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All Praise be to Almighty Allah.
Blessing and peace be on His Prophet Muhammad
after whom there is no prophet, and on all those
who followed his way of guidance.
The Islamic Fiqh Council during its 4th session held at the general secretariat of the Muslim World League in Makkah Mukarramah between 7-17 Rabi Al-Aakhir 1401H reviewed the letter addressed to Muslim scholars, rulers and jurists on crescent-sighting, which was written by Chief of Courts in the State of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Zaid Al-Mahmood and after the review, it was clear that this letter contained certain mistakes and wrong perceptions:
His statement that Eid Al-Fitr of this Hijrah year (1400H) happened to be wrong due to the false testimony of the crescent-sighting on the eve of Monday as nobody could sight it neither on the eve of Monday nor on the eve of Tuesday…(to end of the statement).
This statement which was made by the author of the above-mentioned letter is not true and he is wrong in his statement, because how can he judge on all people that they did not see the crescent?
It is a rule of the Islamic Shari’ah that whoever knew anything has evidence over other who did not know, and whoever proved something is evidence over one who denied it.
As the crescent-sighting was proved on the eve of Monday with the testimony of the trusted witnesses, whose testimony was acceptable to the jurists in the various parts of Saudi Arabia and other countries of the region. Thus it was known that the commencement of the month of Shawwal 1400H was proved in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah on the eve of Monday.
It was based as well on the teachings of Islamic Shari’ah. As Abu Dawood reported in his Sunan from Abdullah Ibn Omar (may Allah be pleased with both of them) that people sighted the crescent so I informed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that I have seen it. He fasted and ordered the people for fasting. Hafiz mentioned this in Talkhees and Al-Daremi, Al-Darqotni, Ibn Hibban, Al-Hakim and Al-Baihaqi also reported it and Ibn Hazm regarded it a Sahih Hadith.
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with both of them) reported that a Bedouin Arab said: “O Messenger of Allah, I have sighted the crescent.” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked him: “Do you bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah.” He said: “Yes.” He (the Prophet) said: “O Bilal, call upon the people to observe the fast tomorrow.” Ibn Khuzaimah, Ibn Hibban, Al-Darqotni, Al-Hakim and Al-Baihaqi also reported it and Imam Ahmad and Al-Nassaie have also reported from Abdul Rahman Ibn Zaid Ibn Al-Khattab as saying that I have enjoyed the company of the Prophet’s companions and asked them. They reported to me that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Observe the fast on sighting of the crescent and stop the fast on sighting it. Your worship should be based on it. If it is cloudy and you are unable to sight the crescent, then complete thirty days of fast and if two witnesses testify for it, then you have to start and stop the fast.”
Harith Ibn Hatib Al-Jamhi, Ameer of Makkah narrated: “Messenger of Allah has instructed us that we observe our worship on sighting the crescent. If we did not sight it and two trusted witnesses testified, we observed our worship on the basis of their testimony.” This was reported by Abu Dawood and Al-Darqotni.
Abu Omair Ibn Anas narrated: “We were unable to sight the crescent of the month of Shawwal, so we observed the fasting, and at the end of the day, a group of travellers came and testified before the Messenger of Allah that they have sighted the crescent yesterday, so the Prophet told the people to break their fasting of the day and celebrate their Eid next day.” This was reported by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Nassaie and Ibn Majah. Al-Hafiz said in Talkhees: Ibn Al-Mundhir, Ibn Al-Sakan and Ibn Al-Hazm regarded it a Sahih Hadith.
Rub’ie Ibn Harrash quoted one of the Prophet’s companions as saying: “The people differed over the last day of the month of Ramadhan. After that, two Bedouin Arabs came and testified before the Prophet that they sighted the crescent last evening. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ordered the people to break their fasting.” This was reported by Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawood. In one report, Abu Dawood added: “and go to their Eid prayer grounds.
These Hadiths show the necessity of testimony by trusted witnesses and it is sufficient to depend on two trusted witnesses in matters of observing the fasting and breaking it. Likewise, it is sufficient to depend on one trusted witness to prove the commencement of the month of Ramadhan, as indicated by Hadith of Ibn Omar and Hadith of Ibn Abbas. These Hadiths also show that it is not necessary that all the people or a group of them should sight the crescent. These Hadiths also show that it is not necessary for the valid testimony of the two trusted witnesses or one trusted witness in respect of commencement of Ramadhan that people sight the crescent in the second night because the places of crescent are different. Similarly, people’s sights are not of the same level. Also, there may be in the horizon what might obstruct the sighting of the crescent in the second night. If sighting of the crescent in the second night was necessary for the validity of the testimony, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would have clarified it.
Tirmidhi said: “The Muslim scholars are unanimous on accepting the testimony of the two trusted witnesses to prove the crescent sighting. Ibn Taymiyah said in Fataawa (Vol.25, P.186 after mentioning the varied capacity of people to sight the crescent and its reasons: “ If two trusted witnesses testify for the crescent-sighting, their testimony would be taken for consideration in the Islamic Shari’ah according to the unanimous view of the Muslim scholars, although the general public did not sight it. He perhaps meant here by ‘the unanimous view’ when it is a cloudy season, because the different view of Imam Abu Haneefah that the commencement of the month would not be proved in a clear season unless the crescent is sighted by a number of people, is well known. All this is when there is no official ruling for that because with such a ruling, there is no scope for any difference and it is necessary to implement the ruling based on the testimony and this is the consensus view of Mulsim scholars, as Abu Zakariya Yahya Al-Nawawi has mentioned it in Sharh Al-Muhadhdhab (Vol.6 P.313) after mentioning the reasons of the varied capacities of the people for the crescent-sighting.
He says: “That is why if two witnesses or one witness testified for sighting the crescent and the concerned authority issued a ruling in this regard, it would not be reversed by consensus and the fasting would be compulsory and if it had been impossible, the ruling would not have been implemented and its reversal would have been compulsory.
Then, Ibn Mahmood said after the above-mentioned statement: “O Muslim scholars and jurists. We commit a great mistake every year in observing the fasting and breaking it.” It is obvious that this statement contains great mistake and audacity to say against the truth because where is the mistake every year in observing the fasting and breaking it and the jurists issue their rulings according to the authentic Hadiths as well as according to what is a consensus among the Muslim scholars as mentioned earlier.
Then, Ibn Mahmood said after the previous statement: “When the crescent dawns before the sunrise in the east, it disappears before the sun so nobody sights it or the crescent rises with the sunrise, then, it disappears with sunset and nobody sights it due to the strong sunlight.” This is also an obvious mistake, because it has been proved by the testimony of the trusted witnesses that the crescent may be sighted before the sun in the morning of the 29th day of the month in the east, then, it is sighted after the sunset in the west the same day because the marching course of the moon is different from the course of the sun and everyone marches on its own orbit as Almighty Allah has destined for them. As regards the Qur’anic verse:“It is not permitted to the sun to catch up the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day. Each (just) swims along in its own orbit (according to law).” (Qur’an, 36:40), which he has used as evidence for his statement that the crescent cannot be sighted after the sunset if it was seen in the early morning of that day before the sunrise, it is not an evidence that supports him because the experts of the Qur’anic interpretation have laid down the meaning of this verse, which implies that each of them has a role, which it plays in a systematic and orderly manner. In the interpretation of this verse, Ibn Katheer said: “According to Mujahid, each one of them has a limit, which it does not cross. When one’s turn comes, the other goes.” Ibn Katheer added: “According to Al-Thauri, one does not touch the light of the other. And according to Ikramah, this verse means that each one of them has a function, which it performs properly.”
Then, Ibn Mahmood mentioned the views of the Hanafi school of Fiqh which stipulates the sight of the crescent by a larger number of people while the sky is clear and does not suffice to one or two persons. He also said that this view is the preference of Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah in his writings which are related to the crescent-sighting. He added: Ibn Taymiyah does not consider the sight of crescent by one or two persons, while other people did not see it, because in such a case, the individuals may have mere imagination of sighting the crescent, and if the crescent-sighting was clear to be seen by anybody, many other people would have sighted it.”
This view, which he has attributed to Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, has no basis of truth. His view is well known and available in Fataawa Vol. 25 P. 186, where he mentioned that the unanimous view that Shari'ah ruling is based on is the testimony of two witnesses.
Then he mentioned the Hadith: “people sighted the crescent so I informed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that I have seen it. He fasted and ordered the people to fast.” It was reported by Abu Dawood. Al-Hakim and Ibn Hibban regarded it a sound Hadith. He also mentioned Hadith of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with both of them) that a Bedouin Arab said: “O Messenger of Allah, I have sighted the crescent.” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked him: “Do you bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah.” He said: “Yes.” He (the Prophet) said: “O Bilal, call upon the people to observe the fasting tomorrow.” Ibn Khuzaimah and Ibn Hibban have regarded it a sound Hadith, hence these two Hadiths do not mean that sighting of the crescent is confined to these two persons because it is likely that they were the first two persons who sighted the crescent and other persons might have sighted it later on.
It is now clear that this answer is not valid because there is no evidence in its favour, and in fact, nobody was available other than these two persons, who sighted the crescent. If there was somebody, who had sighted the crescent, there would have been report about his sighting.
This is why Muslim scholars have presented these two Hadiths to accept the testimony of one witness for the commencement of the month of Ramadhan. This is more authentic of the two views adopted by Muslim scholars as it has been mentioned earlier.
It was also mentioned earlier that when there was a ruling on it by a competent authority, then, it would be compulsory to comply with it as per the unanimous view of the Muslim scholars as it has been reported by Imam Al-Nawawi in Sharh Al-Muhadhdhab. Hence, we should not say anything about them without knowledge.
After that, Ibn Mahmood said at the end of his letter: “I have already said in my letter that Muslims must have one Eid every year. I have also called upon the government to appoint a judicial committee for sighting the crescent. This committee should comprise such trusted persons, who have strong sighting capability and can watch the crescent at the time of its rising especially in the month of Sha'ban and even when there is cloud or dust, they would count its 30 days. They would observe the fasting during the month of Ramadhan. After that, they would watch the crescent for the month of Dhul Hijjah to know the timing of Hajj pilgrimage. This committee should not be of less than 10 persons, who come from among the trusted and judicious people. The committee should have a chairman, whom the committee members may refer for their works”.
It is obvious that this statement contains certain aspects and suggestions, which cannot be taken for consideration, because Almighty Allah has provided ease and facility and permitted the ruling based on testimony of two trusted witnesses for all months and one witness for the month of Ramadhan. Thus, nobody is allowed to create something that was not allowed by Allah and that was not brought by His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as Almighty Allah says: “What! Have they partners (in godhead), who have established for them some religion without the permission of Allah?” (Qur’;an, 42:21)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been reported as saying: “Whoever innovates something unsolicited regarding our affair, it is turned down.” This was reported by Bukhari and Muslim in their books from Ayeshah (may Allah be pleased with her). While Muslim has reported from her that the Prophet said: “Whoever did something that is contrary to our commandment, then it is turned down.”
These are some of the numerous mistakes, which have appeared in the letter of Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Mahmood, and which we wanted to draw the attention to them. We pray to Almighty Allah for guiding all of us towards His path and making us to avoid any statements about Allah and His Prophet without adequate knowledge.
Chairman, Islamic Fiqh Council
Abdullah Ibn Muhammad Ibn Humaid
President, Supreme Judicial Council
Deputy Chairman, Islamic Fiqh Council
Muhammad Ali Al-Harakan
Secretary-General, Muslim World League
Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdullah Ibn Baz
General President, Research, Ifta, Da’wah and Guidance
Saleh Ibn Othaimeen
Muhammad Mahmood Al-Sawwaf
Muhammad Shadhli Al-Neifer
Muhammad Abdullah Al-Subaiel
Abul Hassan Ali Al-Nadwi
Abdul Quddoos Hashemi
Muhammad Rasheed Qabbani
Hasanain Muhammad Makhloof
Abu Bakr Joomi
Muhammad Salem Abdul Wadood
Mahmood Sheith Khattab