In order to complete the benefits of this treatise and considering what we are being tested by in Egypt and other lands, such as the occurrence of division at the start and end of fasting every year, we will present this following section. So you can find that in one family, the members are divided amongst themselves between those who are fasting and those who are not, each of them claiming that they are following a specific Fiqh opinion. But yet they forget or they are caused to forget that Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaah are the strictest of people in unifying the ranks. So this differing in Fiqh amongst them should never result in their dividing in this manner. Rather, they must follow the large body of Muslims, amongst whom they live – whether they are fasting or not fasting – even if the majority of the people oppose them in the understanding of a Fiqh issue. This is one of the principles of Ahlus-Sunnah, which is neglected by many people who attribute themselves to knowledge, not to mention the regular common people. This is because Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah consider differing to be a great evil.
Look at the example of ‘Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood (رضي الله عنه). This man prayed four rak’aat behind ‘Uthmaan (رضي الله عنه) in Minaa, even though he knew full well that the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) only prayed two rak’aat in Minaa – the two rak’aat of the shortened prayer. And he said about his praying behind ‘Uthmaan:
“I hope that my portion of the four rak’aat will be recorded as (instead) two rak’aat that are accepted (by Allaah).” So it was said to him: “Why did you not pray alone” meaning “why did you not shorten your prayer in accordance with the Sunnah?” So he said to them: “Differing is evil.”
And look at Shaykh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah who gave a fatwa (religious ruling) that whoever sees the crescent with his own eyes must follow the Jamaa’ah (large group or community) he lives with in what they decide – whether fasting or not – in order to unify the ranks and prevent division. He used as evidence the hadeeth of the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم):
“Fasting is on the day that you (people) fast, and the end of fasting is on the day that you (people) break the fast. And your Adhaa is on the day that you (people) offer your sacrifices”
and the hadeeth:
“The end of fasting is the day in which the people break the
fast. And the day of Adhaa is the day in which the people slaughter (their
The word hilaal (crescent) is defined as a noun for something that is introduced, meaning it is proclaimed and announced out loud. And the word shahr (month) is defined as something that is made known. So if it is sighted, yet not made known, the month has not begun. And there is no distinguishing in this matter between the status of the one who is put in charge of sighting the moon – whether he is correct or erroneous, whether he tried hard or was lazy. So the responsibility is on him and if he errs (in the sighting), then the error is on him only.
Refer to his valuable fatwa in his Majmoo’ Al-Fatawaa. [Vol. 25, Pg. 202-206]
Since many people who go against this issue depend on the sighting of Saudi Arabia most of the time, I will present to them the following fatwa in order that they may know that the very own scholars of Saudi Arabia have ruled in opposition to what they adhere to. Before you is the text:
A Fatwa (Religious Ruling) From The Permanent Committee Of Scientific Research And Rulings [Number 1657 Inthe Year 8/29/1397]
Question: There always occurs a problem at the beginning of the month of Ramadaan with the Muslim students in the United States and Canada which results in the division of the Muslims into three groups:
- One group fasts when the new moon is sighted in the country in which they live.
- Another group fasts when fasting starts in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
- And a third group begins fasting when they hear news from the Muslim Student’s Union in the United States and Canada, which watches for the new moon in different parts of America, and as soon as the new moon is sighted in one city, they spread the news to different Islamic centers so that the Muslims in America can start fasting on the same day despite the great distances between the different cities.
Which group is the best to follow and to begin fasting when the sighting and news is made?
Answer: The answer will be given in three points:
Firstly: Variations in the rising points of the moon (i.e. it appears at different times in different places) is something that is well known, whether from observation or by intellect. None of the scholars differ in this regard. However, differing amongst the Muslim scholars occurs over whether this variation in rising points should be considered or not.
Secondly: The issue of whether these variations in rising points should be taken into consideration or not is from the speculative issues in which there is room for Ijtihaad. Differing in this regard is permissible for those who are competent in science and religion. This is from the differing that is permissible; in which the one who has the correct opinion will have two rewards – one reward for his Ijtihaad, and one for being correct – while the one whose opinion is wrong will have one reward – just for his Ijtihaad.
The scholars have differed on this issue resulting in two opinions. So from them are those scholars who held that the variation in the rising points of the moon was of significance, and other scholars who held that it was not significant. Both groups use evidence from the Qur’aan and Sunnah to support their opinions. And perhaps they both use the same text as evidence, such as their both sharing in the use of the following ayah as evidence:
“They ask you (O Muhammad) about the new moons. Say: These are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 189]
and the hadeeth:
“Fast when you (people) sight it (the new moon) and stop fasting when you (people) sight it.”
The reason both groups use this (same) evidence is due to their difference in their understanding of the text, as well as the approach each group takes in their using it as a proof.
In view of the considerations that the (fatwa) body has regarded and measured, and taking into consideration that differing in this issue does not have effects from which we fear bad consequences – since fourteen centuries have passed since the advent of Islaam, in which there was not known that the entire Muslim ummah united upon one moon sighting, the members of this committee of senior scholars hold that:
One should leave things the way they are and not cause provocation and irritation to this issue. And we hold that each Muslim state has the right to choose what it sees fit – through the guidance of its scholars – from the two opinions, which have been mentioned for this issue, since each of them has its proofs and evidences.
Thirdly: The committee has looked at the issue of confirming the new moon through calculations, and what the Qur’aan and Sunnah say about this, and they have studied the opinions of the scholars on this matter. So they decided unanimously that astronomical calculations cannot be used to confirm new moons in religious issues. This is based on the Prophet’s saying:
“Fast when you (people) sight it (the new moon) and stop fasting when you (people) sight it”
and his saying:
“Do not begin fasting until you sight it (new moon) and do not stop fasting until you sight it.”
The Permanent Committee on Scientific Research and Rulings holds that: the Muslim Student’s Union (or any other group representing the Muslim community) in countries where the government is not Islamic should take the place of the Islamic government with regard to the matter of confirming the new moon for the people living in those non-Islamic countries.
On the basis of what was stated in the second point, which was decided upon by the Committee, this union has the right to choose which of the two opinions they want to take – either to consider the variations in the times of moonrise or to not consider that. Then they should inform all the Muslims in their country what opinion they take, and they (the Muslims) must follow what opinion they hold and what they announce to the public, so as to unite the Muslims in their fasting and to put an end to disputes and confusion. Everyone who lives in those lands should try to sight the moon in the areas in which they reside. So if one or more trustworthy people sight the moon, they should fast according to that and tell the union to spread the news. This is for the beginning of Ramadaan.
As for the end of the month, there must be a confirmation from two reliable witnesses for the sighting of the new moon for Shawaal, or thirty days of Ramadaan must be completed. This is based on the Prophet’s saying:
“Fast when you (people) sight it (the new moon) and stop fasting when you (people) sight it. But if it is hidden from you (by clouds or fog), then complete the number of thirty days (for Sha’baan).”
May Allaah send His peace and blessings on our Prophet, Muhammad, his family and his Companions.
The Permanent Committee of Scientific Research and Rulings
‘Abdullaah Ibn Qa’ood – Member
‘Abdullaah Ibn Ghudyaan – Member
‘Abd-ur-Razzaaq’Afeefee – Assistant Head of the Committee
‘Abd-ul-‘Azeez Ibn ‘Abdillaah Ibn Baaz –Head of the Committee
This is the last of what Allaah enabled us to compile on the subject of “Fasting and Its Rulings” and all praise is for Allaah, Lord of the worlds.