Question to: Honourable Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Saleh AlOthaimeen (May Allah protect)
Question: 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?
Response: There are as many as six different opinions amongst the scholars concerning this issue. However, there are two main points of view. The first is that everyone should sight the moon in their own country and those countries where the moon rises at the same time should follow them. The reason for this is that the time at which the moon rises, varies from place to place. The second opinion is that the beginning of the new month need only be confirmed in any one of the Muslim countries. If the sighting of the new moon is confirmed in any Muslim country, it is then obligatory for all Muslims to use that sighting to begin the fast of Ramadhaan or end it. According to this last opinion, if the new month is confirmed in Saudi Arabia it is obligatory upon all Muslims, in all parts of the world, to fast if it is the beginning of Ramadhaan and to end their fast if it is the beginning of Shawwaal. This is the most common opinion held by the followers of the madhhab of Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.
However, the first opinion is more correct because of the evidence in the Quraan, Sunnah and because of analogy. With regards to the Quraan, Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala) says:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ
"The month of Ramadaan in which was revealed the Qur.aan, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever witnesses the month should fast it...", (Quran 2:185)
This last sentence is a conditional sentence, and the ruling contained in a conditional sentence is established for whomever the condition applies to and it is annulled for anyone for whom the condition does not apply. So the sentence: [فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ], "Whoever witnesses the month should fast it", implies that whoever does not witness it does not fast it.
It is well known amongst astronomers that the time the moon rises differs from place to place. The moon might be seen in one place and not in another. Therefore, according to the verse, whoever does not see it is not obliged to fast.
With regards to the Sunnah, the Prophet (ﷺ) said: "If you sight it (the new moon of Ramadaan), then fast and if you sight it (the new moon of Shawaal),then end the fast. And if it is obscured from you, then complete thirty days (of Sha'baan)".
He (ﷺ) said: "If you sight it". He therefore linked the ruling to the sighting and if a ruling is linked to an effective cause, then that ruling is annulled in the absence of that cause.
With regards to analogy, we say that in as much as the times for beginning the fast and breaking the fast every day vary from place to place so, in the same way, the times for the beginning and ending of the monthly fast also vary. We here in Riyadh, for example, begin our fast every day before the people in Al-Hijaaz and we also break our fast before they do. It is, therefore, obligatory upon us to start fasting while they are still eating. On the other hand, at the end of the day we are eating while they are still fasting. If, therefore, each place has its own ruling due to the variation in the time that the sun rises and sets, the same also applies due to the variation in the time that the moon rises and sets.
Therefore, the answer to the question is clear. It is obligatory for you to follow the sighting of the new moon in the place where you are.
Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Saleh 'Uthaymeen
Ref: Al-Aqalliyaat Al-Muslimah - Page 84, Fatwa No.23