This post is based on the works by Mufti Wajid Iqbal, Essential Islam, UK.
A new moon is looked out for on the 29th of the month. There are eight methods to validate a moon sighting as follows:
1. Based on Eyewitness Testification:
If there is no obstruction in the sky for Ramadan, then a single testimony from an individual from the desert or highlands is sufficient. This can be further supported by a testimony from a large gathering. For Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, or any other remaining Islamic month, then the testimony of a large gathering is required.
If there is an obstruction in the sky for Ramadan, such as clouds, then the Qadi is to accept the testimony of:
- An individual who is equitable (a non-fasiq i.e. an upright individual), whether such person is a man or woman, a free man or a slave. OR
- Where an individual’s moral uprightness is not known, then to assess based on appearance and what can be seen outwardly, i.e. the individual’s appearance demonstrates his adherence to Islam and it is not evident that he is a ‘wrong-doer’
In these circumstances the individual simply states the sight of the moon, this without a testimony. However in the case for Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha or any other Islamic month, it is conditional that the witnesses be upright, and they testify with the words ‘I bear witness…’ The Judge can accept testimonies from Two free men OR one free man and two free women.
2. Testification upon a Testification (Shahadat ‘ala al-Shahadah)
The Qadi can also accept the news of a moon sighting (for any month) from a secondary source i.e. a witness – where an individual has not sighted the moon directly, but rather has witnessed the testimony of an eyewitness. It is conditional that the eyewitness and witness be equitable. Again, the Qadi can accept the testimonies from Two free men OR one free man and two free women.
This Testification becomes void where:
- It is found that the eyewitness had not testified upon sighting
- The eyewitness denies his sighting
- The witness testifies for his own sighting
3. Testification upon a Court Verdict
The Qadi can also accept the news of a moon sighting (for any month) from equitable witnesses who testify to the verdict from the court of another Qadi.
Individuals ‘A’ and ‘B’ are present in the court of Judge ‘X’. Judge ‘X’ binds the sighting of the moon from those present and testifying. Individuals ‘A’ and ‘B’ witness this verdict, and then travel to another city or country and visit Judge ‘Y’.
Individuals ‘A’ and ‘B’ will then testify to Judge ‘Y’ that they were present when Judge ‘X’ accepted a moon sighting.
If Judge ‘Y’ now finds the ruling from Judge ‘X’ in accordance with his methods, he may then accept the sighting, and thus bind it to all the areas under his jurisdiction.
4. Letter from One Judge to Another
A Qadi can also accept the news of a moon sighting from another Judge through the means of a delivered letter.
Judge ‘A’ (from a specific city/country) passes the judgement of an accepted moon sighting for the areas under his jurisdiction. He then writes a letter to Judge ‘B’ (who resides in a different city or country) stating there was a sighting of the new moon in accordance with the Shari’ah, and this was accepted by him. He will then stamp the letter with his unique imprint, clearly stating his own name and the name of Judge ‘B’.
The letter is then delivered by two equitable witnesses who will testify to Judge ‘B’ that Judge ‘A’ has made them both witnesses, and that they testify this is Judge ‘A’s letter. If Judge ‘B’ now finds the ruling from Judge ‘A’ in accordance with his methods, he may then accept the sighting. And thus bind it to all the areas under his jurisdiction.
However, this Testification will become void if:
- The letter is posted, or sent by telegram.
- The letter is emailed or faxed.
- Platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, and the like.
5. Completing Thirty days
If the moon is not seen on the 29th day of the month, then in accordance with the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ, the Judge will rule that 30 days are to be completed. In this circumstance, if it also comes to light there was a mistake of the eyewitness then the judge will rule for everyone to make up the fast, i.e. the new moon appeared on the 30th night and not the 29th then all will make up a fast.
6. Well Circulated Reports
The Judge can also accept the news of a moon sighting from well circulated reports.
This is where multiple groups of people from various parts of the city/country confirm the sighting of a moon. The Istifadah should reach the level of certainty, or at the very least there should be an overwhelming thought of truthfulness. However Istifadah is also only considered from a country with a Shari ruler , although if many groups arrive and state that they saw and met with people who sighted the moon, then this is also accepted.
These reports may become void where:
- It is based on only rumours and no one knows who said it;
- The general public in a city decides from themselves when to start and end Ramadan.
- There is no Judge or Mufti in the city; or The Judge or Mufti is incapable of issuing a verdict.
- News presented through newspapers and media report due to uncertainty.
7. Clear Signals for Sighting the Moon
This method can be used where any of the previous approaches are used. One of the following can be carried out to make people aware of the moon sighting
- Fire a gun;
- Fire a cannon;
- Use of fireworks;
- Or any other similar method.
However it is important to note certainty in these matters so the scholars have ruled this method is only accepted when there is either a trusted Shari ruler or there are trusted scholars who authorize the signaling. In this case a public TV broadcast can be used.
8. A Global Moon Sighting
According to the majority of all four Madhhabs, with the exclusion of some Shafi scholars, the difference of the horizons is not considered between cities/countries. This therefore means that if a valid sighting of the moon is established in one city, the Judge of a second city can accept this ruling if the sighting can be established and confirmed in accordance with the Shari’ah (i.e. any one of the methods described previously).
In fact, the Hanafis give precedence to this type of sighting over any other method of sighting. However, we must stress again that this is only when the sighting can be established and confirmed in accordance with the Shari’ah.
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.