People differ in the issue of sighting the moon for fasting. What is the correct opinion on this issue?
Assalaam ailkoem warahmattullahi wabarakatoh
I wanted to know what is the legal ruling on sighting the new moon, a lot of people don’t agree on the time of fasting. Here we have people who use the calendar, they start their fast according to calculation.
Other people start their fast if the moon is sighted in Saudia Arabia. And other people start their fast if the moon is sighted in the country they live in.
What is the legal ruling? and could you give me evidence and reference about scholars who handled these issue?
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
All praise be to Allah and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his household, Companions and those who follow him.
There are two issues relating to this question: scientific knowledge and application. Scientific knowledge: It is legally established that the definitive (Ar.qat'i) is given precedence over the speculative (Ar. Zanni), i.e. the definitive calculations are not at odds with the correct visual sighting [of the new moon]. For this reason, the Islamic Research Assembly issued a resolution in 1964, and juristic conferences — such as Jeddah conference and others — have agreed to implement definitive astronomical calculations in conjunction with relying upon correct visual sightings. This means that [astronomical] calculations are used to negate [erroneous] visual sightings of the new moon but not confirm them. Therefore, any person who claims that he has physically sighted the new moon, while astronomical calculations prove otherwise, is blameworthy..
Imam al-Taqi al-Subki said in his book Al-Fatawa: "Because [astronomical] calculations are definitive and testimony and news of visual sightings are speculative, and the speculative does not contradict the definitive but has precedence over it, it is a condition that admissible testimony be accepted only if what is testified to is physically, rationally, and legally possible. If it is assumed that [astronomical] calculations indicate unequivocally the impossibility of a physical sighting, then this physical sighting must be rejected because it testifies to something which is impossible and there is no scope for such impossibilities in the Shari'ah; there are no legal texts which make it obligatory to accept the testimony of any two witnesses whether what they are testifying to is valid or not". He then said: "Some obscure and ignorant people may not accept what we have mentioned and may wholly disapprove of resorting to [astronomical] calculations; they may obstinately insist that all of what has been testified to by two witnesses is established. We do not hold any discussions with these people — we discourse with those [who at least have] the minimum degree of discernment — we do not hold discourse with the ignorant.".
In his meta-commentary on Sharh al-Muhala 'ala al-Minhaj al-Qalyubi quotes al-'Abadi as saying: "If the definitive [astronomical] calculations prove that the new moon has not appeared, then the word of two upright witnesses [confirming the appearance of the new moon] is not accepted and their testimony is rejected." Al-Qalyubi then said: "The matter is then apparent; it is impermissible to start fasting and contradicting this is deemed obstinacy and rebelliousness.”
If the definitive calculations negate the rising of the new moon, then the claim of having physically sighted the new moon is of no consequence, and if calculations do not negate the physical sighting, then one is to depend upon the visual sighting to prove whether or not the new moon has appeared.
Moreover, it is a definitive fact that the month of Ramadan can never be 28 nor 31 days, but is like the rest of the lunar months (i.e. either 29 or 30 days). Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet said: " 'Months are like this and this and this' (i.e. 30 days). Then he said: 'And like this and this and this' (i.e. 29 days). So, he said 30 days one time and said 29 days another" [Bukhari and Muslim]. Another version of the hadith states: "Allah has made the new moons to mark times. So, when you sight the new moon [of the month of Ramadan] start fasting, and when you sight the new moon [of the moth of Shawwal] break your fast. If it [the sky] is overcast, then estimate [the number of the days] and know that the months do not exceed 30 days" [reported by IbnKhuzaimah in his Sahih and al-Hakim in his Mustadrak who declared it authentic according to the criteria of Bukhari and Muslim]. Imam IbnRushd in Bidayt al-Mujtahid and other scholars have mentioned a scholarly consensus on this fact.
Application: In such a case, a legally responsible person must take two things into consideration:
First: Ramadan, for him, must neither exceed 30 days nor be less than 29.
Second: His fast must not conflict with the definitive astronomical calculations.
This can be summed up: This means that [astronomical] calculations are used to negate [erroneous] visual sightings of the new moon but not confirm them. Therefore, any person who claims that he has physically sighted the new moon, while astronomical calculations prove otherwise, is blameworthy. However, if the calculations prove that the new moon has been sighted, then we are to follow the visual sighting. Therefore, if the new moon is seen by the naked eye or the tools, it is established then that the month has begun or ended. But if the new moon has not been seen, then the month has not begun or ended.
Based on this and in reference to the question: you should firmly determine the beginning and end of the month of Ramadan in a manner that does not contradict with the astronomical calculations. It is not permissible for you to follow the sighting of the new moon by anyone or in a certain country which contradicts the astronomical calculations in regard to negating the visual sighting. If the astronomical calculations negate the visual sighting of the new moon and any country claim otherwise, you should not give heed to such claim.
As for the month of Dhu-al-Hijjah, it does not follow the same procedure of the month of Ramadan because it is related to standing at Arafat and other rituals of Hajj. If the astronomical calculations negate the visual sighting of new moon, it is then a must to follow the calculations. If Saudi Arabia followed the sighting that contradicts the calculation, this sighting is not a proof against the people of Japan, India or China. This is because it is established in Jurisprudence that the sighting of the people of the east is to be taken as a proof against the people of the west not otherwise, and the rituals must be proceeded to unify the word of Muslims.
And Allah Almighty knows best