Sometimes in some countries, people start fasting earlier saying that the new moon has been seen. What is the criterion of seeing the new moon? How should the believers act regarding the issue?

Our Prophet commanded that the new moon should be seen so as to start the fasting of Ramadan. We present some examples mentioned in narrations:

Our Prophet commanded that the new moon should be seen so as to start the fasting of Ramadan. We present some examples mentioned in narrations:

Ibn-i Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both, narrates:

Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings upon him, told about Ramadan:

Do not fast until you see the new moon; and do not eat until you see the (next) new moon. Should clouds interfere (with your sight), estimate the month. (Bukhari, Sawm: 11; Muslim, Siyam: 9; Muwatta, Siyam: 1; Abu Dawud, Sawm: 4); Nasai, Sawm : 10, 11)

Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, narrates:

Allah's Messenger (PBUH) would not reckon the days of any month as much as he reckoned the days of Shaban (the month before Ramadan). And then he would start fasting after he had seen the crescent of Ramadan. If clouds came in between (if he could not see the new moon), he would reckon Shaban as 30 days and start the fasting of Ramadan. (Abu Dawud, Sawm: 6)

As is understood from the narrations above, the criterion of the start of Ramadan is seeing the new moon. However, the moon moves in accordance with the order established by Allah and does not delay its duty. Today, the movements of the moon can be estimated well in advance, in which case the information provided by the scientists is enough, instead of the requirement of seeing the new moon with the naked eye.

The narration below is especially meaningful regarding the issue:

Ibn-i Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them both, narrates:

A bedouin (wanderer in the desert) came to Allah's Messenger (PBUH) and said:

“I saw hilal (the crescent/new moon) (of Ramadan)!” The Prophet said:

“Do you witness that there is no god but Allah?”

When the man replied as “Yes!”, the Prophet (PBUH) said:

“O Bilal! Announce to the people to fast tomorrow!”(Abu Dawud, Siyam: 14; Tirmidhi, Sawm: 7; Nasai, Sawm: 8; Ibn-i Majah, Siyam: 6)

Our Prophet accepts the attestation of a bedouin regarding the issue of seeing the new moon. Seeing that our Prophet accepted a bedouin's testimony, it is clearly an apparent mistake that today some people do not take note of a number of scientists.

After all, such kinds of disagreements cause fitna (trial, tribulation, disorder in community) in the community of Islam and cause Believers to fall into dilemma. However, fitna is qualified in our Holy Book as worse than murder. (The Qur'an, Al-Baqarah, 2:191)

Our Prophet advised the community to act unanimously in fasting, festivals, and other religious practices and stated that the deed (amal) will only be valid this way.

Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, narrates:

Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said:

The (valid/worthy) fasting is on the day that you fast (all together). The (valid/worthy) iftar (a meal eaten to break fast after the sunset) is on the day that you eat all together. The (valid/worthy) sacrifice (al-qurban) is on the day that you slaughter sacrifices all together. Tirmidhi, Sawm 11; Abu Dawud, Sawm 5)

Another important issue in this matter is that Ramadan may sometimes last 29 days and sometimes 30. Indeed, according to both the scientific realities and the narrations from the Prophet, it is understood that Ramadan may sometimes last 29 and sometimes 30 days.

That the earth is not a round sphere but a little flattened at the poles causes the distance that the moon covers while rotating around the earth to increase and decrease and this eventually leads to the difference of days in months.

As we see in the narrations, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took these differences in months into consideration and emphasized that Ramadan may sometimes be 29 and sometimes 30 days:

Abdullah Ibn-i Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both, narrates:

Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said:

“The Month of Ramadan is so-and-so (Meanwhile he shook both hands with all fingers for two times; in the third shake, he closed the thumb of either his right or left hand.)

In a narration by Muslim and Nasai, the Prophet (PBUH) said:

“We are an illiterate nation; we know neither how to write nor how to calculate. The moon is so-and-so.” It is said that at one time he showed twenty-nine and at another thirty. (Bukhari, Sawm: 13; Muslim, Sawm: 13-15; Abu Dawud, Sawm: 4; Nasai, Sawm: 17)

As a result, after the Prophet (PBUH) saw the crescent of Ramadan he started fasting; and when he saw the crescent of Shawwal, he celebrated the 'Eid (festival).

He also acted cautiously in the matter of seeing the new moon; encouraged everybody to try to see; and when somebody saw, he started fasting with his testimony.

Saying that the crescent should be seen only with the naked eye is a compulsion and it is not a persuasive approach.

What is important is seeing the crescent at the first night in the evening. Indeed, as the crescent will be very thin on the first day, it is not possible for everybody to see it clearly.

Therefore, it also means “seeing the crescent” to observe and see the crescent with the telescope by benefiting from the data of astronomy.

The Prophet (PBUH) informs us that this is a matter of calculation by saying: “We are an illiterate nation; we know neither how to write nor how to calculate.”

Then, the astronomical calculations were not so improved as they are now.

However, today, observing the crescent and seeing the crescent of Ramadan or Shawwal has turned into a very easy and ordinary work for astronomy.

On the other hand, in the hadith mentioned above, the Prophet (PBUH) draws attention to Muslims' acting together and gave us a lesson of unity.

Just as the science of astronomy predicts the solar and lunar eclipses that will take place years later and it turns out to be exactly true to the very second, so too is it the most appropriate way to rely on the telescope to see the crescent.

However, it in no way prevents people from observing the crescent with the naked eye; it does not mean abandoning observing the crescent, either.

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