Question: What determines the beginning of Ramadan: calculations or calendars or the rising of the Moon or the sighting of the Moon?
Calculations or calendars or the rising of the Moon does not determine the beginning of Ramadan. Only the sighting of the Moon determines it. It is declared in a hadith-i sharif, “Fast when you see the New Moon. Stop fasting when you see it again.”
Though it is not possible to determine exactly the day when the New Crescent will be sighted, it is possible to determine exactly by means of astronomical calculations the day when the New Crescent will rise. Indeed, it has been determined. But our religion has made the starting of fasting and Eid contingent upon the sighting of the New Crescent, not the rising of it. The New Crescent is sighted either on the day indicated by calculations or the following day. It does not come up before the day indicated by calculations.
The century of technology
Question: We are in a century of technology. Just as it is known for certain when the Sun will rise or set, so is it not possible to calculate with an accuracy of minutes and seconds the time when the New Moon will be sighted? Why does this controversy arise every year?
No flaw or shortcoming exists in the order established by Allahu ta’ala. It is possible to know well in advance by means of astronomical calculations what time the Sun and the Moon will rise and set. They do not rise or set a minute or a second before the time indicated by calculations. The New Moon comes up at the time found by calculations, but it may not be sighted on the day it comes up due to clouds or other atmospheric conditions. To determine the month of Ramadan, it is necessary to look for the New Moon in the sky and to see it. If it cannot be seen, then it will be necessary to complete the month of Sha’ban with 30 days.
The reason for the controversy is the practice of making people start the fast a day earlier by announcing that the New Moon has been sighted in such and such a country, though it has not been sighted. Why don’t they ever say that they have seen the Moon after the day found by calculations, but before it? If they say instead of it, “We could not see it because the weather was cloudy,” there is nothing to say. It is very wrong to claim that they have seen the New Moon prematurely, which is a blatant lie.
Question: What is the religious rule about Moon sighting?
Mustafa Sabri Effendi states:
“If it is known for certain beforehand through astronomical data that the month of Sha’ban will be 29 days long and if it, in reality, lasts for 29 days and if the New Moon is observed to determine the beginning of Ramadan but if it cannot be seen due to clouds though it has come up, in this case the month of Sha’ban is accepted as 30 days. Similarly, if it is known for certain beforehand through astronomical data that the month of Ramadan will be 29 days long and if it, in reality, lasts for 29 days and if the New Moon cannot be seen on the 29th of Ramadan due to clouds, in this case it is the command of our religion to complete Ramadan with 30 days, for it was declared in the hadith-i sharif, “Fast when you see the New Moon. Stop fasting when you see it again” [Matters].
The stance of the Directorate of Religious Affairs
Question: What do the officials from the Directorate of Religious Affairs say about this issue?
The officials from the Directorate have issued briefly the following statement:
“Our religion commands us to start fasting when the New Moon is sighted. As officials from the Directorate, we observed the New Moon, but so far we have had no finding that proves the observatory’s calculations incorrect. The reason for the difference between Saudi Arabia and us is not that they observe the New Moon and we act upon astronomical data. That country does not start fasting by observing the New Moon, but act upon American almanacs. Once we went to Saudi Arabia as a delegation. We offered them to observe the New Moon together. Saffat Bey, the secretary of the Muslim World League, said, “We take the calculations of American sailors as basis.” Then we ascended Mount Safa with a delegation composed of six people. Though we use binoculars, we could not see the New Moon. In fact, it was not possible to see it because to see it would be a phenomenon contrary to astronomical data. When it got dark, they announced that the New Moon was sighted and that the Eid should be celebrated, so they made millions of people break their fasts. It is certain that this act of theirs is based upon a false and an incorrect announcement.”
In the above-mentioned quotation, what is taken as the basis is Moon sighting as well, not calculations. We, too, reiterate every year, “Do not begin fasting and do not celebrate the Eid before the sighting of the New Moon.” We do not say, “Act upon the calculations.”
Moon sighting and people of innovation
Question: When Saudis say that they have seen the New Moon, do we incur any sin if we do not believe them?
Firstly, believing them means disbelieving science and technology because the New Moon cannot be seen before the day indicated by calculations. Secondly, since Wahhabites are not Sunni, it is not permissible to rely on their testimonies. Islamic scholars declare:
Holders of bid’ah (people of innovation), that is, all the 72 groups who have deviated from the Ahl as-Sunnah are not ‘adil (a Sunni Muslim who avoids grave sins and who does not habitually commit venial sins), even if they perform all acts of worship, for either they have become mulhids and lost their faith, or they vituperate (the true Muslims who are called) the Ahl as-Sunnah, which is a grave sin, too. (Hadiqa)
To speak ill of any Muslim is a sin. It destroys one’s ‘adala (being an ‘adil). (If one perpetrates this sin) one’s testimony is not to be accepted. (Durr-ul-mukhtar)
That Wahhabites are zindiqs following in the footsteps of Batinites (followers of Batiniyya, which is a heretic sect) is written in the book Ni’mat-i Islam as well. Therefore, in determining the beginning of Ramadan, Eids, and the time for pilgrimage and in all religious affairs, it is not permissible to act upon the testimonies of Wahhabites and of those who do not follow any of the four true madhahib.
Moon sighting is fard-i kifaya
Question: Is it fard to observe the New Moon?
To observe it is not fard-i ‘ayn, but fard-i kifaya. It is also termed wajib-i kifaya in the same meaning. That is, when some Muslims observe it, other Muslims are absolved from this duty.
How is it observed?
Question: What procedure to follow to observe the New Crescent?
Telescopes and binoculars facilitate naked eye observation of the New Moon. To be able to see it easily, the observer should look for the New Moon with these instruments first. If he sights it, he should look at it with naked eye as well. If it is seen, it is understood that the following day is the first day of the month. Astronomical data, too, is useful like them. It shows how long the New Crescent will stay in the sky and the minutes and the locations of the world when and where it will become visible. The benefits of astronomical data and telescopes are indisputable, but Eids cannot be announced according to astronomical data.
Starting the fast earlier
Question: Since the job of observing New Moon is not carried out officially, there may be the possibility of starting to fast earlier. Does it cause any harm?
In places where Ramadan or Eid is started by relying upon calendars instead of watching for the New Moon, the fasting may have started a day before the correct time. The method used to begin fasting is not in accordance with the command of the religion. Since the fasts that are observed on the first and the last days of Ramadan are questionable, even if they may happen to be fast-days of Ramadan, it is necessary to keep two additional make-up fasts after Eid.
Determining the day when the Moon will be sighted
Question: Is it not possible to determine the day when the New Moon will be sighted?
The day when the New Moon will rise is determined exactly, but the day when it will be sighted cannot be determined exactly. Our religion has made the beginning of fasting and Eid contingent upon not the rising of the New Moon, but the sighting of it. The New Moon is sighted either on the day indicated by calculation or on the following day. It cannot be sighted before the calculated day because there is no flaw or shortcoming in the order established by Allah. It is possible to know by calculation well in advance the times when the Sun and the Moon will rise and set. The Crescent of the new month comes up at the time shown by calculation, but clouds or other atmospheric conditions may affect its visibility on that day. In order to confirm the beginning of Ramadan, it is necessary to look for the New Moon and to see it. If it cannot be seen, it is necessary to complete Sha’ban with 30 days. The beginning of Ramadan according to the sighting of the New Moon may be a day after the calculated day, but it cannot be a day before it, for it is not possible for the New Moon to appear a day before the day indicated by astronomical calculations.
The age of the New Moon
Question: How is it known whether the New Moon is one day old or two days old?
A person with experience knows it.
The New Moon and calculations with regard to fasting
Question: Our question is about sighting the New Moon. There are three groups of people in fasting and celebrating Eid:
1. The first group of people starts fasting and celebrates Eid with everybody on the same day.
2. The second group of people starts fasting and celebrates Eid a day earlier.
3. The third group of people, determining the lunar months with some methods, starts fasting and celebrates Eid after everybody.
Of the practices of these three groups of people, which one is correct?
The first group is acting upon the calendars, that is, the calculations of the observatory. If calculations are performed correctly, there is never a fault in the determination of the day when the New Moon will come up because there is no fault as much as an atom’s weight in the order established by Allah. The New Moon rises at the time estimated by calculation. It does not deviate from its course even for a second. The second group’s starting to fast and celebrating Eid a day earlier than the calculated day is against science, and it is a hundred per cent wrong because it is impossible for the New Moon to appear before the day indicated by calculation. The case is the same with the rising of the Sun. If one claims that one has seen the Sun before it rises, it is certainly wrong. The Sun rises only at the times written on calendars and timetables. It is impossible for it to rise earlier. But if the sky is not clear, it may be invisible, though it has risen.
So is the case with the New Moon, which marks the beginnings of months. The New Moon comes up on the day and at the hour found by calculation, but it may not be visible on that day and at that hour. Our religion takes the sighting of the New Moon as the basis, not its coming up. Unless the New Moon is sighted, Eid is not celebrated on the day indicated by astronomical data or by different methods of determining the beginnings of months.
Hadrat Ibn Abidin states:
One must not refer to calendars to learn the first day of Ramadan because fasting becomes fard upon people when the New Moon is sighted in the sky. Our master the Prophet said, “Fast when you see the New Moon. Celebrate Eid when you see it again.” The time when the New Moon will come up in the sky is learnt by calculations. Calculations are valid, and the New Moon comes up on the calculated night. But it may not be visible that night and may be visible the following night. The fasting is started not on the night when the New Moon comes up, but on the night when it is sighted. (Radd-ul-muktar 289)
Since our religion prescribed us to sight the New Moon, the fast cannot be started before the sighting of it. On this basis, the second group is on a hundred per cent wrong path. Moreover, making division and disunity, they raise instigation (fitnah). Our religion curses those who raise instigation. In this respect, the procedure followed by the first group is correct. However, if they start fasting and celebrate Eid without Moon sighting, they must keep two additional make-up fasts later, thus abstaining from instigating fitnah.
To determine the first day of a lunar month through some methods, which is the practice of the third group, does not produce as accurate results as calculations do. It is wrong to follow such a procedure, as is the case with the practice of the second group, by following a different path from all people. It is declared in a hadith-i sharif written in Durar:
(Your fasting is on the day when everybody fasts. Your breaking the fast is on the day when everybody breaks the fast.) [Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud]
This hadith-i sharif means:
(When everybody starts fasting, start fasting. When everybody celebrates Eid, celebrate Eid.)
The sacrifices Muslims offer on Arafa Day on the assumption that it is the day of Eid al-Adha are valid as they do not know the Islamically correct day for Eid. This means to say that the practice of the first group of people is fitting.
Conclusion: We scientifically say that the prayer times are correct that have been used by our predecessors for 150 years and that the Türkiye Calendar has adopted. The prayer times that have been used since 1983 are without tamkin. If our calculations were wrong, there would be no harm in performing a prayer 5-10 minutes after the beginning of the time prescribed for it or in stopping eating and drinking 10-20 minutes before the breaking of dawn. If the calculations of our predecessors are correct, the prayers that are performed before their due times will be invalid.
(For a detailed discourse on tamkin time, please refer to the article Different Calendars and Timetables.)
Two make-up fasts
Question: After the month of Ramadan, why do we have to keep not one but two additional make-up fasts, just in case we may have been mistaken in the beginning day of Ramadan?
If it is not certain whether the first and the last fast-days coincided with Ramadan, that is, if fasts are observed not according to the sighting of the New Moon but according to calendars, these two days are considered dubious. Hence, in places where the month of Ramadan is not determined by moon sighting, but is started by relying upon calendars, it is questionable whether Ramadan begins or not. Since the fasts are not valid that are observed on the days when it is questionable whether they are Ramadan days or not, it is written in dependable books, such as Bahr, Hindiyya, Kadihan, that it is necessary to keep two additional make-up fasts.
Mercury was mistaken for the New Moon
Question: Why is fasting started a day earlier in the Gulf countries every year? Since technology is well advanced today, is it not possible to determine beforehand the day when the New Moon of Ramadan will be sighted?
There is no defect or shortcoming in the order established by Allahu ta’ala. It is possible to know well in advance the times and the minutes when the Sun and the Moon will rise and set. They do not rise or set a minute or a second before the times indicated by calculations. The New Moon of a new month rises at the calculated time. It does not rise a second earlier or later. The reason for this confusion is that fasting is started a day earlier on the grounds that the New Moon has been seen in such and such a country, though it has not been seen. They never announce that the New Moon has been seen after the calculated day, but always announce that it has been seen before the calculated day, which is against both science and the religion. However, if they say instead of it that they could not sight the Moon because of clouds and thus celebrate Eid a day after, no one can say anything. It is very wrong to claim that the New Moon has been sighted ahead of time. An academic from a university states that starting to fast earlier stems from ignorance and that the planet Mercury is mistaken for the New Moon. According to the reports that appeared in newspapers on 16 October 2006, Mohammed Shawkat, one of the teaching staff at Al Ain University, stated: “The countries that observe the fast according to the announcements of Saudis started to fast on Saturday, September 23. But it was impossible for the New Moon to be sighted on Friday and for the Moon to set before the Sun that day. The Moon had set in Mecca that day two minutes before sunset. It is impossible to see the Moon before its due time.”
The days of Ramadan and Eid
Question: A person says, “I have 20 years’ experience with regard to Moon sighting, so I know this issue well. Saudis take the sighting of the Moon as the basis but act upon calculations. People in Turkey, on the other hand, take calculations as the basis but act upon the sighting of the Moon. Both are wrong. If conjunction takes place, let us say, on Saturday, Ramadan starts on Sunday.” Is it true?
I am 70 years old, and I have 40 years’ experience. In spite of this, it would be wrong to say, “It is I who know this issue best.” Studying much on a particular subject or being advanced in years does not mean necessarily knowing the truth. Even though the calculations of the Directorate of Religious Affairs are accurate, it is wrong for them to announce it beforehand. It would be proper if it were said so:
“According to calculations, conjunction will take place on such and such a day at such and such an hour. The New Moon will be sighted the following day from such and such a country’s such and such a city or such and such cities. According to our religion, not the rising of the New Moon but the sighting of it is a requirement. If the New Moon is not sighted in any location of the world, Ramadan starts not that day but the following day.”
By and large, calculations prove correct because the New Moon is sighted in some locations of the world.
Our deceased master, who had 70 years’ experience on this subject, quoted the following pieces of information from dependable Islamic books:
In a hadith-i sharif quoted in Maraq-il falah, it is declared, “When you see the Moon, start fasting. When you see it again, stop fasting.” According to this command, the month of Ramadan begins when the New Moon is first sighted. In Ibn Abidin, Ashi’at-ul-lama’at, and Ni’mat-i Islam, the authors note that starting to fast by calculation or by referring to a calendar before seeing the New Moon is not permissible. It is wajib-i kifaya to look for the New Moon on the 30th night of the month of Sha’ban after sunset and to go to the Qadi and inform him as soon as the New Moon is sighted. Taqiy-y-ud-din Muhammad Ibni Daqiq states that the New Moon can never be sighted before one or two days have passed after ijtima’i nayyirayn (conjunction).
For it to be Ramadan, the New Moon must be observed after sunset on the 29th of Sha’ban. If it cannot be seen, the month of Sha’ban must be completed with 30 days. In cloudy weather when ‘adil Muslim says he or she has seen the New Moon, and in clear weather when a lot of people say that they have seen it, the Qadi, that is, the judge who executes Islamic laws, announces that it is Ramadan. At places without a Qadi, Ramadan begins when an ‘adil person says that he has seen the New Moon. It is determined to be Eid when two ‘adil people say they have seen the New Moon. It is written in Hindiyya as well that it is not permissible to begin fasting in Ramadan or to stop fasting in order to celebrate Eid by taking a calendar or calculation as a guide.
The first day of Ramadan (determined and whereby the fast is) started upon seeing the New Moon can be a day after that which is estimated by calculation. The purpose of these calculations is not to determine the time when the lunar month begins, but to determine the night when the New Moon can be seen. Imam-i Subki also said so. We should not believe people who falsify the Imam’s statement. (Tahtawi and Sharnblali)
Hadrat Ibn Abidin states as follows on the 289th page of the first volume, during the discourse on how to find the direction of qibla:
“Calendars should not be trusted in learning the first day of Ramadan because the fast becomes fard after the New Moon is seen in the sky. The Messenger of Allah declared, ‘Begin to fast when you see the New Moon.’ On the other hand, the appearing of the New Moon depends on calculation, not on seeing it; calculation is valid, and the New Moon appears on the night indicated by calculation. Yet it can be seen on the following night instead of that night, and it is necessary to begin the fast on the night it is seen, not on the night it must appear [according to the calculation]. Such is the commandment of Islam” [Endless Bliss].
This person continues to say:
“Though we know that it is wrong, we, too, will start fasting on Monday instead of on Sunday just to avoid causing disunity.”
It is very wrong. If Ramadan began on Sunday, one could fast secretly without informing anyone of one’s fast. If Sunday were the first day of Ramadan, it would be haram not to fast that day. If the last day of Ramadan were Eid, it would again be haram to fast that day.
A valiant Copt recounts his larceny when he means to display his valor, as the saying goes. That is, it means a Copt who is courageous recounts his thefts when he narrates his deeds of valor. They, in the same way, say publicly that they are committing haram with their 20 years’ experience. To present commission of a haram as valor must be a sign of Doomsday.
To begin the fast on Sunday and to celebrate Eid on the last day of Ramadan is totally contrary to the religion, as is explained above.