Celebrations In Islaam
Establishing Islamic Dates

Unification of Crescent Rising Locations (Matla`s)
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The above hadeeths carry a general command to all Muslims to abide by the crescent sighting. In the same spirit, Abu Hurayrah (radiAllahu `anhu) reported that the Messenger saws said:
(True) fasting starts on the day that you fast; (true) Fitr is on the day that you end your fasting; and (true) Adha is on the day that you offer your sacrifice.1
     `Aa'ishah (R) reported that the Messenger saws said:
(True) Fitr is on the day that people end their fasting; and (true) Adha is on the day that people offer their sacrifices.2

     These and other similar hadeeths in the books of Sunnah constitute a general address to all Muslims that fasting, `Eeds, and other occasions truly occur when the Muslims (collectively) agree to hold them, regardless of claims or individually attained knowledge to the contrary.
     Thus when the crescent is sighted anywhere on earth, by at least one trustworthy Muslim, this means that the whole Ummah has sighted it. Based on this, as the above hadeeths indicate, all members of the Ummah are required to observe the new month as long as the information reaches them in a reasonable amount of time to be able to act upon it.
Kurayb's Narration
A large number of people misinterpret the following narration by Kurayb. Kurayb reported that Umm ul-Fadl Bint ul-Haarith sent him on a mission to Mu`aawiyah (radiAllahu `anhu) in Damascus. He accomplished his mission and was still in ash-Shaam when Ramadaan started. He saw the new crescent on the night preceding Friday (Thursday evening). He then returned to al-Madeenah, arriving there near the end of the month. He met Ibn `Abbaas (radiAllahu `anhu) who asked him when was the crescent of Ramadaan sighted in ash-Shaam. Kurayb said, "We saw it on the night preceding Friday." Ibn 'Abbaas inquired, "Did you see it yourself?" Kurayb replied, "Yes I saw it; and the people did too. Therefore, they fasted, and Mu`aawiyah fasted as well." Ibn `Abbaas said, "But we saw it on the night preceding Saturday; we shall continue to fast until we complete thirty days or see it [the crescent of Shawwaal]." Kurayb asked, "Wouldn't you follow Mu`aawiyah's sighting and fasting." Ibn `Abbaas answered:
"No! This is how Allaah's Messenger commanded us."3

How Far Is Too Far?
Let us for a moment agree to different matla`s. When a person performs Hajj, he can ascertain where to put his ihram on. The Prophet saws did not leave us without the necessary instructions in this regard. If different matla`s, countries, or distances required separate crescent sightings, then why has no text from the Prophet saws reached us stating so?
     And if Kurayb's narration is the source for the opinion in question, that each community must have its own sighting, then what is the evidence for the distance? Such things cannot be derived from the narration of Kurayb. The conflicting opinions concerning this demonstrate that there cannot be anything decisive.
What Ibn `Abbaas Did Not Say
Let us look at the statement of Ibn `Abbaas, "We shall continue to fast until we complete thirty days or see it." In order to truly understand it, it is necessary to examine it in light of the Prophet's saws command to which he referred. This was cited earlier from the narration of Ibn `Abbaas (radiAllahu `anhu) himself:
Fast when you see the hilaal; and end your fast when you see it. If it is obscure to you, then complete thirty days.
     The next logical question is, did Ibn `Abbaas mean, "No, we cannot accept the testimony of a crescent sighting from a region other than our own," or, "No, I am not rejecting that, but the Messenger saws has taught us to fast upon seeing the crescent, and we saw it on Friday night; we shall continue to fast until we complete thirty days or see the crescent of Shaww_l?" The latter statement is clearly the correct one based on the texts of the Sunnah. Additionally, the following points must be clear:
  1. The people of ash-Shaam started their fast on Friday following their sighting of the crescent on Thursday night.
     
  2. The people of al-Madeenah started their fasting on Saturday following their sighting of the crescent. They were not informed of the sighting of ash-Shaam early enough. That is the reason they did not begin fasting on Friday.
     

     Since this is obvious, then it is also obvious that Ibn `Abbaas did not infer that the Prophet saws taught anyone to reject a testimony from another area - his words carry no evidence for such a claim.
A Minority Opinion
Discussing this subject, Sayyid Sabiq states in Fiqh us-Sunnah the following:
"According to the majority of scholars, it does not matter if the new moon4 has been sighted in a different location; in other words, after the new moon has been sighted anywhere in the world, it becomes obligatory for all Muslims to begin fasting (Ramadaan), as the Prophet saws said, "Fast due to its sighting, and break fast due to its sighting." (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim) This hadeeth is a general address directed to the whole Muslim world - that is, 'If any one of you sees the crescent in any place, then that will be a sighting for all people'."5
     However, leaving the majority, who agree upon a universal sighting, the author later endorses the following:
"The [opinion] closest [to the truth] is that each land follows its own sighting, as well as the areas that are connected to it."
     Imaam an-Nawawee (r), commenting on Kurayb's narration, endorsed the opinion of different sightings as well:
"It clarifies the correctness, according to our companions, that the sighting is not general for all people but specific for the one who is within the distance in which the prayers are not combined. Some of our companions say that a universal sighting in any place applies to all people on the earth, and this is their practice."6
     Thus, an-Nawawee regulates crescent sighting by the distance after which a resident becomes a traveller.
     But even though he endorsed this opinion, he noted that others in his Shaafi`ee mathhab opted for a universal sighting!
     Furthermore, in two of his other books, Shar ul-Muhathab, and Ar-Rawah, an-Nawawee opted for the position that the sighting of each land is governed by its matla`7, which contradicts with his above verdict endorsing travel distance. His faltering position illustrates the indecisiveness to which he and others fell victim in this regard.
     Thus it is safest to adhere to the Texts of the Sunnah instead of submerging into conjecture and assumptions. There is no justification for placing a limit in distance when no such limit was placed by Allaah (SWT) or His Messenger saws.
The Correct Scholars' Position
After discussing the narration of Kurayb, Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (r) concluded:
"To summarize, a person who learns about the sighting of the moon in good time to be able to utilize it for fasting, ending his fast, or sacrifice, must definitely do so. The texts (of Islaam) and the reports from the Salaf point to this. To limit this to a certain distance or country would contradict both the reason and the Sharh (Islaamic law). "8
      Imaam Ash-Shawkaanee (r) cited this narration by Kurayb and mentioned six different conclusions that the `ulamaa' have derived from it. He then commented as follows:
"You should know that the acceptable evidence is in what Ibn `Abbaas (t) reported explicitly from the Messenger saws. It is not in his ijtihaad which people tried to interpret, and to which he pointed by saying, 'This is how Allaah's Messenger commanded us.' His direct report from the Prophet saws is what Al-Bukhaaree, Muslim, and others narrated as:
Do not fast until you see the crescent, and do not end your fast until you see it ?
This does not apply to any particular location, but is a general address to all applicable Muslims. Thus it is obviously an evidence that a sighting in one location is binding on people in other locations. When the people in a particular location see it, this means that all the Muslims have seen it. Thus what applies to them (those who saw it) applies to others (in other locations).
     Even if we submit that Ibn `Abbaas meant that the sighting in one location does not bind people in other locations - this should still be subjected to the reason in that the distance between the two location should be far enough to call for difference in matla`s. Despite the fact that ash-Shaam was not far enough from al-MaDeenah to warrant different matla`s, Ibn `Abbaas refused to follow the sighting of its people. This indicates that his behavior was based on his ijtihaad, and is not, therefore, an acceptable evidence for this argument.
     And if we assume that the reason may not be applied in this situation, still, the Islaamic evidence indicates that people from one area should accept information and testimonies of people in other areas in all legislative matters of Islaam. One such matter is the sighting of the moon - regardless of whether the distance between the two locations warrants considering them as different matla`s or not. Excluding this matter from the general rule requires a separate evidence.
     The narration of Kurayb comes against the general rule. If we want to accept it as the needed specifying evidence, we should then adhere to its exact text, if it were known. If the text were not known, then we should adhere to the meaning that is understood from it. Ibn `Abbaas did not mention the exact words of the Prophet saws, nor did he give the meaning of his words, which would have enabled us to evaluate the general and the specifying evidence. All he mentioned was a general statement indicating that the people of al-MaDeenah would not follow the sighting of ash-Shaam - assuming that this is what he meant. We may not understand more than this or permit our understanding to restrict the general rule ..."9
     Siddeeq Hasan Khaan (r) said:
"If the crescent is seen by the people in one location, all people in other locations must abide by their sighting. This is based on the hadeeths that declare the beginning and end of fasting at the sighting of the crescent. These hadeeths address the whole Muslim Ummah: when one Muslim sees the crescent anywhere, his sighting would be a sighting for all Muslims. It would not be correct to challenge this with the hadeeth of Kurayb (in Saheeh Muslim), because Ibn `Abbaas did not declare in it that the Prophet saws commanded them not to follow sightings of other locations."10
     In this regard also, the great hadeeth scholar Muhammad Naasir ud-Deen al-Albaanee comments on Sayyid Saabiq's preference of the minority opinions by saying:
"This saying is remarkably strange... the different regions, like the regions of moon rising positions (matla`s) are relative; they have no definite tangible boundaries to which people could adhere. And I, by Allah, do not know why the author would give preference to this strange opinion and refrain from utilizing the generality of the authentic hadeeth adopted by the majority, as he himself has mentioned, and it is the position taken by many of the learned scholars, like Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah in al-Fataawee, ash-Shawkaanee in Nayl ul-Awtaar, Siddeeq Hasan Khaan in ar-Rawat un-Nadiyyah (1:223-225), etc. This is the truth, and none else can be accepted. Nor does it conflict with the statement of Ibn `Abbaas, as Ash-Shawkaanee soundly demonstrated:
'The hadeeth of Ibn `Abbaas refers to the one who fasts according to the sighting of his own land, then is informed that Ramadaan has been confirmed by crescent sighting in another land (on a different day). In this case he continues fasting with the people of his own land until they complete thirty days, or they see the crescent. This removes the confusion and leaves the above hadeeth applicable in general to all of those who receive the news of seeing the crescent from any location regardless of its distance.'
And this is similar to what Ibn Taymiyyah said in his Fataawee (25:107), and is very easy to accomplish these days as is well known."11
  1. Recorded by Abu Daawood, at-Tirmithee and others; judged authentic by al-Albaanee and others.  - Back to text 
     
  2. Recorded by at-Tirmithee; judged authentic by al-Albaanee.  - Back to text 
     
  3. Muslim.  - Back to text 
     
  4. The translators of Fiqh us-Sunnah use 'new moon' instead of crescent, which we would prefer, for the Arabic word hilaal.  - Back to text 
     
  5. Fiqh us-Sunnah 3:112 of the ATP English translation.  - Back to text 
     
  6. Sharh Muslim.  - Back to text 
     
  7. Fath ul-Baaree 4:147-148.  - Back to text 
     
  8. Al-Fataawee, 5:111.  - Back to text 
     
  9. Nayl ul-Awtaar, 4:268.  - Back to text 
     
  10. Ar-Rawdat un-Nadiyyah, 1:224.  - Back to text 
     
  11. Tamaam ul-Minnah, p. 398.  - Back to text 
     
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