By Mufti Muhammed Yusuf Danka, Croydon Mosque, UK (2013)
Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has stated in the Holy Qur’aan: “They ask you (O Muhammad صلي الله عليه وسلم) about the crescent moons. Say: They are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage.” Quran (2: 189).
The Shari'ah (laws) of Islam have classified the regulation of time (months) by means of sighting the Moon. Every person who has the faculty of sight can look at the sky and determine the start of the new month. Despite great leaps being made in the Astronomy and the scientific calculation of the ‘birth’ of the new moon, they are not regarded as verified proofs in Islam.
In the same manner, the days of Hajj, Ramadhan and the Eids are dependant upon the sighting of the moon (Muhaqaq Ru’yat Basari). There is only ‘One’ moon in the world. Yet, Allah has used the plural word meaning ‘crescent moons’ in the above verse of the Qur’an. This will mean that throughout the World, wherever the crescent moon can be sighted on the 29 th night then the following day will be the start of the new month. If for some reason the crescent moon is not sighted in an area, they will complete 30 days in that region and then start the new month. This verse of the Qur’an makes it clear that there is no requirement for the Muslims to celebrate Eid or Ramadhan etc uniformly throughout the World on a single day.
Those individuals that go for Hajj, they will abandon the monthly timetable of their region and adopt that of Makkah. It may be questioned: if the date that is found in Saudi Arabia is not regulated according to the true requirements of the Shariah then what will become of their Hajj. If there is no way to correct this wrong doing (in not ordaining the Islamic month by the ‘true sighting of the crescent moon’) of the government then it is understood that the fasting and Hajj will be accepted Insha’Allah. The inhabitants of Saudi Arabia and visiting Hajis etc will not be at fault for carrying out their worship according to the dates stipulated by the government. However, it is not permissible for those from other regions to follow Saudi Arabia’s announcements. (Tuhfatul Al Ma’ee Sharah Sunan Tirmidhi vol 3, p68 by Shaykh-ul-Hadith Mufti Saeed Ahmad Palanpuri, Darul Uloom Deoband).
In 1972 the intention was made to change the Shariah sighting criteria for the ‘New Moon’:
Alhamdulillah for 1400 years from the time of the Prophet the entire Ummah was using the means of sighting the crescent moon to regulate the months of the year. In 1972 the Saudi government sent an invitation to the different regions of the Muslim World for the Senior Scholars to attend a conference. In this conference, without a specific agenda being outlined, the Saudi government opened the discussion on the matter of the entire Muslim World following the announcement of Saudi for a united day for Ramadhan and the two Eids. For this, the Saudi government would be responsible to formulate whatever systems and procedures were required to ensure this could be fulfilled. Together with this, it was recommended that the new month announcement be reliant upon the ‘birth of the new moon’ (القمر الجد يد) rather than the sighting of the crescent moon. This would allow the Saudi government to announce the new moon before it was possible to be sighted anywhere in the World. (Tuhfatul Al Ma’ee Sharah Tirmidhi vol 3, p56)
Amongst the attendees of the Saudi conference was Mufakirul Islam Shaykh Sayed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi رحمه الله and Shaykh Manzoor Nomani رحمه الله. These two were the renowned Scholars of the Islamic world at the time (both had spent time with Hadhrat Maulana Shaah Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalwi رحمه الله in the work of Da’wah Tabligh). After attending the conference they returned to Surat Rander Chunarwa Masjid, India. Here a conference of the Scholars of India was arranged. They explained that they were invited by the Saudi government to a conference without a stipulated agenda. They explained the desire of the Saudi government to adopt the ‘Birth of the New Moon’ calendar and also that all the Scholars present in the conference had unanimously rejected this concept due to it being against the Shari’ah. The two Shaykhs stated that the Saudi government nonetheless intended to initiate a great fitnah ignoring the opposition of the Scholars. They explained, the Saudi government will adopt this new system from the following year, as predicted it came to pass and remains the case to this day.
This matter has been written about in detail by Shaykh-ul-Hadith Mufti Saeed Ahmad Palanpuri Sahib حفظه الله (Darul Uloom Deoband) in a monthly leaflet called ‘Al-Furqan’ distributed in Lucknow, India.Saudi Arabia has created a timetable based on Greenwich New Moon calculations; this calendar known as the Umm Ul Qura calendar, many a time sets the beginning of the new month one day before the sighting of the crescent moon. In reality the 29th date of this calendar could actually be the 28th date. On this 28th date, Saudi accepts the false testimony of witnesses and makes an announcement of Eid or the start of Ramadhan one or two days before the entire globe. The reality is the moon has not usually been sighted anywhere on the entire Earth. In doing so it starts Ramadhan in Sha’baan, and declares Eid in Ramadhan, therefore unlawfully missing one obligatory fast. Thus, anywhere where Saudi is blindly followed a great fitnah ensues.