As a universal peace advocate and someone who seeks for universal peace and being an advocate for Islamic Brotherhood/Sisterhood being someone who believes that sectarism is not only uncalled for but also strictly un-Islamic, and somebody who strongly persuades people to compromise their entrenched believes for the sake of Islamic Unity, it is most appropriate for me to call the attention of all Muslims in the world, concerning the sighting of the new moon of Ramadan and also the sighting of a new moon of Shawaal which marks the end of Ramadan.

It appears that it is now a tradition that Muslim scholars and custodians of Islam, have now relaxed concerning the subject of sighting the new moon of Ramadan. We only hear them say “If the new moon is sighted please call these numbers”. Whereas their statement should have been “when we sight the moon”. This presupposed that, the sighting of the moon is the responsibility of only some group of Muslims and not all Muslims, which indeed is very unfortunate.

The sighting of the new moon of Ramadan to commerce the fasting should not be compromised. Every Muslim should make a concerted effort to sight the moon. There are always two days interval between those who say the moon was sighted somewhere and those who actually sight the moon.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and a very important one of course. In Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.128; Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah’s Apostle said, Allah said, ‘All the deeds of the sons of Adam (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I alone reward for it.’ Fasting is a protection from the fire and from committing sins. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid sexual relation with his wife and quarreling and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, I am fasting.’…

A rewardable fasting should be in accordance with the teaching of Allah and His Prophet. In Sahih Al-Bukhari, ‘Ammar ibn Yasir narrated that the Prophet, May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him said: “Whoever fasts the day of doubt (29th of Shaban) has disobeyed Abu al-Qasim; meaning has disobeyed the Prophet.” An-Nasa’i, at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah have all related this hadith. At-Tirmidhi classifies the hadith as “authentic and sound”. He added that, most of the knowledgeable people act in accordance with it. It is the opinion of Sufyan ath-Thauri, Malik ibn Anas, ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, ash-Shafi, Ahmad and Ishaq. They all taught against fasting on a ‘day of doubt’. Most of them believe that if one fast on such a day and it turns out not to be Ramadan, then that day still has to be made up later. If such a day occurs during one’s regular fasting period, then it is permissible to fast on such a day.”

An-Nasa’i, at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah have related that, “Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “Do not precede Ramadan by fasting a day or two before it unless it is a continuous fast.” Contrary to the teaching of the Holy Prophet, many Muslims precede Ramadan by a day or two.

In Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.138; Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet said, “None of you should fast a day or two before the month of Ramadan unless he has the habit of fasting (Nawafil) (and if his fasting coincides with that day) then he can fast that day.” At-Tirmidhi says: “The hadith is authentic and sound and the scholars act in accordance with it. They discouraged people to hasten Ramadan by fasting on the day before it. If a person usually fast on a day and ‘the day of doubt’ occurs on that day, then there is no problem with his fasting on that day, in their opinion.”

Indeed one cannot claim to be a Muslim when he or she does not submit totally to the will of Allah. Infact no one can claim to be a Muslim if he does not strictly adhere to the command of Allah and the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

In Quran chapter 2:183-185, “Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may (learn) self-restraint”.

Fasting for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill or on a journey the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship) is a ransom the feeding of one that is indigent.  But he that will give more of his own free will it is better for him and it is better for you that you fast if you only knew the benefits. Ramadan is the (month) in which  the Qur’an was sent down as a guide to mankind also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong).  So everyone of you who sights (Shahida) the moon of the month of Ramadan should fast but if anyone is ill or on a journey the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later.  Allah intends every facility for you He does not want to put you to difficulties.  (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perhaps you shall be grateful.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad also said on the subject of sighting the moon, he said “begin your fasting by sighting the new moon of Ramadan, and sighting the new moon of Shawaal to connote the end of Ramadan, and if on condition clouds have gathered between you and the new moon you should complete a count of 30 days to start Ramadan or to end Ramadan.

The Prophet warns that it is gross disobedient for any Muslim to fast on the day of doubt. This Hadith is narrated by Muslim, Bukharii, Tirmizi and Ahmad. The day of doubt is 29th day of Shaban, the Month preceding Ramadan.

He also warns that, under no circumstance should a Muslim fast a day or two before the actual sighting of the new moon of Ramadan.

In a circumstance when a Muslim sights the moon on the day of doubt which is 29th of Shaban, that person takes a testimony before a competent Muslim scholar. During the time of the Prophet a man sighted a moon and he was brought before the Prophet to take the Shahaadah. This means that the condition for fasting was completed. The Prophet then called on the companions to begin the fasting the next day.

There are problems and controversies of sighting the new moon to mark the beginning and the end of fasting in the month of Ramadhan.

These controversies did not start now as evidenced by authentic Hadiths, to be quoted in the course of this presentation.

The fast of Ramadhan should be in the lunar month of Ramadhan, not in the preceding month (Sha’aban) or the succeeding month (Shawaal). The days of fasting in the lunar month of Ramadhan should be 29 or 30 days.

One may fast voluntarily in any month and get his/her reward for that and so if you start to fast in the preceding month before Ramadhan you may be rewarded by Allah depending on your intention. If one’s intention is to fast in Ramadhan, then it is incumbent for one to be certain that the month is in deed Ramadhan. It is clear from this that fasting mistakenly though due to one’s fault of not keeping count of lunar calendar and not cross checking with others in your vicinity or locality, you do not SIN but you may or may not be rewarded.

But one thing is clear that if one breaks his fast voluntarily during Ramadhan it is a SIN and one has to atone for it as prescribed in both Quran and Hadiths. To feast during Ramadhan means a lot and it does not matter if the whole world was to feast in Ramadan, it will still be sinning.

And so we appeal to brothers and sisters in Islam to beware and reflect on this issue and to convince themselves that they do the right thing for Allah is the judge.

It  is ridiculous for Muslims living in the same locality or territory to fast and break their fast on different days and think everybody is right, certainly everybody cannot be right on this.

Dear brothers and sisters below are the Quranic verses and various Hadiths to help you reflect and make the right decision. Allah guides us all.

This is Hadith of sighting the new moon related by Ahmad, Muslim, at-Tirmidhi and.Fiqh-us-Sunnah : 3.112

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Fast due to the sighting of the new moon and break the fast due to sighting it.” This Hadith is generally directed to the whole Muslim world – that is, “if any one of you sees the moon in any place, then that will be a sighting for all of the people.” But the following Hadith renders the above hadith as not the case.

“According to ‘Ikrimah, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, Salim, Ishaq, the correct opinion among the Hanafiyyah, and the chosen opinion among the Shaf’iyyah, every “country” (or territory) is to take into consideration its own sighting and not necessarily to follow the sighting of others. This is based on what Kuraib said: “While I was in ash-Sham, the new moon of Ramadan appeared on Thursday night. I retumed to Madinah at the end of the month. There, Ibn ‘Abbas asked me: ‘When did you people see the new moon?’ I said: ‘We saw it on Thursday night.’ He said: ‘Did you see it yourself?’ I said: ‘Yes, the people saw it, and they and Mu’awiyyyah fasted.’ He said: ‘But we saw it on Friday night. We will not stop fasting until we complete thirty days or until we see the new moon.’ I said: ‘Isn’t Mu’awiyyah’s sighting and fasting sufficient for you?’ He said: ‘No . . . This is the order of the Messenger of Allah.’ “

“Scholars act in accordance with this hadith. Every land has its sighting.” In Fath al-‘Alam Sharh Bulugh al-Maram, it is stated: The [opinion] closest [to the truth] is that each land follows its sighting, as well as the areas that are connected to it.”

I am making a passionate appeal to all Muslim scholars throughout the world to reexamine these teachings of Islam concerning the sighting of the new moon. We are all aware that it is an unpardonable sin to deliberately mislead Muslims.