Does Wifaqul Ulama rely on Science instead of Moon Sighting?

(Qari) Muhammad Shoyaib Nurgat

Maulana Marghoob Ahmed Lajpuri

Ques­tion: Please explain as to why Wifaqul Ula­ma relies on Astro­nom­i­cal Cal­cu­la­tions and Sci­ence instead of (actu­al) Moon Sight­ing?

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gra­cious, the Most Mer­ci­ful.

As-salā­mu ‘alaykum wa-rah­mat­ul­lāhi wa-barakā­tuh

We would like to begin by extend­ing our grat­i­tude to you for ask­ing this ques­tion. May Allah (SWT) give you the best of rewards (Ameen).

In a nut­shell and in the most direct man­ner, Wifaqul Ula­ma DOES NOT advo­cate reliance upon or using Astro­nom­i­cal Cal­cu­la­tions for the deter­mi­na­tion of Islam­ic months. Wifaqul Ula­ma has a sys­tem of month­ly Moon Sight­ing in place for over a decade. We coor­di­nate the­se Moon Sight­ing activ­i­ties and inform the British Mus­lims every mon­th in detail of the results of (actu­al) Moon Sight­ing. The ulti­mate author­i­ty is the judge­ment of Ula­ma, their analy­sis, scruti­ny and accep­tance of the eye­wit­ness­es. All sci­en­tific evi­dence is sub­ject to judge­ment of the Ula­ma and their deci­sion.

Sharia commands reliance on Moon Sighting for 12 Months

It is incor­rect as per the prin­ci­ples of Hanafi Mad­hab to rely on the (sole) cal­cu­la­tions for the deter­mi­na­tion of Islam­ic Months.

ولا عبرة بقول المؤقتين ، ولو عدولا على المذهب مطلب لا عبرة بقول المؤقتين في الصوم ( قوله : ولا عبرة بقول المؤقتين ) أي في وجوب الصوم على الناس

The words of time­keep­ers is not authen­tic i.e. it is not an oblig­a­tion upon peo­ple to fast accord­ing to their cal­cu­la­tions [Shami].

The com­mand of reliance on Moon Sight­ing with regards to the scared mon­th of Ramad­han is explic­it in the Authen­tic Hadeeth of Allah’s Mes­sen­ger (Sal­lal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) as fol­lows:

حدثنا آدم، حدثنا شعبة، حدثنا محمد بن زياد، قال سمعت أبا هريرة ـ رضى الله عنه ـ يقول قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أو قال قال أبو القاسم صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ صوموا لرؤيته، وأفطروا لرؤيته، فإن غبي عليكم فأكملوا عدة شعبان ثلاثين

Sayyid­i­na Abu Huraira (RA) nar­rat­ed that the Mes­sen­ger of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) made a men­tion of the new moon and (in this con­nec­tion) said: Observe fast when you see it (the new moon) and break fast when you see it (the new moon of Shawwal), but when (the actu­al posi­tion of the mon­th is) con­cealed from you (on account of cloudy sky), then count thir­ty days. [Mus­lim]

The noble Ula­ma of Islam have extend­ed this com­mand of Moon Sight­ing to months oth­er than Ramad­han, Shawwal, Dhul-Hij­jah by evi­dence and by deduc­tion. We mean to say by deduc­tion that it makes no sense to rely on Moon Sight­ing for 3–4 months but to rely on Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions or sci­ence for the oth­er 8–9 months. We mean by evi­dence that there are plen­ty of nar­ra­tions of Nabi where he explic­it­ly stat­ed Duas for the sight­ing of “New Moon”, if the Moon is not being sight­ed the­se noble Sunan of recit­ing the Duas would seem to become super­flu­ous and may Allah (SWT) guard us again­st any care­less­ness or lazi­ness with regards to the Sunan (Ameen). Please observe the fol­low­ing nar­ra­tions:

حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيل ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبَانُ ، حَدَّثَنَا قَتَادَةُ ، أَنَّهُ بَلَغَهُ ” أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ إِذَا رَأَى الْهِلَالَ ، قَالَ : ” هِلَالُ خَيْرٍ ، وَرُشْدٍ هِلَالُ خَيْرٍ ، وَرُشْدٍ هِلَالُ خَيْرٍ ، وَرُشْدٍ آمَنْتُ بِالَّذِي خَلَقَكَ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ ، ثُمَّ يَقُولُ : الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي ذَهَبَ بِشَهْرِ كَذَا ، وَجَاءَ بِشَهْرِ كَذَا ”

Sayyid­i­na Qatadah (RA) nar­rates that it has cer­tain­ly reached him that when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to say three times: “A new moon of good and right guid­ance; a new moon of good and right guid­ance; a new moon of good and right guid­ance. I believe in Him Who cre­at­ed you”. He would then say: “Praise be to Allah Who has made such and such a mon­th to pass and has brought such and such a mon­th.” [Abu Da’wud]

أخبرنا عبد الرزاق قال: أخبرنا معمر عن قتادة أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كان إذا رأى الهلال كبر ثلاثا، ثم قال: هلال خير ورشد، ثلاثا، ثم قال: آمنت بالذي خلقك، ثلاثا، ثم يقول: الحمد لله الذي ذهب بشهر كذا وكذا، وجاء بشهر كذا وكذا

Sayyid­i­na Qatadah (RA) nar­rates when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to pro­claim the Great­ness of Allah (SWT) three times by Say­ing Allahu-Akbar and then pro­nounce three times: “A new moon of good and right guid­ance” and then say three times “I believe in Him Who cre­at­ed you”. He would then say: “Praise be to Allah Who has made such and such a mon­th to pass and has brought such and such a mon­th ” [Al-Musanaff]

عَنْ قَتَادَةَ ، قَالَ : كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِذَا رَأَى الْهِلالَ كَبَّرَ ثَلاثًا ، وَهَلَّلَ ، ثُمَّ قَالَ : ” هِلالُ خَيْرٍ وَرُشْدٍ ” ثَلاثًا ثُمَّ قَالَ : ” آمَنْتُ بِالَّذِي خَلَقَكَ ” ثَلاثًا ثُمَّ يَقُولُ : ” الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي ذَهَبَ بِشَهْرِ كَذَا وَجَاءَ بِشَهْرِ كَذَا

Sayyid­i­na Qatadah (RA) nar­rates when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to pro­claim the Great­ness of Allah (SWT) three times by Say­ing Allahu-Akbar, then rejoice and then pro­nounce three times: “A new moon of good and right guid­ance” and then say three times “I believe in Him Who cre­at­ed you”. He would then say: “Praise be to Allah Who has made such and such a mon­th to pass and has brought such and such a mon­th ” [Al-Jam’i  Li Muam­mar Ibn Rashid]

حدثنا محمد بن بشر قال حدثنا سعيد عن قتادة أن نبي الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان إذا رأى الهلال قال : ’ هلال خير ورشد ، هلال رشد وخير ، هلال خير ورشد ، آمنت بالذي خلقك — ثلاثا ، الحمد لله ذهب هلال كذا وكذا وجاء هلال كذا وكذا

Sayyid­i­na Qatadah (RA) nar­rates when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to say three times: “A new moon of good and right guid­ance; a new moon of good and right guid­ance; a new moon of good and right guid­ance. I believe in Him Who cre­at­ed you”. He would then say: “Praise be to Allah Who has made such and such a mon­th to pass and has brought such and such a mon­th.” [Al-Musanaff Ibn Abi Sahy­bah]

أخبرنا عبد الرزاق قال أخبرنا معمر عن رجل عن بن المسيب قال كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا رأى الهلال قال آمنت بالذي خلقك فسواك فعدلك

Sayyid­i­na Ibn Musayyad (RA) nar­rates when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to pro­claim “I believe in Him Who cre­at­ed you , then per­fect­ed you, then brought you in due pro­por­tion?” [Al-Musanaff Ibn Abi Sahy­bah]

أخبرنا عبد الله بن إسحاق الخراساني العدل ، ثنا أحمد بن زياد بن مهران ، ثنا أبو عامر العقدي ، ثنا سليمان بن سفيان المديني ، حدثني بلال بن يحيى بن طلحة بن عبيد الله ، عن أبيه ، عن جده — رضي الله عنه — : أن النبي — صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم — كان إذا رأى الهلال قال : ” اللهم أهله علينا بالأمن والإيمان والسلامة والإسلام ، ربي وربك الله ”

Sayyid­i­na Bilal Ibn Yahya Ibn Sufyan (RA) nar­rates from his father who nar­rates from his father that when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to say “O Allah, make the new moon shine on us with secu­ri­ty, belief, safe­ty and Islam! My Lord and your Lord is Allah” [Al-Mus­tadrak]

أَخْبَرَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ سُلَيْمَانَ عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ قَالَ حَدَّثَنِى أَبِى عَنْ أَبِيهِ وَعَمِّهِ عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ قَالَ : كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- إِذَا رَأَى الْهِلاَلَ قَالَ :« اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ ، اللَّهُمَّ أَهِلَّهُ عَلَيْنَا بِالأَمْنِ وَالإِيمَانِ وَالسَّلاَمَةِ وَالإِسْلاَمِ وَالتَّوْفِيقِ لِمَا يُحِبُّ رَبُّنَا وَيَرْضَى ، رَبُّنَا وَرَبُّكَ اللَّهُ »

Sayyid­i­na Ibn Umar (RA) nar­rates when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to say “O Allah, let this moon (mon­th) pass over us with bless­ings, Iman, safe­ty, and in the belief of Islam. Grant us the abil­i­ty to act on the actions that You love and Pleas­es You. (O moon) My Lord and Your Lord is Allah”.” [Sunan Ad-Darimi]

عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ طَلْحَةَ بْنِ عُبَيْدِ الله , عَنْ أَبِيهِ طَلْحَةَ بْنِ عُبَيْدِ الله , أَنَّ النَّبِىَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ إِذَا رَأَى الْهِلاَلَ قَالَ اللهمَّ أَهِلَّهُ عَلَيْنَا بِالْيُمْنِ وَالإِيمَانِ وَالسَّلاَمَةِ وَالإِسْلاَمِ رَبِّى وَرَبُّكَ الله

Tal­ha ibn ‘Ubay­dul­lah nar­rates from his father who nar­rates from his father that when the Prophet, (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) saw the new moon, he would say, “O Allah, make the new moon shine on us with secu­ri­ty, belief, safe­ty and Islam! My Lord and your Lord is Allah.” [Ibn HIbaaan]

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بن الْفَضْلِ السَّقَطِيُّ , حَدَّثَنَاسَعِيدُ بن سُلَيْمَانَ , عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بن إِبْرَاهِيمَ بن حَاطِبٍ , عَنْ أَبِيهِوَعَمِّهِ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ , قَالَ: كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِوَسَلَّمَ , إِذَا رَأَى الْهِلالَ , قَالَ:اللَّهُمَّ أَهِلَّهُ عَلَيْنَا بِالأَمْنِوَالإِيمَانِ , وَالسَّلامَةِ وَالإِسْلامِ , وَالتَّوْفِيقِ لِمَا تُحِبُّ وَتَرْضَى, رَبُّنَا وَرَبُّكَ اللَّهُ.

Sayyid­i­na Ibn Umar (RA) nar­rates when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to say “O Allah, let this moon (mon­th) pass over us with bless­ings, Iman, safe­ty, and in the belief of Islam. Grant us the abil­i­ty to act on the actions that You love and Pleas­es You. (O moon) My Lord and Your Lord is Allah”.” [Tabarani]

حدثنا أبو موسى هارون بن عبد الله الحمال ، حدثنا أبو عامر ، حدثني سليمان بن سفيان ، قال : سمعت بلال بن يحيى بن طلحة بن عبيد الله ، يحدث ، عن أبيه ، عن جده ، قال : كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا نظر إلى الهلال قال : « اللهم أهله علينا باليمن والإيمان ، والسلامة والإسلام ، ربي وربك الله

Tal­ha ibn ‘Ubay­dul­lah nar­rates from his father who nar­rates from his father that when the Prophet, (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) saw the new moon, he would say, “O Allah, make the new moon shine on us with secu­ri­ty, belief, safe­ty and Islam! My Lord and your Lord is Allah.” [Mus­nad Abd Ibn Humayd]

أخبرنا الحسن بن سفيان ، قال : حدثنا محمد بن يحيى المروزي، قال : حدثنا سعيد بن سليمان الواسطي ، قال : حدثنا عبد الرحمن بن عثمان بن إبراهيمبن محمد بن حاطب ، عن أبيه ، وعن عمه ، عن ابن عمر ، قال : كان رسول الله صلى اللهعليه وسلم إذا رأى الهلال ، قال : « اللهم أهله علينا بالأمن والإيمان ، والسلامة والإسلام، والتوفيق لما نحب وترضى ، ربنا وربك الله

Sayyid­i­na Ibn Umar (RA) nar­rates when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to say “O Allah, let this moon (mon­th) pass over us with bless­ings, Iman, safe­ty, and in the belief of Islam. Grant us the abil­i­ty to act on the actions that we love and Pleas­es You. (O moon) My Lord and Your Lord is Allah”.” [Tabarani]

أورد شيخُ الإسلام ابن تيمية -رحمه الله- في كتابه “الكلم الطيب” تحت (فصل في رؤية الهلال) حديثَ عبدِ اللهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ رضي الله عنهما, قَالَ : كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِذَا رَأَى الْهِلالَ , قَالَ: (اللهُ أكبَرُ ! اللَّهُمَّ أَهِلَّهُ عَلَيْنَا بِالأَمْنِ وَالإِيمَانِ , وَالسَّلامَةِ وَالإِسْلامِ , وَالتَّوْفِيقِ لِمَا تُحِبُّ وَتَرْضَى , رَبُّنَا وَرَبُّكَ اللهُ )

Ibn Taymiyyah (RA) has men­tioned in his book Al-Kalimut-Tayy­ib under the chap­ter of con­cern­ing the sight­ing of the moom that  Sayyid­i­na Ibn Umar (RA) nar­rates when the Prophet of Allah (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) sight­ed the moon, he used to pro­claim Allahu-Akbar and then say “O Allah, let this moon (mon­th) pass over us with bless­ings, Iman, safe­ty, and in the belief of Islam. Grant us the abil­i­ty to act on the actions that we love and Pleas­es You. (O moon) My Lord and Your Lord is Allah”.”

Is Astronomical Science Permissable? Isn’t it explcitly forbidden in Islam?

It is pos­si­ble that your views are for­mu­lat­ed by this nar­ra­tion which is put forth by cer­tain peo­ple.

في صحيح البخارى ( باب قول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم -: لا نكتب ولا نحسب ) ، ( عن إبن عمر – رضي الله عنهما – عن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – أنه قال : إنا أمّة أميّة لا نكتب ولا نحسب ، الشهر هكذا و هكذا : يعني مرة تسعة وعشرين ومرة ثلاثين ).

Imam Bukhari in his Sahih has nar­rat­ed on the author­i­ty of Ibn ‘Umar (May Allah pleased with them both) from the Prophet (May Allah send bene­dic­tions and peace on him) that he said, “We are an unlet­tered com­mu­ni­ty – we do not write or cal­cu­late. The mon­th is like this and this”, i.e. some­times 29 [days], and some­times 30.”

We have con­sult­ed the Ula­ma in this mat­ter and we have been assured that this (par­tic­u­lar) nar­ra­tion doesn’t pro­hibit or exclude the Astro­nom­i­cal sci­ences at all. The Ula­ma have put forth the fol­low­ing expla­na­tions from pre­vi­ous Mas­ters of Hadeeth as fol­lows:

Allamah Subki (RA)

وقال السبكي في العلم المنشور صفحة 4 : فصل

في معنى قوله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – (( الشهر هـكذا و هـكذا و هـكذا – وعقد الإبهام في الثالثة – والشهر هـكذا و هـكذا و هـكذا ، يعني تمام الثلاثين )) وهو حديث صحيح رواه البخاري ومسلم من حديث عبد الله بن عمر– رضي الله عنهما – ، وفي أوله : (( إنا أمّة أميّة لا نكتب ولا نحسب )). ومعناه والله أعلم : أن الشهر تارة يكـون ثلاثين ، وتارة يكـون تسعة وعشرين ، لا يخرج عن هـذين الأمرين ، وليس كما يقوله أهل الحساب والنجوم ، فإن عندهم دائما تسعة و عشرون وكسر ، لأن السنة القمرية ثلاثمائة وأربعة وخمسون يوماً وخمس يوم وسدس يوم ، وعدة الشهور اثنا عشر شهرا ، كما قال الله تعالى . فإذا قسمت هـذه الأيام على اثنى عشر كان كل شهر تسعة وعشرين وشيأ . والقمر يجتمع مع الشمس في كل شهر مرة ، فإذا فارقها فهو أول الشهر عندهم إلى أن ينتهي إلى مثل تلك الحالة ، وقد يكـون ذالك في أثناء النهار ، وقد يكـون في أثناء الليل ، فأبطل النبي — صلى الله عليه وسلم – إعتبار ذالك وجعل ما بعد مفارقته الشمس إلى تمام تسعة وعشرين ، إن رئي ، أو إلى تمام ثلاثين إن لم ير من الشهر الأول ، وسواءٌ رأيناه ليلة الثلاثين أو أكملنا ثلاثين فأول الشهر غروب الشمس من إحدي الليلتين ، واستفيد ذالك من إشارته — صلى الله عليه وسلم – وقول الراوي عنه : عشرا عشرا وتسعاً . فإن ذالك يقتضي دخول الليالي في حكم الأيام ، لأن حذف التاء يدل على إعتبار الليالي وهي الأصل في التاريخ ،

( وقوله — صلى الله عليه وسلم – :- إنّا ) يعني العرب ، لأن الغالب عليها ذالك ، وإن كان قد يعلم بعضهم الكتابة والحساب ، وكـونهم لا يكتبون ولا يحسبون شرف لهم ، لما سبق في علم الله من أنهم أمّة النبي الأمّي ، فذالك معجزة له — صلى الله عليه وسلم – وشرف لهم ، لاتصافهم بصفة من صفاته ، وجعل ذالك علماً في الشريعة على الشهر ليكـون ضبطاً بأمر ظاهر يعرفه كل أحد ولا يغلط فيه بخلاف الحساب ، فإنه لا يعرفه إلا القليل من الناس ويقع الغلط فيه كثيراً للتقصير في علمه ومقدماته ، وربما كان بعضها ظنّياً ، فاقتضت الحكمة الإلهيّة والشريعة الحنيفية السمحة ، التخفيف على العباد وربط الأحكام بما هو متيسر على الناس من الرؤية ، أو كمال العدد ثلاثين . وليس معنى الحديث النهي عن الكتابة والحساب ولا ذمّهما وتنقيصهما ، بل هما فضيلة فينا وليس في الحديث أيضا إبطال قول الحاسب في قوله : إن القمر يجتمع مع الشمس أو يفارقها ، أو تمكن رؤيته أو لا تمكن رؤيته والحكم بكذبه في ذالك ، وإنما في الحديث عدم إناط الحكم الشرعي وتسمية الشهر به .

Al-Sub­ki (RA) writes on page 4 of his trea­tise:

Chap­ter regard­ing the mean­ing of his state­ment (May Allah send bene­dic­tions and peace on him) “The Mon­th is like this, this and this” rolling his thumb in the third [round], “and the mon­th is like this, this and this” i.e. the full 30

It is an authen­tic nar­ra­tion report­ed by al-Bukhari and Mus­lim from the nar­ra­tion of ‘Abd ‘llah bin ‘Umar (May Allah pleased with them both).

In its begin­ning is “We are an illit­er­ate com­mu­ni­ty – we do not write or cal­cu­late.” Its mean­ing – and Allah knows bet­ter – that the mon­th is some­times 30 and some­times 29 with no third option.

It is not like what the astronomers say, as for them, it is always 29 days and a frac­tion [of a day], as the lunar year is 354.37 days. The num­ber of months is twelve as Allah (Most High) said. When the­se days are divid­ed over twelve months, every mon­th would be 29 days and a bit. The moon aligns with the sun once a mon­th, and when it parts from [the sun], it would be the begin­ning of the [lunar] mon­th accord­ing to them until it [returns] back to this state. That may hap­pen in dur­ing the day or the night.

So the Prophet (may Allah send bene­dic­tions and peace on him) nul­li­fied the con­sid­er­a­tion of that [method], and assigned as part of the first mon­th [the dura­tion of] when [the moon] parts from the sun up to the full 29 days if [the moon] is seen, or up to the full 30 if it is not seen, regard­less of whether we see it on the night of the 30th or we com­plete 30 [days]. And thus, sun­set on either night would be the begin­ning of the mon­th. This was gained from His (May Allah send bene­dic­tions and peace on him) indi­ca­tion and the state­ment of the one nar­rat­ing from him “ten, ten and nine”, as that requires the inclu­sion of [pre­ced­ing] nights under the rul­ing of days, because the removal of Ta’ is indica­tive of the con­sid­er­a­tion of nights, and [that] is the found­ing prin­ci­ple in [the annals of] dates.

His (May Allah send bene­dic­tions and peace on him) state­ment “We” means the Arabs, as that [illit­er­a­cy] was the pre­dom­i­nant [state] for them despite some know­ing how to write and count. The fact that they did not write or count was an hon­our for them, as had passed in the knowl­edge of Allah that they are com­mu­ni­ty of the illit­er­ate Prophet, which was a mir­a­cle for Him (may Allah send bene­dic­tions and peace on him) and hon­our for them, as they were ascribed with one of his attrib­ut­es. He assigned that to be a sign for the mon­th in the Shari­ah, so that it may be coher­ent­ly aligned with an appar­ent mat­ter that is known to every­one and can­not be mis­tak­en in, as opposed to cal­cu­la­tions as only a few peo­ple would know it and mis­takes there­in would occur fre­quent­ly due to a lack­ing in its knowl­edge and its premis­es. Some­times, some [premis­es of cal­cu­la­tion] are ten­ta­tive.

Divine Wis­dom and the straight, easy Shari­ah want­ed to lessen the bur­den from the ser­vants and con­nect the laws to sight or the com­ple­tion of 30 [days], which is easy for the peo­ple. The nar­ra­tion does not mean the pro­hi­bi­tion of writ­ing or cal­cu­la­tion, not does it con­demn or belit­tle them; rather they are a virtue for us. It is also not the mean­ing of the nar­ra­tion that the astronomer’s [cal­cu­la­tion for con­junc­tion], [sun-moon] sep­a­ra­tion, or the pos­si­bil­i­ty or impos­si­bil­i­ty of see­ing [the moon] is nul­li­fied or to declare him a liar in that; rather what the nar­ra­tion only con­tains is not to con­nect the legal rul­ing or [start­ing off] the mon­th based on [his state­ments].”

Allamah Bakhir (RA)

وقال الشيخ بخيت في رسالته صفحة 103 : وقوله — صلى الله عليه وسلم – (( إنا أمّة أميّة لا نكتب ولا نحسب )) ليس فيه ما يدل على تخطئة الكتّاب والحسّاب ، بل يدل على تصويبهما وتصديقهما ، فإن صدوره في معرض إظهار المعجزة وبيان أن معارفه الإلهيّة بوحي يوحى من عند الله تعالى ، فإن حاصل المراد منه أنّا نعرف ذالك بإعلام الله تعالى ، وتعريفه لنا لا بغيره لأنا أمّة أميّة لا نستعمل الحساب ولا نتداول الكتابة ، وإنما يعرفه الحسّاب بمزاولة حسابهم والكتّاب بالكتابة عن غيرهم ، قال تعالى : ( وما كنت تتلوا من قبله من كتاب ولا تخطّه بيمينك إذًا لارتاب المبطلون* بل هو آيات بيّنات في صدور الذين أوتوا العلم وما يجحد بآياتنا إلا الظّالمون ))

وقال أيضا صفحة 101 : وقد عرف بأن الشهر بالحساب المبني على القواعد القطعيّة لا يكـون إلا تسعة وعشرين يوماً وكسراً . وإنما الشارع أوجب الصوم عند رؤية هلال رمضان أو إكمال عدة شعبان ثلاثين ، رحمة بالناس وشفقة بهم ، حيث أناط الصوم بأمر ظاهر يعرفه الخاص والعام ، وكذالك قد أناط وجوب الفطر برؤية هلال شوال أو إكمال عدة رمضان ثلاثين يوما لما ذكرناه واحتياطاً للصوم ، وذالك مما توافق عليه العقل و النقل و ثبت من جهة الشريعة و من جهة الحكمة ، فإنه قد ثبت بطريق الحساب ثبوتاً لا مردّ له ، أن القمر إلى نقطة فارق فيها الشمس في مدة سبعة و عشرين يوماً وسبع ساعات وثلاث و أربعين دقيقة و أربع ثوان . ويجتمع معها مرّة أخرى في مدة تسعة و عشرين و نصف يوم وأربع وأربعين دقيقة وثلاث ثوان ، وأن مدة السنة القمرية ثلاثمائة يوم وأربعة وخمسون يوماً وخمس يوم واحد وسدسه وكسر. والحسابات كلها أمور قطعيّة برهانيّة لا سبيل إلى مجاحدتها فإنكارها مكابرة اه .

His state­ment (may Allah send bene­dic­tions and peace on him) “We are an illit­er­ate com­mu­ni­ty – we do not write or cal­cu­late” does not con­tain any indi­ca­tion that scribes or astronomers are wrong; rather it indi­cates they are cor­rect and truth­ful. The com­ing of [this nar­ra­tion] was in the con­text of uncov­er­ing the mir­a­cle and explain­ing that his god­ly real­i­sa­tions were via rev­e­la­tion that was revealed to him from Allah (Most High). The basic mean­ing of it is we know that via the Allah (Most High) teach­ing us and mak­ing us aware, not any­one else, because we are an illit­er­ate com­mu­ni­ty that does not use cal­cu­la­tion nor writ­ing – that is only known by astronomers by their usage of their cal­cu­la­tion, and by writ­ers via writ­ing about oth­ers. He (Most High) said, “You did not used to recite a book before it, nor did you write with your right hand; the peo­ple of false­hood would have then doubt­ed. Rather, it is clear vers­es in the hearts of those who have been given knowl­edge. Only the unjust deny about our vers­es.”

He also said, p. 101:

It is known that the mon­th based on cal­cu­la­tions on def­i­nite rules is only 29 days and a bit. The leg­is­la­tor, out of mer­cy and com­pas­sion for the peo­ple, only oblig­at­ed fast upon see­ing the cres­cent of Ramadan or upon] the com­ple­tion of 30 [days] of Sha’ban, as He (Most High) con­nect­ed fast­ing to an appar­ent mat­ter which the spe­cial­ists and pub­lic [all] know. Like­wise, He (Most High) con­nect­ed the oblig­a­tion of ter­mi­nat­ing the peri­od of com­pul­so­ry fast­ing to the see­ing of the cres­cent of Shawwal or the com­ple­tion of 30 [days] of Ramadan for the rea­sons we have men­tioned and for safe­guard­ing the fast. That is what log­ic and nar­ra­tion mutu­al­ly agree on, and is proven from the angle of the Shari­ah and from the angle of wis­dom. It is most def­i­nite­ly estab­lished via cal­cu­la­tion – and there is no turn­ing back from [this fact] – that the moon to the point it de-aligns itself from the sun is 27 days, 7 hours, 43 min­utes and 4 sec­onds, and aligns itself anoth­er time in the peri­od of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 min­utes and 3 sec­onds. It aligns itself with [the sun] at anoth­er time in the peri­od of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 min­utes and 3 sec­onds. The peri­od of the lunar year is 354.37 days. Cal­cu­la­tions are all defin­i­tive mat­ters – there is no way to rebuff them, as deny­ing them is tan­ta­mount to being quar­rel­some for no rea­son”

Allamah Mohammad bin Abd-ur-Razzaq Al-Marakishi (RA)

أولا ترا إلى ما يقوله كثير من الفقهاء من أنه إذا ثبتت رؤية الهلال في بلد ، فإنها تعم كل بلد يوافق بلد الرؤية في المطلع . ومن المعلوم أن المطلع لا يعرف إلا بالحساب . وتقدم قول السبكي في رسالته صفحة 13 : وفي لزوم رؤية بلد بلداً آخر أقوال ، إلى أن قال : السادس : يلزم كل بلد يوافق بلد الرؤية في المطلع ، وهـذا هو الصحيح عند العراقين من أصحابنا وغيرهم . وفيه جنوح إلى الحساب ، لأن المطلع إنما يعرف بالحساب . والمراد بالمطلع ، مطلع الهلال . ومعرفة توافق البلدين في مطلع الهلال يحتاج إلى حظ جيد من علم الهيئة . ولا يستنكر نظر الأكثرين إلى الحساب ها هنا وإعراضهم عنه إذا لم ير الهلال ، لأن هناك تجرد الحساب وحده ، وهنا انضاف إلى الرؤية في البلاد. فمن هنا نأخذ أن الحساب ليس ملغى لكن الرؤية شرط في الجملة للحديث . صفحة 466 العذب الزلال في مباحث رؤية الهلال

The state­ment of al-Sub­ki in his trea­tise, p. 13, has passed pre­vi­ous­ly: “There are [var­i­ous] opin­ions in a city’s sight­ing oblig­at­ing anoth­er city[…] The six­th posi­tion is that it would be bind­ing on every city whose hori­zon is in accor­dance with the city of sight­ing. This is the cor­rect posi­tion accord­ing to our Iraqi dis­ci­ples, and oth­ers. There is an incli­na­tion there­in for [the legit­i­ma­cy of astro­nom­i­cal] cal­cu­la­tion, because the hori­zon can only be known via cal­cu­la­tion. By hori­zon, the place where the cres­cent appears is meant. Knowl­edge of two cities being the same in terms of the cres­cent hori­zon requires a good por­tion of [aware­ness with] astron­o­my. The opin­ion of the mass major­i­ty does not con­sid­er cal­cu­la­tion wrong [in ascer­tain­ing hori­zons] and dis­re­gard­ing it when the cres­cent is not sight­ed, because cal­cu­la­tion by itself is alone [in the lat­ter], where­as [cal­cu­la­tion] comes in addi­tion to sight­ing in the cities [in the for­mer]. From this, we take that cal­cu­la­tion is not ren­dered redun­dant, but sight­ing is a req­ui­site as a gen­er­al prin­ci­ple due to the prophet­ic nar­ra­tion.” (Al-Azb-uz-Zulal fi Mabahithi Ruy­at-il-Hilal, pg 466)

Is Astronomical Science Reliable?

We hope that the issue has been crys­tal clear that Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions CANNOT be sole­ly relied upon for the estab­lish­ment of Islam­ic months.

We now turn the dis­cus­sion in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion and ask are Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions reli­able? Is it blame­wor­thy or praise­wor­thy to acquire the knowl­edge of Astron­o­my?

We find that even hun­derds of years ago the cal­cu­la­tions of the orbits and tim­ings was reli­able as Imam Ahmed Ibn Han­bal (RA) states:

 وقال أحمد بن حنبل : إن حساب محاسبي منازل القمر معتبر

That the cal­cu­la­tions are to be regard­ed in the phas­es of the moon as reli­able.

Our Hanafi Mad­hab states with regards to util­is­ing Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions:

وفي مختارات النوازل لصاحب الهداية أن علم النجوم في نفسه حسن غير مذموم ، إذ هو قسمان : حسابي [ ص: 44 ] وإنه حق ، وقد نطق به الكتاب . قال الله تعالى — { الشمس والقمر بحسبان } — أي سيرهما بحساب . واستدلالي بسير النجوم وحركة الأفلاك على الحوادث بقضاء الله تعالى وقدره ، وهو جائز كاستدلال الطبيب بالنبض من الصحة والمرض ولو لم يعتقد بقضاء الله تعالى أو ادعى الغيب بنفسه يكفر ، ثم تعلم مقدار ما يعرف به مواقيت الصلاة والقبلة لا بأس به

It is in “Mukhtarun-Nawazil” (the) Author of Hidaya (says) that to seek the knowl­edge of Astron­o­my (in its own right) is not blame­wor­thy. It has two branch­es and the first one is cal­cu­la­tions which is cor­rect and Allah (SWT) has also allud­ed to it in the Qur’aan. The sec­ond is deduc­tive which involves pre­dict­ing and proph­e­siz­ing (events) accord­ing to the move­ment and orbits of the stars accord­ing to the Pow­er of Allah (SWT) and Islam­ic belief of pre­des­ti­na­tion then it is also cor­rect and it is akin to a physi­cian per­form­ing pulse diag­no­sis and mak­ing deduc­tive analy­sis of the health of the patient accord­ing to the con­di­tion of the pulse. How­ev­er, to deny the Pow­er of Allah (SWT) and Islam­ic belief of pre­des­ti­na­tion or to claim to have knowl­edge of the unseen is Kuf’r (dis­be­lief). In sum­ma­ry, there is noth­ing wrong in acquir­ing enough knowl­edge of the­se (Astro­nom­i­cal) sci­ences which is nec­es­sary to deter­mine Salah times and to (accu­rate­ly) deter­mine the direc­tion of the Qiblah for prayers.

Sayyid­i­na Umar (RA) per­mit­ted learn­ing the sci­ence of Astron­o­my to the extent that the direc­tions (of land and seas) can be deter­mined and iden­ti­fied.

حَدَّثَنَا الْحَسَنُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ ، ثنا الْحَسَنُ بْنُ شَوْكَرٍ ، ثنا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ ، ثنا مُبَارَكُ بْنُ فَضَالَةَ ، عَنْ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ ، عَنْ نَافِعٍ ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ ، أَنَّ عُمَرَ ، قَالَ : ” تَعَلَّمُوا مِنَ النُّجُومِ مَا تَهْتَدُوا بِهِ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ

Is it permissable to use Astronomical Science as a tool?

The experts of Astron­o­my and cal­cu­la­tions (of the past) have stat­ed that when it is impos­si­ble to sight the moon the sight­ing tes­ti­mony of 1–2 peo­ple should be reject­ed. In this day and age when lying has become wide­spread as per the (end time) pre­dic­tions of Nabi (Salal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) the experts at Astron­o­my should be con­sult­ed. If there is no chance of moon sight­ing then the­se tes­ti­monies should be reject­ed.

Now, we will pro­duce text from some of our (Senior) Akabir Schol­ars which clear­ly state that the cal­cu­la­tions can­not be entire­ly reject­ed.

Shaykh (Mufti) Syed Abdur-Raheem Lajpuri (RA)

Shaykh (Mufti) Syed Abdur-Raheem Lajpuri (RA) writes, “Moon sight­ing should be attempt­ed in Britain with the help of geo­graph­i­cal (cal­cu­lat­ed) sight­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty”. He then fur­ther elu­ci­dates that the method stat­ed in the (noble) Sun­nah should be adopt­ed. Source: Fatawa-e-Raheemiyah, Vol 9, Page 417

It should be not­ed that Shaykh (RA) has con­sid­ered that the method of geo­graph­i­cal (cal­cu­lat­ed) sight­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty as Sun­nah.

Shaykh (Mufti) Nizamuddin (RA)

Shaykh (Mufti) Niza­mud­din (RA) writes, “If a per­son tes­ti­fies to see­ing the cres­cent before the con­junc­tion then such a tes­ti­mony is reject­ed because it is again­st log­ic, sci­ence and all oth­er cri­te­ria.”

Shaykh HazratJee (Maulana) In’amul Hasan Kandhalwi (RA)

Shaykh Hazrat­Jee (Maulana) In’amul Hasan Kand­hal­wi (RA) writes in his let­ter, “As far as tes­ti­mony the day before the (experts of Astron­o­my) pre­dict the sight­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty by their cal­cu­la­tions then such tes­ti­mony has no weight and it is also again­st the actions of the major­i­ty”

Shaykh (Mufti) Yusuf Ludhyanwi (RA)

Shaykh (Mufti) Yusuf Lud­hyan­wi (RA) writes, “Start­ing of (Islam­ic) mon­th is depen­dent upon the sight­ing of the moon. Con­sul­ta­tion with the experts of Astron­o­my about the chances of the moon being sight­ed on a (par­tic­u­lar) day is min­i­mal help which can be accept­ed” Source: Aap Kay Masail Aur Unka Hal, Vol 3/Page 261

Shaykh (Mufti) Taqi Usmani (DB)

Shaykh (Mufti) Taqi Usmani (DB) writes, “With regards to the Saudi moon sight­ing con­tem­po­rary Schol­ars are of the opin­ion that when sight­ing is deemed to be impos­si­ble but tes­ti­mony is still being advanced then such a tes­ti­mony is doubt­ful and due to (the tes­ti­mony) being doubt­ful a deci­sion shouldn’t be reached on its basis”

Shaykh (Mufti) Taqi Usmani (DB) has signed a Fat­wa from the Daul-uloom which reads, “It is our opin­ion that not every tes­ti­mony is absolute and it has the pos­si­bil­i­ty of being wrong ver­sus laws of Astro­nom­i­cal sci­ence are absolute with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of error in their appli­ca­tion. There­fore tes­ti­mony when it oppos­es Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions should be reject­ed unless the experts of Astron­o­my have dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­i­ties and offered an expla­na­tion”

Shaykh (Mufti) Taqi Usmani (DB) responds in a lengthy Fat­wa, “In an Islam­ic coun­try whether an announce­ment is made by the (Mus­lim) Qad­hi of that coun­try in his own voice or news is trans­mit­ted on his behalf it is the same as long as sight­ing is pos­si­ble in that coun­try for that day” Fat­wa Darul-uloom Karachi, 1419 AH

Shaykh (Mufti) Faisal (DB)

Shaykh (Mufti) Faisal (DB) writes, “When Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions state that moon­set is before sun­set then it is just as believ­able as Maghrib time accord­ing to our prayer timeta­bles. In the case of moon­set before sun­set there is scope for reject­ed (reject­ing) the moon sight­ing tes­ti­mony”.

Shaykh (Maulana) Burhanud-deen Sunbuli (DB)

Shaykh (Maulana) Burhanud-deen Sun­bu­li (DB) writes, “In addi­tion it should be kept in mind that Islam is a nat­u­ral reli­gion and the laws of (Islam­ic) Sharia don’t defy estab­lished com­mon sense as has been proven by Imam Shat­i­bi Al-Maliki (RA) in his infa­mous trea­tise of Fiqh enti­tled Al-Mufaqat in which he writes: أن كل معنى لا يستقيم مع الأصول الشرعية والقواعد العقلية لا يعتمد عليه It implies that it would not be wrong to assert that if it is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly proven that on a day the moon can­not be sight­ed then tes­ti­mony (of sight­ing) by a reli­able per­son for that day would be cast aside and not accept­ed because it will be again­st Islam­ic Sharia because such a sight­ing is impos­si­ble. Experts of Astron­o­my state that the veloc­i­ty (and orbital posi­tion­ing) of the sun and the moon is pre­dictable and they are able to cal­cu­late it and Qur’aan affirms this (claim) in var­i­ous vers­es. There­fore, if a per­son claims to have sight­ed the moon when there is no (log­i­cal or sci­en­tific) pos­si­bil­i­ty of such a sight­ing then we have to say that such a per­son has made a mis­take. Mau­ju­da Mas’ail Kay Masail Ka Sha’ri Hall, Pages 76–78

Islamic Fiqh Academy (Jeddah)

Islam­ic Fiqh Acad­e­my (Jed­dah) res­o­lu­tion states, “It is oblig­a­tory to use sight­ing (for com­mence­ment of Islam­ic months) but help should be tak­en from Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions and Obser­va­to­ries so prin­ci­ples of Hadeeth and sci­ence can both be regard­ed and ben­e­fit­ted from” Shari Fais­lay Page 95

Shaykh (Maulana) Muhammad Umar Palunpuri (RA)

Shaykh (Maulana) Muham­mad Umar Palun­puri (RA) writes, “The desire came in my heart that a book­let in easy to under­stand lan­guage should be pub­lished con­tain­ing tim­ings for con­junc­tion and new moon for impor­tant loca­tions through­out the world. This book­let should be made avail­able to all those in author­i­ty so they can be cau­tious in accept­ing tes­ti­monies when it is impos­si­ble for the moon to be sight­ed at their loca­tion” Sawanih Maulana Muham­mad Umar Palun­puri (RA), pages 212–214

Jamia Dabhel

Jamia Dab­hel gives a Fat­wa and writes, “When it comes to the ques­tion of arrang­ing local sight­ing and seek­ing assis­tance from Astro­nom­i­cal Cal­cu­la­tions then as long as the­se Cal­cu­la­tions are not con­sid­ered as the last word (mean­ing bind­ing on their own) then there is room for (their usage)” Fat­wa Jamia Islamia Dab­hel, attest­ed by Mufti Ahmed Khan­puri (DB)

Jamia Farooqia (Karachi)

Jamia Farooqia (Karachi) writes in a Fat­wa, “It should be not­ed that Islam­ic Sharia has based com­mence­ment of Islam­ic months on (moon) sight­ing so this is the method which should be relied upon. How­ev­er, to assist in this endeav­our (experts of) Astron­o­my can be con­sult­ed on local sight­ing con­di­tions and pos­si­bil­i­ties etc but the­se cal­cu­la­tions are not be exclu­sive­ly used (instead of sight­ing” Darul-Iftaa Jamia Farooqia (Karachi)

Shaykh (Mufti) Saeed Ahmed Palunpuri (DB)

Shaykh (Mufti) Saeed Ahmed Palun­puri (DB) the Shaykhul-Hadeeth of Darul-uloom Deoband writes, “I would like to point some­thing out here…Astronomical cal­cu­la­tions are not be sole­ly and exclu­sive­ly relied upon (for com­mence­ment of Islam­ic months) but we have seen some (weak) Mus­lims who try to con­firm Saudi sight­ing by giv­ing (false) tes­ti­monies. In such cir­cum­stances if Astro­nom­i­cal Cal­cu­la­tions are to be relied upon to reject such (impos­si­ble) sight­ings then in my hum­ble opin­ion there is scope for this”

Shaykh (Mufti) Khalid Saifullah Rahmani (RA)

Shaykh (Mufti) Khalid Sai­ful­lah Rah­mani (RA) writes, “Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions can be utilised to the extent that if there is no chance of moon being present then tes­ti­monies on that day shouldn’t be accept­ed with­out thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion and rigour and to the extent that tes­ti­monies become irrefutable. When chances of moon being (phys­i­cal­ly) present are ample then slight­ly (lesser) num­ber of tes­ti­monies can be accept­ed” Jadeed Fiqhi Mas’ail Vol 2, Page 26

Closing remarks:

It is true that Wifaqul Ula­ma in the light of evi­dence from the Qur’aan, Sun­nah, Ijm’a, Qiyas and in line with the prac­tise of our teach­ers and elders con­sid­ers the use of Astro­nom­i­cal Sci­ence as a tool to negate impos­si­ble sight­ing. How­ev­er, it should be cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly stat­ed that the (absolute) reliance is upon Moon Sight­ing. Please under­stand the dis­tinc­tion and the dif­fer­ence.

Fur­ther­more, Wifaqul Ula­ma uses Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions as a tool. There­fore, if there is suf­fi­cient evi­dence accord­ing to the judge­ment of Ula­ma, Astro­nom­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions will be cast aside and judge­ment of Ula­ma and the weight of (eye­wit­ness) tes­ti­monies will be given prece­dence. The ulti­mate author­i­ty is the judge­ment of Ula­ma, their analy­sis, scruti­ny and accep­tance of the eye­wit­ness­es.

We would like to close the dis­cus­sion by request­ing Ula­ma and hon­ourable read­ers to lis­ten to this excel­lent Ara­bic dis­cus­sion on this top­ic by Maulana Salman Nad­wi in Lon­don with Ula­ma.

May Allah (SWT) give us all the abil­i­ty to under­stand, obey and prop­a­gate the com­mands of Allah (SWT) and noble Sunan of His Nabi (Sal­la­ho Alai­he Was­sal­lam) (Ameen).

جزاك اللهُ خيرًا