Why do we Need a Large
Number of Witnesses from a Town?
In old days, Muslim Qadis
from Morocco to Yemen and Central Asia and Afghanistan to Bangladesh had to
announce "official" dates. They determined the 'reasonable' number of witnesses
to establish the beginning of Ramadan and for Eidain dates. Please keep in mind
that the number of witnesses was for each town or city, as the means of
communications were not available to find out what was going on a few miles
Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad
required a large number of witnesses (for a town, not a whole continent)
when the sky was clear. (Bidayatul-Mujtahid v.1, Hidayah, Radd al-Muhtar,
Imam Shafi’ accepted two witness for Ramadan
Imam Abu Yusuf required 50+ in Baghdad (He
was the Qadi).
Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad required a
group from each mosque in town. (Such a large number that could not be
Imam Khalf b. Ayyub asked for a minimum of
150, later raising the number to five hundred in Balkh. (Bahr Al-Raiq)
Hadrat Umar (R) as the
Khalifa did not accept the claim of a sighting by someone if the moon was not
visible to others, including him, from the same spot.
Imam Shafi'i restricts
Matl'a to the distance of travel for making "Qasr". Others extend it to 400
miles, the distance between Medina and Damascus (Syria). Ibn Abbas (R) did not
accept Kuraib's sighting report in Syria 30 days ago as the moon was NOT SEEN in
Medina on 29th evening. Ikrama (a Tabi'i) did not accept sighting in
"Astara", some 20 miles away from Medina as valid for Medina (Musannaf Ibn Abi
Witnesses should be
extremely sure to claim that they did really see a crescent moon and not a
cloud, or a jet trail on the lower horizon.