This summary is based on what is contained in the Fatāwā of the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Edicts, Saudi Arabia (no.1657 et al), the Resolutions of the Council of Senior Scholars, Saudi Arabia, (no.1, no. 2) as well as a fatwā issued by Shaykh Ṣāliḥ Al-Fawzān (Arabic audio).
The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said:
When you see [the crescent of Ramaḍān] then fast, and when you see [the crescent of Shawwāl], then stop fasting; and if it is obscured from you, then count it as 30 days.
- The Sharīʿah regards the sighting of the moon crescent by eye as the legitimate method of determining the beginning and ending of the fast of Ramaḍān, based on the texts (like the ḥadīth above).
- Astronomical calculations are not a legitimate way to determine the beginning or end of the month for worship like fasting in Ramaḍān.
- Scholars are agreed that the crescent appears at different times in different geographical locations, but there is a difference of opinion as to whether this variation is to be considered for fasting Ramaḍān:
- Some scholars say if it is confirmed that a reliable Muslim sees the crescent of Ramaḍān then it becomes obligatory on everyone else who knows of this sighting to start fasting regardless of where they are. Other scholars say every location that has a different time for moonrise must go by their own sighting.
- This difference of opinion is based on the interpretation of textual evidence on both sides. It is a legitimate issue of ijtihād, and is not a cause for concern. It is not known that the Ummah ever had a unified Ramaḍān or ʿEid across its expanded lands; and this was never a problem.
- Therefore, the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Edicts views that the issue should not be agitated, but instead should remain as it is, i.e. every Muslim country should leave the decision about whether to consider different moon sighting times to their scholars, and follow what they deem to be correct based on the evidence, and the people of the country should follow what the ruler of the country does on that basis.
- It is not correct to specify one country or land, e.g. Makkah, as the place that everyone must go by. This would lead to Muslims who have seen the crescent in one location not starting the fast if it was not seen in that specified place, which contradicts what is commanded in the Sharīʿah.
- In Non-Muslim countries: the Muslims try to sight the crescent themselves, and if sighted, they should fast and inform the Islamic centre or representative Muslim body in their land. The representative body has the right to choose one of the two opinions about whether fasting is established based on any sighting or whether it must be a sighting from their own crescent locality. The centre then announces the beginning of the month to the rest of the Muslims there. The Muslims fast united based on this announcement.
- If they do not have an Islamic centre that takes care of the affairs of the Muslims, they fast per the nearest country to them, in the same sighting locality, where the moon is sighted.
Summarised and Translated by Owais Al-Hāshimī
Shaʿbān 1438 (May 2017)