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