Observation - Some Common Questions
Afzal (Revised Mar. 1999)
I participated in a seminar
on the Moon-sighting on Feb. 27, 1999 evening. I was amazed that even after many
presentations since 1981 in NYC area most of the 'Imams' and a lot of the
Muslims who attended the seminar did not understand basic facts. This short note
is to refresh the memory of inquisitive observers.
a. A crescent
moon cannot be seen before the birth of the New Moon.
b. The earth is
not a flat field, but a globe. A moon seen first at a place X (Makka, Cairo,
Lagos, Istanbul, Washington DC, Houston, etc. will not be immediately visible
everywhere on the globe. A town only a few miles east of the first visibility
will see it next evening after 24 hours.
c. If a moon is
actually seen at any place (Makka, Cairo, etc.) it will be seen everywhere west
of it in same evening (within a parabola, on a clear sky). Most of the world
will see it within 24 hours as we see the sun in 24 hours though in some cases a
crescent moon will take 3-5 days to be seen all over the globe.
d. Some Muslims
argue that the Hadith: "Sumu li-ru'yatih..." and "La tasumu hatta tara-wul-Hilal..."
require that once a claim comes from anywhere any where in the world all Muslims
are obligated to fast on receiving the news. Some say that for moonsighting even
false claims must be accepted.
e. Some use
"29/30 days" Hadith to stop fasting after 30 days. Here are a few points to
ponder for all intelligent Muslims who are interested in comprehending the "moonsighting"
issues (even for those who reject any consideration of moon's calculations).
The Ahadith cannot be
interpreted for an "instant, global" beginning of Ramadan or Eid al-Fitr. The
Hadith also contains the phrase: Fa In Ghumma 'alaikum... (If your horizon is
cloudy…) The horizon everywhere on the globe will not be cloudy exactly after
sunset. This phrase by itself means that the Messenger (S) meant sighting on the
Un-verifiable Sighting Claims
Where do they find in the
Qur’an and the Sunnah that we must accept FALSE claims?
Kuraib's Hadith (found in
Sahih Muslim, and four other Sihah): "...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).
It explains the following
1. In Syria Ramadan
crescent was seen on Friday, but in Medina on Saturday. (Medina is east of
Syria, and 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 the Qadi/ruler, etc.
before the end of the month. But he (or anybody else in Medina) did not accept
it as binding on those who did not see it on a clear sky.
3. On Ramadan 29 (which was
Ramadan 30 for Kuraib, and everybody in Syria) Shawwal crescent WAS NOT VISIBLE
4. Ibn Abbas (R) (and
everybody else in Medina) insisted on "A VISIBLE HILAL ON MEDINA (LOCAL)
HORIZON". They did 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 asked the people in Medina to ignore the sighting in a nearby place hardly
20 miles away because it was not visible in Medina.
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 31st day. (Subul as-Salaam)
7. He rejected Friday's
sighting in Syria to be UNIVERSAL and/or BINDING on all Muslims everywhere in
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 in
the 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.
10. He rejected the pleas:
a) The witness himself saw it; b) Everybody at...saw it. c) The Muslim ruler saw
it and fasted.
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. Hakadha amarana..."BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT THE MESSENGER (S)
ORDERED US TO DO.
Shaukani and others argued
to reject Kuraib’s Hadith on the following grounds:
Abbas (R) did not quote the actual words of the Messenger (S).
There are several versions of the Hadith "La tasumu…", quoted above.)
required a testimony of at least two witnesses.
The question was not of the number of witnesses. It was "Visibility".)
3. It was
his Ijtihad, and his Ijtihad is not binding.
Why did he use the words: "Amarana..." The Messenger (S) ORDERED US…?
was not a reliable witness.
Ibn Abbas (R) did not say anything about Kuraib being unreliable.)
Abbas (R) believed in Ikhtilaf-i Matali.
(Strange: He said nothing
about it. He could say: "Li kulli ahli baladin ru'yatahum", as Tirmidhi adds,
and reports from the "knowledgeable".)
testimony was only NEWS, and not a Shahadah (eyewitness account).
If Ibn Abbas (R) took it as news only, then why did he continue asking
Obviously, none of these
arguments is valid to disregard a Sahih Hadith collectively reported in five
Sihah. It must be accepted especially now when the physical facts of moon's
visibility confirm every aspect of it.
The conclusions are
* VISIBILITY OF THE MOON IS
THE ONLY BASIS TO BEGIN AN ISLAMIC MONTH.
* MUSLIMS AT A PLACE X
CANNOT ACT ON THE NEWS FROM A PLACE Y IF THEY CANNOT SEE A MOON ON A CLEAR
* WHEN THE NEWS FROM Y (MAKKA,
HOUSTON, ETC.) IS NOT CONFIRMED BY THE VISIBILITY AT THEIR OWN TOWN THE MUSLIMS
MUST DISREGARD IT.
* AFTER COMPLETING 30 DAYS
OF RAMADAN ONE CANNOT DISCONTINUE FASTING IF A MOON IS NOT VISIBLE IN THE SKY.
THE NEWS OR THE WITNESSES IN YOUR OWN TOWN WERE FALSE. A MOON
WILL ALWAYS BE SEEN IF 30 DAYS ARE COMPLETED, AS THE MESSENGER (S) SAID.
* THE WHOLE WORLD WILL SEE
A CRESCENT IN 24 HOURS.
* MOON'S VISIBILITY CANNOT
EXTEND EAST FROM THE INITIAL POINT. ETC.
This year Saudi dates of
Ramadan and Eidain were BEFORE the New Moon. As a moon cannot be seen before its
birth the Muslims must not be asked to follow Saudi announcements in the name of
Muslim ‘Unity’. Unity on a wrong date against the guidelines of the Qura’n and
the Sunnah is not unity but disobedience of Allah and His Rasul.