Note that the distance between Makkah and Madinah is about 270 miles between mountain passes, which now has modern highways (avoiding shorter distance over mountains). The mode of travel at that time was by horse (30 mph) or camel (24 mph). So the total time to travel will be approximately 9 hrs by a horse or 12 hrs by a camel. Even if overnight rest was included in the journey, a horse or a camel rider could easily reach Madinah from Makkah in under 24 hours. There is no evidence in Islamic history for past Muslim khulafah, leaders and governors to attempt to synchronise the calendar of Madinah with Makkah, since local sighting was the standard.
This malpractice by foreigners have only started with the advent of modern telecommunication from 1980’s when International telephones became available and Muslims going on Hajj/Umrah calling back home with the news of the lunar date declared from Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). The scholars of Saudi Arabia follow strictly local moon sighting news and they have publicly stated for foreign countries to follow their own horizon and not Saudi Arabia. This is found in the fatawa of Shaikh Saleh Ibn Uthaimeen (رحمة الله عليه) and mentioned more recently at the Istanbul Conference in Turkey (28 – 30 May 2016) by one of the scholars from Saudi Arabia.
4. Global Moon Sighting
The concept of global moon sighting has never been practiced in the past 1400 years, so what does it mean.
4.1 Some Muslims in the UK consider that it is not necessary to make any efforts to sight the moon locally, since it is now possible to obtain the news from anywhere is the world regardless of how far it is to the East or to the West. This opinion is based on a unique interpretation of the following hadith:
Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنهم) reported Allah's Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has said: “Observe fast on sighting it (the new crescent moon) and break (fast) on sighting it (the new crescent moon), but if the sky is cloudy for you, then complete the number (of thirty)”. [Muslim] / http://sunnah.com/muslim/13/21
The [only] Hanafi Jurist, Imam Ibn Abedin As-Shami (d.1252 AH/1836 CE) stated in Radd al-Muhtar ala Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar that the command to “observer fast / صُومُو”) is to the whole Ummah, so anyone who receives the news (from East or West) should follow it. If this interpretation is applied to the whole world, it seems to go against the noble practice of the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and the Sahabah (رضي الله عنهم) as mentioned earlier and hence other scholars interpret that command to means “regional sighting” and not “global sighting” (see below).
If we were to consider the above interpretation as “global sighting” then it has two problems in practice and only works in one direction, i.e. if a location in the West is following a location in the East (and not the other way around). For example, (1) if the moon was reported to have been sighted in Brisbane, Australia (GMT+10 hrs) then all locations to the West following the above opinion would most probably make the declaration after their Dhuhr or Asr prayer and local moon sighting would be abandoned; (2) if there were no moon sighting in the East and they were waiting for news from the far West, until California, USA (GMT – 8 hrs) claimed a sighting then it will be past their Fajr time and possibly past mid-morning in far East location such as Brisbane. Even if UK was to wait for news from USA (California), it will be past Fajr time (4 am) next morning, apart from additional problem of verifying foreign news.
Therefore, this opinion of following moon sighting news from the West adds undue hardship, which is against the principles of Shariah (“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship”, Quran 2:185). So, global sighting is impossible due to the Spherical Earth with Time-Zone differences.
This problem can be visualised by looking at the world as a Globe/Sphere and not as a flat-map (see diagram).