9. Lettters to All brethren dated 07-11-2001 (22-08-1422). Unification of the day on which the fast begins and day on which Eid falls for all the Muslims of the world is a duty, which Allah (swt) has prescribed on them. It is one of the aspects of the unity of the Umma. This letter brings out the difference between the Jewish calendar, which was used by Muslims at the time when Hijra was introduced. The rules of Islam are applicable to the Umma as a universal brotherhood not as in geographical isolation. The letter brought out the confusion in the minds of the people rejecting the beginnings of the fasting and of prayers, which are determined by the sun: and the commencements of months determined by the moon. The episode of Kuribe is analyzed in depth and the fallacy of the supporters of the local viewing of the Hilal exposed.
Addressed to all Brethren
Assalamu alaikum Wr, Wb,
Ramadan and the moon observation
Unification of the day on which the fast begins and the day on which the Eid falls for all the Muslims in the world is a duty, which Allah (swt) has prescribed upon them. It is certainly one of the aspects of their unity. Separatism in the Ummah is forbidden and the Hadith says: “one who gets strayed falls into the Fire”. Allah (swt) has clearly and specifically described in the Shariah texts the date of fasting and the date of Eid. A date represents a day and remains the same all over the world. A date does not fall on two different days. But the Muslims always commit this mistake by observing Shawwal first on 3 different days and believe that the Prophet of Allah has ordered them to do so.
History reveals that at the time when the fasting of Ramadan was prescribed at Medina in the second year of the Hijra the people were using the lunar calendar of the Jews in which all Shabans had a fixed number of 29 days and all Ramadans 30 days irrespective of the Ahillat or the Manazil of the Moon. They would naturally commence fasting of Ramadan after the 29th of Shaban according to their calculation and the Prophet (saw) gave instructions not to begin the fasting without observing the Hilal because according to the Ahillat of the Moon some Shabans could have 30 days and some Ramadans 29 days. Bukhari and Muslim reported on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Umar® that the messenger of Allah once mentioned Ramadan and said: “Do not fast without observing the Hilal and do not celebrate Eid without observing it.” Muslim also reported from Abdullah Ibn Umar® that the Messenger of Allah made a mention of Ramadan and with the gesture of his hand said: “The month is thus and thus.” He then withdrew his thumb at the third time indicating 29. He then said: “Fast at it’s appearing and celebrate the Eid at its appearing and if it became dubious calculate it (the months of Shaban and Ramadan) as thirty days.” This is because they were unable to distinguish the months of 29 and 30 days at times because they did not know the methods of calculating the months. They knew only the methods of observation. Some times they were not able to observe the Ahillat due to clouds or other reasons. Here the Prophet (saw) teaches the people to avoid doubts. If the month was actually 29 and they made it 30 unknowingly Allah (swt) forgave the mistake.
Bukhari reported on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Umar® that the Messenger of Allah said: “The month consists of 29 days, so do not fast without observing the Hilal and if the weather were cloudy (and dubious) then complete it as 30 days.” In the narration of Muslim, the Messenger of Allah said: “The month of Ramadan may consist of 29days. So do not fast without observing the Hilal and do not celebrate the Eid without observing it and if it became dubious then calculate.” Muslim also reported on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Umar® that the messenger of Allah said: “The month of Ramadan may consist of 29 days, so fast at it’s appearing and celebrate the Eid at its appearing and if it becomes doubtful for you then complete 30 days.”
These Ahadith are very clear and unequivocal in them that the Messenger of Allah orders us to fast at the appearing of the Hilal of Ramadan and orders us to celebrate the Eid at its appearing. These orders are binding on all Muslims and their violation is a sinful act. The command to begin and stop the fasting is general. "Do not fast before you observe it and do not break it before you observe it." This applies to all Muslims in the world. It is very clear from all these Ahadith that the fasting of Ramadan should not be in Shaban or Shawwal. To distinguish Ramadan from Shaban and Shawwal careful observation of the moon is a must for a people who were not in a position to calculate the Manazil or the Ahillat of the moon. Furthermore the word observing the Hilal has come in a general sense.” When you observe it or when it appears,” means the appearing of the Hilal anywhere in the world. It does not merely apply to the person who makes the observation nor does it specifically apply to the people of his own country, for the address, which orders to begin and end the fast is general and comprehensive. Therefore the rule is undoubtedly general.
Therefore the command to begin and end the fast at the appearing of the Hilal is a general command, addressed to all Muslims in the world. If for instance the Hilal appears in Morocco on the eve of Friday and it has not appeared at Jakarta on the same evening and it appears on the eve of Saturday the people of Jakarta must act upon the observation of the Hilal at Morocco. They must therefore begin the fasting on Friday. If they did not fast on Friday they should compensate for that day because the obligation to fast has already been confirmed by the Muslims somewhere in the world. Also if the Hilal were that of Shawwal they should break the fast on getting the information that Ramadan has passed away even if they did not see the Hilal for themselves. They should break the fast when they get the information and it would be sinful for them to continue their fast.
Therefore the Shariah rule states that if the people of one country observe or confirm the Hilal it would be exactly as if all the Muslims have confirmed it. Therefore they should all begin fasting at the appearing of the Hilal of Ramadan and they should all end the fasting at the appearing of the Hilal of Shawwal. This is the rule of Allah (swt) according to the Shariah texts. During the life time of the Messenger of Allah the Muslims used to begin the fast on the same day and observe the Eid on the same day despite the fact that they lived in different areas and this serves as another Shariah evidence that the observation of the Hilal at one area obliges all Muslims to fast together on the same day and celebrate the Eid on the same day.
As for the Shubah (controversial evidence) of those who claim that the first day of Ramadan and the first day of Shawwal, the Eid day should be different at different regions of the world, it can be summarized in two points.
The first Shubah:
They claim that each people living in one country should follow the appearing of the Hilal, in their region, because each people should follow their own times in their prayers and this is why they said: “The precept lies in the Matla' i.e. time of rising of the celestial bodies.” In answer to this claim we say that the times of prayers are subject to their scheduled times and these are different even in one region, for the angles of the Sun, which the Shariah has prescribed for the prayers and the imsak and iftar of the fasting would occur differently at different places. As far as the first Day of fasting day is concerned, it is like the day of Jumu’a or the day of Arafat or the day of Nahar, or the day of Lailathul Qadre, which is common for all. The difference of Day is not allowed in the Shariah. The time of Imsak (beginning of the fast) at dawn and the time of Iftar (breaking the fast) just after the nightfall, must necessarily be different everywhere in the world. The text has already indicated this difference. Allah (swt) says: "And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread. Then complete your fast until the night appears"(2:187). This time is different everywhere.
The times of Imsak and Iftar differ from place to place just like the times of the prayers, which also differ from place to place. This difference happens in one single day and the first day of Ramadan, Shawwal or any other month of the Islamic calendar must be the same Day all over the world and the difference of time, ahead or behind Makkah, exists in all parts of the world. This is what the texts of the Qur’aan and Ahadith clearly indicate and this is confirmed by the understanding deduced from the Shariah rule. The difference in the appearing of the Hilal between the farthest two points in the world does not exceed twelve hours and the classical Mujthahids (learned scholars) are excused for not understanding this deduction from the Shariah rule because at that time they were not in a position to clearly realize the movements of the Earth, the Sun and the Moon and only a half of the globe was known to them. And now that the deduction made from the rule is clearly understood, there are no pretexts or excuses left for those who claim that it should be different Days. Therefore the month of fasting (Ramadan) or the month of Eid (Shawwal) must begin for the Islamic Ummah all over the world on the same Day.
The second Shubah:
The second Shubah of those who claim that the first Day of the fast or the Day of Eid would vary at different places is deduced from the Hadith reported by Muslim on the authority of Kuraib who reported that Ummul Fadle, Binthul Harith® sent him to Muawiya® at Sham. He said: I arrived at Sham and did my business for her (Ummul Fadle). I was there at Sham when the month of Ramadan commenced. I saw the Hilal of Ramadan on the eve of Friday. I then came back to Medina at the end of the month. Abdullah Ibn Abbas® asked me about the Hilal of Ramadan and said: When did you look for it? I said: I looked for it on the eve of Friday. He said: Did you see it yourself? I said yes and the people saw it and they fasted and Muawiya® also fasted, whereupon he said: But we saw it on the eve of Saturday. So we would continue to fast till we complete 30 or we see it. I said: Is the seeing of Muawiya® and his fasting not valid for you? He said: No, This is how the Messenger of Allah commanded us."
Those who claim that the first of Ramadan or Shawwal should vary, use this Hadith as evidence. They argue that Ibn Abbas® ignored the action of the people of Sham and said at the end of the Hadith. “This is how the Messenger of Allah commanded us.” This indicates that Ibn Abbas® had learnt from the Messenger of Allah that the people of one region are not obliged to act upon the action of another region. They also argue that the Hadith serves as a specification and an explanation for the Hadith ‘Soomoo li ru’uyathihi’. They therefore claim that the people of each region are commanded to act upon the seeing of the Hilal in their region only and not according to other regions. Thus the first Day of fasting should vary from one region to another according to the appearing of the Hilal at different regions.
The answer to this claim lies in the fact that the report is not a Hadith of the Messenger of Allah, but the Ijthihad of a Sahabi and the Ijthihad of a Sahabi is not comparable to the Hadith of the Prophet (saw). The fact that Ibn Abbas® did not act upon the verdict of Kuraib reflects an Ijthihad and his Ijthihad is not made clear in the narration. Why did Ibn Abbas® not accept Kuraib’s statement? Was it because of the distance? Was it because Kuraib’s statement was unreliable and there was no other witness to support Kuraib? Kuraib has not reached the next day after departure from Sham. He came to Medina with a caravan after traveling for about 3 weeks. The distance is about 1000 miles. Ibn Abbas® knew the Hadith: “If two Muslims bear witness begin fasting or celebrate the Eid.” He also knew that all Muslims should commence fasting on the same day. The Messenger of Allah said: “Fasting is on the Day when people fast and the Eid is on the Day when people celebrate the Eid and the sacrifice is on the Day when people perform sacrifice.” Ibn Abbas® had learnt from the Messenger of Allah that these Days are common for all in the world. If he thought that there would be regional difference in observing these Days there was no need for him to question Kuraib. Without an enquiry he could have said: “Sham is another region and their rule does not apply to Medina.” But he wanted to verify and act accordingly if the statement of Kuraib was reliable.
Furthermore the people of Sham, according to Kuraib looked for the Hilal of Ramadan on the eve of Friday whereas Ibn Abbas® and the people of Medina looked for it on the eve of Saturday. Here there is a disparity. The Messenger of Allah had ordered to look for the Hilal on the 29th of Shaban. This was the eve of Saturday according to the observation of Ibn Abbas®. It should be the same for Sham also because both the regions perform the Jumu’a prayer on the same Day and Ibn Abbas® had learnt from the Prophet saw) that the 29th of Shaban should be the same Day at Sham and Medina. Ibn Abbas® could not understand how the people of Sham looked for the Hilal of Ramadan one day before, on the eve of Friday i.e.28th of Shaban and saw the Hilal. Ibn Abbas® was sure that their observance of Ramadan at Medina was correct.
Now, under these circumstances how could Ibn Abbas® accept Kuraib’s doubtful statement without the support of another witness? Even though many others had come with Kuraib from Sham, no one appeared before Ibn Abbas® in support of Kuraib to bear witness that the people of Sham began Ramadan on Friday. So he had no other alternative but to reject Kuraib’s unreliable statement. How could we take this as evidence to make differences in the beginning of the Islamic months, which render the Islamic calendar baseless and impractical in the world?
If some people deduced that the Ijthihad of Ibn Abbas® was to make difference in the dates basing on the difference in the appearing of the Hilal at different places it is certainly wrong and it cannot be used as a Shariah evidence and besides, such an Ijthihad is always nullified by the general Shariah evidence. The Hadith must be given preference to the Ijthihad. The wrong Ijthihad of a people must be abandoned. As for the saying of Ibn Abbas® at the end of the report, “This is how the Messenger of Allah commanded us”, it is not a Hadith but merely the way Ibn Abbas understood the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah in which he said "Fast at the appearing of the Hilal and break it at its appearing."
This indicates that Ibn Abbas® understood the Hadih as such, he did not say " this is how the Messenger of Allah reported it, nor did he say, "This is how we learnt from the Messenger of Allah. But he said, "This is how the Messenger of Allah commanded us."
Imam Shaukani explains this Hadith as follows: He wrote in the Book entitled Nailul Authar: "I realize that the evidence is derived from the report of Ibn Abbas® and not from the Ijthihad which people understood as such, and what is referred in his saying: "This is how the Messenger of Allah commanded us" is his saying (i.e. Ibn Abbas®). So we are fasting until we complete 30 days or we see the Hilal and the command of the Messenger of Allah lies in the Hadith extracted by the two Sheikhs i.e. Bukhari and Muslim among others with the wording: “Do not fast without observing the Hilal and do not stop fasting without observing it and if it becomes doubtful complete it as 30 days.”
This does not specifically apply to the people of one region excluding all the others but to all Muslims. Therefore what Kuraib has reported does not qualify as a Hadith but remains as it is for further study. It does not qualify as evidence for differentiating the first of Ramadan or Shawwal and cannot be used as such; it also cannot be qualified as a Hadith of the Messenger of Allah. Therefore this Shubah is nullified and its use as evidence for differentiating the dates is incorrect. If these two Shubahas were no longer valid then there is no other Shubah and the only evidence derived from the real texts would stand, which implies that all the Muslims are commanded to fast in the month of Ramadan according to the Qur’aan (2: 185;): “The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’aan is revealed.” And according to the Hadith, at the appearing of the Hilal anywhere in the world as indicated by the clear cut meaning of the Hadith of Allah's Messenger "Fast at the appearing of the Hilal and celebrate the Eid at its appearing". Our common sense demands that the month should be the same for all in the world. It begins on a particular Day of the week and ends in the same way giving the month 29 or 30 days according to the Manazil of the Moon.
All the Muslims are commanded to begin the fasting at the appearing of the Hilal of Ramadan at any part of the world and celebrate the Eid on the first of Shawwal as clearly indicated in the Hadith of Allah's Messenger: “Celebrate the Eidul Fitre at the appearing of the Hilal.” It is worth mentioning here that the astronomical calculations should be used to determine the months of the Islamic calendar in advance so that confusion could be avoided. Ramadan and Shawwal of a particular year could be known exactly and the calculations could be verified by the naked eye observations of the Moon. Since we know the exact calculations of the sunset and the moonset and there is no change in the orbits of the Sun and the Moon according to the Qur’aan (55:5) the Shariah allows the use of calculations to fix the dates of the Islamic calendar in advance. The religious authorities could announce the onset of Ramadan at the appropriate time, thanks to the facilities that Allah (swt) has provided for us. The Hilal of Ramadan 1422H does not appear on the eve of Thursday the 29th of Shaban and 30 days for Shaban would be completed on Thursday according to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah. Thus the first of Ramadan falls on Friday the 16th of November 2001AD. The Hilal of Shawwal appears on Friday the 29th of Ramadan 1422H. The first of Shawwal falls on Saturday the 15th of December 2001AD.
O, Muslims! When you hear that a Muslim country, any country no matter how near or how far, declares the Hilal (onset) of Ramadan according to the rules of the Shariah on such and such day, you must begin your fast on that day and you are forbidden to wait for the ruler or the Mufthi in your part of the world to give you permission to fast, and when you hear that a Muslim country, no matter how near or how far, has declared the Hilal of Shawwal on such and such day, you must break the fast and celebrate the Eid, you are forbidden from waiting for the ruler’s or the Mufthi's permission to celebrate Eid . You fast and you break the fast by the command of Allah (swt) and His Messenger, not by the command of the mischievous rulers or the Mufthis who are more anxious to please their rulers rather than to please Allah (swt).
O, Muslims! We hereby invite you to implement this Shariah rule, which is the unification of the day on which the fast begins and the unification of the day of the Eid on which the Eid is celebrated. “O! You, who believe, respond to the call of Allah and His Messenger when they call you to that which gives you life."(8:24) Let us be united as commanded in the Book of Allah (swt) and let us not render the teachings of the Prophet (saw) ridiculous by making the first of Ramadan fall on two or three different days in the world. The Qur’aan reads: “And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah and do not be divided among yourselves and remember Allah’s favor on you when you were enemies to one another, but He joined your hearts together, so that by His grace you became brethren and you were on the brink of a pit of fire and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His Ayah clear to you so that you may be guided.”(4:103)
May Allah (swt) forgive us our shortcomings and shower His blessings on all of us!