Fasting and Breaking the Fast according to the Sighting of the New Moon

Fasting and Breaking the Fast according to the Sighting of the New Moon

By his Eminence Ash-Shaykh 'Abdul-'Aziz bin 'Abdullah bin Baz

All praise is due to Allâh and may blessings and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family, his Companions and whoever follows his guidance. To proceed:

Many of the brothers have asked me about the ruling on relying upon the broadcast announcements regarding fasting and breaking the fast and does that agree with the authentic Hadith:
"Fast according to its (the new moon's) sighting and break your fast according to its sighting."

They have asked that if the sighting is confirmed by the testimony of a just person in a Muslim country, is it obligatory upon the neighboring country to take this? And if we say this, what is its evidence, and is the difference of the times of the rising of the moon, i.e., sighting zones in different places considered?

The answer to this question is that verily it is confirmed from the Messenger of Allâh by numerous routes of transmission that he said:
"Fast according to its (the new moon's) sighting and break your fast according to its sighting. If it is hidden from you by clouds, then consider it (the month) as 30 days."

In another wording of it he said:
"Then complete the number (of days) as 30."

In another narration he said:
"Then complete the number (of days) of Sha'ban as 30."

And it is confirmed that he said:
"Do not go forth with the month until you see the new moon or you complete the number (of 30 days). Then fast until you see the new moon or you complete the number (of 30 days)."

The Hadiths with this meaning are numerous and they prove that what is considered in this regard is either the sighting of the new moon or completing the number of days.

Concerning calculation, this is not to be relied upon. This is the truth and it is the consensus of the people of knowledge who are considered authoritative. The intent of the Hadith is not that every person has to see the new moon himself. Rather, its meaning is only that there is a clear and trustworthy witnessing. Abu Dawud recorded with an authentic chain of narration from Ibn 'Umar that he said: "The people looked for the new moon, so I told the Prophet that I saw it. Therefore, he fasted and ordered the people to fast."

Ahmad and the Sunan compilers recorded a Hadith, which Ibn Khuzaymah and Ibn Hibban graded authentic, from Ibn 'Abbas that a Bedouin Arab came to the Prophet and said: "Verily I saw the new moon." So, the Prophet said:
"Do you testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah?

The man said: "Yes." The Prophet then said:
"Announce among the people, O Bilal, that they should fast tomorrow."

It is reported from 'Abdur-Rahman bin Zaid bin Al-Khattab that he gave a sermon on a day in which there was doubt (about whether to fast or not). So, he said: "Verily I sat with the Companions of the Messenger of Allâh, and I asked them and they told me that the Messenger of Allâh said:
"Fast according to its (the new moon's) sighting and break your fast according to its sighting, and be devout in looking for it. If it is hidden from you by clouds, complete (the month as) 30 days. If two Muslim witnesses testify to seeing it, then fast and break the fast (according to their testimony)."

This Hadith was recorded by Ahmad, and An-Nasa'i recorded it without him saying in it, "Muslim." It was reported from the governor of Makkah, Al-Harith bin Hatib that he said: "The Messenger of Allâh took a covenant with us that we would be devout in looking for the new moon. And if we did not see it and two just witnesses testified to seeing it, we would devoutly follow their testimony." This was recorded by Abu Dawud and Ad-Daraqutni, who said: "This chain of narration is connected and authentic."

These Hadiths, and what has been reported with their same meaning, prove that the sighting of one just witness is sufficient for the sighting of the new moon of Ramadhan. However, concerning stopping the fast (at the end of Ramadhan) and the rest of the months, there must be two just witnesses. This is in combining between the Hadiths reported concerning this. This is also the view that most of the people of knowledge have gone with and it is the truth due to the appearance of its evidences. From this it becomes clear that the meaning of "sighting" is its confirmation by an Islamically legislated method and the meaning is not that each person has to see the new moon. Therefore, if a Muslim nation that rules according to the Islamic law, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, announces that the sighting of the new moon of Ramadhan or Shawwal or Thul- Hijjah has been confirmed, all of its citizens must follow it in that. According to a large number of the people of knowledge it is also obligatory upon other people as well to accept that sighting due to the generality of the Prophet's statement:
"The month is 29 days, so do not fast until you see it (the new moon), and if it is hidden from you by clouds, complete the number (of days) as 30."

This was recorded by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih from a Hadith of Ibn 'Umar. Muslim recorded it with the wording:
"Fast according to its (the new moon's) sighting and break your fast according to its sighting. And if it is hidden from you by clouds, consider it (the month) as 30 days."

Muslim reported a version with this wording, but in it he said:
"And if the month is hidden from you by clouds, then count it as 30 days."

Verily, the obvious meaning of these Hadiths and what has been reported with their meaning includes the entire Ummah. An- Nawawi reported in Sharhul-Muhaththib from Imam Ibn Al- Munthir that this was the view of Al-Laith bin Sa'd, Imam Ash- Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad, may Allâh have mercy on them. He - meaning Ibn Al-Munthir - said: "And I don't know this to be the view of anyone except Al-Madani and Al-Kufi," meaning Malik and Abu Hanifah.

A group of the scholars said: "The ruling of the sighting is only encompassing if the places have the same sighting zones (i.e., rising points of the new moon). However, if the sighting zones differ, then the people of each sighting zone have their own sighting." This was related by Imam At-Tirmithi from the people of knowledge. Their argument for this is based upon what Muslim reported in his Sahih from Ibn 'Abbas that Kuraib came to him in Al-Madinah from Ash-Sham (i.e., the land of Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon) at the end of Ramadhan. He informed him that the new moon was seen in Ash-Sham on the night of Jumu'ah (i.e., Thursday night) and that Mu'awiyah and the people fasted according to that. Ibn 'Abbas replied, "But we saw it on the night of As-Sabt (i.e.,Friday night), so we will not stop fasting until we see it or we complete the number (of 30 days)." Kuraib said, "Isn't the sighting and fasting of Mu'awiyah sufficient for you?" Ibn Abbas replied, "No. Thus did the Messenger of Allâh command us." These scholars say that this proves that Ibn Abbas held the view that the sighting is not to be generalized, and that the people of each land have their own sighting, if the sighting zones differ. Therefore, these scholars say that the sighting zones in the area of Al-Madinah are not the same as the sighting zones in Ash-Sham. Others said that he probably did not act according to the sighting of the people of Ash-Sham because no one testified to it with him other than Kuraib alone, and the testimony of one witness is not acted upon for ending the month. One person's testimony is only acted upon for the entry of the month.

This matter was presented to the Senior Scholars Board in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the second session held in Sha'ban, 1392 AH, and they agreed that what is most correct in this issue is ease in the matter. This means that it is permissible to take either one of these two views according to the position of scholars of the land. I say that this is a middle view that contains combining between the evidences and the statements of the people of knowledge. When this is known, it is obligatory on the people of knowledge in every land to be concerned with this matter when the month begins and ends and that they agree upon what is closest to the truth according to their Ijtihad (exercise of judgement). Then, they should act according to that and convey it to the people. It is also incumbent upon the authorities with them and the masses of the Muslims to follow them (the scholars) in that. They should not differ in this matter because that causes division of the people and an abundance of gossip and baseless talk if the country is not Islamic.

In reference to the Islamic country, it is obligatory upon it to rely upon what the people of knowledge say and to oblige the people to adhere to it, whether it is regarding fasting or breaking the fast. This is acting according to the mentioned Hadiths, fulfillment of what is obligatory and preventing the citizens from falling into what Allâh has forbidden. And it is known that Allâh restrains with the ruler what He does not restrain with the Qur'an..

I ask Allâh to help us and all of the Muslims to understand His religion, to be firm upon it, rule by it, refer to it for judgement and avoid whatever contradicts it. Verily, He is Most Generous, Most Noble.

May Allâh send blessings and peace upon His servant and Messenger, our Prophet Muhammad, and his family and Companions.

Fatawa Islamiyah, Vol. 3 Pages 224-225-226-227-228-229-230

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