When moon-sighting ends up as
Sh. Sikander Ziad Hashmi - Ramadan 1425
Once again, we find a moon sighting controversy on our hands.
Regardless of whether or not the Ramadhan moon was really sighted in
Austin, Texas, and whatever the status of the testimony, one thing
is for sure: It leaves the average Muslim in a state of confusion.
What should we do? Who do we follow?
Moon sighting differences are nothing new. With the absence of an
established Muslim leadership (which is a separate topic
altogether), such differences are almost inevitable. It may seem
like a big fuss over something minor, but in reality, many of these
controversies are caused by significant (albeit seemingly small)
differences in understanding, interpretation, and application of the
rules of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). They may seem small but they
are significant because they make the difference between fast and no
fast, and Eid and no Eid.
The fact that the moon sighting decision plays a vital role in the
population’s carrying out (or lack thereof) of its obligations (such
as fasts) goes to show how weighty and important these decisions
are. Surely, such decisions should be made by those who are
trustworthy and who are experts in the field, in this case Fiqh,
since it is Islamic jurisprudence that spells out when whose
testimony is acceptable, and under which conditions. After all, moon
sighting for the Islamic lunar calendar is a religious matter that
has been practiced since the time of the Prophet (SAW).
Therefore, individuals who are righteous, trustworthy, and are well
versed with Islamic jurisprudence and law should make moon-sighting
decisions. Similarly, when there is a difference of opinion, we
should try to follow organizations whose leadership consists of such
For those of us who are of the investigative nature, it might so
happen that we learn the decision made by the leaders in our
community was incorrect. In such cases, if there are two groups in
the community, we should follow the one that seems to be correct.
When all the leaders in the community make a unanimous moon sighting
decision we feel is incorrect, we don’t have a choice and following
the unanimous decision is incumbent upon us.
Ultimately, the responsibility for making the correct decision lies
squarely on the shoulders of those making the decisions. Any
consequences or repercussions from incorrect decisions are purely
their responsibility and the average Muslim has nothing to worry
Since it is not our responsibility, we should try to refrain from
creating discord and fitnah in the community by publicly bashing the
decision makers and encouraging dissent, although constructive
criticism may be given in a civil manner if it may help in improving
the situation. As well, there’s nothing wrong in advising others to
follow a certain organization instead of another if one is aware of
problems in the latter’s decision-making process.
Quite often in such situations, families and friends end up being
split over whom to follow. Those who have opted to follow the
‘other’ side shouldn’t be targeted or put down. Everyone should be
free to follow whomever he or she trusts most.
Now, a difference in the start-date of Ramadhan begs the question:
When do the possible nights of Laylatul Qadr (Nights of Power) fall
(since one group’s odd days will be another’s even)?
What must be understood is that Allah and His divine mechanism (i.e.
angels, etc.) are neither restricted by nor bound to time, days, and
dates. The dates and times specified to us, such as the odd nights
of the last 10 nights of Ramadhan, are just for our (i.e. the human
being’s) understanding and organization. Thus, each group can seek
out the Nights of Power according to its own calendar and
Insha-Allah, each person will receive the intended reward on the
basis of his or her intention. After all, differences in dates have
almost always occurred since the beginning of the Islamic lunar
calendar, since there has never been a universal, global calendar.
The dates have always varied, based on when each community was able
to see the moon.
May Allah (SW) make this a blessed and fruitful month for all of us,
regardless of when we chose to start it!