KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Bureau of the Presidency of Scientific Research, Legal Opinion,
Propagation and Guidance Departments. Office of the President.
Legal Opinion No. 319 Dated 19 Dhu al-Qa'idah 1392 (24 September 1972)
Praise be to Allah and blessings and peace on his Prophet (ﷺ) and his kindred. The Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and Legal Opinions has reviewed the questionnaire submitted by His Excellency the Head of Islamic Centre, London, through Mr Nayar ul Haq al-Pakistani to HR The President of Scientific Research, Legal Opinion, Propagation and Guidance Departments, which was referred to it by the Secretariat General of the Senior Jurists Committee under (cover of letter) No. 133/2, dated 19 Muharram 1392 (5 March 1972). Following are the three questions submitted as well as the answers thereto:
Q.1 Can any country in the world rely on fasting Ramadan on sighting the new moon in any other Muslim country and consider that conclusive evidence for the start of Ramadan or Eid al-Fitr festivals?
A.1 Jurists have agreed that the rising times of the new moon are different; which theory has been necessarily known physically and mentally. However, they have disagreed on applying it to the beginning and end of the fast in Ramadan. Some jurists believe that the different rising times of the new moon should be taken into consideration in determining the start and end of the fast in Ramadan, while others disagree. Each group has quoted evidence from the Quran, the Traditions and Analogy, and in certain cases, both used the same quotations to support their views, such as the Quranic verses, "who is present (at home) during that month should spend it in fasting", and "They ask thee concerning the new moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men", and the Prophet (ﷺ)'s saying, "Start the fast when you sight the new moon and end it when you sight the following new moon". Each group interprets the text differently and follows a different course in applying it. In general, the subject question is a theoretical matter in which independent judgement may be exercised and for this reason, jurists are disagreed on it at present and in the past. The people of any country are at liberty if they do not see the new moon on the night of the thirtieth day, to be satisfied with the sighting of the new moon at a different time in other countries if it has been established to them. If they disagree, they should follow the decision of their ruler if he is a Muslim since his adoption of either view settles the dispute and obligates the nation to act accordingly. If the ruler is not a Muslim, they should adopt the decision of the council of the Islamic Centre in their country to maintain uniformity in Ramadan fasting and Eid prayers in their country.
Q.2 There is a time difference of about 2 hours between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen on the one hand and England. If the sighting of the new moon has been established in any of these countries, can we in England follow suit and start the fast in England or are we supposed to sight the new moon in England in order to start the fast?
A.2 Both this question and the first one inquire about the same matter and our above answer should cover this question.
Q.3 It is not possible to sight the new moon with the naked eye before it is 30 hours old, and then it is not possible to sight it due to the weather conditions. If we take this into consideration, can the inhabitants of England use astronomical calculations for this country in determining the expected time for sighting the new moon and the beginning of Ramadan, or should we sight the new moon before starting the fast in Ramadan?
A.3 Observatory instruments may be used in sighting the new moon but astronomical sciences cannot be relied on in establishing the beginning of Ramadan or Eid al-Fitr. Allah has not prescribed that for us in his Book or in the Traditions [of the Prophet (ﷺ)], for He ordained that the beginning and end of Ramadan should be established by sighting the Ramadan moon at the start of the fast and sighting Shawwal moon for ending the fast and performing Eid al-Fitr prayers. He has designated moons as signs to mark fixed periods of time in the affairs of men and pilgrimage without which a Muslim cannot fix periods of time for religious observances including Ramadan fasting, [two Eid] holidays, pilgrimage, [days of feasting after Hajj] and divorce expiation etc.
Allah says, "Who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting" and, "They ask thee concerning the new moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in the affairs of men", and the Prophet (ﷺ) says, "Start the fast when you sight the new moon and end it when you sight the following new moon; if you cannot see clearly, make it 30 days". Therefore, those who do not sight the moon at its rising time in their country when it is clear or cloudy should make the month 30 days if it is not sighted by others at a different rising time. If the sighting of the moon at a different rising time in another country has been established to them, they should follow the decision of the Muslim ruler in their country calling for fasting or not fasting, since his judgement in this issue settles the dispute between jurists regarding the applicability or non-applicability of the different rising times. If their ruler is not Muslim, they should act according to the ruling of the Council of Islamic Centre in their country calling for fasting on the grounds of sighting the moon at a different rising time or not fasting on the grounds that the moon rising times are not the same in all countries.
Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and Legal Opinions.
'Abd ar-Razzaq 'Afifi, Vice Chairman
Abd Allah ibn Sulayman ibn Mani
Abd Allah ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn Ghaydyn
The words, “God” and “Prophet” in the original texts has been replaced with “Allah” and “Prophet (ﷺ)”, respectively as per tradition - Editor