEVIANT GROUPS “HELL BENT” ON CREATING CONFUSION AND THEREBY DISUNITY AMONGST THE MUSLIMS. HIGH TIME WE COME TO OUR SENSES AND ACT ACCORDING TO THE QURAN AND SUNNAH. IS THIS ASKING TOO MUCH ??//

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  28. The Dilemma of The Dark Knight Rises and Ramadan - MuslimMatters.org

    [...] Part of Ramadan is also getting back to the basics. Prayer. Qur'an. How about encouraging and helping each other to have a good Ramadan instead of drawing battle lines before the month even begins? If we're going to do that, at least let it be over something worthwhile like the abhorrent, unsubstantiated, and illegitimate position of using calculations in place of moon-sightin…. [...]

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