Crescent of Ramadan and Astronomical Calculations

Crescent of Ramadan and Astronomical Calculations
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A question was received by the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Iftaa’ (religious verdicts), may Allah grant them success, regarding this issue. The members of the committee were ‘Abdullaah ibn Manee‘, ‘Abdullaah ibn Ghudayyaan, under the deputy chairman: ‘Abdur-Razzaaq ‘Afeefy.

Following is the text of the question and the Committee’s answer taken from Volume No. 10/104, Fatwa No. (386), with very slight modification:
 
Q: Is it permissible for a Muslim to depend on astronomical calculations to decide the beginning and the end of fasting (in Ramadan)? Or is it a must to see the crescent?
A: The Islamic Sharee‘ah (Islamic legislation) is a tolerant one; its rulings are generic and comprehensive to both humans and Jinn alike, regardless of their ranks – whether they are scholars or illiterate people, rural folk or urban dwellers. This is why Allah The Almighty has made it easy for them to identify the times of acts of worship. He has made specific signs for them by which they can all know the time of the beginning and end of such acts. He has made, for example, the time of sunset a sign for the advent of Maghrib (sunset) prayer and the end of ‘Asr (afternoon) prayer. Also, the time of ‘Ishaa’ (night) prayer can be recognized by the disappearance of twilight. Allah The Almighty has made the sighting of the crescent after its disappearance at the end of every lunar month a sign for the advent of the new month, and the end of the previous one. Allah The Almighty has not obligated us to observe the beginning of the month based on something that is not known except to some people, which is the case with astronomy and its calculations. Thus, the texts of the Quran and Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) have made sighting the crescent a sign for all Muslims to start fasting Ramadan; and they stipulated for them to end their fast on sighting the crescent of Shawwaal. The same applies to ‘Eed Al-Adhha (the Feast of the Sacrifice) and the Day of ‘Arafah. Allah The Almighty  Says (what means):
·        {So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it;} [Quran 2: 185]
·        {They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, "They are measurements of time for the people and forHajj."}[Quran 2: 189] 
The Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ), said: “When you see it (the crescent of the month of Ramadan), start fasting, and when you see it again (that of the month of Shawwaal), stop fasting; and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it) then complete the days of Ramadan to thirty days.” [At-Tirmithi; Ibn Maajah; Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Ad-Daarimi]
Thus, he,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ), has made fasting contingent on sighting the crescent of Ramadan, and made stopping the fasts contingent on seeing the crescent of Shawwaal. He did not link this to any astronomical calculations or to the movements of the stars. This was the way things used to be at the time of the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ), the rightly-guided Caliphs and the four Imaams (Abu Haneefah, Maalik, Al-Shaafi‘i, and Ahmad), in addition to the time of the three generations to which the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ), witnessed to be the best.
Therefore, referring to  astronomy in establishing the advent of the lunar months to start any act of worship or to end it without sighting the crescent, is an act of Bid‘ah (innovation in religion) in which there is no good, as it is not supported by any evidence from the Sharee‘ah. This is why the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia still abides by the way of the Prophet,  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ), and the righteous Salaf (predecessors) in confirming acts of worship like fasting, breaking the fast, ‘Eeds (Muslim feasts) and times of Hajj – which is to sight the crescent. Following the Salaf in all religious matters achieves welfare for the Islamic nation, and all evil lies in following the acts of Bid‘ah innovated in our religion of Islam. May Allah protect all Muslims from both hidden and apparent tribulations.
An important note:
 
When the Muslim leaders in non-Muslim countries decide the place that they rely on in sighting the crescent and declare that they follow it, it is not permissible for the Muslims there to reject this, so that some fast upon the sighting in this country while others fast upon the sighting in another country other than the first, and a third party may fast upon the sighting of a third country and so on – even though they live in one region. This makes one find in the same country, those who fast following the way of India, those who break their fast following the way of Saudi Arabia or the like. This represents a clear dispraised disagreement, which is something that Allah The Almighty hates. It is in no way religiously or reasonably sound to find Muslims who live in the same place disagreeing on the entity on which they depend in determining the beginning and end of fasting as we see in the present time. This practice is impermissible.
They must either fast relying on their own sighting or follow the sighting of the first Muslim country, otherwise, disagreement and evil will prevail. [Excerpted from Fiqh Al-Aqaliyyaat Al-Muslimah] 

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