By Mufti Muhammed Yusuf Danka, Croydon Mosque (London, UK)
Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has stated in the Holy Qur’aan: “They ask you (O Muhammad صلي الله عليه وسلم) about the crescent moons. Say: They are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage.” Quran (2: 189)
The Shari'ah (laws) of Islam have classified the regulation of time (months) by means of sighting the Moon. Every person who has the faculty of sight can look at the sky and determine the start of the new month. Despite great leaps being made in the Astronomy and the scientific calculation of the ‘birth’ of the new moon, they are not regarded as verified proofs in Islam.
In the same manner, the days of Hajj, Ramadhan and the Eids are dependant upon the sighting of the moon (Muhaqaq Ru’yat Basari). There is only ‘One’ moon in the world. Yet, Allah has used the plural word meaning ‘crescent moons’ in the above verse of the Qur’an. This will mean that throughout the World, wherever the crescent moon can be sighted on the 29 th night then the following day will be the start of the new month. If for some reason the crescent moon is not sighted in an area, they will complete 30 days in that region and then start the new month. This verse of the Qur’an makes it clear that there is no requirement for the Muslims to celebrate Eid or Ramadhan etc uniformly throughout the World on a single day.
Those individuals that go for Hajj, they will abandon the monthly timetable of their region and adopt that of Makkah. It may be questioned: if the date that is found in Saudi Arabia is not regulated according to the true requirements of the Shariah then what will become of their Hajj. If there is no way to correct this wrong doing (in not ordaining the Islamic month by the ‘true sighting of the crescent moon’) of the government then it is understood that the fasting and Hajj will be accepted Insha’Allah. The inhabitants of Saudi Arabia and visiting Hajis etc will not be at fault for carrying out their worship according to the dates stipulated by the government. However, it is not permissible for those from other regions to follow Saudi Arabia’s announcements. (Tuhfatul Al Ma’ee Sharah Sunan Tirmidhi vol 3, p68 by Shaykh-ul-Hadith Mufti Saeed Ahmad Palanpuri, Darul Uloom Deoband)
In 1972 the intention was made to change the Shariah sighting criteria for the ‘New Moon’:
Alhamdulillah for 1400 years from the time of the Prophet the entire Ummah was using the means of sighting the crescent moon to regulate the months of the year. In 1972 the Saudi government sent an invitation to the different regions of the Muslim World for the Senior Scholars to attend a conference. In this conference, without a specific agenda being outlined, the Saudi government opened the discussion on the matter of the entire Muslim World following the announcement of Saudi for a united day for Ramadhan and the two Eids. For this, the Saudi government would be responsible to formulate whatever systems and procedures were required to ensure this could be fulfilled. Together with this, it was recommended that the new month announcement be reliant upon the ‘birth of the new moon’ (القمر الجد يد) rather than the sighting of the crescent moon. This would allow the Saudi government to announce the new moon before it was possible to be sighted anywhere in the World. (Tuhfatul Al Ma’ee Sharah Tirmidhi vol 3, p56)