By Shaykh Muftī Khālid Saifullāh Al Raḥmānī
Rendered into English by Yūsuf Badāt
To view or download this article in PDF, click: Global-Sighting-for-Unity-by-Mufti-Khalid-Saifullah-Al-Rahmani
Regarding our questions, we would like to bring to your attention that Muslims of various countries and continents of the world have populated Canada, in large numbers. Masājid, schools and religious institutions have been established as well. Muslims of various backgrounds constantly marry, work and live together among themselves. People from different countries have joined together, in the masjids also. However, Ramadān and Eid dates are disunited, which results in Eid being celebrated on two separate days in the very same home. To eliminate this problem, some reputable scholars, mosques and Islamic centers have formed a group. This committee considers the entire world as one horizon. They have formalized some guidelines and criteria, with an effort to bring ease upon the Muslim community. The guidelines and rules are written below.
- Date of sighting the crescent must be observed on the 29th.
- Decision will be made based on the actual sighting of the first moon (hilāl) with the naked human eye.
- Testimony will be taken from people who claim to have seen the first moon. If the skies are clear in the area where the sighting assumingly was made, then the testimony of ten people will be preferred to declare the new lunar month and decided through the testimony of a minimum of two witnesses. If the sky is cloudy or hazy then the testimony of a minimum of two witnesses will be required to establish the new lunar month.
- Sighting reports will be accepted from any country of the world where we are able to obtain reliable information by technology tools available to us.
- Testimony will be taken from organizations whom we have agreements and communication with, that have declared the sighting of the first moon (hilāl).
- A testimony can be rejected due to external evidence such as the impossibility of sighting the first moon according to astronomical data in the region where the sighting was claimed to have been made.
- Astronomical data will be used for informing the public about the scientifically most possible date of the new lunar month for the ease of logistics, but will be confirmed and declared upon the actual sighting of the first moon.
- This criteria will be adopted for all twelve Islamic lunar months
Please kindly provide your valuable input related to the entire world considered as one horizon “Global Moon Sighting” and the aforementioned guidelines.
Also, if after sunset, crescent sighting is established and declared by local scholars in those countries that are 5 or 6 hours ahead of Canada (for example South Africa etc.), would it be permissible for us to make the announcement here in Canada before our sunset?
I received your letter wherein you posed some questions regarding crescent sighting in Canada. The answers are here below, which include the detailed positions of the fuqahā (Islamic jurists) with due consideration of your local situations. I request your noble supplications.
With Allāh’s grace, the answers are as follows:
Looking at the overall picture, when it comes to the sighting of the moon, fundamentally, there exist three viewpoints;
The first viewpoint is that wherever the moon is sighted in the world, it is sufficient for the entire world. This is the verdict of the jamhūr (overwhelming majority of scholars).
“The jamhūr’s (majority jurists) view is that there is no consideration of ikhtilāf al maṭāli’ (individual local regional sightings)” (al Mawsu’ al Fiqhīyyah page 35)
This is the foremost view of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (may Allāh have mercy on him), thus, with reference to the intellectual giants, Imām Ḥaskafī, Imām Nasafī and Ibn Nujaim al Maṣrī (may Allāh’s mercy be upon them), it is recorded,
“There is no consideration for ikhtilāf al maṭāli’ (individual local regional sightings). So if the people of one city have sighted it (crescent) while the people of another city have not sighted it, it is incumbent on them to fast, due to the sighting of the others who have, provided the sighting is established in accordance to a legally reliable method. It becomes incumbent for the people of the east based on the sighting of the west.” (al Dur al Mukhtār with al Rad volume 3 page 363)
After recording another view, Imām Haskafī (may Allah’s mercy be upon him) has mentioned the following regarding the position of non-consideration of multiple horizons,
“The first view (single horizon) is the dhāhir al riwāyah (predominately strong view). It is also more cautious. This is also mentioned in Fatḥ al Qadīr. This is the dominate view of the madḥab (school of Islamic law). The fatwa (legal verdict) is also upon this view. This is also in al Khulāṣah, which is made general, thus it will include any distance which would possibly entail multiple horizons”. (ibid)
The intellectual giant, Imām al Ṭaḥṭāwī (may Allāh have mercy on him) has also written the very same view in the foot notes of Marāqi al Falāḥ,
“When the crescent sighting is established in a region, regardless of being near or distant, fasting is binding on all the people. The decision for the one who did not sight the crescent will be the same as for one who did see it. This is the verdict even if the horizons are different.”(Ṭaḥṭāwī on Marāqi page 435). There is a view according to the Shāfi’e school similar to this. (See al Bayān fi Madḥab al Imām al Shafi’e volume 2 page 378)
Considering this opinion, if the reliable report of crescent sighting is received, then it is wājib (mandatory) to act upon it. In the words of the Noble Qur’ān, the blessed city of Makkah is Um al Qurā’ (the mother of cities), thus if the city of Makkah is made a standard, then this would also be an appropriate scenario [for your dilemma]. The sighting is usually reported there first.
The second viewpoint is that ikhtilāf al maṭāli’ (individual local regional sightings) will be considered. Every region will consider their own local sighting. This is an opinion of the Mālikī school (Bidāyat al Mujtahid volume 1 page 294). The later Ḥanafī scholars have also adopted this view. A similar opinion is also found among the Shāfi’e and Ḥanbalī schools of jurisprudence.
The third viewpoint is that the crescent sighting be established through astronomical data (See Fatḥ al Bārī volume 4 page 174 and U’mdat al Qārī volume 8 page 28) – Generally this third opinion has not been accepted by the jurists due to the fact that there exists explicit mention that Ramadān and Eid’s establishment is connected with the sighting of the crescent,
“Fast upon it’s (crescent) sighting and end fasting upon it’s sighting” (Bukhārī, Hadīth # 1909)
Answers to Your Questions:
After this preliminary discussion, the answers to your questions are presented below:
- It is absolutely correct that crescent sighting be undertaken on the 29th date [of each lunar month].
- In this matter as well there is no further discussion. The decision of crescent sighting is to be based on actual sighting of the first moon (hilāl) with the naked human eye.
a) This is also correct that the testimony of the person who has actually seen the moon with his eyes, will only be accepted. However, if a reliable institution or individual has rendered a decision, after listening to the testimony of such an eye witnesses, there is no objection if you base your decision following the information they provide to you, even though the decision makers have not seen the moon themselves.
b) In the scenario where the horizon is cloudy, the following criteria are appropriate: one person’s testimony is acceptable regarding the crescent of the blessed month of Ramadān. Two person’s testimony in the case of Eid al Fiṭr. This is the viewpoint of the Ḥanafī school. The reason why making this difference is appropriate, is due to the fact that regarding the moon of Ramadān the person testifying is not in a position of slander, while the one giving testimony for Eid is in a position of slander. Regarding the crescent of Eid al Fiṭr, this is the very verdict of the three imāms. The intellectual giant, Ibn ‘Abd al Barr (may Allah have mercy upon him) writes,
“The scholars are unanimous in the case of the testimony of ending the fasts in Shawwal, there must be [a minimum of] two just men.” (al Tamḥīd volume 14 page 354)
c) According to the Ḥanafī and Mālikī schools, khabr mustafīdh (reports from multitudes of people) is required for crescent sighting, in the situation where the horizon is clear. (al Fiqh al Islāmī’ wa Adillatuhū volume 2 page 200). In the view of other jurists, the news from two individuals is sufficient. In fact, according to the Shāfi’e school, only one reliable person’s testimony is also sufficient, in the case of the Ramadān moon [when the horizon is clear]. (Sharḥ Muhadḥab volume 6 page 276) – It should also be noted that for khabr mustafīdh (reports from multitudes of people) there is no specified number. Hence, that number is sufficient which would bring certainty regarding the truth of the news. It is transmitted by the student of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah, Hasan ibn Ziyād (may Allāh have mercy on them) that despite the horizon being clear, testimony of two men or one man and two women is sufficient. Considering the conditions of the time, the intellectual giant Ibn Nujaym gives preference to this very opinion,
“It is appropriate to act upon it in our era, because people have become sluggish in sighting the crescents [of lunar months]. (Tanbīh al Ghāfil wa al Wasnān alā Ahkāmi Hilāli Ramadān page 234).
There is no objection if at least 10 people’s testimony is taken, in the situation where the horizon is clear. This is within the boundaries of the standards established by the jurists.
- Since the viewpoint of the the jamhūr (overwhelming majority of scholars) is that wherever the crescent is sighted first, decision can be made based on that sighting. Thus, it is appropriate that if the crescent sighting is established in any country, according to the legal principles, and through a reliable method the news reaches you, the sighting is to be accepted.
- There is also no objection in this criterion, with the condition that these institutions are declaring the crescent sighting according to religious principles. Their decisions should not be based on mere astronomical calculations.
- If one or two persons give testimony against the data of astronomy experts, then their testimony can be rejected. However if the horizon is clear and multitudes of people have presented testimony i.e. the news is on the level of khabr mustafīdh (reports from scores of people) then the astronomical data will not be considered.
- This is also a very appropriate proposal that an appeal be made to the masses to diligently search for the moon the day there is high probability of sighting according to astronomical data. However, the decision is to be made by the actual sighting of the first moon with the naked human eye.
- The foremost importance is for the moons of the blessed month of Ramadān, Eid al Adḥa, Dhul Ḥijjah or Sha’abān. In the remaining months, the news from one reliable individual is sufficient. This is the reason why devising the condition of 10 persons to witness the new moon, when the skies are clear do not seem appropriate for all 12 months.
- If the proposal’s base is on this view that “ikhtilāf al maṭāli’ (individual local regional sightings) is not considered and where ever the moon is sighted internationally, then the people of the entire world regarding that moon are addressed pertaining to the religions obligations” as is the verdict of the jamhūr (overwhelming majority of scholars) and also the predominantly stronger verdict of the Ḥanafī school of law. Thus according to this verdict, the sighting of South Africa can be applied to Canada.
- The final point is that Ramadān commencing one day before or after and Eid occurring today or tomorrow is not of a major matter. The more vital matter is that Muslims refrain from disunity and give preference to establishing uniformity. In the least, the Muslims of one region should commence fasting on one day. They should offer Eid prayer on the one and very same day. They should also offer the ritual sacrifice on the same day. The Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings upon him) eluding to this stated,
“Fasting is the day you all fast and ending the fast is the day you all end the fast. Ritual sacrifice is the day you all render the animal sacrifice” (Tirmidhī, Book of Fasting, Ḥadīth number 697)
With Allāh is facilitation and He is the One Sought for Support. (Muftī) Khālid Saifullāh Al Raḥmānī (Servant of Ma’had al Āali al Islāmi’, Hyderabad) 19 Rabi’ al Awwal, 1434 – 1 February, 2013