Q: Dear scholars, As-Salamu `alaykum. I was just asking how was moon sighting done in the beginning of Islamic history. And how did it end up becoming the choice between following Makkah or the local moon sighting? Jazakum Allahu khayran..
A: Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother in Islam, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.
Islamically, we need to understand that we should follow the lunar calendar and which starts with the moon sighting. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “Fast when you see it (the new moon) and break your fast when you see it.” So, the moon sighting is the basis for the beginning and the end of the month.
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
During the days of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), he acted upon reports of sighting of the moon that were reported to him by fellow Muslims. He had stated the principle, “Fast when the moon is sighted, and break your fast when the moon is sighted (i.e., celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr); if the skies are cloudy then complete counting thirty days of Sha`ban and fast the next day.”
Later on, when the state of Islam became vast and immense, the question arose whether a single sighting is binding on other regions or not. Many, while holding on to the single sighting, thought that because of the distance and lack of means of communication, they had no choice but to act upon different sightings; while others thought each region should sight its own moon regardless of any such considerations.
Both of these were valid interpretations, for as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had taught us through a number of precedents during his own life-time, in matters of interpretation, we are free to follow any one of the valid ones.
Accordingly, both of the above views are valid options that the Ummah have inherited from the legacy of fiqh. We don’t need to discard them; we can choose the most realistic and practical of these two ways. Our choice, however, should be based on the best considerations of the unity and solidarity of the Ummah, for, after all, as stated by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), we are to be guided by the collective interests rather than individual considerations.
Author/Scholar : Sheikh Ahmad Kutty