8. Moon Sighting Questions

There are number of historical questions on how the moon sighting criteria evolved in the UK, as given below.

8.1 What was the moon sighting criteria followed by the UK Muslims prior to 1986?

Early Muslim immigrants to the UK used to follow the moon sighting news from their country of origin, but as the community became more established they decided to follow their own local sighting by the naked eye or (in the event of persistent adverse weather conditions in the UK) to borrow it from Morocco, the nearest Muslim country to the UK. This was agreed by in an all-party conference in 1984 at London Regents Park Mosque (see Reference 6).

8.2 What was the moon sighting criteria followed by the UK Muslims after 1986?

The moon sighting news from Morocco used to arrive by fax to a shopkeeper and he used to relay the news to the scholars of the sighting report. Once on 29th Ramadan it arrived very late after the shopkeeper had closed the shop for the night and found it next morning that the moon of Shawwal was sighted in Morocco the night before. There was a dispute amongst some of the senior UK scholars as to break the fast and celebrate Eid on that day or to continue keeping the fast and celebrate Eid on the next day. This was the cause of the split where one party decided to start following Saudi Arabia and the other party continued to follow Morocco as per 1984 agreement.

8.3 Who are the Wifaqul Ulama and what is their moon sighting criteria since 2006?

Since the above split in 1986, the vast majority of the UK Muslims started following Saudi Arabia for convenience as the news arrived well before UK sunset times and a day or two before Morocco. However, due to world-wide moon sighting reports by ICOP members and publication of various subsequent  research papers, it became apparent that the news from Saudi Arabia was doubtful, if not totally wrong. This awareness lead to a few courageous Imams and Scholars to break away from following Saudi Arabia in 2006 to form an organisation by the name Wifaqul Ulama to establish local moon sighting. If it is not possible to locally sight the Hilal, then their criteria is to follow verified sighting reports from East of UK/Morocco on the 29th date, otherwise completing the month as 30-days. This group became known to ICOUK members in 2008 and since then they have been promoted by ICOUK members to revive the Sunnah of local moon sighting in the UK.

8.3 When did Wifaqul Ulama started following moon sighting reports from South Africa?

The initial moon sighting criteria by Wifaqul Ulama was to follow local moon sighting news (and to use astronomical data as a guide) or to follow news from Morocco. However, in 2008 Mufti Ebrahim Desai from South Africa visited various UK cities and was asked to provide moon sighting reports from Jamiatul Ulama South Africa.

There are numerous fatawa from many senior Ulama of the Indian subcontinent for the UK to follow Morocco moon sighting only in the event of persistent adverse UK weather conditions, but not any further. Here is an extract:

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 Saudis sighting, is in contradiction with the principles of Fiqh.” [Mufti Habibur Rahman, Mufti Darul-uloom Deoband, 18th of Safar 1424 AH] – see Reference 9.

The distance from London (UK) to Rabat (Morocco) is about 1,660 miles, to Makkah (Saudi Arabia) is about 3,880 miles and to Cape Town (South Africa) is about 8,240 miles. If UK following Saudi Arabia is in contradiction to the principle of fiqh as stated above, how does UK following South Africa become in conformity to the principle of fiqh when it’s more than twice as far from Saudi Arabia?

When Maulana Samiruddin Qasmi, a senior member of Wifaqul Ulama was asked in c.2008 for the reason, he said it was to reduce the differences of 2-days Eid celebration with Saudi Arabia. Since 2012, Saudi Supreme Court has adopted the revised Ummul Qura calendar (2002) as the minimum criteria for witness reports, reducing the difference to 1-day or None.

Therefore, it is most important for Wifaqul Ulama (and others) to review their moon sighting criteria and ignore any moon sighting report from South Africa and adopt a more cautious approach of Regional Moon Sighting criteria as explained in this document. Is it appropriate to adopt a weak method for the sake of possible match with the Saudi Ummul Qura Calendar when in the vast majority of the cases there is no need to consider it?