On Ramadan and Moon Sighting

9 09 2007

Inevitabley, every year the Muslims (at least those of us in the West) fall into debating and confusion about the beginning of Ramadan.  Thus, I thought it would serve some benefit to post this article on the subject. Insh’Allah it will bring more clarity and is written in a way that is both understandable and backed up with evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah. Of course, there are different opinions and something tells me individuals will follow whichever one they deem correct.  Nonetheless, I’m posting this here for those who want to get the benefit.

Question: What is the ruling on moon sighting during Ramadan? What about ISNA’s new practice?

To hear the answer, click on this link:


click zidan then click isna to listen

Also Shaykh Ibrahim has written the following concerning the decision of ISNA. Shaykh Ibrahim Zidan lectures regularly at our website and is also a member of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in North America.

Why Muslims should look for the Moon and not calculations for calendar.

In recent years before Ramadan, Muslims in different states are in confusion on whether they should go by the Moon sighting or by using astronomical calculations. The reasons for this confusion are many, and that is not the purpose of this article, instead the purpose of this article is to see the clear evidences that using astronomical calculations instead of depending on Moon sightings is a major error that would lead to even things that are worst.

First, we need to agree on some principals:

1-        The sources of Tashree’ legislation in Islam are the Quran, the Sunnah, and Ijmaa’ consensus. These three principals are agreed upon among all Muslim Scholars.

2-        To Say that something is not valid, it has to fulfill three conditions:

a.        It is forbidden in the Shariah.
b.        The Shariah came with the obligation to do what is opposite.
c.        The Shariah didn’t order such a thing when there was the need for it at the time of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy wa Sallam.

3-        In matter of disputes and differences of opinions, we have no choice but to return to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam.

Allah Says: “ O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam, and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. And if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and suitable for final determination.” (3:59).

Using one’s personal intelligence, opinions or any other thing are not valid when the matter has been decided in the Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam.

4-        The only way Muslims would unite (which is a goal and a hope of every Muslim) is to Follow the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam, the way it was applied by the companions of the The Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam.

As Muslims, we believe that the companions of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam were the best generation ever brought to mankind, and the only way for the later generations to gain the pleasure of Allah is to follow the way of the companions may Allah be pleased with them.

Allah says: “ And the foremost to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun and the Ansar and also those who followed them exactly. Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flows to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success.” (9:100)

If we agree on these principals (and we should agree), then it is not appropriate down the line to do opposite to what these principals are stating.

Let’s look at the issue of astronomical calculations.

Since the time of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam till now, the way Muslims start and end the month of Ramadan is by sighting the moon. In recent years, some called for using astronomical calculations to determine the beginning of Ramadan, it started by just using the calculations to deny the sighting if it was impossible according to the calculations for the moon to be sighted, but not to be used in determining the beginning or the ending of the month. Then recently, things started to change, and now there is a call to use solely calculations instead of the moon sighting. It is the consensus of the Ulama (scholars) that this is not permissible to use astronomical calculations to determine the beginning or the ending of the Lunar months because of the following reasons:

1.        None of the Hadiths related to the matter ordered or recommended to use calculations, although the need for it was there at the time of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam, and the calculation was present at the time.

Some people think that calculation is a scientific phenomenon that was discovered recently, which is a misconception. Calculations were present at the time of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam and He still refused to use it and said:

“ We are illiterate nation; we neither write, nor know accounts. The month is like this and this, i.e. sometimes 29 days and sometimes 30” (Bukhari – Book of Saum 1799).

Some say that when the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam said “ When you see the crescent start fasting, and when you see the crescent (of Shawaal), stop fasting; and if the sky is overcast (and you can’t see it) then Faqdoro lah regard the crescent (month) of Ramdan (as of 30 days)” (Bukhary and others), that the word “Faqdoro lah” (regard the crescent) means you can use calculations. This is false since the Prophet himself explained the meaning of this word by stating to let the month be 30 days. And Allah Says in the Quran:

“O you who believe. Make not a decision in advance before Allah and His Messenger and fear Allah. Verily Allah is All-Hearing, All-knowing” (49:1).

2.        It is clear that the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam forbade his Ummah from depending on calculations to determine the beginning of the month. This is clear in the Hadith mentioned earlier

“ We are illiterate nation; we neither write, nor know accounts. The month is like this and this, i.e. sometimes 29 days and sometimes 30” (Bukhari – Book of Saum 1799).

The Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam said in the Hadith clearly “la Nahsib” means that we don’t count (in matter related to lunar months) because the Ummah of the Prophet know how to count and some know how to write, so it is not stating a fact but rather directing the Ummah and forbidding them to use calculations for determining the beginning and the ending of the months. And it means that we are an illiterate Ummah with regarding to matter of the religion, the religion is very easy and does not need scientific discoveries and calculations for matters of worship. The illiterate mentioned in the Hadith does not mean that we as Muslims should be illiterate! Off course not, and it doesn’t mean that it is a fact that we are an illiterate Ummah because the facts denies this, but rather it means that we as Muslims should not use scientific means to determine the month since the Hadith is dealing with this subject. Ibn Hajar May Allah have Mercy on him said in explanation of this Hadith: “The Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam made the ruling of fasting depends on the eyesight to make easy for his people since calculation might be difficult for them and the ruling stayed the same even if people after them they knew calculations good, since the context means to forbade calculations all together, and the other Hadith “Faqdoro lah”(regard for the crescent) that he said to make it 30 days and didn’t order the people to use calculations, because that would diminish the differences and disputes among the people”. It shows clearly in his words that it is not permissible to take calculations and leave what the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam ordered, otherwise it brings disputes among the Muslims.

3.        The Sahriah clearly ordered the opposite of calculations.

The Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam Said: If you see it (The moon) then fast, and if you don’t see it then do not fast” and this is a clear order to do the opposite to what some are calling to use calculations. And if calculation was a mean of determination, the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam would have ordered or recommended it, since He didn’t leave his Ummah unless he showed them all that is good for them and also what is evil for them. The matter is not something new, but rather it is something that was present at the time of the Prophet and he still ordered to look for the moon and to avoid calculations.

4.        The Hadith that states that we are an illiterate Ummah is in the context of being proud that matters of our worship and things in the religion we do not need scientific discoveries to perfect our worship but rather it is such an easy way of life that even the simple man that doesn’t know much can still follow the religion in the most perfect way.

5.        We as Muslims should have our unique ways because it is forbidden for us to imitate the non Muslims. And you can see that, in the life of the Prophet and also in the Hadith above.

6.        Looking for the moon is part of our religion, it is only the witness of one person that is trustworthy that makes the Muslims starts their month of Fasting. Notice how Allah has made it easy, while in other matters like Zina (fornication) Allah made it very difficult for the witnessing to be taken legally, it has to be by 4 people seeing the exact act itself, which in most cases makes it impossible. Allah is the Most Wise, so we need to see the wisdom of Allah in all of matters of the religion.

7.        The Sayings of the Ulamaa of this Ummah with regarding to the calculations:

a.        It is been reported the Ijmaa’ Consensus among the scholars of the early generations of Islam that determining the beginning of the month using the astronomical calculations is not permissible, this Ijmaa’ was reported by Ibn Taymiah, Ibn Almunthir, Ibn A’bdeen and Ibn Rushd.

b.        Those who said that it is permissible to use calculations, with the differences of whether to use it without conditions or only at certain situations when the skies have overcast, and some said only in denying a claim that the Moon had been sited and not for the determination of the beginning of the month. These Scholars are said to be: Ibn Suraij, Muttarif ibn Ashekheir, Ibn Qutaiba and among the later generations Ibn Assubky. Ibn Suraij reported from Imam Ashafei’ that he mentioned the permissibility of using the calculations at time of overcast.

This last claim the Ulama of the Shafei’ school of thought denied that Imam Ashafei’ said that, as it was said by Ibn Hajar and Ibn Abdel Barr. As we see that there is a mistake in reporting the opinions of those who say that it is permissible. Sheikh Bakr AbuZaid said when wrote about the matter: “What has been reported from Imam Ashafei’ is wrong, Ibn Suraij was wrong in reporting it, so as a result it is wrong to say that Ibn Suraij had that opinion since he based his opinion on the opinion of his Imam “Ashafi’ May Allah have mercy on them. And the rest Assubki and others they built their evidences accordingly, which shows that it is all invalid”. Ibn Taymeiah May Allah have mercy on him said: “If that is true (some Ulama said it is ok to use calculations) then this is from the mistakes of the Ulama”.

Therefore the Consensus is still in place, and it is not permissible to break the consensus among the Ulama of this Umma. And it is not permissible for someone to say: since there is differences in opinions we can choose whatever we like. This is a deviant way with dealing with the text of the Sharia’ because Allah Ta’ala ordered us in times of differences to refer back to Allah and His Messenger and not the differences of opinions.

Allah says” And if you differ in anything amongst yourselves refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and suitable for final determination.” (3:59).

8.        The calculations only determine without certainty, the time when the new moon is born and not when to be seen. There is big difference between the two. The Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam ordered us to see the moon, and seeing is something different that the moon to be born. The moon can be already born but cannot be seen. So according to calculations, people will start the fast when according to the order of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam it is not time yet, because it cannot be seen. Who do we follow: The Messenger of Allah, the one that doesn’t speak from his desire but from revelation, or calculations that are not certain?

9.        If people complain that it is always the uncertainty before Ramadan and before Eid, and people have to plan ahead for vacations and preserving places for the Eid prayer, so it makes it much easier to pre-determine the beginning and the ending of Ramadan. This is all irrelevant, because we as Muslims need to be slaves of Allah the All-Mighty and make our lives subjected to the laws of Allah and not the opposite.

10.        Some people say that when we relied on moon sightings, mistakes happened and people ended up fasting 28 days sometimes and things of that nature, and to respond to that we are not better than the companions May Allah be pleased with them, it happened at their time and there is nothing wrong with that, plus the mistakes with calculations are far more. And the matter is not when exactly the month starts, the matter is obeying the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam and see the moon to start the month or completed 30 days.

From all the above, we see that the matter has Ijmaa’ Consensus of the companions of the Prophet Salla Allahu Alihy Wa Sallam, the early generations of Islam, the 4 Imams and the majority of the people of knowledge, and our goal should be to follow the truth and not the goal to do what is easier. If that is the case, I think the matter is very clear. It is not permissible to use moon calculations for the determinations or the end of the Blessed month of Ramadan. The cure to the Muslim Ummah of the weakness present is to hold fast to the truth and never compromise it, till Allah changes the situations of the Muslims. Finally, I ask Allah Ta’ala to unite the Muslims on the truth and to dissolve their differences and to guide us all to what pleases Him.

Ibrahim Zidan





15 responses

9 09 2007

Interesting post. I wanted to write about this moon sighting, yet i was not in mood.. Thank you.. You did very good job to post it 🙂

9 09 2007
UmAbdurrahman, "Blanca"

Jazak Allahu Khair Sis for posting this information. The moon is the moon.

May Allah reward you for sharing this.


10 09 2007

Assalamu’alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh UmmYusuf,

Great post 🙂

Jazakillah for sharing this with us…

12 09 2007

As salaamu alaikum wr wb,

May Allah reward you for the best of muslims are those who learn Quran and Teach it.

Jazakallah Khier


12 09 2007

Asalaam Alykum! Nice and informative article. No doubt we should only be the slaves of Allah, subjecting our lives to His laws given to us through Quran and the sunnah of His last messenger (saw). Instead of blindly relying on calculations behind closed doors, I think we can use them to locate the moon above the horizon for these faithful events and then might magnify our visual power through a telescope. If this can help us locate the moon, the most important, Sunnah is been followed and the secandary important, Scientific calculations and tools were used too. Science should be the master but a limited ability slave of our religion. This world is much more then science…

13 09 2007


Your insight is most agreeable I think. I have scoured through pages and websites to find out when the moon will show itself in the U.K.

I am 100% sure that in conjunction with Prophet Muhammad’s teachings & the Holy Quran, alongside research & comparative study of various calculations that Ramadhan will not begin on the 13th of September in:

all Eastern countries (inc. Saudi. A)
North-East Africa

(Simply because the moon will not be visible (even with an optical aid) to anyone in these countries!)

The only people that could see the moon with a naked eye on the 12th Sept are the ones residing in countries West of the Southern Hemisphere:

South America
Africa (Southern Half)
Mexico (Southern USA)

Therefore, I have determined that the month of Ramadhan will begin on the 14th September 2007 in the U.K. (and in the countries listed above).

I have learnt that the Thraweeh Prayers were commenced on the 12th Sept. in Saudi Arabia & other parts of the world where visibility was not possible.

These beloved muslims have not seen the moon in their region, however, have taken into account the moon sightings in countries of the southern hemisphere, and have based their decision to start Ramadhan on that consensus.

My view on this is that if the closest country in which the moon has been sighted is relatively distant to yours then you should not concur, as it is quite clearly quoted by the prophet (pbuh) that Ramadhan should commence when the moon can be seen (He did not say commence if it is seen 1000s of miles away).

I think people should adopt the traditional ways of Islam to determine the start of a lunar month.

We should confine ourselves to our regions and base our desicions nationally not globally because if we were to decide globally, this would contradict with the Quran, Hadith & the Sunnah.

Finally, if Prophet Mohammed was present in Saudi Arabia today he would not have deemed Ramadhan to commence on the 13th because He & our fellow Saudi’s would not have seen the moon. We should grasp this criteria and base decisions accordingly.

May Allah bless all muslims and may He give all muslims a happy & peaceful Ramadhan comprising of spiriual upliftment for everyone! Ameen.

Ramdhan Mubarak & assalamu-alaikum!

Thanks for listening,

(Hafiz) Ali Asghar
Haroonia Islamic Teaching Centre (Rochdale, U.K.)

13 09 2007
Umm Yusuf

If the moon is not visible because of clouds, etc. then we observe the sunnah and count thirty days. Based on the hadith:

NARRATOR AbuHurayrah
HADITH_No 2380
Allah’s Messenger (peace_be_upon_him) said: Observe fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break it on sighting it. But if (due to clouds) the actual position of the month is concealed from you, you should then count thirty (days).

11 10 2007

Can’t all the muslims observe Eid on a same day? Not concerning around the world, which would be difficult but atleast here in America. In America, we celebrate Eid on three different days, obsurd, pathetic. I have heard many times from many different culturs ( bangladeshi, middle eastern, indian muslim, pakistani) Eid is today, no eid is the next day. For example last year Pakistani celebrated Eid a day after Bengalis JUST BECAUSE bengali imaam from a various mosjid said so. The pakis followed their Imaam or mosjid.

What in the world is happening? Why are we following Mosjid instead of hadith and doing the sunnah? Why are there so many corrupted Imaams leading the followers the wrong way? Just like the article says…we NEED TO FOLLOW THE HADITH, unless its overcast, which we will need to do 30 days of FASTING…simple as that.

This is why I question Islam so much. I am a devoted Muslim, I love Islam, but so many questions are not answered. I know there are alot of Imaam in america who lies about so many things. Inshallah we will do Eid on the right day, following the Hadith.

Yousuf from New York

11 10 2007
Umm Yusuf

Assalaamu Alaikum Yousuf,

I agree. It would so much better if we could all agree and unite.

15 10 2007


I live in the UK and am Muslim revert of some 10 years. I am myself interested in the scientific aspects (it was science that origionaly drew me to Islam). I do though fully accept that the moon must be sighted as do most Imams in the UK. However there is still a problem, putting Ramadam start and Ede usually on two different days. The problem is who saw the moon? It is usually sighted first in the Middle East and the predominently Arab Mosques accept this sighting as valid, but in the UK nobody can see the new moon until it is a few days old, typically 3 to 5 days, add that the cloud cover aspect over such a small island and the chances of regularly seeing a moon on time are negligable. I know of nobody who relies on a UK sighting. Some though say they should follow the nearest Muslim country to the south where the moon can be sighted earlier, this is Morocco who sight the moon generally one day after the Middle Eastern countries. Others follow Pakistan which seems to be generally perchance the same as Morocco, so what is correct? I tend to accept the first sighting myself as I can find no evidence for the nearest Muslim country to the south method and I would be interested in other peoples thoughts.

Wa Salam

21 10 2007

Salams Younes i am in the middle of the same confusion, some references have been sighted from the hadith where we have been told the find the moon on the 29th, if we cannot see the moon then we need to fast all 30. It would be great if we can learn and consirm all this well before the next Ramadhan

30 08 2008

I am originally from Pakistan but presently (till September 02, 2008) I will be in Yemen/UAE. I will be in Pakistan on September 03, 2008.
I am in confusion about the commencement of Ramazan. In UAE/Yemen it always begins a day or two ahead of Pakistan.
If I commence fasting with respect to Yemen/UAE I will be completing my 29 or 30 days of Ramazan in Pakistan one or two day earlier than the rest of Pakistan. I can not celebrate Eid while rest of the Pakistan will be fasting.

My intention is to commence the fasting when Ramadan commences in Pakistan

Any one of you has some input or reference in this regard.


31 08 2008
Umm Yusuf

Assalaamu Alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu Brother Omer,

Insh’Allah this should answer your question:

If he starts Ramadaan in one city, then travels to another city where the people started fasting before him or after him, then he should follow the ruling governing the people to whom he has traveled, so he should only end Ramadaan when they end Ramadaan, even if it means that he is fasting for more than thirty days, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when everyone is fasting, and break your fast when everyone is breaking their fast.” If it means that his fast is less than twenty-nine days, he must make it up after Eid, because the hijri month cannot be less than twenty-nine days.
(From Fataawa al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz: Fataawa al-Siyaam, Daar al-Watan, pp. 15-16)

23 09 2008

Very logical and convincing…
I am pleased with your undersanding of Islam and its constraints.
I pray the Almighty to gift all muslims a clear understanding of Islam.

4 10 2008

Hey salaams!

Outstanding post!

I am in the process of researching more with regards to sighting the moon for eid. I will use the information from your post and refer it back to here ofcourse!

Inshallah when I put something togetehr, I will definitely forward it to you too!

The main reason for me to research and compile info on this topic is because there is a huge split within my close family on the moon sighting and using calculations to sight the moon, and my intension is to educate my family more than anything else.

Thanks again for your effort, and inshallah I will keep you posted on my findings!


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