[Q-ID0721] Can we follow observatory reports or use calculations instead of physically sighting the Moon for Eid & Ramadan?

QUESTION:

What do the scholars of the Din and muftis of the Sacred Law state regarding the following issue: Can we find out regarding the announcement for Ramadān & ‘Eid from an observatory. Are the Hadīths relating to moon sighting Sahīh [authentic] or Da’īf [weak]. Also, people like Ghāmidī say that one should rely on astronomical observations because moon sighting has nothing to do with the religion, and that they would tell us regarding the sighting of the moon. Thus, can we keep fasts & celebrate ‘Eid on the basis of their knowledge. There are also some Sunnī personalities who say that the Hadīth refers to sighting – coming to know of – in terms of knowledge, because sighting is from the Af’āl al-Qulūb[1], so is this the case?

[1] Particular verbs in the Arabic language which refer to actions that relate to feelings.

Questioner: Mawlānā Abdul Qadeer from England

ANSWER:

بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم
الجواب بعون الملک الوھاب اللھم ھدایۃ الحق والصواب

The moon for the announcement of Ramadān & ‘Eid is to be sighted physically with the eyes; to merely rely & suffice on the observatory and not sight the moon physically on the 29th of Sha’bān before Ramadān and the 29th of Ramadān before ‘Eid goes against Sharī’ah. There are many proofs regarding this – first we will read the Qur’ān as to see what the Lord Almighty states,

{يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ ۖ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ}

{They ask you (O Beloved), regarding the new moon; say you, ‘They are indicators of time for the people (to perform their worldly and religious tasks) and for Hajj.’}

[Sūrah al-Baqarah, 189]

Ahillah is the plural of Hilāl, and Hilāl is known as the act of physically sighting the first night [i.e. start] of the new moon, and the Lord Almighty has stated that this moon which is sighted physically with the eyes is indeed an indicator of time (to perform worldly and religious tasks) and for Hajj. Also, the moon which is not possible to be sighted after a new moon is known as Mahāq[1] [moonless i.e. without moonlight – during a new moon], and not Hilāl. Thus, one comes to know that it is Hilāl which is actually evidence for us regarding Ramadān & ‘Eid, and Hilāl is known as that [new] moon which can be physically seen with the eyes.

Hadīths

There are several Hadīths regarding commencing Ramadān & celebrating ‘Eid having sighted the moon physically with the eyes, which are absolutely Sahīh [authentic], and they have been narrated via numerous chains.

Just as the Noble Prophet ﷺ has stated,

“صُومُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ وَأَفْطِرُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، فَإِنْ غُبِّيَ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَكْمِلُوا عِدَّةَ شَعْبَانَ ثَلاَثِينَ”

“Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadān), and stop fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwāl), and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it), complete thirty days of Sha’bān.”

[Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Hadīth no 1909]

In addition, the Noble Messenger ﷺ has also stated,

فاَصُومُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، وَأَفْطِرُوا لِرُؤْيَتِهِ، فَإِنْ أُغْمِيَ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاقْدِرُوا لَهُ ثَلَاثِينَ”

“So fast when you see it, and stop your fast when you see it, and if the weather is cloudy, count it (i.e. the months of Sha’bān and Shawwāl) as thirty days.”

[Sahīh Muslim, Hadīth no 1080]

This Hadīth has been mentioned in two other places in Sahīh Muslim with a different chain of narration.

Clarification

1 – It is clear from these Hadīths that it is essential that the moon be sighted with the eyes, not merely coming to know of it from the observatory alone, because the words “اِنْ أُغْمِيَ عَلَيْكُمْ” have been mentioned in Hadīth, that if the moon is not clear [due to it being cloudy], then complete the number of fasts. It is stating that what is meant here is indeed sighting the moon with the eyes, because clouds become a barrier for the eyes in not seeing i.e. they are a barrier in sighting the moon physically with the eyes, not in sighting – coming to know of – on the basis of data. Thus, these Hadīths refer to physically seeing with the eyes, not [coming to know merely] on the basis of data.

2 – The literal meaning of sighting is to physically see with the eyes, and a metaphorical meaning may be sighting – coming to know of – on the basis of knowledge. It is an accepted rule among Usūl al-Fiqh [the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence] that as long as it is possible to act upon the literal meaning, one will not go towards the metaphorical meaning – and this rule is present in the books of Usūl from Usūl al-Shāshī all the way up to Tawdīh Talwīh, just as it is stated in Usūl al-Shāhī itself,

“وَعِنْده يُصَار إِلَى الْمجَاز وَإِن لم تكن الْحَقِيقَة مُمكنَة فِي نَفسهَا”

“According to Imām A’zham [Abū Hanīfah], if it is not possible to act upon Haqīqah [the literal meaning], then one will go towards Majāz [the metaphorical meaning].”

[Usūl al-Shāshī, pg 52]

O Ghāmidī! Other than Saudi Riyals, what else can there be possibly stopping you from acting upon the true meanings of the Hadīths! We ask Allāh to keep us safe.

3 – The word present in the Hadīth of the Noble Prophet ﷺ is of command, and it is an accepted principle of Fiqh [Islamic Jurisprudence] that command proves something being Wājib so long as there is no indication to mean anything otherwise. Whereas, there is an indication towards physical sighting with the eyes in the aforementioned Hadīth, not sighting – coming to know of – on the basis of knowledge, just as we have explained.

4 – Moreover, it is a huge mistake to take the meaning of knowledge, having mentioned the aforementioned word “seeing/sight” from the Hadīth, because when the verb “to sight” has one object, then it is not from the Af’āl al-Qulūb, because these verbs are such when they actually have two objects i.e. these actions have two objects which are in relation to them. Here there is only one object for the verb seeing, thus this is indeed in the meaning of physical sighting, just as it stated in Hāshiyah Mi’ah ‘Awāmil, and the irony is that this is the very example that has been given – رَأَيْتُ الْهِلَالَ (I saw the moon).

The books which the aforementioned Hadīths are mentioned in, other than Bukhārī & Muslim, are given below:

1 – Sunan al-Tirmidhī, Hadīth no 684 & Hadīth no 688.

2 – Sunan Nasā’ī, Hadīth no 2116 – this very Hadīth is mentioned in six other places in this book with different chains of narration;

  • Hadīth no 2117.
  • Hadīth no 2118.
  • Hadīth no 2124.
  • Hadīth no 2129.
  • Hadīth no 2130.
  • Hadīth no 2189.

3 – Sunan Ibn Mājah, Hadīth no 1654.

4 – This Hadīth is mentioned in Sunan Abī Dāwūd in four places with different chains of narration.

5 – Musnad Imām Shafi’ī, vol 1, pg 187.

6 – Musnad Abī Ja’d, vol 1, pg 174.

7 – Musnad Abī Shaybah, Hadīth no 960.

8 – Musannaf Abī Shaybah, Hadīth no 9019 – this very Hadīth is mentioned in two other places this book with different chains of narration.

9 – Musannaf ‘Abd al-Razzāq, vol 4, pg 156, Hadīth no 7306.

10 – Musnad Is’hāq, Hadīth no 54.

11 – Musnad Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Hadīth no 1985 – this very Hadīth has been mentioned in 15 other places in this same book with different chains of narration.

12 – Musnad Hārith, Hadīth no 316 & 317.

13 – Musnad Bazzār, Hadīth no 3646 – this very Hadīth has been mentioned in three other places in this book.

14 – Musnad Abī Ya’lā Mawsilī, Hadīth no 2355.

15 – Mu’jam Abī Ya’lā Mawsilī, Hadīth no 32.

16 – Sahīh Ibn Khuzaymah, Hadīth no 1912.

17 – This very Hadīth has been mentioned in Sahīh Ibn Hibbān in six places with different chains of narration.

18 – This Hadīth has been mentioned in al-Sunan al-Kubrā li al-Nasā’ī in six places.

19 – This Hadīth has been mentioned in al-Sunan al-Kubrā li al-Bayhaqī in eight places.

20 – This very Hadīth has been mentioned in al-Sunan al-Saghīr in two places.

21 – This is mentioned twice in Sharh Mushkil al-Āthār.

22 – Sharh Ma’ānī al-Āthār, Hadīth no 3195.

23 – This very Hadīth is mentioned in al-Mu’jam al-Awsat in seven places.

24 – This very Hadīth is mentioned in al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr in six places.

25 – al-Mu’jam al-Saghīr, Hadīth no 161.

26 – This Hadīth is mentioned in Sunan Dārāqutnī in six places.

27 – al-Muntaqā, Hadīth no 376.

28 – Sunan Dārimī, Hadīth no 1725 & 1727.

29 – Sunan Mā’thūrah li al-Shafi’ī, Hadīth no 346.

30 – This very Hadīth is mentioned in al-Ahādīth al-Mukhtārah in five places.

31 – This very Hadīth is mentioned in Mu’jam Ibn ‘Asākir in two places.

32 – Ahādith Ismā’īl Ibn Ja’far, Hadīth no 148.

 

Furthermore, the Master to mankind ﷺ has stated,

“لاَ تَصُومُوا حَتَّى تَرَوُا الْهِلَالَ، وَلاَ تُفْطِرُوا حَتَّى تَرَوْهُ”

“Do not fast unless you see the crescent (of Ramadān), and do not stop fasting until you see the crescent (of Shawwāl).”

[Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Hadīth no 1906]

This Hadīth has been mentioned in two places in Bukhārī and three places in Sahīh Muslim with different chains of narration.

Explanation

Unlawfulness – something being Harām – is proven from prohibition. This means that to announce the commencement of Ramadān without having physically seen the moon is against the Sharī’ah, and the matter of ‘Eid is like so also.

The books which the aforementioned Hadīths are mentioned in, other than Bukhārī & Muslim, are given below:

1 – Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Hadīth no 2320 & 2327 i.e. in two places.

2 – Sunan Nasā’ī, Hadīth no 2121 & 2122 i.e. in two places.

3 – This Hadīth has been mentioned in Muwatta’ Imām Mālik six times.

4 – Two places in Musnad Imām Shafi’ī, vol 1, pg 187.

5 – This very Hadīth is mentioned twice in Musannaf Abī Shaybah with different chains of narration.

6 – Musannaf ‘Abd al-Razzāq, vol 4, pg 156, Hadīth no 7748.

7 – This very Hadīth is mentioned in Musnad Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal five times with different chains of narration.

8 – This very Hadīth is mentioned twice in Musnad Bazzār.

9 – This very Hadīth is mentioned five times in Sharh Mushkil al-Āthār.

10 – This very Hadīth is mentioned twice in Sahīh Ibn Khuzaymah.

11 – This very Hadīth is mentioned in Sahīh Ibn Hibbān six times with different chains of narration.

12 – This Hadīth is mentioned eight times in al-Sunan al-Kubrā.

13 – This Hadīth is mentioned twice in Sunan Dāraqutnī.

14 – It is mentioned in al-Ahādīth al-Mukhtārah.

15 – Ahādīth Ismā’īl Ibn Ja’far, Hadīth no 5.

Statements of the Jurists

Sighting the moon refers to ocular vision (i.e. seeing with the eyes) and not sighting – coming to know of – from knowledge via data/information, in the sense that an announcement be made regarding Ramadān or ‘Eids in accordance to the calculations, estimations & methods of the observatory. If an announcement was made regarding Ramadān or ‘Eid in line with [only] the calculations & methods of the observatory, then this is contradictory to Sharī’ah. There is a consensus among the four Imāms, and the books of Hanafī Jurists are indeed totally exhaustive of this.

Just as it is stated in Durar al-Hukkām,

لَا يَثْبُتُ الْهِلَالُ بِقَوْلِ الْمُوَقِّتِينَ، وَلَا يَجِبُ بِقَوْلِهِمْ الصِّيَامُ ۔۔۔۔ وَقَالَ ابْنُ الشِّحْنَةِ بَعْدَ نَقْلِهِ الْخِلَافَ: فَإِذَنْ اتَّفَقَ أَصْحَابُ أَبِي حَنِيفَةَ إلَّا النَّادِرَ وَالشَّافِعِيَّ أَنَّهُ لَا اعْتِمَادَ عَلَى قَوْلِ الْمُنَجِّمِينَ فِي هَذَا

[Durar al-Hukkām, vol 1, pg 200]

Likewise, it is stated in al-Bināyah sharh al-Hidāyah that,

ولا يعتبر قول المنجمين بالإجماع، ومن رجع إلى قولهم فقد خالف الشرع

[al-Bināyah sharh al-Hidāyah, vol 4, pg 17]

In addition, it is stated in al-Bahr al-Rā’iq,

أَنَّهُ لَا عِبْرَةَ بِقَوْلِ الْمُنَجِّمِينَ قَالَ فِي غَايَةِ الْبَيَانِ: وَمَنْ قَالَ: يَرْجِعُ فِيهِ إلَى قَوْلِهِمْ فَقَدْ خَالَفَ الشَّرْعَ

[al-Bahr al-Rā’iq, vol 2, pg 284]

Similarly, it is stated in Marāq al-Falāh,

“اتفق أصحاب أبي حنيفة إلا النادر والشافعي أنه لا اعتماد على قول المنجمين في هذا”

[Marāq al-Falāh, vol 1, pg 242]

Furthermore, it is stated in Hāshiyah Tahtāwī,

“أنه لا عبرة بقول المنجمين فلا يثبت به الهلال”

[Hāshiyah Tahtāwī, vol 1, pg 646]

Additionally, ‘Allāmah Ibn ‘Ābidīn al-Shāmī states in Radd al-Muhtār that,

“وَلَا يُلْتَفَتُ إلَى قَوْلِ الْمُنَجِّمِينَ۔۔ فَإِنَّ الْقَاضِيَ لَا يَلْتَفِتُ إلَى كَلَامِهِ. كَيْفَ وَقَدْ صَرَّحَتْ أَئِمَّةُ الْمَذَاهِبِ الْأَرْبَعَةِ بِأَنَّ الصَّحِيحَ أَنَّهُ لَا عِبْرَةَ بِرُؤْيَةِ الْهِلَالِ نَهَارًا وَإِنَّمَا الْمُعْتَبَرُ رُؤْيَتُهُ لَيْلًا وَأَنَّهُ لَا عِبْرَةَ بِقَوْلِ الْمُنَجِّمِينَ.”

[Radd al-Muhtār, vol 2, pg 392]

Alā Hazrat Imām Ahmad Ridā Khān mentions that the Noble Prophet ﷺ stated that,

“صومو الرؤیتہ وافطر الرؤیتہ فان اغمی علیکم فاکملواعدّۃ شعبان ثلثین”

”Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadān), and stop fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwāl), and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it), complete thirty days of Sha’bān.”

Thus, it is this which is Fard for us to act upon. As for the method of counting, the Holy Prophet ﷺ himself left calculating and clearly stated,

“إِنَّا أُمَّةٌ أُمِّيَّةٌ، لاَ نَكْتُبُ وَلاَ نَحْسُبُ، الشَّهْرُ هَكَذَا وَهَكَذَا» يَعْنِي مَرَّةً تِسْعَةً وَعِشْرِينَ، وَمَرَّةً ثَلاَثِينَ”

“We are a nation untaught [by man]; neither [reliant upon] taking note, nor [reliant upon] calculating.” He ﷺ held up all the fingers of both blessed hands thrice and stated, “The month is like such and such.” i.e. 30. The second time, he ﷺ joined the thumb and stated i.e. 29, “and a month is like so and so”.

[Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Hadīth no 1913]

We – with the praise & grace of Allāh Almighty – are the untaught nation of the Noble Prophet ﷺ, what business is it of ours to calculate, until sighing is not established, neither will we consider anyone’s calculations, nor any written form, nor indications considered, nor approximate.

Alā Hazrat further states that,

“بل فی المعراج’ لا یعبتر قولھم بالاجماع”

“In fact, it is stated in al-Mi’rāj that their opinion is unanimously not credible.”

[Fatāwā Ridawiyyah, vol 10, pg 463]

The opinions from the books of the other Imāms

It is stated in the renowned Mālikī Fiqh book Fiqh al-‘Ibādāt,

“ولا يثبت دخول الشهر بقول المنجمين أي الموقِّتين”

[Fiqh al-‘Ibādāt ‘alā Madhab al-Mālikī, vol 1, pg 305]

It is stated in another book of Mālikī Fiqh Jāmi’ al-Ummahāt,

“وَلَو غم شهوراً مُتعَدِّدَة وَلَا يلْتَفت إِلَى حِسَاب المنجمين اتِّفَاقًا”

[Jāmi’ al-Ummahāt, vol 1, pg 170]

It is stated in a third book of theirs; al-Qawānīn al-Fiqhiyyah,

“إِن غم الْهلَال أكملت الْعدة وَلم يلْتَفت إِلَى قَول المنجمين خلافًا لقوم”

[al-Qawānīn al-Fiqhiyyah, vol 1, pg 79]

It is stated in a fourth book of theirs; al-Tāj wa al-Iklīl,

“لَا يُنْظَرُ فِي الْهِلَالِ إلَى قَوْلِ الْمُنَجِّمِينَ لِأَنَّ الشَّرْعَ قَصَرَ ذَلِكَ عَلَى الرُّؤْيَةِ أَوْ الشَّهَادَةِ  أَوْ إكْمَالِ الْعِدَّة”

[al-Tāj wa al-Iklīl, vol 3, pg 289]

It is stated in a fifth book of theirs; Mawāhib al-Jalīl,

وَلَا يُلْتَفَتُ إِلَى حِسَابِ الْمُنَجِّمِينَ اتِّفَاقًا۔۔۔إِنْ كَانَ الْإِمَامُ يَرَى الْحِسَابَ فَأَثْبَتَ الْهِلَالَ بِهِ لَمْ يُتَّبَعْ لِإِجْمَاعِ السَّلَفِ عَلَى خِلَافِهِ

[Mawāhib al-Jalīl fī sharh al-Khalīl, vol 2, pg 386]

It is stated in a sixth book of theirs; al-Fawākih al-Dawānī,

“وَلَا الْتِفَاتَ إلَى حِسَابِ الْمُنَجِّمِينَ”

[al-Fawākih al-Dawānī, vol 1, pg 301]

It is stated in the Hanbalī Fiqh book Fiqh al-‘Ibādāt,

“ولا عبرة لقول المنجمين بدخول شهر رمضان”

[Fiqh al-‘Ibādāt ‘alā Madhab al-Hanbalī, vol 1, pg 394]

Last of all, the reference of Shafi’ī Fiqh has been mentioned within the Hanafī books.

Involvement of the Ummah

A great proof, excluding all of these proofs, is the fact that all the way from the blessed era of the Noble Prophet ﷺ all the way until now, Ramadān and ‘Eid have been announced by the sole sighting of the moon. The Holy Prophet ﷺ himself announced the sighting of the moon by physical sighting; there are several Hadīths which show this. If this matter had any regard from the perspective of a data-based sighting, then who is there who knows more than the Noble Prophet ﷺ regarding the presence of the moon.

One comes to know from all of these proofs that Ramadān and ‘Eid cannot be announced without having physically sighted the moon, and whoever has done so according to calculations is a perpetrator of violating Sharī’ah.

[1] This is the first night according to observatories, however it cannot be sighted with the eyes due to it being so dark, cloudy, etc. Hence it is not the ‘new moon’ which has been referred to in the Holy Qur’ān.

واللہ تعالی اعلم ورسولہ اعلم صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم
کتبہ ابو الحسن محمد قاسم ضیاء قادری

Answered by Mufti Qasim Zia al-Qadiri
Translated by Haider Ali

Read the original Urdu answer here: [Q-ID0721] Can we follow observatory reports or use calculations instead of physically sighting the Moon for Eid & Ramadan?

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