Saudi Moonsighting and Saudi Scholars

Why not follow Saudi Arabia in UK for Ramadhan and Eidain?

(Qari) Muhammad Shoyaib Nurgat

(Maulana) Yousuf Baig

Question: The Saudi Moonsighting is correct according to their (Saudi) scholars and their principles so why isn’t it adopted by Wifaqul Ulama for Britain? Why do you insist on evaluating their Moonsighting according to your (Hanafi) principles?

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 we don’t deem it necessary to follow Moonsighting from Saudia in United Kingdom because there is an established monthly system already in existence in Britain. Their opinion is for countries to sight the Moon locally. Therefore, according to their own principles we find your suggestion to be inconsistent. We find it puzzling that you would recommend following Saudi scholars but then advise following Saudi Moonsighting. The advice of Saudi scholars is to follow local sighting or country closest to Britain. Saudi Arabia is neither local nor closest to United Kingdom. Furthermore, you seem to be recommending for us to follow Saudi Moonsighting for 3 months and then follow some other system for 9 months, why is that? What should be done for the other 9 months? What are your principles for recommending a mixed system when we have a perfectly valid (actual) Moonsighting system for all 12 months?

Moonsighting principle:

Perhaps, decades ago when there was no established Moonsighting system in Britain it was needed to follow Saudi Arabia. At present, when we have actual sighting based (monthly) system we find no reason to adopt the Saudi system. Please note that we are not discussing the credibility of the Saudi Moonsighting as it is for the Saudi scholars to decide. We are arguing that it is not needed for Britain. 

The fundamental principle is to sight the Moon as it is stated in the case of Ramadhan and Eid, but this can be extrapolated and applied to all 12 months.

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]

Moon Sighting of Makkah and it’s legal Status:

Shaykh Abdul Aziz ibn Abdullah ibn Baz (RA)

فأما قول من قال إنه ينبغي أن يكون المعتبر رؤية هلال مكة خاصة ، فلا أصل له ولا دليل عليه

“As for those who say that it is necessary to follow the sighting of Makkah, then let it be known to them, that there is no proof or basis for this in the Qur’aan and Hadith”. (Sheikh Abdullah bin Baz RA AlBa’ath ul Islaaami Zil Hijjah 1399 Hijri).

Shaykh Salih al-Uthaymeen (RA)

Shaykh (RA) was asked about those who call for the ummah to be united in fasting and for the moon sighting to be based on its sighting in Makkah. He said:

هذا من الناحية الفلكية مستحيل ؛ لأن مطالع الهلال كما قال شيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية رحمه الله تختلف باتفاق أهل المعرفة بهذا العلم ، وإذا كانت تختلف فإن مقتضى الدليل الأثري والنظري أن يجعل لكل بلد حكمه

This is impossible from an astronomical point of view, because the sighting of the new moon, as Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said, differs, according to the scientists who are well-versed in this field. Because it differs, then each country should have its own ruling, according to the reports and according to science.

Shaykh Saud Al-Shuraim (Imam of Makkah)- Friday Khutbah on 22nd of July 2011:

The sheikh said sighting the moon is established in the Sharia, and this principle does not preclude benefiting from modern science and technology as these do not violate the principle nor contradict it. Examples of this include the usage of binoculars and mathematical calculations which assist in realising the sighting of the moon, or tahqeeq al-ru’yah. By this means, conflicting points of view can be unified and disputation lessened. He then quoted the following Hadeeth from Saheeh Muslim in favour of following local sighting:

عَنْ كُرَيْبٍ أَنَّ أُمَّ الْفَضْلِ بِنْتَ الْحَارِثِ بَعَثَتْهُ إِلَى مُعَاوِيَةَ بِالشَّامِ قَالَ فَقَدِمْتُ الشَّامَ فَقَضَيْتُ حَاجَتَهَا وَاسْتُهِلَّ عَلَيَّ رَمَضَانُ وَأَنَا بِالشَّامِ فَرَأَيْتُ الْهِلَالَ لَيْلَةَ الْجُمُعَةِ ثُمَّ قَدِمْتُ الْمَدِينَةَ فِي آخِرِ الشَّهْرِ فَسَأَلَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا ثُمَّ ذَكَرَ الْهِلَالَ فَقَالَ مَتَى رَأَيْتُمْ الْهِلَالَ فَقُلْتُ رَأَيْنَاهُ لَيْلَةَ الْجُمُعَةِ فَقَالَ أَنْتَ رَأَيْتَهُ فَقُلْتُ نَعَمْ وَرَآهُ النَّاسُ وَصَامُوا وَصَامَ مُعَاوِيَةُ فَقَالَ لَكِنَّا رَأَيْنَاهُ لَيْلَةَ السَّبْتِ فَلَا نَزَالُ نَصُومُ حَتَّى نُكْمِلَ ثَلَاثِينَ أَوْ نَرَاهُ فَقُلْتُ أَوَ لَا تَكْتَفِي بِرُؤْيَةِ مُعَاوِيَةَ وَصِيَامِهِ فَقَالَ لَا هَكَذَا أَمَرَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَشَكَّ يَحْيَى بْنُ يَحْيَى فِي نَكْتَفِي أَوْ تَكْتَفِي

Kuraib (RA) reported that Umm Fadl (RA) [daughter of Harith] sent him (Fadl, i.e. her son) to Sayyidina Mu’awiya (RA) in Syria. Fadl said: I arrived in Syria, and did the needful for her. It was in Syria that the month of Ramadhān commenced. I saw the new moon (of Ramadhān) on Friday. I then came back to Madina at the end of the month. Sayyidina Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) asked me (about the new moon of Ramadhān) and said:  When did you see it? I said: We saw it on the night of Friday. He said: (Did) you see it yourself? I said: Yes, and the people also saw it and they observed fast and Mu’awiya also observed fast, whereupon he said: But we saw it on Saturday night. So we would continue to observe fast till we complete thirty (days) or we see it (the new moon of Shawwal). I said: Is the sighting of the moon by Mu’awiya not valid for you? He said: No, this is how the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has commanded us. [Muslim]


Saudi Scholars advising British Muslims

You have alluded that the Saudi Moonsighting is appropriate, correct and valid according to their principles but you seem to have missed that they clearly calls for (local) Moonsighting to be established and it is their preferred opinion.  They state that just like sunrise, sunset times differ for a location, so does Moonsighting. 

Shaykh Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen (RA) writes:

والصواب أنه يختلف باختلاف المطالع ، فمثلا إذا كان الهلال قد رؤي بمكة ، وكان هذا اليوم هو اليوم التاسع ، ورؤي في بلد آخر قبل مكة بيوم وكان يوم عرفة عندهم اليوم العاشر فإنه لا يجوز لهم أن يصوموا هذا اليوم لأنه يوم عيد ، وكذلك لو قدر أنه تأخرت الرؤية عن مكة وكان اليوم التاسع في مكة هو الثامن عندهم ، فإنهم يصومون يوم التاسع عندهم الموافق ليوم العاشر في مكة ، هذا هو القول الراجح ، لأن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول ( إذا رأيتموه فصوموا وإذا رأيتموه فأفطروا ) وهؤلاء الذين لم ير في جهتهم لم يكونوا يرونه ، وكما أن الناس بالإجماع يعتبرون طلوع الفجر وغروب الشمس في كل منطقة بحسبها ، فكذلك التوقيت الشهري يكون كالتوقيت اليومي . [ مجموع الفتاوى 20 ]

The correct view is that it varies according to when the moon rises in different places. For example, if the moon is sighted in Makkah, and today is the ninth, and it is sighted elsewhere one day before Makkah, and the day of ‘Arafah in Makkah is the tenth for them, it is not permissible for them to fast on this day because it is Eid. Similarly if it so happens that they sight the moon after Makkah, and the 9th in Makkah is the 8th for them, then they should fast the day that is the 9th for them, which is the 10th in Makkah. This is the correct view, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When you see it (the new moon) fast and when you see it break your fast.” Those who did not see the moon in their own location have not seen it. Just as people are unanimously agreed that the times for dawn and sunset vary according to their own location, so too the months are also worked out by location, just like the daily timings. [Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 20.]

Saudi scholars then come go a step further and categorically state that Muslims in Britain should sight the moon (in United Kingdom) or follow the country closest to them.

وإذا كان المسلمون في بريطانيا يتحرون الهلال ، فعلى المسلمين هناك التقيد برؤيتهم ، وإلا فبرؤية أقرب البلدان إليهم

If the Muslims in Britain have sighted the new moon, then the Muslims in that country should follow their sighting, otherwise they should follow the sighting of the country closest to them.

Saudi Mufti: Fasting on day of Arafah is local

In the following response, a Mufti from Saudi Arabia directly responds to and answers that the fasting on the day of Arafah should be done according to local Moonsighting.

Ummul-Qura declarations

The Ummul-Qura Calendar is meant to be for civil purpose and it is based on the birth of the new Moon and not sighting (possibility).

The calculations of the Um Al-Qura calendar are based on the terms set by the distinguished Council of ministers, which adopt the location of the Holy Kaabah as the reference for all calculations, and require conjunction to occur prior to sunset (moonset occur after sunset) as conditions for the birth of the new lunar month. The Um Al-Qura calendar is both the formal and civil calendar of the Kingdom, but it may not match the actual visibility of the crescent which is necessary to start the religious months.

There are two practical problems with start of Islamic months in Saudi Arabia which are other than Ramadhan, Shawwal, Dhul-Hijjah etc.

  1. There are no declarations for most of the year by the Saudi Government. There is no proof of such announcements. It was also confirmed by Dr Zaki Al-Mustafa in 2015.
  2. The declarations of a Qadhi need to conveyed in a specific manner as it is not just news which can broadcast. When the Saudi Government begins to make official declarations then those declarations will need to reach British Muslims in a manner which is acceptable in Islamic legislation. 

Monthly Moonsighting in Britain:

Formally, this is the 11th year (running) where Wifaqul Ulama has attempted to and announced the start of Islamic months based on Moonsighting. Data for the past 5 years is publicly available on our site as follows: 

  1. 1440
  2. 1439
  3. 1438
  4. 1437
  5. 1436
  6. 1435
  7. 1434
  8. 1433
  9. 1432
  10. 1431
  11. 1430
  12. 1429
  13. 1428

Informally, the system for Moonsighting in Britain has existed for much longer.

جزاك اللهُ خيرًا