5. Regional Moon Sighting
5.1 There was an occasion when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) accepted news from a distance place, as below.
Narrated Ikrimah (رضي الله عنه): Once the people doubted the appearance of the moon of Ramadan, and intended neither to offer the tarawih prayer nor to keep fast. A bedouin came from al-Harrah and testified that he had sighted the moon. He was brought to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and He asked: Do you testify that there is no god but Allah, and that I am the Messenger of Allah? He said: Yes; and he testified that he had sighted the moon. He commanded Bilal (رضي الله عنه) who announced to the people to offer the tarawih prayer and to keep fast. (Abu Dawud) / http://sunnah.com/abudawud/14/29
Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) narrated: ‘A Bedouin came to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and said, ‘I have sighted the crescent (of Ramadan). He then said to him, "Do you testify that there is none worthy of worship but Allah?” The Bedouin said, ‘Yes.’ He asked him again, "Do you testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah?” The man replied, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) there upon said, "O Bilal! Announce to the people to (start) fasting tomorrow." Related by the five Imams. Ibn Khuzaimah and Ibn Hibban graded it as Sahih. (Bulugh al-Maram) / http://sunnah.com/urn/2059050
Note that the above incident happened when it was cloudy in Madinah at the end of Shaban and the people did not see the Hilal. So when a Bedouin from outside (Al-Harrah) came with the news, it was accepted. Al-Harrah is a high place about 3 miles (5km) North East/West of Madinah and hence the Bedouin could have come on foot.
5.2 The first day’s crescent moon always stays a short time on the horizon after sunset (Maghrib) and most certainly sets before dusk (Isha). The time difference between Maghrib and Isha in Madinah is about 1:20 hrs. Therefore, even if the Bedouin came on a horse, he could not have travelled more than 30 – 40 miles from outside Madinah. Note that in the UK, the Maghrib to Isha time fluctuates between 1 hr to 1.5 hrs (Summer – Winter) .
Therefore, it is recommended that the UK Muslims should not extend the boundaries of moon sighting news from abroad any more than 1.5 hrs to the East or West from a central location (eg. Bradford, West Yorkshire). It means, when it is Maghrib in the UK, it would be Isha time in the Eastern boundary and when it is Isha time in the UK, it would be Maghrib time in the Western boundary (see boundaries map).
Since the earth rotates 15° longitudes every hour (i.e. 360° every 24 hrs), it means the sunset 1.5 hours before UK time will be the longitude of near Berlin (Germany) and 1.5 hours after UK sunset time would be longitude of Dakar (Senegal). Given the usual cloudy weather condition of UK, it is recommended that a Regional Moon Sighting rule based on the above Hadith and the Fiqh interpretations should be applied, limiting how far East or West from the UK the news can be obtained from (between Maghrib and Isha prayers).
Furthermore, the opposite Hemisphere must not follow each other because when the Hilal rises over Northern Hemisphere, it is usually moonset-before-sunset on the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa, whereas it should be opposite (Quran 91:1-2). Also, when it's Summer (longer days) in the Northern Hemisphere, it is Winter in the Southern Hemisphere (shorter days) and vice versa. Hence, artificially changing the season for moon sighting must be avoided.
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) in his infinite wisdom has chosen the lunar year (354 days) to be shorter than the solar year (365 days), so the lunar months (Ramadan) rotate through all the seasons (Winter, Spring Summer, Autumn etc). Note also that borrowing news from opposite Hemisphere causes a lunar date change, which is tantamount to intercalation that is forbidden in the Quran (9:37). Hence, it is recommended for the UK Muslims not to borrow news from Southern Hemisphere, but restrict down to Tropic of Cancer (23.5° latitude), which includes Morocco and Algeria.