This question comes up every year at the time of Eid-ul Adha and so, many eminent scholars of the past and present have looked into the Seerah (biography) of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and found that following Makkah by foreign countries (i.e. those living outside Saudi Arabia) have no basis in Shariah. Here are few quotations from fatawa issued by renowned scholars from Arabia/Asia:
- Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (حفظه الله) said: “I would like to inform you that the question of sighting the moon for each lunar month including Zul-Hijjah was thoroughly discussed at the annual sessions of the Islamic Fiqh Academy (held in Jordan, October 11-16, 1986) attended by more than a hundred outstanding scholars of Shari'ah. The academy adopted the resolution recommended that all Muslim countries should determine all the lunar months including Zul-Hijjah on the same basis for both Eid al-Fitr as well as Eid al-Adha [i.e. based on regional moon sighting].” [Fatwa, Darul Uloom Karachi, Pakistan] / ISNA's Eid al-Adha Evaluated by A Renowned Scholar
- Mufti Habibur Rahman (حفظه الله) said: “There is a far greater distance between Britain and Saudi, whereas Morocco is a lot closer to Britain. To abandon a close country’s sightings and to accept Saudi’s sighting, is in contradiction with the principles of Fiqh.” [Fatwa Darul Uloom Deoband, India] / Moon Sighting and Following Neighbouring Countries (pdf)
- Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Saleh Al-Othaimeen (رحمه الله) said: “You should fast and break your fast along with the people of the country where you are living, whether that is in accordance with your country of origin or not. Similarly, on the Day of Arafah [9th Dhul Hijjah], you should follow the country [moon sighting] where you are living”. Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 19 [Saudi Arabia] / Fasting of Ramadan and the day of Arafah
- Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Saleh Al-Othaimeen (رحمه الله) was asked: “Should we fast and end our fast according to the sighting of the new moon in Saudi Arabia or should we do it according to the sighting of the new moon in the country where we are?” He replied: “It is obligatory for you to follow the sighting of the new moon in the place where you are” Ref: Al-Aqalliyaat Al-Muslimah - Page 84, Fatwa No.23 [Saudi Arabia] / Should we fast according to the new moon in Saudi Arabia
- Shaykh Mohammed Ibrahim Memon (حفظه الله) said: “Eid-ul-Adha was established in Islam in the 2nd year of hijra and the first Hajj in the Islamic calendar was performed in the 9th year of hijra. This means that for nearly seven years, the Sahabah (رضى الله عنهم) celebrated Eid and slaughtered their animals even though the Hajj had not yet begun. If the day of Eid is associated with the day of Arafah the way some think it is, then both would have been brought into the Shari'ah at the same time. Never in the history of Islam has any Islamic country tried to follow the moon sighting of Saudi Arabia based on the idea that its Eid should follow the day of Arafah, except only until very recently” (Darul Uloom Al Madania, USA) / Moon Sighting
- Shaykh Abdul Aziz Bin Baaz (رحمه الله) said: "As for those who say that it is necessary to follow the crescent moon sighting of Makkah, then let it be known to them, that there is no proof or basis for this [in the Quran and Ahadith]" (فأما قول من قال إنه ينبغي أن يكون المعتبر رؤية هلال مكة خاصة ، فلا أصل له ولا دليل عليه) [Saudi Arabia] / (Ref: Fatwa of Shaykhul Imam, Shaykh Bin Baaz)
[The first sighting of the moon starts from different locations on the earth each month, hence to follow one fixed location every month in a foreign country is both illogical and unscientific. Furthermore, it has no basis in Shariah as quoted above – Editor]
Question: I wish to inform you that based on the global moon sighting theory, many of our UK Masajid who normally follow UK/Morocco regional sighting reports (because of persistently cloudy weather in the UK) have now found a new source of moon sighting news from all the way to Nigeria, and celebrated Eid-ul Fitr on Sunday 25th June 2017, even though we have received NEGATIVE sighting reports from Morocco Awqaf Ministry (with 278 sighting points).
From your previous comment that "global sighting is baseless", would you agree that the UK Muslims should NOT go as far as Saudi Arabia or Nigeria and most certainly not across to the opposite Hemisphere to your own country, South Africa (even if your sightings reports are most reliable) on the basis of global sighting theory (as it is baseless)?
To reiterate, kindly clarify, if it's valid for UK Muslims to borrow moon sighting news from South Africa on the opposite hemisphere, over 8,000 miles away (rather than confine to UK/Morocco region only) on the basis of global sighting theory?
Dated: 7 Shawwal 1438 (2 July 2017)
Answer: Those in the UK who had contravened the Shariah by bypassing Morocco and accepting the baseless Nigerian announcement have erred grievously. It appears that they did so solely to celebrate Eid on Sunday which is very convenient for most people. In the process, they deemed it appropriate to override the Shariah.
We believe that Morocco is the nearest to the UK, and a valid arrangement exists with Morocco for hilaal information. As such, those who usually follow Morocco have sinned by going to Nigeria where the authorities are submissive to Saudi Arabia which does not accord the proper Shar’i importance to hilaal-sighting.
Furthermore, there is no need and no goodness for the UK to follow South Africa which is 8,000 miles away. When people seek to override the Shariah, they invite problems, difficulties and controversies. The global sighting theory is bunkum. It has no validity in the Shariah.
Mufti A. S. Desai
Mujlisul Ulama of South Africa
Dated: 8 Shawwaal 1438 (3 July 2017)
Question 1: What is the basis of Global Moon Sighting in Hanafi Madhab? I wish to know if the global sighting rule is the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa (رحمه الله, d. 772 CE) himself or was it decided later by other scholars of the Hanafi school, such as Imam Ibn Abedin Ash-Shami [رحمه الله, d. 1836 CE]? Dated 3 June 2017 (8 Ramadan 1438 AH)
Answer 1: Considering the geographical situation of the world, it is understood that unity in the whole world is not possible, for example, if in the United States of America and Canada there is night, it is day in India. therefore difference (of moon sighting or Ikhtilaf e Matale) is unavoidable. Some scholars and jurists have preferred this view. "صُومُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ وَأَفْطِرُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ فَإِنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاقْدُرُوا ثَلاَثِينَ"[Hadith]
It means that begin fasting and pray Eid salat on sighting the moon. If the moon is not sighted on 29th, complete 30 days of the month. If a Shariah-compliant witness comes from outside in a proper way, it should be accepted and acted upon. If this principle of Shariah is put into practice, there shall be no dispute.
Mufti Habibur Rahman, Mufti Waqar Ali, Mufti Mohammed Noman Sitapuri, Darul Iftah, Darul Uloom Deoband, 13/1/1439 [Ref: Fatwa: 1132-1547 / B = 2/1439] (Received: 4 November 2017).
Question 2: Please clarify what you mean by, “If a Shariah-compliant witness report comes from outside, it should be accepted”. Reports from how far outside is considered to be Shariah-compliant? Note also that the first day’s crescent moon (Hilal) goes below the horizon before Isha time, which is between 1 hour to 1.5 hours after Maghrib, depending on the season (summer or winter). Therefore, if the moon is not sighted in the UK due to adverse weather conditions, then [we propose that] any news of foreign countries must not exceed 1.5 hrs time-zone difference to the East (e.g. Germany) or to the West (e.g. Western Sahara). And to avoid moonset before sunset and change of seasons, we must limit the locations to above the equator (i.e. Tropic of Cancer - see attached map). If this suggestion is approved, it will be consistent with your previous fatwa (i.e. UK to follow Morocco) and could also form the basis of greater unity for the UK Muslims, InShaAllah. Dated 9 December 2017 (20 Rabi ul Awwal 1439)
Answer 2: The reply with the blessings of Allah.
(1) News from distant countries will not be admitted if it would result in our [lunar] month being 28 or 31 days (as it would be against teachings of Quran and Hadith). News (of the crescent moon) from countries where there is not much difference in sunrise and sunset times to us, can be accepted if it is received in a prescribed way.
(2) Previously it was stated by your people [Muslims of Britain] that Morocco is the closest country in respect to sunrise and sunset times and only those people can verify [sighting reports]. Then we did write that you can accept the news from Morocco if it is received in a prescribed way. According to you, Germany and [Western] Sahara are also close to Britain and there is not much difference in sunrise/sunset times so news from those countries can also be accepted [if it is received in a prescribed way].
Mufti Habibur Rahman, Mufti Waqar Ali, Mufti Mohammed Noman Sitapuri, Darul Iftah, Darul Uloom Deoband, 21 Rabi ul Awal 1439 [Ref: 1943 / B=450/1439] (Received: 27 January 2018).
[Note that by accepting moon sighting reports from Morocco, we are automatically accepting it from Western Sahara, because whenever there is a negative sighting report from the mainland of Morocco, the Moroccan Awqaf Ministry would wait until they receive the report from the Moroccan Army/Navy in Dakhla (Western Sahara) - Editor]
[Due to the prolonged adverse UK weather, telescopes may be used to locate the moon – Editor]
Question: What is the legislated Sharee’ah method by which the beginning of the month is established? And is it permissible to rely on astronomical observatories in determining the beginning of the month and its ending? And is it permissible for the Muslim to use a telescope in sighting the crescent?
Response: The legislated Sharee’ah method in verifying the beginning of the month is for the people to try to sight the crescent. And [in doing so] it is befitting the sighting be verified by one who is trustworthy with respect to his religion [and character] and strong vision. So if they sight it, they must act upon this sighting, and start fasting if it was the crescent of Ramadhaan, or stop fasting if it was the crescent of Shawwaal.
It is not permissible to rely on the calculations of the atsonomical observatories if there was no actual sighting. However, if there was a sighting, even if the sighting was through the astronomical observatories, then it is accepted, since it falls under the general statement of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam):
«When you see it then fast, and when you see it break your fast»
As for calculations, then it is not permissible to act upon it, nor to rely on it.
As for the use of what is known as a telescope – which is a glass instrument that magnifies the crescent – then there is no harm in using it, however, it is not obligatory. [This is] because what is apparent from the Sunnah is the reliance upon normal sighting [with the naked eye], and not anything else. However, if it is used, and someone trustworthy sights it, then this sighting is to be acted upon.
The people of the past would use similar means when they would climb up to a height after Maghrib on the 29th day of Sha’baan or Ramadhaan; So they would seek out the crescent [from this height] using a telescope.
In any case, whenever the sighting of the crescent is verified, in whatever manner it was seen, then it is obligatory to act upon this sighting, based on the generality of the statement of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam):
«When you see it then fast, and when you see it break your fast»
Reference: Fataawa Ramadhaan – Volume 1, Page 62, Fatwa No.28
al-Fataawa libni ‘Uthaymeen – Kitaab ad-Da’wah – Volume 1, Pages 150-151
[Ref: 20 August 2009/Fatwa-Online]