Where Do We Differ and Why?
The Qur'an specifically mentions
a 'visible crescent' (Ahilla) as "Mawaqeet" for determining the beginning
lunar Islamic month (2:189). All agree that the Hadith :"Do not fast unless you
see it..." (Bukhari, etc.) is how the Messenger (S) put this Qur'anic injunction
All the Fuqha agree that the
sighting of a crescent (Hilal), or the completion of 30 days of the previous
lunar month (29/30 days Hadith) determines the beginning of an Islamic month.
However, they disagree on details. The following is a summary of the chapter in
Kitab Al-Fiqh Ala al-Madhaahib al-Arb'a with some modifications:
If it is cloudy on 29th evening at your place: If the sky is clear at your place:
At least two witnesses
large group (An acceptable number may be two or more from every mosque in the
town to 500+ in a large city like Balkh)
At least two
A large number on a clear day.
Shafi'i: One for Ramadan
One for Eid al-Fitr if 'Hakim' accepts/Two
***For celebrating Eid al-Fitr after 30 days of
fasting they also differ.***
If it is cloudy at your place
on 30th evening: If the
skies are clear on 30th at your place:
Eid al-Fitr next day
||Fast 31st day, as it
is actually 30th
Ahnaf: Eid al-Fitr
Eid next day
Shafi'i: Eid next
Eid next day
(30 days complete)
Maliki: Eid next
Eid next day
Hanbali: Eid next day
Eid only if Ramadan started by 2 witnesses
Fast 31 if Ramadan by 1
Sha'ban was only 29 days
Hanafi Fuqaha argue that if the sky is clear on
the 30th evening and the crescent is not visible then non-visibility is
exact proof that the month of Ramadan is not over. The beginning of Ramadan was
a mistake as a crescent is alwa visible on a clear sky on 30th. The first day
of Ramadan will be counted as the last day of Sha'ban and Ramadan will be
completed to 30 days.
Ikhtilaf vs. Ittihad al-Matali:
If a crescent is sighted in one
town but not at another place Muhadditheen, on the authority of the Kuraib's
Hadith (Sahih Muslim, Tirmidhi and 3 other Sihah) are unanimous that every town
must follow it's own sighting. Tirmidhi quotes consensus (Ijma') on this
Earlier Hanafi, Maliki and
Hanbali Fuqaha say that all the Muslims who come to know about it must follow
the earliest sighting for Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. This position was for towns
in close proximity from each other (usually, for distances when one was not
considered a traveler i.e. up to 48 miles). For longer distances all were
unanimous that each town abides by its sighting.
Shafi'i and later Ahnaf say that
each town must follow it's sighting.
Those who hold "the whole world
as one horizon" opinion argue that the Ahadith: "Sumu li-ru'yatih...", "La
tasumu hatta tara-wul-Hilal..." etc. are a 'general order for all Muslims' and
require that once a crescent is seen anywhere in the world all Muslims must fast
or celebrate Eid.
Both Ittihad and Ikhtilaf
positions are now obsolete because:
a. The Ahadith "Sumu li
ru'yatihi..." cannot be interpreted for an "instant, global" beginning of
Ramadan or Eid al-Fitr for several reasons. They contain phrases
like: "Fa in Ghumma 'alaikum...(If your horizon is
cloudy/hazy..). The horizon all over the globe will not be
cloudy exactly at sunset. These phrases by themselves mean that
the Messenger (S) meant "local Matla' of each town as the Kuraib's Hadith
a. The earth is not a flat
field, but a globe. It takes 24 hours for the moon to be visible over most of
the earth. A moon first seen at a place X (for example, Makka] will not be
visible immediately everywhere, especially east of X (for
example, from Jakarta to Taif). A town only a few miles east of X (earliest
sighting place) will see it after 24 hours.
b. If a moon is actually seen at
any place then it will be seen everywhere west of it (within the parabola, on a
"...I saw Ramadan crescent in Syria...on Friday
night. Then I reached Medina by the end of the month. Ibn Abbas (R) inquired
about it...When?...We saw it Friday night. "Did you see it Friday night? Yes, I
did, and so did people (in Syria /Damascus). They fasted, and also Mu'awiya (R)
(the then ruler)... But we (in Medina) saw it Saturday night. We will continue
to fast till we either complete 30 days or we see it (here in Medina)...Is
Mu'awiya's sighting and fasting not enough... No. This is the way the Messenger
(S) ordered us (to do).
1. In Syria Ramadan crescent was seen on Friday, but in Medina it was seen next
day on Saturday. (Medina is east of Syria, and was outside the visibility
parabola for that evening. Hence the moon could not be seen
there on Friday, the day everyone saw it in Syria)
2. Ibn Abbas (R) received the
news (it was also an eyewitness account, a decision by theQadi/ruler, etc.
before the end of the month. But he (or anybody else in Medina)
did not accept it as binding on them as they did not see it on
Friday on a clear sky.
3. On Ramadan 29 (which was 30
Ramadan for Kuraib, and for Muslims in Syria) Shawwal crescent WAS NOT VISIBLE in Medina on a clear sky.
4. Ibn Abbas (R) and people in
Medin insisted on "A VISIBLE CRESCENT ON MEDINA HORIZON". They asked
for it because this is what the Messenger (S) instructed them to do.
(Another Hadith in Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaiba also
confirms this. 'Ikrama and Salim told people to ignore the news of sighting in a
place hardly 20 miles away because it was not visible in Medina on a clear sky.)
5. The Muslims in Medina did not
celebrate Eid the next day although 30 days of Ramadan were completed
according to a confirmed sighting in Syria. Instead they kept on
6. Ibn Abbas (R) forced Kuraib
to fast 31 days. (It was 30th Ramadan in Medina.] (Subul as-Salaam)
7. He rejected Friday's sighting in Syria to be UNIVERSAL and/or BINDING on all
Muslims everywhere in
the world. Non-Sighting on a clear sky in Medina meant Ramadan continues.
8. He also rejected that after
completing 30 days of Ramadan a person can celebrate Eid even if Shawwal
crescent is not seen on a clear sky where he is present.
9. He affirmed that the Muslims
should begin fasting and celebrate Eid only if a crescent is VISIBLE on a clear sky at their place. There is no justification to celebrate Eid if a
crescent is NOT SEEN on the local horizon, even for someone who
had seen it by his own eyes somewhere else at the beginning of the month and completed 30 days of fasting.
10. He rejected the pleas: a)
The witness himself saw it; b) Everybody at... saw it. c) The Muslim ruler saw it and all the Muslim in Syria fasted. etc. as at was against a
fact (non-sighting on their clear horizon).
11. Ibn Abbas (R) did this by
asserting : Fa la nazalu nasumu... "We will keep on fasting until we complete
30 days (by our sighting in Medina) or SEE it...LA. Ha kadha
amarana Rasulullah: "BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT THE MESSENGER (S)
ORDERED US TO DO.
Shaukani and others have argued to reject this
Hadith on the following grounds:
1. Ibn Abbas (R) did not quote
the actual words of the Messenger (S).
(Strange: There are several
versions of the Hadith "La tasumu..", as quoted and he refered to it.)
2. He required a testimony of at
least two witnesses.
(Strange: The question was not
of the number of witnesses. It was moon's "Visibility".)
3. It was his Ijtihad, and his
Ijtihad is not binding.
(Strange: Why did he use the
words: "Amarana..." The Messenger (S) ORDERED US..?
4. Kuraib was not a reliable
(Strange: Ibn Abbas (R) did not
say anything about Kuraib being unreliable.)
5. Ibn Abbas (R) believed in
(Strange: He said nothing about
it. He could say: "Li kulli ahli baladin ru'yatuhum", etc.
6. Kuraib's testimony was only a
NEWS, and not a Shahadah (eye-witness account).
(Strange: If Ibn Abbas (R) took
it as a news only, then why did he continue asking questions?)
Obviously, none of these arguments is valid to
disregard a Sahih Hadith collectively reported in five Sihah. The physical facts
of a moon's visibility confirm every aspect of this Hadith.
For Eid al-Adha all Fuqha are
unanimous that each town will follow its sighting.
All Fuqaha agree that if the
news of a sighting is conveyed properly, after authentication by the
authorities, all the Muslims who receive the news must act on it for fasting and
for Eid al-Fitr.
(However, Ahadith (La Tasumu..
Bukhari) and Kuraib (Sahih Muslim) confirm that the Messenger (S) ordered us
not to start a new month if a crescent is not seen on a clear sky even if 30
days count is complete by some testimony or news. There is nothing in the
Qur'an and Sunnah which permits Muslims to start Ramadan or celebrate Eid
because of the "news" from somewhere else when a crescent is not visible on a
clear sky in their town, or it is cloudy on 29th day.)
Some use "a month is 29 or 30
days" Hadith to celebrate Eid al-Fitr after 30 days of Ramadan even when they do
not see a crescent on a clear sky. Similarly, some start fasting because their
calendar shows 30 days of Sh'aban are completed. This is another misconception
Why should we disregard the
obvious meaning of this Hadith: The month is either 29 or 30 days. Try to see a
crescent on the 29th evening. If it is not seen then you will certainly see it
on the 30th if the horizon is clear. The Messenger (S) made it very clear that
the fasting has to begin by ‘ru'yah’, and end only after ‘ru'yah’. The only
exception is if the horizon is clouded. If clouds block the visibility then we
complete 30 days of the month. It is a fact that a crescent will always be seen
on the 30th evening.
Al-Jumuah (V.8:no.8, p.21-25)
published an article on determining the first day of Ramadan. It quotes Ibn
Taymiyah (Fatawa v.5): "..using calculations... is not allowed.." Earlier
several articles like "Verifying the crescent of Ramadan" (Hudaa Jan. 1997)
"Sighting: the correct method" (Muslim Creed), "Sighting versus
Calculation" (Friday Report), "Unification of the day of fasting" (Ar-Raya),
"Sighting of Ramadan crescent and Muslim unity" (Manar as-Sabeel),
"Establishing Ramadhan and other Islamic dates" (Al-Quran and As-Sunnah
Society of North America) etc. and shorter notes appeared on the issue of
moonsighting . They tell the Muslims to rely only on 'witnesses' even if false,
and not on calculations. Jibali's claim that 'False witnesses are not very
relevant' (Wall St. Journal 1/7/97) shows how blind these supporters of
'witnesses only' position are to the real problem? These writers pretend to know
"moon's astronomy" (?) and talk about "indisputable natural sign" (the
crescent). According to them "the most perfect rule" is the testimony of "one
Muslim" for establishing the Islamic date. All of them have some common
1. The Qur'an and Sunnah
accept only 'witnesses'. Calculations are unacceptable. (Ummiya
2. All including false claims of
sighting must be accepted because the Messenger (S) did so. (A'raabi
3. The news of sighting anywhere
is valid for the whole world, even if you do not see it on a clear sky. (Sumu
4. After 30 days a new month
begins, even if you do not see a crescent on a clear sky. (29/30 Hadith)
This is their interpretation of A'raabi, 29/30
days, Ummiya and Sumu Ahadith. Let us analyze their arguments:
A) From Khulafa al-Rashidun to
Qadis in recent months all over the Muslim world evaluated testimonies
rigorously by whatever means were available to them. From 'Umar (R) who rejected
the testimony of Anas (R) for a crescent (Anas mistook a white hair of his
eyebrow for a crescent) till today Qadis have found strong reasons to reject
eye-witnesses of Ramadan and Eidain crescents when they had doubts about these
B) "Testimony"--an account of an
event-- is only a "Zann", and not "Yaqeen". It may be true or false. It has to
be checked and verified before a judge accepts it as a valid evidence to
establish a fact.
C) Their "most perfect rule"
(Reliable Muslims' testimony) is the real cause of confusion and disunity among
the Muslims all over the world. For years Muslims have experienced chaos. They
start Ramadan and celebrate Eidain on 2-3 different days in the same city
because of false claims. Testimony by "Udul Shuhud" is often not the "most
perfect rule" as these writers want us to believe. What happens to the crescent
which "Udul Shuhud" (several reliable witnesses) testify to have seen at many
places ? Why does it vanish from the sky for one or two days? These
eye-witnesses fail both simple observational tests: 1) "SEEN" at any place
must be seen at every place west of it the same evening, and 2) Seen
by a few must be visible to everybody. Obviously, the testimony of these
'Udul' witnesses are not reliable but FALSE.
Every year we have a repetition
of the same story. S. Arabia and some other states claim the first sightings of
Ramadan and Eidain moons without fail, and the Muslims from Australia to Hawaii
have to settle their "seen": "not seen" differences by reasoning or
fist-fights. The drama continues despite efforts to convince Saudi religious
authorities that their blind acceptance of testimony by false witnesses is the
real cause of the chaos.
E) "Wahdat al-Matali" is a "Fiqhi"
position which is invalid for our earth --a "globe", not a flat field.
Similarly, determining Ramadan and Eidain on the basis of "Khabar" (news) from
another country clashes with the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Ibn Abbas (RA) rejected
the "Khabar" (news) and "Shahaadah" (eyewitness account) because a crescent was
not seen on a clear Medina horizon saying: "This is what the Messenger (S) had
Their claim of "Ijma"
on discarding "Hisab" shows their lack of knowledge.
Tabi'in and Fuqaha on
The calculations for the 'New
Moon' phases were known for thousands of years. But precise
calculations for a crescent moon were unknown. By the ninth century the
Muslim also learned how to calculate the New Moon phase. But for the next
thousand years they were unable to find exactly when a crescent will always be
visible. Almost all of them from Al-Biruni onwards wrote something on the topic
of moonsighting. None of them was exact. For exact calculations they lacked the
information about all the factors affecting the moon's visibility from the
surface of the earth. That is the reason the Fuqaha and Qudat continued to rely
on witnesses instead of 'Munajjimeen', despite the fact that in many instances
the witnesses were 'false' or mistaken.
Did the Messenger (S) really
order the Muslims to remain "UMMI" (unlettered), and not use "Hisab" and
"writing" till eternity? If not, then why should only moon's calculations be
'forbidden'? The Fuqaha who opposed calculations did it for obvious reason: the
calculations in the last 14 hundred years were not very precise. The situation
has drastically changed in the last two decades. Hundreds of observers from all
over the world have confirmed the 'accuracy of the calculated Islamic dates'
It is not true that the Muslim
Ummah was unanimous in rejecting the calculations to determine the beginning of
an Islamic month. Prominent Tabi’in like Mutraf b. Abdullah, Muhadditheen like
Ibn Qutaiba, Fuqaha like Imam Shafi’i, Ibn Suraij, Ibn Daqiq al-Eid, Daudi and
others have permitted the use of calculations for determining the Ramadan and
Eidain dates despite the fact that the calculations were not very accurate in
their age. Imam Abu Hanifa is quoted in Qaniyah as saying: There is no harm in
depending on the words of the astronomers (for determining the month). Ibn
Muqatil went a step further. He says that: There is nothing wrong in depending
on the words of the astronomers, and asking them about the dates if a group of
them agrees on the same.
A crescent's calculations are no
longer "ignorant lying astrologers" estimations. During the last 15 years their
accuracy is established by consistent observations. Muslim and non-Muslim both
experts calculated that the Ramadan and Eidain crescents will be visible on such
and such days in N. America and only on a day later in Asia, Africa etc. Those
who carefully checked the sighting (including in S. Arabia, Egypt, etc.)
confirmed that the Hilal was visible as the experts calculated, and not as the
witnesses claimed from some ME places.
Those who doubt should form
groups to observe the crescent every month on the conjunction date and the date
confirmed by the calculations for its visibility in their area. They will be
amazed to see how the calculations have confirmed what the Quran said 1400+
years ago: "The sun and the moon rotate on an exactly computed course (55:5)",
and what the Messenger (S) told us: "The month is 29 or 30 days".
Why do we have 2, 3 or 4 Eids?
The Muslims CANNOT agree on a
single date. Their Ulema insist on a 'sighted crescent' but follow their
'official Islamic' calendar blindly. A global lunar calendar based on
"witnesses only" creates three major problems. If we rely only on witnesses
then each town should have a different calendar, determined each month by the
witnesses there and adjusted every month because of clouds, haze and other
atmospheric factors which may hinder moon's visibility. What about the
situations when there are 'no witnesses', 'cloudy evenings on 29' or false
witnesses. In 'no witness' case the Islamic month should be 30 days and an
Islamic year may become 360 days. In case clouds hinder sighting on 29 when it
was visible, the following month may be of 28 days only if the previous month
was extended to 30 days. Then there are problems because the world is not a flat
field but a globe. A crescent's visibility starts from a new place every month
and extends in a parabola. If the Muslims strictly follow the witnesses only
then Ramadan must start on three different days/dates most of the years.
Hilal vs. New Moon
Except a few contemporary Ulema
like Qaradawi and Shakir and a few Muslim astronomy experts nobody has ever
suggested to replace the Qur'anic 'Visible' crescent (Ahilla) by the invisible
New Moon (Conjunction). This group argues that relying on the witnesses (only
Zann) creates a lot of dissension among the Ummah. Hence the Muslim should
switch to the Conjunction which is common knowledge now and is 'accurate' (Qata'i).
They did not realize the complications before proposing their solution. The
Islamic month begins when a crescent moon first appears after sunset. How the
New Moon will be used to determine the Islamic day/date as it occurs at all
times of day and night? If we disregard the conjunction time and take only the
NM date still the problems do not disappear. The conjunction occurs at a
different place every month. etc.
For years the Muslims have
experienced chaos because various groups insist on their narrow interpretations
of Ahadith and Fiqh positions. The Muslims all over the world should and may
start Ramadan and celebrate Eidain on one LUNAR date within 24 hours if we
seriously take the Qur'an and the Sunnah. For any meaningful discussion we must
keep in mind that the Fiqhi positions evolved hundreds of years ago for places
where the Muslims moved, and at a time when means of communications were very
limited. News from a place only 15-20 miles away could reach Medina or any
major town one or two days later. There was no way to check the accuracy of a
To solve global issues at the
end of the 20th century when the news travels in seconds, human knowledge of the
globe, and moon's visibility have drastically changed, and confirmation of a
claimed sighting is very easy to get in minutes from areas west of the initial
ly claimed sighting we have to find solutions in the broader context of the
Eyewitnesses and Calculations
We assume that all know the
difference between a crescent (Hilal) and the New Moon (Conjunction),
actual sighting (Ru'yah) and claim of sighting ,
as well as local time/date and universal time/dateline.
Let us start from some basic
1. A crescent (Hilal)
cannot be seen before the New Moon (Conjunction) phase. (Quran: 36:39)
2. A crescent seen in Arabia or
Egypt is visible to all who live to the west of these places the same evening.
3. A crescent is always visible
in the evening of the 30th day. (29/30 days Hadith)
No Muslim disputes that a
crescent (Hilal) determines the beginning of an Islamic month. However, keep in
mind that some countries have changed the definition of Hilal. For example,
Saudi Arabia's Taqweem defines a crescent as the conjunction date. Egypt
assumes that a crescent occurs if the moon is setting five minutes after the
sunset. For Ramadan and Eidain one minute after sunset is good enough. Many
other Muslim countries from Indonesia to Turkey officially use the first date
after the conjunction as the first day of the Islamic month. All of them
disregard moon's visibility.
Some Muslims believe the NEWS
FROM THEIR HOME COUNTRY. They fast or celebrate Eid when Saudi Arabia, Gulf
States or Egypt claim a moon-sighting there. If the Muslims in Morocco, and N.
America cannot see it 3-8 hours later the same evening then it is a fact that it
was NOT SEEN in Saudi Arabia, Gulf States or Egypt.
Some governments force their
calculated dates as if they are based on the Islamic criterion of a visible moon
in their country . But they are not. A moon is never visible on those dates. But
the Muslims living there and at many other places believe that Ramadan or Eid
decision is based on reliable sightings. Fiqh positions are used to justify
blatantly wrong decisions about these dates. The dissenters are called
disobeying a binding decision of a Qadi and of a legitimate government. Remember
what happened to Tantawi a decade ago when he wrote a note saying that the
authorities must reject claims of sighting on a day of solar eclipse or a day
earlier. "How could you hold in your lap a baby which is not born yet?", he
Some Muslims believe
RELIABLE MUSLIMS SAW IT AT ...... (in Middle East or N. America). They are
willing to believe every claim of moonsighting made anywhere. If the Muslims in
Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle on the west coast (and Hawaii ) cannot see a
crescent hours later when it was claimed from Middle Eastern countries, or New
York, Florida, Atlanta, Michigan, Texas, Idaho, etc. then the claims are
obviously false. Now the human knowledge has reached the stage
when we can accurately calculate if a crescent is visible somewhere. We can
easily check if the witnesses are true or they mistook something else for a
crescent at any place by asking the Muslims west of them to report their
If we continue insisting that ‘1
or 2 witness(es) are enough’ despite obvious contradictions in their
testimony or 30 days from 27th Rajab (for Ramadan) or from 28th Sha'ban
(for Eid al-Fitr) then the present chaos will continue for ever.
You can see a crescent from your
window. You do not have to climb a tower or a mountain to see it. Any place from
where you may clearly see the lower parts of the western skies clearly is good
enough. Don’t feel frustrated if you wear eye-glasses. Your vision with glasses
may be better than those without glasses. If possible use a good binocular. Wait
15-35 minutes after sunset for the crescent. Once you see it move your eyes
away, and look again. Be sure that what you see is a crescent, and not some
other shiny object. Generally, a 29th day moon is very thin and very low on
the horizon. A crescent after 30 days is brighter, and higher in the sky.
When there is an obvious
contradiction between a claim and a known fact (the moon was not there where the
witnesses claim to have seen it) then the witnesses must be rejected. They are
claiming what did not exist at the time and the place.