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Is moonsighting essential?



Praise be to Allaah.

The majority of scholars are of the view that sighting the new moon of Ramadaan on the first night of the month is a communal obligation, and if all the people fail to do it then they are sinning. This is also the Hanafi view. 

Some of the fuqaha’ were of the view that moon sighting is mustahabb. 

It says in Majma’ al-Anhaar (1/283): It is a communal obligation for the people to seek the new moon on the evening of the twenty-ninth of Sha’baan or Ramadaan, and also of Dhu’l-Qa’dah, and it is obligatory for the ruler to enjoin the people to do that.  

It is obligatory for the people to seek the new moon on the twenty-ninth of Sha’baan at the time of sunset, and if they see it they must fast. If it is cloudy then they must complete the month as thirty days.

It says in Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’ (2/300): It is mustahabb for the people on the night before the thirtieth of Sha’baan to sight the new moon of Ramadaan. 

It is mustahabb to sight the new moon so as to be on the safe side with regard to fasting and so as to avoid disputes. It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to count the days in Sha’baan more carefully than at any other time, then he would fast when he sighted (the new moon) of Ramadaan. Narrated by al-Daaraqutni with a saheeh isnaad. 

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah in a marfoo’ report: “Count the days of Sha’baan for the sake of Ramadaan.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi. 

This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi (678). 

It says in Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi: Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: They should strive to count its days accurately, and that is by means of watching the waxing and waning of the moon, so that they will be certain  of when to expect the new moon of Ramadaan and will not miss any of it. End quote. 

Sighting the new moon is something that is decreed by the fact that some acts of worship are connected to specific times. It is prescribed for the Muslims to strive in seeking it and it is more important on the night before the thirtieth of Sha’baan, in order to find out whether Ramadaan has begun, and on the night before the thirtieth of Ramadaan in order to find out whether the month has ended and Shawwaal has begun, and on the night before the thirtieth of Dhu’l-Qa’dah to find out if Dhu’l-Hijjah has begun. These three months have to do with two of the pillars of Islam, namely fasting and Hajj, and the setting of the dates for ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha. 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) encouraged seeking the sighting of the moon. It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when you see it and break the fast when you see it, and if it is too cloudy then complete the number (of days) of Sha’baan as thirty.” And it was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The month is twenty-nine days, so do not fast until you see it, and if it is cloudy then complete the month as thirty days.” The first hadeeth enjoins fasting the month of Ramadaan when its new moon is sighted or when the month of Sha’baan is completed with thirty days, and it enjoins ending the fast when the new moon of Shawwaal is sighted, or when Ramadaan is completed with thirty days. The second hadeeth forbids fasting Ramadaan before the new moon is sighted or before Sha’baan has been completed if it is cloudy. 

And there is a hadeeth narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in which he enjoined paying attention to the new moon of Sha’baan because of Ramadaan. He said: “Count the days of Sha’baan carefully for the sake of Ramadaan.” This hadeeth shows the importance of paying attention to the month of Sha’baan in order to work out when Ramadaan starts. It was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to count the days in Sha’baan more carefully than at any other time, then he would fast when he sighted (the new moon) of Ramadaan, and if it was cloudy he would count thirty days and then fast. 

The commentators said: i.e., he would make sure to count the days of Sha’baan carefully in order to begin the fast of Ramadaan at the right time. During the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and after he died, the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) were concerned with sighting the new moon of Ramadaan and they used to look for it. It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The people sighted the new moon and I told the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about that, and he fasted and told the people to fast. 

It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: We were with ‘Umar between Makkah and Madeenah and we looked for the new moon. I was a man who had keen eyesight and I sighted it, but no one else claimed that he had seen it except me. I started saying to ‘Umar: Do you not see it? And he could not see it.  

The Hanafis regard sighting the new moon of Ramadaan on the night before the thirtieth of Sha’baan as a communal obligation, and if they sight it they should fast, otherwise they should complete the month (as thirty days) and then fast, because that which is essential to performance of an obligatory duty is also obligatory. 

The Hanbalis say that it is mustahabb to sight the new moons so as to be on the safe side with regard to fasting and so as to avoid disputes. We did not find any clear view from the Maalikis and Shaafa’is on this issue. End quote. 

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked: Are all the Muslims sinning if none of them sights the new moon at the beginning or end of Ramadaan? 

He replied: Sighting the new moon of Ramadaan or Shawaal is something that was established at the time of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them), because Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The people looked for the new moon and I told the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that I had seen it,so he fasted and told the people to fast.  

Undoubtedly the way of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) is the best and most complete guidance. End quote from 48 Su’aalan fi’l-Sawm, no. 21. 

So it seems that sighting the new moon of Ramadaan, Shawwaal and Dhu’l-Hijjah is a communal obligation, because it is connected to two of the pillars of Islam: fasting and Hajj. 

And Allaah knows best..

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