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-بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

The Sighting of the Crescent/ Moon

The month of Islamic calendar starts with the sighting of the crescent/moon. It is not compulsory to be 30 days in every month, rather it exclusively depends on the sighting of the Crescent/moon, if it is seen on 29th, the next month would start just after that. If the crescent is not seen on 29th, in this case the month would be of 30 days, and then the next month would start. Muslims have been asked by the Almighty Allah to observe fast in the month of Ramadan: He says in the Holy Qur’an: "فَمَنْ شَهِدَ مِنْكُمْ الشَهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ"(If anyone of you finds the month of Ramadan, he must observe fast throughout the month). Let us understand the system of the Islamic months in the light of the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW).

Above mentioned traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) indicate that fasting should be started by the sighting of the moon on the 29th of Sha'ban (8th month of the Islamic calendar which falls just before Ramadan), if the moon is not seen on the 29th of Sha'ban we should complete 30 days of Sha'ban, then start fasting of Ramadan. Similarly, we are asked to see the moon on the 29th in the month of Ramadan, if the crescent of Shawwal is seen, we should celebrate Eid. If it is not seen we should observe fast and complete 30 days of Ramadan then we should celebrate Eid.

Because of other traditions of the Prophet (PBUH), Muslim Ummah unanimously agrees upon the fact that it is not necessary for every individual to see the crescent/moon, rather it is a collective responsibility, if some religiously reliable persons see the moon and bear witness for that before the Moon Sighting Committee, it would be enough. After certifying the sighting of the moon, it is the duty of every individual to act upon the order of the Committee.

The order must be followed in the Islamic countries where Muslims have authority and power, but in countries where Muslims are in minority and due to divisions among them, they don't have such authoritative Moon Sighting Committees, whose orders are indispensably to be followed. In such countries, because of lack of strong Islamic authority, it is often seen that in the same locality Eid is celebrated twice on different days, which apparently conveys wrong message to others and in fact it is a bad practice and needs to be reformed.

This is true that according to the scientific and religious point of view,  Eid is not necessarily be celebrated on the same day in the whole world, but it may be on different days according to the moon's geographical appearance. If we look at the era of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions (R.A.), we find that Ramadan started in Syria one day before the fasting in Madinah, but at the same time we also see that in spite of the distance of about 450 kilo metres between Makkah and Madinah, there was no difference in celebrating Eid. If moon was seen in any of these two places, it was enough for both.

It is a scientifically approved fact that Matale' (the moon's rising places) are different and geographical distance matters in its appearance, therefore, in the Islamic Shari’ah due consideration was given to this point and the moon sighting became enormously important for Shari’ah rituals of a region. It is also one of the facts that moon's rising place changes every month, that is why the moon of 29th, is not easy to be seen by everyone. Even when weather is clear enough, it is not easy to see it.

However, concluding the subject I may say that if it is confirmed on the basis of scientific evidence and experience  that people of a particular region are under the same Matla (moon's rising place) it is not necessary for everyone to see the moon. If some reliable persons of the region see the moon and bear witness for that, it would be enough for the dwellers of the entire region and all should accept it and follow the order.

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (www.najeebqasmi.com)