Testimony Methods

Moonsighting Testimony

(Qari) Muhammad Shoyaib Nurgat

(Maulana) Yousuf Baig

Ques­tion: What are the var­i­ous meth­ods by which tes­ti­mo­ny of  Moon­sight­ing can be ver­i­fied or received by a Moon­sight­ing com­mit­tee to make a deci­sion?

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).

There are sev­er­al meth­ods by which Moon­sight­ing tes­ti­mo­ny can be received or a deci­sion can be reached by the Moon­sight­ing com­mit­tee and they are enu­mer­at­ed as fol­lows:

  • Large sight­ing in clear hori­zons: This is a well-known prin­ci­ple of the Mad­hab. It states that when the hori­zons are clear, tes­ti­mo­ny of a few peo­ple can­not be accept­ed. Cres­cent must be sight­ed by such a large group of peo­ple that can be sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly con­clud­ed that such a large group can­not col­lude (amongst each oth­er) and agree on false­hood. Imam Abu Yusuf (RA) has giv­en a num­ber for this group to be larg­er then 50 but there is no agreed upon num­ber with­in the Mad­hab. The num­ber of the peo­ple in the group is deter­mined by the Qad­hi (Judge) or the Moon­sight­ing com­mit­tee. This is because if the hori­zons are clear, it is not pos­si­ble for a few peo­ple to sight the Moon.

وإن لم يكن بالسماء علة لم تقبل إلا شهادة جمع يقع العلم بخبرهم

When the hori­zons are clear then the tes­ti­mo­ny of a (few) will not be accept­ed, except when there is a (large) group and the knowl­edge of (Moon being sight­ed) reach­es a sat­is­fac­to­ry lev­el [Al-Hidayah fi Sharh Biday­at al-Mub­ta­di]

أبو يوسف القاضي يقول : إن كان الجو صافيا لم أقبل في رؤية الهلال أقل من خمسين

Imam Abu Yusuf (RA) states that if the weath­er is clear (i.e. the hori­zons are clear) then the tes­ti­monies of less then 50 is not accept­able.

  • Lim­it­ed sight­ing in cloudy hori­zons: When the hori­zons are clear then the tes­ti­mo­ny of a sin­gle per­son is suf­f­i­cent for the start of Rmad­han. For Shaww­al (Eidul-Fit’r), Dhul-Hij­jah (Eidul-Adha) and all oth­er months, the tes­ti­mo­ny of two Mus­lim men or 1 Mus­lim man and 2 Mus­lim women will be offi­cial­ly tak­en by the Qad­hi (Judge) or the Moon­sight­ing com­mit­tee.

( لِلصَّوْمِ مَعَ عِلَّةٍ كَغَيْمٍ وَغُبَارٍ ( خَبَرُ عَدْلٍ ) أَوْ مَسْتُورٍ عَلَى مَا صَحَّحَهُ الْبَزَّازِيُّ عَلَى خِلَافِ ظَاهِرِ الرِّوَايَةِ لَا فَاسِقٍ اتِّفَاقًا وَهَلْ لَهُ أَنْ يَشْهَدَ مَعَ عِلْمِهِ بِفِسْقِهِ قَالَ الْبَزَّازِيُّ : نَعَمْ لِأَنَّ الْقَاضِيَ رُبَّمَا قَبِلَهُ ( وَلَوْ ) كَانَ الْعَدْلُ ( قِنًّا أَوْ أُنْثَى أَوْ مَحْدُودًا فِي قَذْفٍ تَابَ

وشرط للفطر مع العلة والعدالة ( نصاب الشهادة ولفظ أشهد ) وعدم الحد في قذف لتعلق نفع العبد لكن ( لا ) تشترط ( الدعوى ) كما لا تشترط في عتق الأمة وطلاق الحرة

قوله : مع العلة أي من غيم وغبار ودخان ( قوله نصاب الشهادة ) أي على الأموال وهو رجلان أو رجل وامرأتان

ويشترط لبقية الأهلة شهادة رجلين عدلين أو حر وحرتين غير محدودين في قذف

And as for the rest of the (Islam­ic) months, the tes­ti­mo­ny of 2 hon­est (and free) Mus­lim men or a man and two (free) women is need­ed and they should not be lim­it­ed by alle­ga­tions (mean­ing that they should not be known to be guilty of mak­ing alle­ga­tions upon oth­ers) [Nur al-Idah]

  • Sha­hadah (Tes­ti­mo­ny):
    • Direct: This is the per­son or peo­ple who sight­ed the Cres­cent direct­ly tes­ti­fy­ing to the Qad­hi (judge) or to the Moon­sight­ing com­mit­tee of their tes­ti­mo­ny.
    • Con­veyed Sha­hadah (Tes­ti­mo­ny): This is when the per­son or peo­ple who sight­ed the Cres­cent are not direct­ly tes­ti­fy­ing to the Qad­hi (judge) or to the Moon­sight­ing com­mit­tee of their tes­ti­mo­ny. Tes­ti­monies of a two reli­able and trust­wor­thy Mus­lim men or a sin­gle reli­able man and two reli­able women present their tes­ti­mo­ny to two reli­able and trust­wor­thy Mus­lim men or a sin­gle reli­able man and the first appoint the sec­ond as their rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the sec­ond group presents the tes­ti­monies. It is not a require­ment to have two wit­ness­es for each per­son (who has sight­ed the Moon) i.e. you don’t need 4 peo­ple to tes­ti­fy in behalf of two peo­ple. How­ev­er, it is bet­ter to have 4 peo­ple. 

هِيَ مَقْبُولَةٌ وَإِنْ كَثُرَتْ اسْتِحْسَانًا فِي كُلِّ حَقٍّ عَلَى الصَّحِيحِ ( إلَّا فِي حَدٍّ وَقَوَدٍ ) لِسُقُوطِهِمَا بِالشُّبْهَةِ وَجَازَ الْإِشْهَادُ مُطْلَقًا ، لَكِنْ لَا تُقْبَلُ إلَّا ( بِشَرْطِ تَعَذُّرِ حُضُورِ الْأَصْلِ بِمَوْتٍ ) أَيْ مَوْتِ الْأَصْلِ ، وَمَا نَقَلَهُ الْقُهُسْتَانِيُّ عَنْ قَضَاءِ النِّهَايَةِ فِيهِ كَلَامٌ فَإِنَّهُ نَقَلَهُ عَنْ الْخَانِيَّةِ عَنْهَا ، وَهُوَ خَطَأٌ وَالصَّوَابُ مَا هُنَا ( أَوْ مَرَضٍ أَوْ سَفَرٍ ) وَاكْتَفَى الثَّانِي بِغَيْبَتِهِ بِحَيْثُ يَتَعَذَّرُ أَنْ يَبِيتَ بِأَهْلِهِ ، وَاسْتَحْسَنَهُ غَيْرُ وَاحِدٍ . وَفِي الْقُهُسْتَانِيِّ وَالسِّرَاجِيَّةِ ، وَعَلَيْهِ الْفَتْوَى وَأَقَرَّهُ الْمُصَنِّفُ ( أَوْ كَوْنِ الْمَرْأَةِ مُخَدَّرَةً ) لَا تُخَالِطُ الرِّجَالَ وَإِنْ خَرَجَتْ لِحَاجَةٍ وَحَمَّامٍ قُنْيَةٌ . وَفِيهَا لَا يَجُوزُ الْإِشْهَادُ لِسُلْطَانٍ وَأَمِيرٍ ، وَهَلْ يَجُوزُ لِمَحْبُوسٍ إنْ مِنْ غَيْرِ حَاكِمٍ الْخُصُومَةُ ، نَعَمْ ذَكَرَهُ الْمُصَنِّفُ فِي الْوَكَالَةِ وَقَوْلُهُ ( عِنْدَ الشَّهَادَةِ ) عِنْدَ الْقَاضِي قَيْدٌ لِلْكُلِّ لِإِطْلَاقِ جَوَازِ الْإِشْهَادِ لَا الْأَدَاءِ [ ص: 500 ] كَمَا مَرَّ ( وَ ) بِشَرْطِ ( شَهَادَةِ عَدَدٍ ) نِصَابٍ وَلَوْ رَجُلًا وَامْرَأَتَيْنِ ، وَمَا فِي الْحَاوِي غَلَطٌ بَحْرٌ ( عَنْ كُلِّ أَصْلٍ ) وَلَوْ امْرَأَةً ( لَا تَغَايُرِ فَرْعَيْ هَذَا وَذَاكَ ) خِلَافًا لِلشَّافِعِيِّ .

  • Con­veyed Sha­hadah (Tes­ti­mo­ny) of Qad­ha (Judge­ment)Tes­ti­monies of two reli­able and trust­wor­thy Mus­lim men or a sin­gle reli­able man and two reli­able women that Qad­hi (Judge) or the Moon­sight­ing com­mit­tee (of anoth­er loca­tion) took tes­ti­monies in front of us and made a deci­sion (about the start of the Islam­ic month). These wit­ness­es must appear in front of Qad­hi (Judge) or the Moon­sight­ing com­mit­tee and (phys­i­cal­ly) tes­ti­fy.

شهدوا أنه شهد عند قاضي مصر كذا شاهدان برؤية الهلال في ليلة كذا ( وقضى ) القاضي ( به ووجد استجماع شرائط الدعوى قضى ) أي جاز لهذا ( القاضي ) أن يحكم ( بشهادتهما ) لأن قضاء القاضي حجة وقد شهدوا به لا لو شهدوا برؤية غيرهم لأنه حكاية ، نعم لو استفاض الخير في البلدة الأخرى لزمهم على الصحيح من المذهب مجتبى وغيره ( وبعد صوم ثلاثين بقول عدلين حل الفطر ) الباء متعلقة بصوم وبعد متعلقة بحل لوجود

  • Kitaab Qad­hi Ilul Qad­hi : The let­ter should con­tain a sig­na­ture or seal of the organ­i­sa­tion. Con­tent and deliv­ery should be authen­ti­cat­ed to ensure that it is not a forgery.
  • Khabrul-Mustafeedh: This entails that the var­i­ous groups from a loca­tion where the Moon was sight­ed trav­el to a sec­ond loca­tion and they tes­ti­fy that (the first) loca­tion had Moon­sight­ing or that the has reached a deci­sion. This process entails ver­i­fi­ca­tion and the mere pop­u­lar­i­ty (or fame) of the news doesn’t ful­fil the require­ments because rumours also spread far and wide. It is stat­ed in Bahrur-Raiq:

( قَوْلُهُ : وَلَا عِبْرَةَ بِاخْتِلَافِ الْمَطَالِعِ ) فَإِذَا رَآهُ أَهْلُ بَلْدَةٍ ، وَلَمْ يَرَهُ أَهْلُ بَلْدَةٍ أُخْرَى وَجَبَ عَلَيْهِمْ أَنْ يَصُومُوا بِرُؤْيَةِ أُولَئِكَ إذَا ثَبَتَ عِنْدَهُمْ بِطَرِيقٍ مُوجِبٍ ، وَيَلْزَمُ أَهْلَ الْمَشْرِقِ بِرُؤْيَةِ أَهْلِ الْمَغْرِبِ ، وَقِيلَ : يُعْتَبَرُ فَلَا يَلْزَمُهُمْ بِرُؤْيَةِ غَيْرِهِمْ إذَا اخْتَلَفَ الْمَطْلِعُ ، وَهُوَ الْأَشْبَهُ كَذَا فِي التَّبْيِينِ ، وَالْأَوَّلُ ظَاهِرُ الرَّاوِيَةِ ، وَهُوَ الْأَحْوَطُ كَذَا فِي فَتْحِ الْقَدِيرِ ، وَهُوَ ظَاهِرُ الْمَذْهَبِ ، وَعَلَيْهِ الْفَتْوَى كَذَا فِي الْخُلَاصَةِ أَطْلَقَهُ فَشَمِلَ مَا إذَا كَانَ بَيْنَهُمَا تَفَاوُتٌ بِحَيْثُ يَخْتَلِفُ الْمَطْلِعُ أَوَّلًا وَقَيَّدْنَا بِالثُّبُوتِ الْمَذْكُورِ ; لِأَنَّهُ لَوْ شَهِدَ [ ص: 291 ] جَمَاعَةٌ أَنَّ أَهْلَ بَلَدِ كَذَا رَأَوْا هِلَالَ رَمَضَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ بِيَوْمٍ فَصَامُوا ، وَهَذَا الْيَوْمُ ثَلَاثُونَ بِحِسَابِهِمْ ، وَلَمْ يَرَوْا هَؤُلَاءِ الْهِلَالَ لَا يُبَاحُ فِطْرُ غَدٍ ، وَلَا تُتْرَكُ التَّرَاوِيحُ هَذِهِ اللَّيْلَةَ ; لِأَنَّ هَذِهِ الْجَمَاعَةَ لَمْ يَشْهَدُوا بِالرُّؤْيَةِ ، وَلَا عَلَى شَهَادَةِ غَيْرِهِمْ ، وَإِنَّمَا حَكَوْا رُؤْيَةَ غَيْرِهِمْ ، وَلَوْ شَهِدُوا أَنَّ قَاضِيَ بَلَدِ كَذَا شَهِدَ عِنْدَهُ اثْنَانِ بِرُؤْيَةِ الْهِلَالِ فِي لَيْلَةِ كَذَا وَقَضَى بِشَهَادَتِهِمَا جَازَ لِهَذَا الْقَاضِي أَنْ يَحْكُمَ بِشَهَادَتِهِمَا ; لِأَنَّ قَضَاءَ الْقَاضِي حُجَّةٌ ، وَقَدْ شَهِدُوا بِهِ ، وَأَمَّا مَا اسْتَدَلَّ بِهِ الشَّارِحُ عَلَى اعْتِبَارِ اخْتِلَافِ الْمَطَالِعِ مِنْ وَاقِعَةِ الْفَضْلِ مَعَعَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ حِينَ أَخْبَرَهُ أَنَّهُ رَأَى الْهِلَالَ بِالشَّامِ لَيْلَةَ الْجُمُعَةِ وَرَآهُ النَّاسُ وَصَامُوا وَصَامَ مُعَاوِيَةُ فَلَمْ يَعْتَبِرْهُ ، وَإِنَّمَا اعْتَبَرَ مَا رَآهُ أَهْلُ الْمَدِينَةِ لَيْلَةَ السَّبْتِ فَلَا دَلِيلَ فِيهِ ; لِأَنَّهُ لَمْ يَشْهَدْ عَلَى شَهَادَةِ غَيْرِهِ ، وَلَا عَلَى حُكْمِ الْحَاكِمِ وَلَئِنْ سَلِمَ فَلِأَنَّهُ لَمْ يَأْتِ بِلَفْظِ الشَّهَادَةِ وَلَئِنْ سَلِمَ فَهُوَ وَاحِدٌ لَا يَثْبُتُ بِشَهَادَتِهِ وُجُوبُ الْقَضَاءِ عَلَى الْقَاضِي 

…And they have said that the dif­fer­ences of hori­zons are not to regard­ed. There­fore if the (Moon) is sight­ed accord­ing to peo­ple of one city then it is nec­es­sary for peo­ple (of oth­er) city to also fast accord­ing to the sight­ing of the first city, pro­vid­ed that the sight­ing is proven to be cor­rect and authen­tic accord­ing to the (peo­ple of sec­ond city) accord­ing to prin­ci­ples and the tes­ti­mo­ny is authen­ti­cal­ly con­veyed. Accord­ing to oth­ers fast­ing will not ne nec­es­sary when the hori­zons dif­fer and this is bet­ter as it is men­tioned in Tabayyan. The first opin­ion is clos­er to cau­tion as it is men­tioned in Fathul-Qadeer and it is Zaahir Riwayah and Fat­wa is giv­en upon it as it is men­tioned in Khu­lasa. We have kept it uncon­di­tion­al so both sce­nar­ios i.e. due to dis­tance hori­zons change or the hori­zon does not change are includ­ed. But we have placed a con­di­tion of “Tareeq Mau­jab” because lets say a group tes­ti­fies that inhab­i­tants of such and such city sight­ed the moon (a day before) and fast­ed so it will not be cor­rect for peo­ple of sec­ond city to aban­don Taraweeh and have Eid (the next day) because the group didn’t tes­ti­fy to the (actu­al) sight­ing, they didn’t tes­ti­fy to the tes­ti­mo­ny of oth­ers (who sight­ed the Moon them­selves), they have mere­ly trans­mit­ted the new. (It would be dif­fer­ent) if they would have tes­ti­fied that two peo­ple  tes­ti­fied in front of the Qad­hi (judge) and the Qad­hi (judge) made a deci­sion based on the tes­ti­mo­ny because the judge­ment of the Qad­hi (judge) is bind­ing and they are tes­ti­fy­ing upon the judge­ment. In any case, the deduc­tion of Shar­ih that dif­fer­ences of hori­zon is con­sid­ered due to the inci­dent between Ibn Abbas (RA) and Fad­hal (RA) when he informed Ibn Abbas (RA) that Moon was sight­ed in Syr­ia on Fri­day night and peo­ple fast­ed and Muawiyya (RA) also fast­ed, and Ibn Abbas (RA) didn’t regard (this) tes­ti­mo­ny and con­sid­ered the tes­ti­mo­ny of peo­ple of Mad­i­na who had sight­ed on Sat­ur­day, there is no evi­dence of con­sid­er­a­tion to dif­fer­ences of hori­zon in this inci­dent because Fad­hal (RA) did not give tes­ti­mo­ny to the sight­ing of oth­ers, nor did he tes­ti­fy upon the judge­ment of the Haakim (ruler) because he didn’t use the words “I tes­ti­fy”. Even if we accept that he did tes­ti­fy, Fad­hal (RA) was only one and it is not nec­es­sary for Qad­hi (judge) to issue a judge­ment on a (sin­gle) tes­ti­mo­ny.

And it is men­tioned in the mar­gin­a­lia:

اعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْمُرَادَ بِالِاسْتِفَاضَةِ تَوَاتُرُ الْخَبَرِ مِنْ الْوَارِدِينَ مِنْ بَلْدَةِ الثُّبُوتِ إلَى الْبَلْدَةِ الَّتِي لَمْ يَثْبُتْ بِهَا لَا مُجَرَّدُ الِاسْتِفَاضَةِ ; لِأَنَّهَا قَدْ تَكُونُ مَبْنِيَّةً عَلَى إخْبَارِ رَجُلٍ وَاحِدٍ مَثَلًا فَيَشِيعُ الْخَبَرُ عَنْهُ ، وَلَا شَكَّ أَنَّ هَذَا لَا يَكْفِي بِدَلِيلِ قَوْلِهِمْ : إذَا اسْتَفَاضَ الْخَبَرُ ، وَتَحَقَّقَ فَإِنَّ التَّحْقِيقَ لَا يَكُونُ إلَّا بِمَا ذَكَرْنَا 
( تَتِمَّةٌ ) لَمْ يَذْكُرُوا عِنْدَنَا الْعَمَلَ بِالْأَمَارَاتِ الظَّاهِرَةِ الدَّالَّةِ عَلَى ثُبُوتِ الشَّهْرِ كَضَرْبِ الْمَدَافِعِ فِي زَمَانِنَا وَالظَّاهِرُ وُجُوبُ الْعَمَلِ بِهَا عَلَى مَنْ سَمِعَهَا مِمَّنْ كَانَ غَائِبًا عَنْ الْمِصْرِ كَأَهْلِ الْقُرَى وَنَحْوِهَا كَمَا يَجِبُ الْعَمَلُ بِهَا عَلَى أَهْلِ الْمِصْرِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَرَوْا الْحَاكِمَ قَبْلَ شَهَادَةِ الشُّهُودِ وَقَدْ ذَكَرَ هَذَا الْفَرْعَ الشَّافِعِيَّةُ فَصَرَّحَ ابْنُ حَجَرٍ فِي التُّحْفَةِ أَنَّهُ يَثْبُتُ بِالْإِمَارَةِ الظَّاهِرَةِ الدَّالَّةِ الَّتِي لَا تَتَخَلَّفُ عَادَةً كَرُؤْيَةِ الْقَنَادِيلِ الْمُعَلَّقَةِ بِالْمَنَائِرِ قَالَ : وَمُخَالَفَةُ جَمْعٍ فِي ذَلِكَ غَيْرُ صَحِيحَة

Know that what is meant by Isti­faad­ha is the (con­firmed) news of sight­ing which is con­veyed from those trav­el­ing from that city to anoth­er (city) where sight­ing has not occurred by Tawat­tur (con­ti­nu­ity).  Just Isti­faad­ha (spread­ing of the news) is not suf­fi­cient for this pur­pose because some­times it (spread­ing of the news) hap­pens due to a sin­gle per­son. There is no doubt that this is not suf­f­i­cent. Fuqa­ha have tak­en their evi­dence from the state­ment إذَا اسْتَفَاضَ الْخَبَرُ ، وَتَحَقَّقَ that mere­ly research­ing the news is not not suf­fi­cient unless it is by what we have described i.e. Tawat­tur (con­ti­nu­ity).

Fuqa­ha have not com­ment­ed upon act­ing on the appar­ent indi­ca­tions, which are preva­lent in our times, for exam­ple beat­ing of the drums. It is obvi­ous that it is nec­es­sary to act upon these indi­ca­tors (e.g. beat­ing of the drums) for those who were absent from the city or res­i­dents of the rur­al areas or those in the city who didn’t see (or meet) those tes­ti­fied (about the sight­ing) and they also didn’t meet the ruler (who gave the judge­ment based on the sight­ing). The schol­ars of Shaf’ae Mad­hab have com­ment­ed upon this deduced Mas’ala, Ibn Hajar (RA) has stat­ed in At-Tuh­fa that these (appar­ent) signs will prove (sight­ing) which are not usu­al­ly con­tra­dict­ed, for exam­ple to see the lamps in minarets being lit (des­ig­nat­ed to indi­cate sight­ing), and it is not cor­rect to oppose a group in these mat­ters.

And ArRah­mati (RA) writes:

تنبيه: قال الرحمتي معني الاستفاضة ان تأتي من تلك البلدة جماعات متعددون كل منهم يخبرعن اهل تلك البلدة انهم صامو عن رؤية لا مجرد الشيوع من غير علم بمن اشاعة

Isti­faad­ha means that var­i­ous groups arrive from a loca­tion and they tes­ti­fy that Mus­lims start­ed fast­ing (after sight­ing the Moon). The mere spread­ing of the news and not know­ing who has (spread it) and who start­ed it, is not suf­fi­cient.

جزاك اللهُ خيرًا