Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
Seeking Advancement of Knowledge through Spiritual and Intellectual Growth

International ConferenceAbout IRFIIRFI CommitteesRamadan CalendarQur'anic InspirationsWith Your Help

Articles 1 - 1000 | Articles 1001-2000 | Articles 2001 - 3000 | Articles 3001 - 4000 | Articles 4001 - 5000 | Articles 5001 - 6000 |  All Articles

Family and Children | Hadith | Health | Hijab | Islam and Christianity | Islam and Medicine | Islamic Personalities | Other | Personal Growth | Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) | Qur'an | Ramadan | Science | Social Issues | Women in Islam |

Islamic Articles
Islamic Links
Islamic Cemetery
Islamic Books
Women in Islam
Aalim Newsletter
Date Conversion
Prayer Schedule
Q & A
Contact Info



Actual Moon Sighting: Not a Requirement for Ramadan



By Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah



Some questions have been raised about the Fiqh Council’s new adopted policy regarding confirming the month of Ramadan by astronomical calculations. It is being said that actual sighting is required by the Qur’an, Sunnah, Ijma’ (consensus of the jurists) and by the linguistic meanings of the word “Hilal”.Four main arguments are being presented to substantiate the claim that actual sighting by the naked eye is a prerequisite to the fasting of Ramadan.


1: That the Qur’an requires actual sighting by the verse of Surah al-Baqarah which says


شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىۤ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُمُ ٱلْيُسْرَ وَڈ يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ ٱلْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا۴ ٱلْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا۴ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَٰكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

“Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur-an, as a guide to mankind, also Clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.” (2:185)


The following phrase is wrongly translated to mean witnessing actual Moon sighting.

 فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ

The linguistic meanings of the word “Shahida” are “presence, knowledge and announcement (informing others). Ahmad bin Faris, in Maqayees al-Lughah, says:

شهد الشين والهاء والدال أصلٌ يدلُّ على حضور وعلم وإعلام، لا يخرُج شىءٌ من فروعه عن الذي ذكرناه

“The meanings of “Shahida” are confined to the three: Presence, knowledge and announcement”. None of the word’s derivatives go beyond these three meanings.”


Linguistically the above quoted Qur’anic phrase cannot go beyond the following three meanings:

1: “Whosoever was present in the month the Ramadan then let him fast (the month).”


2: “Whosoever had the knowledge of the month of Ramadan then let him fast (the month).”


3: “Whosoever received the knowledge about the month of Ramadan then let him fast the month.”


In no way or form it can be translated “Whosoever see the Moon of the month of Ramadan then let him fast it.” It will be against all the established rules of Arabic language. That is why the Qur’anic exegetes have translated and understood the meanings of the phrase as “Whosoever was present in the month of Ramadan then let him fast the month.”


The Qur’an has used the word in all these three meanings. For instance it says:

شَهِدَ ٱللَّهُ أَنَّهُۥ لا إِلَـٰهَ إِلا هُوَ وَٱلْمَلَـٰۤﯩـِٕكَةُ وَأُوْلُوا۴ ٱلْعِلْمِ قَآﯨـِٕمَۢا بِٱلْقِسْطِۚ لا إِلَـٰهَ إِ لا هُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْحَكِيم

“There is no god but He: that is the witness of Allah, His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He the Exalted in Power, the Wise.” (3: 18)

Allah SWT does not witness with actual eyes neither do the angels. Allah SWT witnesses means that He “explains or knows”. Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti explains these meanings by the following words:

شَهِدَ ٱللَّهُ } بـيَّن لخلقه بالدلائل والآيات[1][1]

“Shahida here means that Allah SWT had explained to His creatures by the signs and arguments (that He is One).”


The same word is used about human faculties such as hearing and seeing. I am sure they do not have actual physical eyes to sight things.


حَتَّىٰۤ إِذَا مَا جَآءُوهَا شَهِدَ عَلَيْهِمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَأَبْصَـٰرُهُمْ وَجُلُودُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا۴ يَعْمَلُونَ * وَقَالُوا۴ لِجُلُودِهِمْ لِمَ شَهِدتُّمْ عَلَيْنَاۖ قَالُوۤا۴ أَنطَقَنَا ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِىۤ أَنطَقَ كُلَّ شَىْءٍ وَهُوَ خَلَقَكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

At length, when they reach the (Fire), their hearing, their sight, and their skins will bear witness against them, as to (all) their deeds. They will say to their skins: "Why bear ye witness against us?" They will say: "Allah hath given us speech, He Who giveth speech to everything: He created you for the first time, and unto Him were ye to return. (41:20-21)

In these verses the witness of the hearing faculty, sighting and skins is explained through the word “Shahida”. No ignorant can say that these faculties will witness with their eyes. This means that these faculties will explain or give knowledge of what the person had done in the worldly life.


The following verse uses the word for truth:

وَ لا يَمْلِكُ ٱلَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ ٱلشَّفَـٰعَةَ إِلا مَن شَهِدَ بِٱلْحَقِّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ

“And those whom they invoke besides Allah have no power of intercession; only he who bears witness to the Truth, and they know (him).”(43:86)

Here again the witness of truth cannot be with naked eyes. The truth is not a physical entity that witnessing it would require sighting it. It clearly means standing by the truth or acknowledging it wholeheartedly.


The Qur’anic exegetes, in light of the crystal clear Qur’anic and linguistic meanings, interpret the verse of Surah al-Baqarah to mean that “whosoever was present in the month of Ramadan and was not traveling or sick then he should fast the month of Ramadan.


Imam al-Qurtubi reports that the famous Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) like Ali, Ibn Abbas, A’isha and others have observed that the meanings of “Shahida” is to “be present” in the month of Ramadan.

فقال عليّ ٱبن أبي طالب وابن عباس وسُوَيد بن غَفَلَة وعائشة أربعة من الصحابة وأبو مِجْلَز لاحق بن حُميد وعَبيدة السَّلْمانِيّ: من شهد أي من حضر دخول الشهر وكان مقيماً في أوله في بلده وأهله فليكمل صيامه، ومن أدركه حاضراً فليصمه[2][2]

“Ali bin Abi Talib, Ibn Abbas, Suwayd bin Ghafalah and A’isha, four of the Companions, and Successors such as Abu Mijlaz, Lahiq bin Humayd and U’baydah al-Salmani have said, “Shahida” means whosoever was present when the month started and was resident in his city and among his family, let him complete his fasting…Whosoever was present in the month of Ramadan let him fast.”


Ibn Kathir says:


فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُۖ } فأثبت الله صيامه على المقيم الصحيح، ورخص فيه للمريض والمسافر[3][3]

“By this verse Allah SWT obligated the resident and healthy to observe fasting while giving concession to the sick and traveling persons.”


The same meanings of presence are given by him at a different place:


فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُۖ } هذا إيجاب حتم على من شهد استهلال الشهر، أي كان مقيماً في البلد حين دخل شهر رمضان، وهو صحيح في بدنه أن يصوم لا محالة،[4][4]

Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti says Shahida means “present”.

فَمَن شَهِدَ } حضر[5][5]

Imam al-Nasafi gives the same meanings:

{ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُۖ } [البقرة:185] فمن كان شاهداً أي حاضراً مقيماً غير مسافر في الشهر فليصم فيه ولا يفطر[6][6]

Imam Showkani also says that the word means “present”.

أي: حضر، ولم يكن في سفر بل كان مقيماً،


Imam al-Razi has the same meanings for the word “Shahida”.

{ شَهِدَ } أي حضر والشهود الحضور[7][7]

There is no second opinion among the Qur’anic exegetes that the above phrase means whosoever was present in the month of Ramadan and not sick or traveling should fast the month of Ramadan. The same meanings are conveyed also by the context in which this phrase occurs in the Qur’an. Immediately after this phrase the Qur’an says, ”Whosoever is sick or traveling should make up for the missed days.” Imam al-Alusi observes:

ولا يحسن أن يقال من علم الهلال فليصم ومن كان مريضاً أو على سفر فليقض لدخول القسم الثاني في الأول والعاطف التفصيلي يقتضي المغايرة بينهماولذا ذهب أكثر النحويين إلى أن الشهر مفعول به ـ فالفاء ـ للسببية أو للتعقيب لا للتفصيل.

“Linguistically it is not appropriate to say, “whosoever saw the Moon let him fast and whosoever is sick or traveling let him make up for when the second category enters the first category (meaning when the sick or traveling sees the Moon). The detailed conjunction “and” demands difference and variety… that is why majority of the grammarians view “al-Shahr” is the subject and see that the word “fa” means “as a result” or “consequently” the person should fast.”


Al-Alusi shows that linguistically the phrase cannot violate the two established meanings. It has to mean either presence in person or through knowledge. The meanings will not give a sense of actual sighting of the Moon whether we take the word “al-Shahar” as “Mafa’ul fiyh” or “Maf’ul bih”.

{ شَهِدَ } من الشهود والتركيب يدل على الحضور إما ذاتاً أو علماً، وقد قيل: بكل منهما هنا[8][8]

Al-Razi also explains that in either case the meanings will be presence and not witnessing the new Moon with human eyes.

ثم ههنا قولان: أحدهما: أن مفعول شهد محذوف لأن المعنى: فمن شهد منكم البلد أو بيته بمعنى لم يكن مسافراً وقوله: { ٱلشَّهْرُ } انتصابه على الظرف وكذلك الهاء في قوله: { فَلْيَصُمْهُۖ } . والقول الثاني: مفعول { شَهِدَ } هو { ٱلشَّهْرُ } والتقدير: من شاهد الشهر بعقله ومعرفته فليصمه وهو كما يقال: شهدت عصر فلان، وأدركت زمان فلان[9][9]


It is a common practice among the Arabs to say that “I witnessed the Friday prayers or Hajj”. That does not mean that Friday prayer or Hajj is something physical and the person saw it with his own eyes. It clearly means that I was present in the Friday prayers or in the Hajj of such and such year.


It is very unfortunate that some Muslims try to impose their opinions upon the text of the Qur’an and do not let the Qur’an speak to them. They arbitrarily inflict their understanding of the issue upon the Qur’an itself and then present it as the authentic Qur’anic position. This case of Ramadan is a good example how some Muslims intrude the Divine writ by compelling the Qur’an to say what they think is right and should be said. It should be the other way round.

وعن ٱبن أبي مليكة قال: سئل أبو بكر الصديق رضي الله عنه عن تفسير حرف من القرآن فقال: أيّ سماء تُظِلّني ، وأيّ أرض تُقِلّنيٰ وأين أذهبٰ وكيف أصنعٰ إذا قلت في حرف من كتاب الله بغير ما أراد تبارك وتعالى.[10][10]

“Ibn Abi Maleeka narrates that Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) was once asked about interpretation of a word in the Qur’an. He replied, “Which heaven will cover me and which earth will carry me and where will I go and what will I do if I end up saying a word in (explaining) the Qur’an which is against the intended meanings of Allah SWT (for that Qur’anic word).


It was not a very complicated word which he was asked about. Abu Bakr was asked about the meanings of simple words such as “the fruit” and “father” in Surah A’basa. He was not sure about the exact meanings in that context and was afraid to give an interpretation which may not be the hundred percent intended meanings of Allah SWT for those words. This is Abu Bakr and these are the simple words. What about changing the meanings of a Qura’nic verse to fit in one’s own understanding or interpretation! May Allah SWT protect all of us from indulging in such a disastrous adventure!

سئل أبو بكر الصديق رضي الله عنه عن تفسير الفاكهة والأب فقال: أيُّ سماء تُظِلني ، وأيُّ أرض تُقِلُّني إذا قلت: في كتاب الله ما لا أعلم[11][11]

If we were to accept their interpretation that “Shahida” means sighting the Moon of Ramadan”, as some have erroneously translated it, then the question arises whether fasting is obligatory upon all those who sighted the Moon of Ramadan? What about the sick, the traveler, the children under the age of puberty, the pregnant women and elderly people? Would they be obligated to fast if they happen to sight the Moon of Ramadan?

In addition to that it will mean that only those people who see the Moon will be required to fast the month of Ramadan if we translate the word “Shahida” as “actual sighting”. The opposite understanding will be that those who do not see are not required to observe fasting. This will be absolutely wrong understanding of the Qur’anic verse. Therefore, it is erroneous to connect “Shahida” with sighting rather than “presence”. That is why Abu Sa’ud, Kashaff, Samarqandi and almost all other Qur’anic exegetes clearly explain the phrase to mean “present.”


It is correct that some classical jurists have explained this phrase in light of the Ahadith that call for sighting the Moon of the month of Ramadan such as the following:

حدّثنا آدمُ حدَّثَنا شُعبةُ حدَّثَنا محمدُ بنُ زيادٍ قال: سمعتُ أبا هُريرةَ رضيَ اللّهُ عنهُ يقول: قال النبيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ أو قال: قال أبو القاسم صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ «صُوموا لِرُؤْيتهِ وأفطِروا لرُؤيته، فإن غُبِّيّ عليكم فأكملوا عِدَّةَ شَعبانَ ثلاثين».

The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Fast with sighting it (Moon) and break the fast with sighting it. Complete 30 days of Sha’aban if it is cloudy.” (Bukhari)


Abu Bakr al- Jassas argues that in light of the Ahadith we can say that sighting of the Moon is basically being present in the month but he has never claimed that the verse of Surah al-Baqarah and the phrase means only that. He has never claimed that sighting the new Moon will be the exact translation of the Qur’anic verse. This is his understanding of the verse and not the exact literal translation of the verse.

فَدَلَّ ذَلِكَ عَلَى أَنَّ رُؤْيَةَ الْهِلَالِ هِيَ شُهُودُ الشَّهْر[12][12]

I have already addressed this issue in my article on the “Astronomical calculations: A Fiqhi Discussion”. The article can be accessed through ISNA’s web site.


Secondly, they claim that sighting the Moon of Ramadan is obligated by the authentic Ahadith of Rasulullah (PBUH) and establishing the month without actual sighting is unlawful.

I have also addressed this issue in my above mentioned paper. Here I will just summarize some of the arguments.


1: Yes, sighting was required by the Prophet (PBUH) as it was the only authentic method available during his times to confirm the presence of the new Moon, the sign of the new month’s commencement. That is what the Prophet (PBUH) said, “we are unlettered people we neither write nor calculate.” The month consists of sometimes 29 days and sometimes 30 days. The Ibadat are connected with the time and the time in Islamic understanding is connected with the Moon and not with the Sun as the Islamic calendar is a lunar and not a solar calendar. The Sharia’h does not want us to start the fasting when the month of Ramadan has not even begun and Islam does not want us to lose a day of Ramadan by celebrating the Eid on the last day of Ramadan. That is why the Prophet (PBUH) advised us not to start the month of Ramadan a day or two ahead of time or finish it a day or two ahead of time. He wanted us to start the month of Ramadan with certainty that the new Moon is there and same is the case with breaking the fast. The actual sighting of the new Moon was the only mechanism at their disposal to attain that certainty. That is why the Prophet (PBUH) emphasized so much upon sighting the new Moon not because sighting was or is the objective of fasting or in any way or farm a goal of the Ibadah but because it was a means to ascertain the presence of the new Moon, knowing which is the objective of Ibadah. Now when that objective can be achieved through a more authentic and precise method i.e., astronomical calculations then replacing actual sighting, a probable means of certainty, with a more accurate method with categorical certainty will not constitute any deviation from the Prophetic commandment or objectives of Islamic Sharia’h but a complement to that.


2: If the actual sighting was such an objective or a prerequisite that fasting cannot be started except by it then it would have been required even on the 30th of Sha’aban. Nobody goes out to see the new Moon on the 30th of Sha’aban or on the 30th of Ramadan. No jurists have ever required such a sighting because the sighting was prescribed for certainty and not for the sake of sighting itself. Once that certainty is achieved by completing 30 days (as the Islamic month can not go beyond 30 days) sighting is not even required and the new month is started. Everybody knows that the new Moon must be in the horizons by the 30th of Sha’aban and nobody worries about seeing it. If seeing the new Moon was a precondition for fasting then fasting and sighting will go hand in hand. But we see it is not. Therefore sighting is not the prerequisite for fasting but is a means to achieve certainty of the new Moon in the horizon.


3: If it is said that sighting is not required on the 30th of Sha’aban because the Prophet (PBUH) said, “complete 30 days if it is cloudy.” I will argue that this Prophetic statement commands that complete 30 days if it was cloudy. It does not say “Do not see the new Moon on 30th of Sha’aban if it was not cloudy on 29th of Sha’aban.” Suppose it was not cloudy on the 29th of Sha’aban and the new Moon was not seen that evening then would not the Hadith require Muslims to see it on the 30th of Sha’aban had it been a precondition for fasting. The clause of “if it is cloudy” covers only when it is cloudy but it does not cover when it is not cloudy. Had the sighting been intrinsic to fasting then it would have been required even on the 30th especially when the new Moon was not seen not because there were some obscurities hampering its sighting but because when it was not there in the horizon. But if we agree that sighting is not the precondition for fasting but certainty then one can understand why sighting is required on the 29th of Sha’aban and not on the 30th of Sha’aban.


4: Sighting is not a prerequisite for fasting even on the 29th of Sha’aban. Had it been a precondition then no Muslim will be allowed to start the month of Ramadan except through sighting the new Moon on the 29th day of the month of Sha’aban. I have already shown in my above mentioned paper that Ibn Umar along with A’isha, Asma bint Abi Bakr used to start fasting the next day if it was cloudy on the 29th day of Sha’aban and the new moon was not sighted because of obscurities. They will not fast that day as a supererogatory day of fasting but as a mandatory day of Ramadan. That was the case with many Tabi’een (Successors) and a whole school of Fiqh is based upon this opinion. Imam Ahmad, following the actions of these Companions of the Prophet (PBUH), has adopted this position and the entire Hanbali School follows this position of Imam Ahmad. It becomes important when we know that Ibn Umar is the original narrator of many of the Ahadith (narrated by all the authentic sources of Ahadith) which require sighting as a means of fasting. For instance:

حدّثنا عبدُ اللّهِ بنُ مَسْلمةَ عن مالكٍ عن نافعِ عن عبدِ اللّهِ بنِ عُمَر رضيَ اللّهُ عنهما: «أنَّ رسولَ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ذَكَرَ رَمضان فقال: لا تَصوموا حتّى تَرَوُا الهلالَ، ولا تُفْطِرُوا حتّى تَرَوْه، فإِن غُمَّ عليكم فاقدُروا له».

“The Prophet (PBUH) mentioned Ramadan and said,” Do not fast until you see the Moon and do not break the fast until you see it. Estimate about it in case it is cloudy.” (Bukhari)


ــ حدثنا عبد الله ، حدثني أبي ، حدثنا عبد الرحمن ، حدثنا مالك ، عن نافع ، عن ابن عمر ، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: «لا تصوموا حتى تَرَوا الهلال، ولا تفطروا حتى تَرَوْه، فانْ غُمَّ عليكم فاقْدُرُوا له

(Musnad Ahmad)


Abu Dawud and al-Bayhaqi report that Ibn Umar used to fast on the 30th day of Sha’aban without sighting the new Moon if it was cloudy on the evening of 29th.

حدثنا سُلَيْمانُ بنُ دَاوُدَ الْعَتَكِيُّ أخبرنا حَمَّادٌ أخبرنا أيُّوبُ عن نَافِعٍ عن ابن عُمَرَ ، قال قال رَسُولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «الشَّهْرُ تِسْعٌ وَعِشْرُونَ فَلاَ تَصُومُوا حَتَّى تَرَوْهُ وَلاَ تُفْطِرُوا حَتَّى تَرَوْهُ. فَإنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاقْدُرُوا لَهُ ثَلاَثِينَ. قالَ: فَكَانَ ابنُ عُمَرَ إذَا كان شَعْبَانُ تِسْعاً وَعِشْرِينَ نُظِرَ لَهُ فَإن رُئِيَ فَذَاكَ وَإن لَم يُرَ وَلَمْ يَحُلْ دُون مَنْظَرِهِ سَحَابٌ وَلاَ قَتَرَةٌ أصْبَحَ مُفْطِراً، فَإنْ حَالَ دُونَ مَنْظَرِهِ سَحَابٌ أوْ قَتَرَةٌ أصْبَحَ صَائِماً. قال وَكَانَ ابنُ عُمَرَ يُفْطِرُ مَعَ النَّاسِ وَلاَ يَأْخُذُ بِهذَا الحِسَابِ

“Ibn Umar narrates that the Prophet (PBUH) said,” the month is 29 therefore do not start fasting until you see it and do not break fast until you see it. Count 30 days if it is cloudy”. He (Nafi’a, the narrator from Ibn Umar) said,” that Ibn Umar used to ask people to see the Moon for him on the 29th of Sha’aban. If the Moon was seen, then well and good. He would not fast if it was not seen and it was not cloudy or rainy. If (on 29th of Sha’aban) it was cloudy or rainy weather, he would start fasting (the next day). He (Nafi’a) also said that Ibn Umar used to break the fast with the people and not depend upon these calculations (his counting).”

Al-Bayhaqi also reports the same:

(7942) ــ ـ أخبرنا أبو عبد الله الحافظ ثنا محمد بن يعقوبَ هو الشَّيْبَانِيُّ ثنا محمد بن شَاذَانَ الأَصَمُّ ثنا عليُّ بنُ حُجْرٍ ثنا إسمعيلُ عن أيوبَ (ح وأخبرنا) أبو الحسن علي بن محمد المقرىءُ أنبأ الحسن بن محمد بن إسحاقَ ثنا يوسفَ بنُ يعقوبَ ثنا سليمانُ بن حرب ثنا حماد بن زيد عن أيوبَ عن نافعٍ عن ابنِ عُمَرَ قالَ: قالَ رسولَ الله صَلَّى الله عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «إنَّمَا الشَّهْرُ تِسْعٌ وعشرونَ فلا تَصُوْمِوا حتَّى تَرَوْهُ ولا تُفْطْرُوا حتَّى تَرَوْهُ، فإنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فاقْدِرُوا لَهُ».

زاد حماد في روايتهِ عن أيوبَ: قالَ نافعٌ: كانَ ابنُ عُمَرَ إذَا مَضَى من شعبانَ تِسْعٌ وعشرونَ نُظِرَ لَهُ فإنْ رُبْيَ فداكَ، وإنْ لم يُرَ ولم يَحُلْ دُوْنَ مَنْظَرِهِ سحابٌ ولا قَتَرَةٌ أصْبَحَ مُفْطِراً، وإن حالَ دُوْنَ مَنْظَرِهِ سحابٌ أو قَتَرَةٌ أصْبَحَ صائماً، وكانَ يُفْطِرُ معَ الناسِ ولا يَأْخُذُ بِهَذَا الحسابِ(بيهقي)

That is what Ibn Hazm has observed by pointing out:

قَالَ أَبُو مُحَمَّدٍ : هَذَا ابْنُ عُمَرَ هُوَ رَوَى أَنْ لَا يُصَامُ حَتَّى يَرَى الْهِلَالَ ثُمَّ كَانَ يَفْعَلُ مَا ذَكَرْنَا[13][13]

“Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm said, “This Ibn Umar who himself narrated that fasting is not permitted until the new Moon is sighted then he himself does what we have just mentioned.”

I have discussed in my paper that completing 30 days in case of obscurities is not an agreed upon position even though many Ahadith have clearly demanded so. From the actions of many Companions, Successors and Jurists it becomes evident that they somehow preferred the Ahadith of فاقْدِرُوا لَهُ over the Ahadith requiring completing 30 days in case of obscurities. Now these known religious authorities neither followed the sighting as a prerequisite to fasting nor completion as the prerequisite. The estimated and calculated the days of Sha’aban and fasted on the 29th without sighting the actual Moon. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that sighting is a precondition to start fasting a day after the 29th of Sha’aban.

اخْتَارَهَا أَكْثَرُ شُيُوخِ أَصْحَابِنَا , وَهُوَ مَذْهَبُ عُمَرَ , وَابْنِهِ , وَعَمْرِو بْن الْعَاصِ , وَأَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ , وَأَنَسٍ , وَمُعَاوِيَةَ , وَعَائِشَةَ , وَأَسْمَاءَ بِنْتَيْ أَبِي بَكْرٍ , وَبِهِ قَالَ بَكْرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ , وَأَبُو عُثْمَانَ النَّهْدِيُّ , وَابْنُ أَبِي مَرْيَمَ , وَمُطَرِّفٌ , وَمَيْمُونُ بْنُ مِهْرَانَ , وَطَاوُسٌ , وَمُجَاهِدٌ[14][14]

Ibn Qudamah says that, “This position is adopted by majority of the teachers of our scholarship. And that is also the preferred opinion of Caliph Umar and his son (Abdullah), Umaro bin al-A’as, Abu Hurayrah, Anas, Mu’awiyah, A’ishah, Asma’a (the to daughters of Abu Bakr). Same opinion was held by Bakr bin Abdallah, Abu Othman al-Nahdi, Ibn Abi Maryam, Mutarraf, Maymun bin Mehran, Tawus and Mujahid”

Iman al-Nawawi reports that Imam Ahmad requires starting the month of Ramadan if the new Moon was not sighted due to obscurities on the 29th day of Sha’aban. That has been the opinion of 8 known Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) and 7 of their Successors:

وُجُوبُ صِيَامِهِ عَنْ رَمَضَانَ رَوَاهَا عَنْهُ الْأَثْرَمُ وَالْمَرْوَزِيُّ وَمُهَنَّا وَصَالِحٌ وَالْفَضْلُ بْنُ زِيَادٍ . قَالَ : وَهُوَ قَوْلُ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ وَابْنِ عُمَرَ وَعُمَرَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ وَعَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِ وَأَنَسٍ وَمُعَاوِيَةَ وَأَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ وَعَائِشَةَ وَأَسْمَاءَ وَبَكْرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ الْمُزَنِيِّ وَأَبِي عُثْمَانَ وَابْنِ أَبِي مَرْيَمَ وَطَاوُسٍ وَمُطَرِّفٍ وَمُجَاهِدٍ فَهَؤُلَاءِ ثَمَانِيَةٌ مِنْ الصَّحَابَةِ وَسَبْعَةٌ مِنْ التَّابِعِينَ[15][15]

Some scholars have argued that Ibn Umar and others used to fast the day of doubt with the intention of supplementary fasting and not as the day of Ramadan. This interpretation is incorrect. They used to fast with the intention of fasting the day of Ramadan as is clearly reported from Imam Ahmad:

يجب صومه على أنه من رمضان[16][16]

“It is obligatory to fast that day as the first day of Ramadan.”

It makes it abundantly clear that either actual sighting or completing 30 days are not the only two agreed upon methods of starting the fast of Ramadan. This statement is made by many jurists but is not proven by the historical facts. The claims of consensus about it are also incorrect. Starting the new month by counting 29 days and without sighting the new Moon is also reported from the Prophet (PBUH) in another Hadith. There is a Hadith in Bukhari, Muslim and others that the Prophet himself started or ended the month without resorting to actual sighting or completing 30 days.

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَاصِمٍ عَنْ ابْنِ جُرَيْجٍ عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ صَيْفِيٍّ عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ عَنْ أُمِّ سَلَمَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ آلَى مِنْ نِسَائِهِ شَهْرًا فَلَمَّا مَضَى تِسْعَةٌ وَعِشْرُونَ يَوْمًا غَدَا أَوْ رَاحَ فَقِيلَ لَهُ إِنَّكَ حَلَفْتَ أَنْ لَا تَدْخُلَ شَهْرًا فَقَالَ إِنَّ الشَّهْرَ يَكُونُ تِسْعَةً وَعِشْرِينَ يَوْمًا[17][17]

The translation is that “Umm Salamah narrates that once the Prophet (PBUH) took an oath upon not seeing his wives for a month. When the 29 days passed he came to them. He was told that you took an oath not to enter the home for a month. He said, “The month consists of 29 days.”

He (PBUH) just counted the days and completed his month or started the new month without seeing the new Moon.  He (PBUH) did not say to his wives that I had seen the Moon and none of his wives asked him that question either. The Hadith does not say that it was cloudy that evening. It is also clear that the Prophet (PBUH) did not complete 30 days.

This simple calculation or estimation is not what the Prophet (PBUH) has negated in his Hadith that says “we neither write nor calculate.” Nobody can deny that the basic writing skills and the basic calculations were present in the Muslim community at the time of the Prophet (PBUH). There were business dealings, inheritance issues and many other aspects of Islamic community that depended upon basic mathematics. Actually the Qur’anic system of inheritance is quite sophisticated when it comes to mathematics. The reference to calculation in the above Hadith may have been to the Jewish calendar and the complicated calculations connected with it, as I have shown in my paper. The Prophet did not want to depend upon the Jewish religious leadership of Madinah for sophisticated calculations to determine the Islamic months. It would have given very bad name to the Prophet (PBUH) and to his mission. He gave the simple solution which was available to all and that was actual sighting. Now once the majority of Ummah can have access to those sophisticated calculations without depending upon the non-Muslims religious authorities then following them will not be against the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH).

6: The argument that the Arabic word “ru’yah” demand actual sighting with naked human eyes is also not well founded. The Qur’an and the Ahadith sources use the word for sighting as well as for other related meanings such as pondering or knowing. I have shown in my paper that such a usage of the word is rampant in the Qur’an and Sunnah. The verb seeing along with its many derivatives has occurred in the Qur’an for 328 times. In a number of these verses the Qur’an uses the verb “seeing” in the context of pondering or ascertaining without resorting to sighting by human eyes. For instance verses 2:242 and 2:46 use the verb not in the actual sighting context but in the second sense.

ألم تر إلى الذين خرجوا من ديارهم وهم ألوف حذر الموت فقال لهم الله موتوا ثم أحياهم إن الله لذو فضل على الناس ولكن أكثر الناس لا يشكرون(243)

“Didst thou not turn thy vision to those who abandoned their homes, though they were thousands (in number), for fear of death? Allah said to them: "Die": then He restored them to life. For Allah is full of bounty to mankind, but most of them are ungrateful.”


ألم تر إلى الملإ من بني إسرائيل من بعد موسى إذ قالوا لنبي لهم ابعث لنا ملكا نقاتل في سبيل الله

“Last thou not turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? They said to a Prophet (that was) among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we may fight in the cause of Allah."


Same can be understood from the other verses such as 2:258, 3:23, 4:44, 4:49, 4:60, 96:9, 96:13,107:1 and many more.


Also the Hadith has used the same verb in relation to fasting. In the following Hadith actual sighting does not seem to be a goal. It is the certainty what matters.


(1933) حدّثنا مُسدَّدٌ حدَّثَنا عبدُ الواحدِ حدَّثَنا الشَّيْبَانِيُّ قال: سمعتُ عبدَ الله بنَ أبي أوفى رضيَ الله عنهُ قال: «سِرْنا معَ رسولِ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وهوَ صائمٌ، فلما غَرَبتِ الشمسُ قال: انزل فاجدَحْ لنا، قال: يارسولَ الله لو أمسَيتَ؟ قال: انزِلْ فاجدَحْ لنا، قال: يارسولَ الله إِنَّ عليكَ نهاراً، قال: انزِلْ فاجدَحْ لنا، فَنَزَلَ فجدَحَ، ثم قال: «إذا رأَيتُم الليلَ أقْبلَ مِن ها هنا فقد أفطَرَ الصائمُ»، وأشارَ بإِصبَعِه قِبَل المَشرِق.


“We traveled with the Prophet (PBUH) while he was fasting. At the Sunset he (PBUH) said, “Get down and mix the drink for us”. He was told what if we wait for the night! He said, ”prepare the drink”. He was told that the daylight still seems to be there. He again asked for the drink which was prepared for him. Then he (PBUH) said,” when you see the night approaching from there (and he pointed towards the East), then the fasting person should break the fast.”


Presently we use calculated times for Iftar and Imsak instead of literally following the specific commandment of the Prophet (PBUH) in this Hadith.


7: The argument that the Arabic word for the new Moon is “Hilal”. The linguistic definition of the word Hilal requires that it must be deflecting the light and be shining and not dark. Shining then is connected with human sighting. Therefore, we cannot start the new month until we see the new Moon.


This argument is based upon the following linguistic meanings of the word “Hilal”.

Ibn Manzur gives the following definition for “Hilal”.

والهِلال : غرة القمر حين يُهِلُّه الناسُ فـي غرة الشهر، وقـيل: يسمى هِلالا للـيلتـين من الشهر ثم لا يسمَّى به إِلـى أَن يعود فـي الشهر الثانـي، وقـيل: يسمى به ثلاث لـيال ثم يسمى قمراً؛ وقـيل: يسماه حتـى يُحَجِّر، وقـيل: يسمى هِلالا إِلـى أَن يَبْهَرَ ضوءُه سواد اللـيل. وهذا لا يكون إِلا فـي اللـيلة السابعة[18][18]

“Al-Hilal is the white spotlight of the new Moon seen by the people in the beginning of the new month. It is said that the new Moon is called “Hilal” for the first two nights of the month (except for the same days of the next month) and then it is called “Qamar”. It is also said that the new Moon is called “Hilal” for the first three nights only. It is also said that the new Moon is called “Hilal” until it petrifies. It is also said that it is called “Hilal” until its glitter flaunts darkness of the night. This cannot happen until the seventh night.”


We can see that this definition is based upon cultural meanings and not upon the linguistic roots of the word Hilal. The word “Hilal” is derived from the Arabic root “Hallala.” Ibn Manzur explains the meanings of that root in the following words:


: هَل السحابُ بالـمطر وهَل الـمطر هَلاًّ وانْهَل بالـمطر انْهِلالاً واسْتَهَل : وهو شدَّة انصبابه. وفـي حديث الاستسقاء: فأَلَّف الله السحاب وهَلَّتنا . قال ابن الأَثـير: جاء فـي رواية لـمسلـم، يقال: هَل السحاب إِذا أَمطر بشدَّة، والهِلال الدفعة منه، وقـيل: هو أَوَّل ما يصيبك منه، والـجمع أَهِلَّة علـى القـياس، وأَهالـيل نادرة. وانْهَل الـمطر انْهِلالا : سالَ بشدَّة، واستهلَّت السماءُ فـي أَوَّل الـمطر، والاسم الهِلالُ. وقال غيره: هَلَّ السحاب إِذا قَطَر قَطْراً له صوْت، وأَهَلَّه الله؛ ومنه انْهِلال الدَّمْع وانْهِلال الـمطر؛ قال أَبو نصر: الأَهالِـيل الأَمطار[19][19]

The extreme pouring down rain is the root of this word. The first pour of rain is called “Hilal”. It is said that Hilal is “what you receive the first from that rain.” Its plural is “Ahillah”. When the rain comes down with drops full of noise that rain is also called “Hilal”. The root of the word “Hilal” consists of the two original meanings: the beginning or starting part of something and raising of voice.

انهلَّت السماءُ إِذا صبَّت، واستهلَّت إِذا ارتفع صوتُ وقعها، وكأَنَّ اسْتِهلال الصبـيّ منه. وفـي حديث النابغة الـجعديّ قال: فنَـيَّف علـى الـمائة وكأَنَّ فاهُ البَرَدُ الـمُنْهَل ؛ كل شيء انصبَّ فقد انْهَل ، يقال: انهلَّ السماء بالـمطر ينهلُّ انْهِلالاً وهو شدَّة انْصِبابه. قال: ويقال هلَّ السماء بالـمطر هَلَلاً، ويقال للـمطر هَلَلٌ وأُهْلول . والهَلَل : أَول الـمطر. يقال: استهلَّت السماء وذلك فـي أَول مطرها. ويقال: هو صوت وَقْعِه. واستهل الصبـيُّ بالبُكاء: رفع صوته وصاح عند الوِلادة. وكل شيء ارتفع صوتُه فقد استهلَّ. والإِهْلال بالـحج: رفعُ الصوت بالتَّلْبـية. وكلُّ متكلـم رفع صوته أَو خفضه فقد أَهَلَّ واستهلَّ وفـي الـحديث: الصبـيُّ إِذا وُلِد لـم يُورَث ولـم يَرِثْ حتـى يَسْتَهِل صارخاً. وفـي حديث الـجَنِـين: كيف نَدِي مَن لا أَكَل ولاشَرِبَ ولا اسْتَهَل[20][20]

When the sky rains with noise or when the person talks with loud voice or when a baby cries with loud voice all these are referred to with the same root verb. These linguistic usages coincide with use of the word in many Ahadith.

وأَصله رَفْعُ الصَّوت. وأَهَلَّ الرجل واستهلَّ إِذا رفع صوتَه. وأَهَلَّ الـمُعْتَمِرُ إِذا رفع صوتَه بالتَّلْبِـية، وتكرر فـي الـحديث ذكر الإِهْلال، وهو رفعُ الصوت بالتَّلْبِـية. أَهَلَّ الـمـحرِمُ بالـحج يُهِلُّ إِهْلالاً إِذا لَبَّى ورفَع صوتَه. والـمُهَل ، بضم الـميم: موضعُ الإِهْلال ، وهو الـميقات الذي يُحْرِمون منه، ويقع علـى الزمان والـمصدر. اللـيث: الـمُـحرِمُ يُهِل بالإِحْرام إِذا أَوجب الـحُرْم علـى نفسه؛ تقول: أَهَل بحجَّة أَو بعُمْرة فـي معنى أَحْرَم بها، وإِنما قـيل للإِحرام إِهْلال لرفع الـمـحرِم صوته بالتَّلْبـية. والإِهْلال : التلبـية، وأَصل الإِهْلال رفعُ الصوتِ. وكل رافِعٍ صوتَه فهو مُهِلّ،[21][21]

Ibn Manzur, after a lengthy discussion of the various usages of the root word concludes that origin of the root is from “raising the voice”. Ibn Manzur concludes by saying:

وشهر مُسْتَهل بعد شهرٍ ويومٌ بعده يومٌ جَدِيدُ قال أَبو العباس: وسمي الهلالُ هِلالاً لأَن الناس يرفعون أَصواتهم بالإِخبار عنه.[22][22]

“Abu al-Abbas said that the Hilal is named Hilal because the people raise their voices to inform others about it (the new Moon). “

It should be clear by now that the original meanings of the word “Hilal” are connected with the first signs of something and with raising of voices and not with glittering or shining. The new Moon was then called “Hilal” because it was the first sign of the new month and because when it appears people raise their voices to inform others about the arrival of the new month. There was no method available to the people of previous generations except seeing it with the naked eyes. That is why they defined it as something seen rather than known. Moreover, the above mentioned two meanings happen only at the time of the first few days of the month, therefore, the new Moon was called “Hilal”. Had the name Hilal been given to the new Moon due to light in it then the full Moon had more rights to be called Hilal than the Crescent because it shines more and has more light than the Crescent.

Presently the new Moon without light can be called “Hilal” when the new Moon can be determined by the astronomical calculations and the people can talk about it and inform others about it.

This brings us to the argument that by changing the sighting method to calculations we are changing the process which was implemented by the entire Ummah over a period of almost 14 centuries. I would say that goals are constants while the processes to achieve those goals can be changed. It was an established objective of Sharia’h that people start and end the fast at right timings. This objective in the past was achieved by looking at the threads in the morning, as the Qur’an indicates, and looking at the night coming from the East, as the Hadith indicates. The same objective is currently achieved by calculated timings and nobody has any problem with that. The five times daily prayers were performed by looking at the Sun and its shadow. Currently the same objective is achieved by calculated timings. The Qur’anic text asks Muslims to prepare themselves with the available force and fighting horses to inflict fear upon the enemy. Currently that fear and defense cannot be achieved except through tanks, airpower, missiles and other modern warfare weapons. Nobody considers such an interpretation as a deviation from the true spirit of the Qur’an because the objective remains the same and only the process or method of realizing such an objective changes. Same is the case with the month of Ramadan. The certainty that the new Moon of Ramadan is there was achieved through actual sighting in the past fourteen centuries. Presently the same objective can be achieved through a more accurate and precise method. Adoption of such a precise method will complement the objective and in no way or form nullify the objective. The jurists from all schools of Fiqh agree upon the fact that sighting the new Moon is not the objective of Sharia’h. It is just a mean as Ibn Daqiq al-Eid, the famous Shafa’ee jurist has put it.

Muhammad bin Ali Ibn Daqiq al-Eid, the renowned Shafaee authority, states:

وَلَيْسَ حَقِيقَةُ الرُّؤْيَةِ بِشَرْطٍ مِنْ اللُّزُومِ ; لِأَنَّ الِاتِّفَاقَ عَلَى أَنَّ الْمَحْبُوسَ فِي الْمَطْمُورَةِ إذَا عُلِمَ بِإِكْمَالِ الْعِدَّةِ , أَوْ بِالِاجْتِهَادِ بِالْأَمَارَاتِ : أَنَّ الْيَوْمَ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ , وَجَبَ عَلَيْهِ الصَّوْمُ وَإِنْ لَمْ يَرَ الْهِلَالَ . وَلَا أَخْبَرَهُ مَنْ رَآهُ[23][23]

“The actual sighting is not a pre requisite to the fasting. There is agreement (among the Jurists) that if someone was imprisoned in the basement and knew, either through completing 30 days or through estimation by following the signs, that the month of Ramadan has started, then he is required to start fasting even if he has neither sighted the Moon by himself nor was informed by the one who actually sighted it.”


Mustafa al-Zarqa also states that:

وما دام من البديهات أن رؤية الهلال الجديد ليست فى ذاتها عبادة فى الإسلام، و إنما هي وسيلة لمعرفة الوقت، وكانت الوسيلة الوحيدة الممكنة فى أمة أمية لا تكتب ولا تحسب، و كانت أميتها هي العلة فى الأمر بالاعتماد على العين الباصرة، وذلك بنص الحديث النبوي مصدر الحكم[24][24]

“It is an established fact that sighting the new Moon in itself is not an act of Islamic worship. It is just a mean to know the time. It was the only way available to a nation which knew not how to write or calculate. Its unlettered status was the sole reason for it to be dependent upon the naked eye. This is precisely what the text of the Hadith, which is the source of this ruling, says.”

Finally, the argument that the Fiqh Council of North America in its June 10, 2006 meeting has adopted an un-Islamic method of determining the new month with the astronomical calculations rather than actual sighting. We agree that the Classical jurists have vehemently rejected use of astronomical calculations regarding the month of Ramadan and I have elaborated upon their genuine reasons for that in my paper. They were absolutely right in their rejection of inaccurate astronomical calculations derived from the pseudo astrologists. We will be rejecting the same even in our present times. Contrary to that, presently the astronomical calculations are not inaccurate and are not based upon the bogus data of fake astronomers. It is based upon authentic scientific data achieved through meticulous observations and confirmed by the reality on the ground. The margin of error is close to nil.

The same accuracy plays out very well with some of our contemporary scholars when they accept these calculations to negate the month. The same argument which they use in accepting astronomical calculations in negation is the argument we use in accepting the calculations in affirming the new month. If the calculations are authentic enough to negate the doubtful or arbitrary witnesses then they are authentic enough to confirm the new month. If the argument is that the Prophet (PBUH) did not use calculations for affirmation then we argue that he did not use them in negation either. Same will go against the argument that the majority of jurists rejected use of calculations in matters of Ramadan and declared them as un-Islamic. The same text that allows our scholars to use the astronomical calculations for negation is the same text which allows us to use them for confirmation.

In conclusion I will say that all the four arguments that the Qur’an, Sunnah, Ijma’ and linguistic meanings require actual sighting are not well founded. The use of astronomical calculations in confirming the month of Ramadan is quite valid and is not different from using them in negating the month.




[10][10] Al-Qurtubi, Tafsser, 1, 1

Please report any broken links to Webmaster
Copyright © 1988-2012 All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer

free web tracker