Which Moon Sighting to Follow: Makkah or North America?

22 April, 2020
Q As-salamu `alaykum. With the approach of Ramadan, Muslims are confused about the beginning of Ramadan. Should we follow the moon sighting in Makkah or in North America? Can we follow astronomical (mathematical) calculations to decide on the beginning of Ramadan?

Answer

Wa `laykum 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.


In this fatwa:

1- Some scholars maintain that each area should follow their own moon sighting.

2- Other scholars emphasizes on following one single moon sighting for all Muslims all over the world.

3- The best option is to depend on sighting the moon in North America, which is undertaken by the biggest Islamic organizations, ISNA and ICNA.


In responding to your question, Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal Nadvi, Imam of Calgary Mosque, Canada, and Former Professor at King Saud Univ., Saudi Arabia, states:

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Muslims all over the world are required to demonstrate remarkable unity and they should try to unify themselves regarding the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadan.

Fasting the blessed month of Ramadan is an individual obligation for those who are capable of fasting. Allah Almighty says, “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may ward off evil.) (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

We need to understand that we should follow the lunar calendar and it starts with the moon sighting. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Fast when you see it (the new moon) and break your fast when you see it.” (Muslim)

So, the moon sighting is the basis for the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadan. Now we have one opinion that says that the moon is sighted in each area, just as Abdullah Ibn Abbas explained that in his time Muawiyah started fasting in Damascus on Saturday and in Madinah they started fasting on Friday. So he said they each follow their own sighting.

And of course, we have another opinion which emphasizes on following one single moon sighting for all Muslims all over the world.

My own understanding is that neither of the two opinions is wrong as long as they are based on strong evidence from the Sunnah.

Now, the situation in North America is based on two major criteria: first, to depend on the moon sighting in North America; and second to choose the moon sighting of Makkah in order to avoid differences.

Of course, the best option is to depend on our own sighting in North America, which is undertaken by the biggest Islamic organizations, ISNA and ICNA.

However, I have reservation related to the math calculations because the calculation should support the moon sighting and not be used as exclusive evidence, which means that such calculations tell us when to look for the new moon. So, if we announce the start of Ramadan based on the moon sighting, it will be the best option.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.