Moon sighting in Islam and the rules

Muslim Moon Wars

How moonsighting is established islamically
Using Modern equipment
Local vs Global
Problem with Saudi
Necessary to follow local mosque

What is Moon sighting?

Year after Year, Eid after Eid, Muslims debate on what the correct day is for Ramadhan, Eid, Hajj, etc. There have been instances of countries keeping only 28 fasts in total and at other times lengthening this to 31. There are various approaches scholars take on moon sighting. The most prominent ones being:

  1. Local sighting
  2. Global sighting
  3. Following Saudi Arabia
  4. Using modern equipment to determine the new moon

What is a New Moon?

A New Moon is a term to determine when the Moon has completed it’s cycle around the earth. Each phase has a name, as historically the moon was used to determine time periods, navigate, etc.

The Moon takes 27.3 days to orbit Earth, but the lunar phase cycle (from new Moon to new Moon) is 29.5 days. The Moon spends the extra 2.2 days ‘catching up’ because the Earth travels about 45 million miles around the Sun during the time the Moon completes one orbit around Earth.

At the New Moon phase, the Moon is between the Sun and the Earth. Have a look at the image below, the light of the Sun only hits the side of the Moon closer to the Sun (so the side that faces us is unlit) and because it’s daytime, it further reduces visibility.

You might ask why we can’t see the new moon at night. That’s because the new moon is not in the sky at night. It rises with the sun and sets with the sun.

The closest you can get to seeing a new moon is a waxing crescent right after the sun sets. This crescent is seen only very briefly after sunset. Right after the Sun sets, and the Sun’s glare fades in dusk, the very slim crescent becomes visible, and then the Moon shortly thereafter sets…and can’t be seen for the rest of the night. This is known as hilāl in Islam.

Because, the orbit of the moon is elliptical and in its orbit, the moon moves faster when it is closer to the earth, and slower when it is farther from earth. When it moves faster, the moon becomes visible at smaller age (like 17 hours), and when it moves slower, it becomes visible at larger age (like 23 hours).

The Waxing Crescent is the common Crescent we all see. This appears after 17-23 hours of a New Moon; as this is a nearly a day, it can’t be used to determine the new day. A day would have passed and technically we would have lost a ‘day’. It can be used, however, to determine when the moon cycle began. Let’s say Saudi Arabia sight the Moon on the 1st of August, but we see the Waxing Crescent on the 3rd of August, then this is 48 hours later and may suggest, that in fact there was a New Moon on the 2nd August.

Other Phases of the Moon

Aside from this, there are other phases of the Moon.

  • New Moon
  • Waxing crescent
  • Waxing
  • Waxing gibbous
  • Full Moon
  • Waning gibbous 
  • Last Quarter
  • Waning gibbous
  • Waning crescent

We’re all familiar with the Full Moon during the 13th, 14th and 15th day as known by the White days and the days where the Prophet used to fast.

Muslim moon wars

It’s always difficult to understand the Moon Cycle as most images are in 2D so it’s always worth looking for 3D demonstrations. And because the earth is not spherical, and the orbit of the earth around the Sun is not equal on each side and that the earth is tilted at certain times of the year, this make Moon sighting even more interesting!

Determining the new month in Islam

Now that we understand the Phases of the Moon and what a New Moon is, let’s look at what Islam says about the New Moon.

Although the Qur’an does not tell us how to sight the New Moon, it highlights the importance of sighting the moon. The sighting in fact enters us in to a special month.

Allah ﷻ states:

The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast…

Quran 2:185

In the hadith tradition, the Sahaba asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ the following:

What is the state of the moon? (At first) it becomes apparent and rises thin as a thread; then it increases (in size) until it becomes large and it reaches its zenith; it then turns and begins to decrease and becomes small (in size) until it returns to how it was upon the first state?

Upon this question being asked, verse 189 of Surah al-Baqarah was revealed.

They ask you, (O dear Prophet Mohammed ﷺ), regarding the crescents; say, ‘They are indicators of time for mankind and for Hajj (the pilgrimage)’…

Quran 2:189

Using the Moon to determine the months bears some significance in Islam. Therefore it’s important that we get it right.

Method of determining the New Moon

We can see the method used in determining the new moon by how the Prophet ﷺ determined the month of Ramadan.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger ﷺ said: Observe fast on sighting it (i.e. the new moon) and break (fast) on sighting it (i.e. month ends), but if the sky is cloudy for you, then complete the number (of thirty).

Sahih al-Muslim

The above hadith indicates that the New Moon determines the Month and The New Moon is established by witnessing the initial crescent (hilal). However, if the skies are cloudy, then to fast 30 days.

We have not discussed the 29 or 30 days Moon cycle yet.

The Moon cycle is approximately 29.5 days. This means there is a new Moon either on the 29th day or the 30th day. We can use modern instruments to determine the exact lunar cycle length, but this is difficult to determine otherwise (although it was possible using maths/astronomy). The Lunar cycle is never 31 days hence the instruction was to fast 30 days, as once 30 days have passed then, there is definitely a new month.

Let’s say it is the 29th day on the 1st July and we cannot see the initial crescent because of an overcast. So we would then begin fasting on the 3rd July. However on night of the 3rd, we see a clear waxing crescent.. it might suggest that the 2nd July was the actual beginning of the Month. But due to the method stipulated by the Prophet, the new month will begin on the 3rd.

When it comes to Ramadhan (or any other month), the Prophetic method is to go out to witness the moon on the eve of the 29th day of the month (29th Shabaan). If the moon is sighted then Shabaan has been completed and Ramadan commences the next day. But if the moon is not sighted, Shabaan is deemed to be 30 days long and Ramadan will start the day after.

We are not the first of people to debate and establish criteria for determining the new month. The Hanafi’s have established methods of sighting and confirming the month – See Moon Sighting in Accordance with Hanafi Fiqh.

The Moon Sighting Debate

Now that we know how to sight the Moon in Islam, there is difference in opinion of whether one can accept the Moon sighting of another in another locality or whether one should do their own sighting.

The arguments for Local Sighting

Local sighting refers to every community, city or country to establish whether the month has begun or not. It is possible for the month to start in one locality and not another.

A locality is defined by…

Many people in the UK establish it by considering countries in the same time zone, or a country that is nearby. Morocco being nearby and also sharing the same time zone is considered to be local. But some of these same people, will also accept testimony from South Africa, which is significantly further away, but as it still shares the same time zone, i.e. they will see the hilal when we see it, if we could, then it’s like one and the same thing.

The other argument for a local sighting is the argument that a global sighting does not work.

Some people ask for a unified Eid.. for the whole Ummah to do it together. But unity does not equate to doing the same thing at the same time. the main problem is.. How can the whole world began Ramadhan on the same day when it is not even the same calendar day in every location on the earth?

Imam Shaafi’i is of the opinion that each locality should have their own sighting, and they are not obligated to adopt the sighting of another location. He used the following as evidence:

Once one of the companions, Kuraib narrated that Um Ul-Fadl has sent him to visit Muaa’wia in As-Shaam (Syria). He said: ‘I went to As-Shaam and accomplished the purpose of my visit, and while I was there, Ramadaan started; I had seen the crescent moon on Thursday night, and then went back to Madinah at the end of the month. Ibn Abbaas mentioned the crescent moon asking, ‘When did you see the crescent moon?’ I replied: ‘We saw it on Thursday night.’ Ibn Abbaas then asked: ‘Kuraib, did you see it?’ I answered: ‘Yes! And the people had seen it, and they fasted, and so did Muaa’wia.’ So Ibn Abbaas said: ‘But we had seen it Friday night, so we will fast until we complete thirty days or until we see the crescent moon. I then asked: ‘Aren’t you satisfied with Muaa’wia’s sighting and his fasting?’ Ibn Abbaas answered: ‘No, this is what the Messenger of Allaah had ordered us to do. [Recorded by Imaam Muslim, and others]

This suggests that although it was clear that hilal was sighted in another part of the world, it was not necessary for the chief of the home country to accept the sighting. Ibn Abbas went out to look for the hilal, but it could not be seen, so they established the month for Saturday.

It could be argued, that as it was nearly the end of the month, if Ibn Abbas accepted the sighting it would mean everyone needs to make up a fast and also makes it possible that they will fast for only 28 days.

Maybe if, in today’s age, that message came during the 1st of Ramadhan, they would have started with Syria. However this still would not be incumbent for the Ameer to accept.

The arguments for Global Sighting

This is the idea that if someone, wherever in the world sights the Moon, then this should be accepted as a valid sighting and reason for the rest of us to start Ramadhan.

According to the Hanafis, Malikis and Hanbalis, the difference of the horizons is not considered between cities/countries. In other words, if a valid sighting of the moon is established in one city, the Judge of a second city can accept this ruling. However, on the other hand can reject it, based on the hadith of Ibn Abbas.

This means a Global fast or Eid is possible however, does not negate the use of local sightings. Even if we depend on or can prove a sighting from another city or country, a local sighting (whether positive or negative) is a must.

As Saudi Arabia often declare the witnessing of the moon, many communities in the UK accept the sighting and also start with Saudi.

The guiding principle is mentioned in the hadith,

‘The fast is the day you all fast; the breaking of fast is on the day that you all break fast; and the day of sacrifice is on the day that you all sacrifice.’[13] Al-Tirmidhi said, ‘Some scholars explained this hadith to mean that fasting and breaking the fast should be done with the Muslim body [jama’ah] or the majority of people.’

This means that the common person does not have his own sighting of the moon or follow his own decision. The matters of beginning Ramaḍān and confirming Eid are not private affairs; they are decisions which affect the ummah and therefore have to be taken on that level. None can do this except the leader of the Muslims. When there is no leader then the majority of Muslims represent the opinion of the Ummah.

The Hanafi Scholars say: The difference of the moon sighting localities, and sighting the moon during the daytime whether before midday or after it are not considered in terms of determining the beginning or the end of the month. This is in accordance with the preponderant opinion in the Hanafi School. It is also the opinion viewed by most of the Hanafi scholars, and it is also the opinion followed in giving fatwas. Therefore, the people of the east are duty bound to follow the new moon sighting of the people of the west if it is proved that they have sighted the moon in a sound and binding way, such as when two men bear witness that they have sighted the new moon, or if they testify to the judgement of the Judge, or if the news of the sighting of the moon becomes well-known to everyone. This does not apply to the case when one reports that the people of such and such city have sighted the new moon, for this is considered a reported speech.

The Maliki scholars say: If the crescent is sighted somewhere, people should fast everywhere, whether they live close or far away. People are not to consider in this regard the distance required for shortening the prayer nor the unity in sighting localities or its non-existence. Hence, fasting is obligatory for everyone who is informed about the sighting of the crescent if this sighting is reported by two reliable witnesses or a big group of people.

The Hanbali scholars say : If the crescent has been sighted in a certain locality, be it near or far, all the people are obligated to fast. The ruling of the one who has not sighted the crescent is the same as that of the one who has sighted it.

Note that the School of Malik was largely based on the customs of the Madinan peoples. So as per the ibn Abbas opinion of sighting the moon locally, it suggests it may have been because it was late in the day.

One problem we would have with such a Global sighting is that, time difference. Lets’ explore: It’s the 29th of Ramadan in California and 8PM as the Sun is about to set, people have gone out to sight the moon. If the Moon is sighted then it is Eid the following day. This will be classed as a 29 day month. If the Moon is not sighted then by default, Eid will be celebrated in 2 days. This will be classed as a 30 day month.

At the time of witnessing the moon in California on the 29th of Ramadan at 8pm, it is 20th July 2019 and in the rest of the world it is:

  • 4am in London (21st July 2019)
  • 4am in Marrakech (21st July 2019)
  • 6am in Makkah (21st July 2019)
  • 8am Islamabad (21st July 2019)
  • 11am Shanghai (21st July 2019)
  • 1pm Melbourne (21st July 2019)

At this point, no one else in the world has a confirmed sighting. The people of London, Marrakesh, Makkah, Islamabad, Shanghai and Melbourne are all in a state of fast. Those is London, Marrakech and Makkah could possibly revoke their fast and pray the Eid Salah. But those in Shanghai and Melbourne would have missed the morning for Eid announcement and prayer, they all slept with the intention of fast. This would appear to be a logistical nightmare. There would have to be 2 days of Eid.

Let’s look at the opposite.

At the time of witnessing the moon in Melbourne on the 29th of Ramadan at 8pm, it is 20th July 2019 and in the rest of the world it is:

  • 3 am Los Angeles (20th July 2019)
  • 11am London (20th July 2019)
  • 11am Marrakech (20th July 2019)
  • 1pm Makkah (20th July 2019)
  • 3pm Islamabad (20th July 2019)
  • 6pm Shanghai (20th July 2019)
  • 8pm Melbourne (20th July 2019)

At this point, no one else in the world has a confirmed sighting. It’s Sunset in Melbourne first. In this situation, news can reach shanghai, Islamabad, Makkah, Marrakach, London and Los Angeles that the Moon has been sighted and for them to celebrate Eid on the 21st July 2019. It’s possible to have one day for Eid.

Finally let’s use example of Saudi Arabia. At the time of witnessing the moon in Makkah on the 29th of Ramadan at 8pm, it is 20th July 2019 and in the rest of the world it is:

  • 10 am Los Angeles (20th July 2019)
  • 6pm London (20th July 2019)
  • 6pm Marrakech (20th July 2019)
  • 8pm Makkah (20th July 2019)
  • 10pm Islamabad (20th July 2019)
  • 1am Shanghai (20th July 2019)
  • 3am Melbourne (20th July 2019)

At this point, no one else in the world has a confirmed sighting. In this situation, news can reach Marrakesh, London and Los Angeles that the Moon has been sighted and for them to celebrate Eid on the 21st July 2019. But the evening for Islamabad, Shanghai and Melbourne has already commenced. They would have declared, no moon sighted therefore 30 day month. There would be a split of 2 days.

The presence of numerous hadith on this issue only indicates that even the Companions and their later contemporaries differed about the start and end of Ramadan, such difference did not cause disunity among them, and so there is no reason why it should for us.

With this being said, a global sighting does not mean we are not in need of local sightings, even if a sighting from another country/city is established, we must attempt to make local sightings too.

Using Modern Scientific Instruments

There are three positions here:

  1. Using the naked eye only
  2. Using the naked eye to establish but allowing the use of instruments like a telescope
  3. Using modern more accurate methods and calculations

Some jurists stick to the letter of the text whilst others try to implement the text in spirit. The main premise of the argument is in the following hadith. It is specified to sight the moon.

Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (Allah is pleased with him) that the Messenger ﷺ said: Observe fast on sighting it (i.e. the new moon) and break (fast) on sighting it (i.e month ends), but if the sky is cloudy for you, then complete the number (of thirty).

Sahih al-Muslim

The Arabic word for sighting – mentioned in the hadith – is ru’yah. Some state that ru’yah here refers ru’yah basri, which is to sight the moon physically with the ‘naked eye’. Whereas other scholars state that ru’yah here refers to ru’yah ilmi, which is to have knowledge of the moon being above the horizon and visible, without the need to physically sight it.

The first set of scholars argue that in fact Muslims were capable of calculating the moon’s birth centuries ago to a highly accurate degree. They used sophisticated charts to determine when and where the moon could be sighted. The astronomer, mathematician, engineer, and jurist all had methods of calculation, yet the method of physical sighting took precedence. It is not befitting for this to change now.

Muslim moon wars

Ibn Hajar (1372 – 1449 CE), said, ‘This (completing thirty days of Sha’bān) is an indication that we should not refer to calculations or astronomy. The Prophet guided us to completing thirty days of Sha’bān while he could have guided us to consider other means that enable us to know the beginning of the astronomical month’.

There is also a position that holds sighting with the naked eye is also worship since it is a means of establishing the month of fasting. It is classed as a declaratory law assigned by Allah to determine the beginning of Ramadan. The classical scholars were profoundly well-versed in science, especially geography and astronomy, and capable of making calculations of moon sightings but did not do so, as they considered it an abandonment of prophetic practice.

The latter set of scholars argue some earlier jurists literally applied the Prophetic words and connected the five times daily prayers with the poles, shadow and movements of the Sun. They categorically prohibited use of astronomically calculated clocks in determining prayer timings. Then clock timings were made of use and currently a norm. Likewise calculations were not permitted to determine Qiblah directions, e.g. the modern compass. So it is only a matter of time, when we establish scientific methods to determine the true beginning of the lunar month. That in fact the whole purpose of witnessing is by using the best means possible, as times have changed, the means have changed too, and so we would in fact be acting in accordance with Islamic doctrine.

One benefit sighted by the use of instruments is that, where using instruments we can confirm that the moon cannot be sighted and that it is impossible. And then somebody claims to have seen the initial crescent with the naked eye, then do we take the report of the expert in to account or do we take the testimony of sighter?.

Muslim moon wars

Due to the hypothetical nature of this situation, most scholars remain silent on their position and are not apt enough to comment. During the time of Abu Hanifa, hypothetical matters were discussed thus large documentation of various scenarios were discussed, as per the post here. The Scholars of our time also need to step up.

  • The Hanafis say: ‘It can not be depended upon someone who works with calculations and fixed timing in asserting the month for because he is disagreeing with the way of the Prophet ﷺ’
  • The Malikis say: The view of the crescent cannot be asserted by the saying of someone who calculates the flow of the mood and its orbit neither for himself nor for someone else because Allaah, the Legislator, made fasting and ending the fasting rely of the vie of the crescent not on its existence; this is even if the person who did the calculations is right. So the work with the astronomical observatories even if they were right is not allowed.’
  • The Hanbalis say: We should not fast according to the stars and calculations even if they were right, for many times for they do not rely on legitimate basis.

Many scholars to accept the use of a basic telescope though, just as we use glasses to correct vision, the telescope can be used to ‘zoom’ in.

In addition to the view that physical sighting must go hand in hand with scientific calculations in circumstances when it is absolutely impossible to physically sight the moon. The ISCNA moon sighting program has set up a system where people who claim sighting the moon call the headquarters. The scientists then examine this information and discuss the various nuances with the reporter to establish the veracity of his sighting.

Another argument for this need is that there are many man made objects in the skies, and multiple opinions are needed to verify the sighting.

Refuting some of the arguments

The proponents of determining the start of Ramadan purely by calculations offer two main arguments. First, the Hadith “Do not fast until you see the crescent-moon, and do not break the fast until you have seen the crescent moon, but if conditions are overcast for you then enumerate for it.” [Bukhari] They cite the statement, “then enumerate for it” as evidence for the permissibility of calculation. Second, they say that calculations were not used during the Prophet’s time because the people were “unlettered,” however, we are now educated and advanced in astronomy, there is no harm in calculating alone. 

The first argument cannot be sustained because if “enumerate” in the above hadith is in fact referring to calculation, it would only indicate the permissibility of calculations in overcast conditions. In addition, the meaning of “enumerate” is clarified by another narration of the hadith by Bukhari (also, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibban and al-Tayalisi), “Then complete the number of [days of] Sha`ban as thirty.” [Nasb al-Rayah, 2/437-8] This hadith clarifies what is meant by “enumerate” in the first narration is to count thirty days, for the first narration is general and imprecise (mujmal), whereas the second is explicit (mubayyan), clarifying the imprecision in the first. Ibn Rushd says, “It is obligatory to refer the mujmal to the mubayyan, and this is the way of the scholars of usul, without any disagreement.” [Bidayat al-Mujtahid, 1/284]

The second argument about the people being “unlettered” is refuted by the fact that there were many among the Companions who were not only well read but also scholarly. In fact, what “unlettered” refers to is that the means for determining the month are simple, not requiring sophisticated science or education, equally accessible to all people, scientists as well as non-scientists. 

The Middle Way

Islam is a strong proponent of using reason. Today the fact is that astronomy can accurately establish the time of birth of the new moon, and the time interval when it is impossible to see the crescent-moon due its not yet being present. Thus, there is no harm in using this astronomical basis to reject a claimed sighting which cannot possibly be correct. Indeed, this is similar to rejecting the claim of someone who claims to have seen the crescent-moon on the 27th night of Shabaan! 

In the same vein of using reason, Islam asks us to use the scientific method. Thus, if a sighting is reported when it was absolutely impossible for it to have occurred, it will be rejected, even if the one reporting it is an upright Muslim. This rejection is attributed to genuine misjudgement, which does not diminish the person’s Islamic uprightness and acceptability as a witness. Numerous renowned as well as recent and contemporary scholars support this view.

Inevitably because of this difference, we will always see Eid celebrated on different days. Turkey base their calendar on the birth of the new Moon. So if the Moon is not sighted, then the instruction is to start the month in two days, whereas if turkey can prove that there is a new moon, then they will accept it as beginning of the month.

Follow Saudi argument

Many people regard Saudi, or Mecca as the epicentre of the Muslim world, so we should follow the sighting of the moon made by Saudi.

This also makes Saudi a laughing stock counties in the west can see they ar ewrong/

The Saudi Um ul Qura

Contrary to popular belief, the Umm al-Qura calendar system is not established on actual moon sighting but the certainty that the moon will be seen somewhere in the world within a given period. As well s using calculations whether there is a new moon.

Eid al Fitr: Did Saudi Arabia Mistake Saturn for the Shawwal Moon?
Saturnine faces as astronomers query moon sighting over Saudi Arabia

Due to this large Muslims are reluctant to follow Saudi.

Those from the astronomy community have declared that Saudi Arabia’s alleged sighting was scientifically impossible. In other words, the moon was not yet large enough to be detected by the human eye, or even a conventional telescope.

As we can see in the image below, Saudi Arabia falls outside of the visibility curves, and it would not be possible to have sighted the moon there at all.

The data used to create this image comes from HMNAO – Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office. You can read more directly from their website, which confirms the moon was not visible in Saudi here.


It is not possible to begin the fast on the same day across the world however I do believe it is important to do so in local communities. So in the UK an option is to set up an independent committee who determine and pass verdicts for the beginning of each Islamic month, just like we have committees who establish the Juma prayer in communities.

Or to appoint an official Qadi in Morroco who can relay the verdict of the Moroccon courts to the UK. This will help in starting the month on a single day in the UK, as we don’t have an issue of sighting, but of following an authority.

To sight the moon with the eye. The basis for this doctrine is numerous Prophetic traditions [ahadith]; Abu Hurayrah relates that the Prophet, may Allāh praise and send peace and blessings upon him, said, ‘Fast when you see it (i.e., the moon) and cease fasting when you see it, and if it is hidden or cloudy, complete the counting of Sha’bān as thirty days.’


Do you have to follow your local mosque even if you disagree?

There is the principle of following the masses, a hadith mentions:

The fast is the day you all fast; the breaking of fast is on the day that you all break fast; and the day of sacrifice is on the day that you all sacrifice.Al-Tirmidhi


Al-Tirmidhi says, ‘Some scholars explained this hadith to mean that fasting and breaking the fast should be done with the Muslim body [jama’ah] or the majority of people.’

This means that the lay man does not have his own sighting of the moon or follow his own decision. The matters of beginning Ramadān and confirming ‘Īd are not private affairs; they are decisions which affect the ummah and therefore have to be taken on that level. None can do this except the leader of the Muslims. When there is no leader then the majority of Muslims represent the opinion of the ummah.

So it will be incorrect for Muslims to celebrate alone, or where it is EID. It is important to remember the essence of the day is celebration, this is with one’s family and the Muslims, and so it would be inappropriate to be single oneself out due to one’s opinion.

Why aren’t there 28 days or 31 days in a month?

The moon revolves around the earth in an elliptical orbit, therefore, this cycle either takes 29 or 30 days to complete. This is why there is always only a dispute over 2 days, because no lunar month lasts more than 30 days or less than 28 days. However,  if say, Saudi confirm moon sighting on a Monday where there’s some doubt and 29 days later, it’s confirmed that Shawaal has started due to clear moon sighting, it means that those who started fasting on the Tuesday will have only fasted 28 days.

Another problem that may persist is the Night of Qadr, depending on when you class as the 1st of the month, the 27th night will fall on a different day, i.e. the 27th odd night will be an even night for others. Some scholars have used this natural difference to say Laylatul Qadr can appear on any of the last 10 nights of the month.

Importance of sighting

Pre Islam – The Jews and Makkan polytheists used to synchronize their lunar calendar with the civic solar calendar by arbitrary intercalations. The lunar year consisted of 354 days while the solar year was 365 days. The Hajj would fall sometimes in winter and on others times in spring or summer. The Polytheists wanted Hajj to fall during specific seasons for political and economic reasons. That is why they intercalated a thirteenth month after each three or four years to synchronize the lunar with the solar year. That changed the Hajj from its original sacred timing of Zil Hajjah to other months like Muharram, Safar or Rabi’ al-Awwal. The Qur’an abolished that practice and brought the time back to its original form. (Qur’an 9:36–37) The Prophet (PBUH) commanded Muslims to connect the sacred months of worship back to their original timings. The only mean available at that time to determine the month was either by physical moon sighting or completing 30 days in case of climatic obscurities such as clouds. That is why the Prophet (PBUH) emphasized either actual moon sighting or completion or counting.

Timing of Sahoor in the UK

Over the last few years due to the Summer months in the UK, the timings of sahoor have varied from mosque to mosque. All have valid opinions. I ‘ll explain briefly.

The beginning time for the Fajr prayer is the start of the time for fasting according to all Muslim scholars. The basis of this consensus is the verse,

And eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Saum (fast) till the nightfall.

Quran 2:187

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) instructed the Companions,

The athān (call to prayer) of Bilāl should not prevent you from eating Sahūr (predawn meal) because he gives athān at night, therefore keep eating and drinking until you hear the athān of ʿAbdullāh b. Umm Makktum. He (ʿAbdullāh b. Umm Makktum) gives athān when the fajr comes out.


The Fajr referred to in the ḥadīth is the true Fajr: al-Subh al-Sadiq. Samrah ibn Jundub related that the Prophet stated, “The vertical light (al-Fajr al-Mustateel which is the false Fajr) should not prevent you from eating (Sahoor). You can eat and drink until the light appears to spread (al-Fajr al-Mustateer – the true Fajr).

Scholars differ on what is the Subh Sadiq in the summer months. Generally, sahoor is established when the ‘white thread’ appears in the night sky, this is known as true dawn and is established when the Sun is between 12- 18 degrees below the horizon. However in the Summer as the night is so short, experts claim that the Sun does not set beyond 18 degrees and enter the period of ‘night’ i.e. where there is total darkeness.

As a result scholars have varied opinions on when the Subh  Sadiq shall occur. Some say we should estimate the time based on the last best known time of Subh Sdiq, i.e. follow the 18 degree principle. Others say, since there is no night, an estimation should be made on the typical length of the ‘night’ and Fajr begins during 12 degrees. This in reality is about a difference of about an hour. Finally some mosques in the north remain strict on their interpretation and hold the time for Fajr to be where the sun returns to rise. Typically this is 45 minutes before the more common 18  degree prciniple.

All opinions are valid and you are free to follow one and stick by it.

The motion of the moon is different from the motion of other planets.

The journey of the later can be determined precisely, while the journey of the moon is affected by many changing factors, which leave its marks on its motion, whereby it lessens the degree of certainty in describing its journey?
Answer: The motion of the planets and the moon can be calculated with accuracy. That’s why eclipses are calculated so accurately to the minutes and seconds.

I’ve been told that we always see the same side of the moon.

The moon rotates around its own axis in about the same time as it takes to circle the earth. These two motions cause the same side of the moon turned towards earth in general. Due to some variations in these motions and some other minor phenomena (liberation and wobbling), the people from earth can only see about 59% of the moon’s surface at different times and place, which is a little more than (50% of the lunar surface) one side of the moon as seen from earth.

Other sites:

Muslim moon wars

7 thoughts on “Moon sighting in Islam and the rules

    1. No-one should blame an agenda or issue with another sect, especially when we all cannot sort our own houses out. if Wahaabi, Sunni, Shia or Salafi, it does not matter.

      We need to learn and evolve, we need grasp others knowledge, techniques and good-habits and bring in to our lives.

      Just like the prophet Muhammad S.A.W did, by following the laws of the lands where he travelled to and took the goodness and used it to their benefit.

      The prophet s.a.w never criticised or blamed any human, race or religion, they used to teach their ways and showed how their way was beneficial and convinced people. not argued, not blamed, not shouted or finger pointed.


  1. I find it interesting that people just want a topic to argue about, i think it s aproblem in communities because theres a split. Like you say how can there possibly a 27th twice!

    1. The 27th is not the issue, as the hadith teaches us to pray on the last ten night, it is any given night but there are more signs pointing towards the 27th, and one of the odd nights of the last 10, hence search the Qadr in itikaaf. the last 10 nights.

  2. why comment and n something that you have limited knowledge to

    And a lot of your articles are the same

    It’s a pity because you seem to be a good writer but always negative and taking the Mick out haircuts hijabs restaurants foods

    Leave it out no place for critics in Islam

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