Is testimony in odds with observatory calculations acceptable according to Shariah?

Earlier this year (2006), the prestigious institute, Darul Uloom Karachi issued a ruling in regards to issues being faced by the Muslim community in England on moon sighting, much like the community in North America. The interesting part of the ruling is where the author references another ruling of Mufti Rafi Usmani (President of Darul Uloom Karachi, brother of Mufti Taqi Usmani) in regards to the question of accepting the testimony of witnesses in moon sighting when astronomical calculations (which are prone to error) do not support them.



In the name of the Almighty

Most Respected Mufti Sahab

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

We; hundreds of residents of Glasgow refer to you. We have strong hope in Allah the Almighty that He will solve our problem through your knowledge and excellence.

Due to cloudy skies in evenings, in Britain, it becomes virtually impossible to sight the first, second moon. And during some months of the year, the moon sets prior to sunset for two days and when it is the second or third day in Islamic countries, suddenly the new moon appears large and for a long time. That is why information regarding the new moon is sought from abroad. The Muslims of Britain are divided in two groups; one who obtain their information from Saudi Arabia and the other from the most nearest Islamic country Morocco or according to time South Africa. Resultantly, within one household, members will celebrate Eid on two days.

1. Whosoever obtains information from Morocco or South Africa have in person met the Moon Sighting Committee; moon is sighted by the mass and via means of the naked eye and more or less corresponds to observatory calculations.
2. The majority act upon information obtained from Saudi Arabia. They say that the Supreme Court bases their judgement upon the testimony of two witnesses which is precisely the method of Rasulullah . Therefore to follow them is compulsory upon the residents of Britain as within this country there is no unified system for moon sighting.
3. Those that do not accept the sighting of the Saudis present the following arguments:
• There is never mass moon sighting in Saudi Arabia. Only two or three witnesses are always presented in court.
• Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (R.A), Grand Mufti of Pakistan; Mufti Shafi (R.A) and all observatory scholars say that the moon cannot be sighted beyond 28 nights. Moulana Muhammad Z

akaria Shaykhul Hadeeth (R.A) and a number of likeminded say that they saw the moon at the time of Fajr and Saudi announced the same evening that tomorrow is the first. This has happened many a time.
• Dozens of people whom we met have stated that sometimes despite the announcement of Saudis, the moon cannot be seen even on the second night although the sky is clear.
• According to the Ummul Qura calendar, the first of every month is placed on notice boards of the Masaajid of Haramayn Sharifayn. And accordingly people fast the 13th 14th and 15th and Muharram and in Sha’baan. From forty years in 90% of cases, Eid is also according to that. When scrutinized it is apparent that prior to 2003 when it used to be the new moon at midnight in Britain (3am in Saudi) then the first would be the same night. Then when the new moon would be prior to sunset in Makkah, then the first would be from that night and now when the new moon is sighted prior to sunset in Makkah and the moon sets a minute or more after sunset then the first is from that night.

The result of the first way is that sometimes the announcement in Saudi is made two days prior to Pakistan and the moon sets few minutes before the sun. The second way results in similar situations. The third results in the situation that some months of the year are shared with other countries.
• Practically it has been noticed that according to Saudi’s announcement, the first, half, full and last moon is actually sighted a day later.
• Prior to 2005 the information of the sighting of moon has always first come from Saudi although geographically that is impossible.
• When investigated, it has come to knowledge that even Muslim countries rely on information received from Saudi or act upon the formulae of the moon being present e.g. Turkey, Egypt Jordan, Malaysia, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates. In fact in 2005 Nigeria fasted on the 13th October first and Libya and Nigeria observed Eidul Fitr on 2 November where as in India and Pakistan fast initiated two or three days later.
• Some days there are sun eclipses near Saudi and there is still information of moon sighting.

Lastly, there is only one question we have to ask and that is within our city of Glasgow there is friction amongst the Ummah regarding this issue leading to hatred and severe unrest. One group does not want to leave Saudi; the other not wanting to accept the unjustified decision of Saudi (when the sighting is prior to sunset etc). The result is there are two Eids in one household. What should we do in such situations? In current situations would it be permissible in light of Shariah for us to act upon information received from Saudi despite knowledge that our obligatory fasts are being missed and Qurbani is being performed prior to time.

Throughout Britain, the mass sometimes celebrate Eidayn according to Saudi and sometimes the opposite. In Glasgow from a long time Eid used to be on one day against the Saudis but since 1 ¼ years the situation has changed. One group strongly act upon the Saudi sighting as information is received before time, information is acquired by photographs on TV making it very easy. Commotion is in the entire city that moon has been sighted in Saudi.

Should we act like before according to information received from the most nearest Islamic country Morocco or according to time South Africa or leaving our old ways for the sake of harmony unite with the new group? Whatever is near to the way of Allah and the Prophet  please define for us. Which should we act upon?

Gulam Ali
I/R 1 Queen Mary Avenue, Glasgow, G42 8DS, U.K.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
حامدا ومصليا

The conclusion of the details and arguments raised within your question is that sometimes the announcement of the sighting of the new moon from the government of Saudi Arabia does not correspond with observatory calculations and often announcements are made at such times that according to observatory calculations sighting is impossible; examples and proof of which you have sent.

All these are correct and not without proof, however, the root question is that ‘Is testimony in odds with observatory calculations acceptable according to Shariah?’ In reality this question is debateable. One group of Scholars are of the thinking that this type of testimony is not acceptable but a very large group of scholars say that there is no reliance upon observatory calculations and in such a situation a testimony of sighting would be relied upon.

Accordingly a detailed Fatwah has been issued from Darul Ifta, Jaamia Darul Uloom Karachi with the signature of Mufti Rafi Uthmani; the conclusion of which is that the majority of the scholars from the four schools of thought are unanimous that when there is a conflict between testimony and observatory calculations then the testimony will be relied upon and no reliance will be placed upon observatory calculations. (Register of the copy of Fatawah 461/46176/85).

In answer to one question from Germany regarding the sighting of Saudi Arabia Hadhrat Mufti Sahab states, “The government of Saudi Arabia say that the judgement of the sighting of the new moon is based solely upon the principles of Shariah and according to sighting with the naked eye not upon observatory calculations. Although a lot of people are not content with this announcement of the Saudi government, however, there is no Shari evidence to refute this either. The reason for discontent they state is that many times the announcement contradicts observatory calculations i.e. a judgement of the sighting is taken when according to observatory calculations sighting is impossible in Saudi Arabia. However, as according to Shari principles, testimony is based upon sightings and not according to observatory calculations, therefore, if the people of Germany act upon the judgement of Saudi Arabia, according to Shariah there is scope for this.” (Register of copy of Fatawah 461/56)

Hadhrat Mufti Taqi Sahab also answers to a similar question coming from Britain, “To observe Ramadhan & Eid according to the sightings of Saudi Arabia is a debateable issue. It is true that sometimes they announce the sightings when it is impossible according to observatory calculations, however, a very large group of Jurists have relied upon testimony even in this state. If the Scholars of one country are unified upon this, the issue being debateable and to act upon this to create unity between the Muslims, there is no Shari obstruction although those who based their judgement upon Morocco moon sighting seems more cautious. However, to choose the more cautious option moving away from the majority and becoming a source of conflict in the eyes of this humble servant is not appropriate.” (Register copy Fatawah 706/58)

Therefore, the answer to your question is that if the majority there are acting upon the sighting of Saudi Arabia then there is no harm in observing Ramadhan & Eid with them, and it is obvious that when there is scope for this according to Shariah then no question arises of the fast or any other acts of worship not being accepted or them being nullified. Allah the All-Mighty knows best.

The answer is written by Muhammad Uthman Darul Ifta Jaamia Darul Uloom Karachi dated 15/04/1427.

The answer is correct.
Verified by:
Mufti Taqi Sahab (Mufti)
Muhammad Abdul Mannan (Deputy Mufti)
Mahmood Ashraf (Deputy Mufti)

Signed by the above three on 17/04/1427.

Stamp of Darul Ifta, Jamia Darul Uloom, Karachi
Fatwah No. 876/35 dated 18/04/1427.


3 Responses to Is testimony in odds with observatory calculations acceptable according to Shariah?

  1. Muadh Khan says:

    Asslamo Allaikum,

    Following Saudi moonsighting is OPEN MUNKAR (Wrong) in UK according to unanimous opinion of Shcolars!

  2. Abdullah says:

    Assalamu ‘alaykum,

    So it is permissible to follow Saudi Arabia then…?

    Jazak Allah Khairan

  3. M. Zaman says:

    We believe that Saudi is deshonest in this matter. There are people who wanted to speak to the people who sighted the moon, but they were prevented by the goverment of Saudi. Please be clear with this fact Saudi is deshonest according our view.

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