Thursday, 3 September 2009

The European "Fatwa" Council and the start of Ramadan

Assalaam alaykum,

To begin, the word "fatwa" is written as such because the European Fatwa Council is not a genuine fatwa council. Shaikh Muhammad Said Ramadan Al-Bouti, in a lecture at the Islamic University of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 23/03/2007, explained that before using the term "fatwa council" or "fiqh council" all the members on the council must be fuqaha or muftis, and this is simply not the case with this so-called European Fatwa Council. Very few of the members are genuine muftis. You can view the lecture at

Now, on the matter of moon sighting and Ramadan, this so-called fatwa council have said the following: [the original document can be found here:]

[European Council for Fatwa and Research
Statement on Determiniing the Start off the Bllessed Month off Ramadhan ffor the year 1430 Hiijjrii..
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all the worlds and peace and blessings be upon the one who was sent by Allah as a mercy to the worlds, upon his household, companions, and those who follow his path until the Day of Judgment.
The Secretariat General of the European Council for Fatwa and Research takes the opportunity of these blessed days to call on all the Muslims to hold fast to the rope of Allah (the most high), unite and gather together and remember the saying of Allah (the most high): “Hold fast, all of you, to the rope of Allah, and be not divided. Remember the blessing of Allah upon you: When you were enemies to each other, and He brought your hearts together, so that, you became brothers through His blessing. You were at the brink of a pit of Fire,
then He saved you from it. This is how Allah makes His signs clear to you, so that you may take the right path.” 3:103.
Perhaps the month of Ramadhan can be an opportunity for the Muslims to make up for that which they missed by bettering their conditions, establishing unity, and forsaking that which divides them so that Allah may change their circumstances to that which is better – “Surely, Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change themselves.” 13:11.
The Secretariat General would like to emphasize the decision passed by the International Fiqh Academy, resolution number 18, during its third assembly in 1986 which stated that - La ‘ibra fi Ikhtilaf Al-matali’ – which means that no importance should be given to the different sighting-zones and if the crescent is sighted in any zone, it is binding for all other zones. This is due to the generality of the speech (‘umum Al-Khitab) of the prophet PBUH1: “Fast by seeing it and end the fast by seeing it”2. In addition, the European Council for Fatwa and Research in its nineteenth session highlighted the following with regards to establishing the start of the
lunar months: ]

Iktilaaf al-Matali' is actually the mu'tamad position of the Shafi'i school and can be found in Imam an-Nawawi's Al-Majmu' in volume 6, p.273. One can also consult Imam an-Nawawi's commentary of Sahih Muslim, particularly the hadith of Kuraib and Ibn 'Abbas:
5. The Chapter clarifying that for every locality is their own sighting and if they see the crescent in a locality its ruling is not established for those who are far from them.
(#1087) Yahya bin Yahya has related to us, and Yahya ibn Ayyub, and Qutaybah, and Ibn Hujr (he said Yahya bin Yahya: informed us, while others said: Ismael related to us, and he is Ibn Ja’far) from Muhammad (and he is Ibn Abi Harmalah) from Kuraib, that Umm al-Fadl, the daughter of al-Harith, sent him to Muawiyah in Sham. He said: ‘I arrived in Sham. I carried out her [Umm al-Fadl] task and the month of Ramadan came in, and I was in Sham. I saw the crescent on Friday night. Then I arrived in Madinah towards the end of the month. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas y asked me. Then he mentioned the crescent and said: “When did you see the crescent?” I said: “We saw it on Friday night.” He said: “You saw it?” I said: “Yes. The people saw it. They fasted and Muawiyah fasted.” He said: “But we saw it on Saturday night, and we will not stop fasting until we complete thirty days, or we see it.” I said: “Isn’t the sighting of Muawiyah and his fasting sufficient for us?” He said: “No, and this is what the Messenger of Allah, may Allah's prayers and peace be upon him, commanded us.
Yahya bin Yahya was not sure whether he said ‘sufficient for us’ or sufficient for you’.
Imam an-Nawawi: In this [chapter] is the hadith of Kuraib from Ibn ‘Abbas and it is clear evidence of the Tarjima and the strongest position amongst our companions is that the sighting is not general for all people, but rather it is specific to whoever is close by a distance in which one does not shorten the prayer. It is also said that if there is agreement of the region they are necessitated. It is also said that if the locale (iqleem) agrees [they must fast] and if not then no. Some of our companions hold that the sighting is general for all the people of the earth, and regarding this we say that Ibn ‘Abbas did not act on the information of Kuraib because it was one testimony and it cannot be established by one person. However, the outward purport of the hadith is that he [Ibn ‘Abbas] did not reject it for this reason but he only rejected it because the ruling of the sighting cannot be established for those far away.
[Taken from Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi v.7 p.172]
Imam an-Nawawi is being fair as he mentions the different positions. As for this counterfeit fatwa council, they choose to completely dismiss the mu'tamad position of the Shafi'i school, even though it comes from Imam an-Nawawi, who is a giant and a genuine faqih and mufti.

[1) Astronomical calculations have become one of the modern sciences which have reached a high level of
accuracy with regards to the movement of planets, especially the movement of the moon and earth.
Indeed, such calculations are able to decisively establish the relative position of planets in the sky and in
relation to other planets without any doubt or suspicion.

Another problem. This understanding flies in the face of what this Deen is all about. Imam an-Nawawi, a genuine mufti and faqih, quotes the great Maliki scholar, Imam Al-Maziri, also a genuine mufti and faqih:
'Al-Mazari said: ‘The majority of jurists hold that the meaning of his saying e ‘faqduru lahuis to complete the number as thirty as has been explained in the other hadith. They say: “It is not permissible to hold that it means the calculations of the astronomers because the people, if they are made responsible for this, will be put in a difficult situation because only a few people know [the science of astronomy] and the legislation is that the people know what the masses of them know, and Allah knows best.'
[Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi v.7 p.165-7]
The point being is that this Deen is the property of the laymen, not the scholars. What this counterfeit council is doing is making this Deen complicated for the laymen, placing them in hardship, and depriving them of the beautiful Sunnah of moon sighting, because moon sighting can be done by anyone.
[2) The time in which the Sun, Earth, and the Moon are aligned is called `iqtiran (and is sometimes also named istisrar, or `al-mahaq). This is a universal phenomenon which takes place at a specific time. This moment can be very accurately calculated according to the science of astronomy years before it takes place. This event indicates the end of the previous month and astronomically the start of the new month. `iqtiran can
occur at any time during the day or night. ]

[3) According to Shari’ah, the start of the new month can be established if the following conditions are fulfilled:
1. `iqtiran must have truly taken place before sunset.
2. The crescent is possible to be sighted by the naked eye or with the aid of observational tools anywhere on earth regardless of the sighting-zone, due to the generality in the prophetic speech on the start and end of fast. (La ‘ibra fi Ikhtilaf Al-matali’)
3. to accept the possibility to sight the crescent the following astronomical conditions must be fulfilled:
A) The crescent must set after sunset in the zone where it can be sighted.
B) The angle of the crescent’s position above the horizon at sunset must not be less than (5°) five
C) The angle formed by the moon and the sun must be at least (8°) eight degrees. ]
Point 2 is incorrect. Ramadan, like all months of the lunar calendar, can only be established by the crescent being physically sighted. The possibility of it being seen or if it is seen with observational tools is simply not good enough. Imam Muslim and Imam an-Nawawi state the following:
2. The Chapter on the obligation of fasting Ramadan upon seeing the crescent and breaking it upon seeing the crescent and if it is obscured at the beginning or the end the month is completed as thirty days.
(#1080) Yahya bin Yahya has related to us. He said: ‘I read under Malik, from Nafi’, from Ibn ‘Umar y, from the Prophet e, that he mentioned Ramadan and said: “Don’t fast until you see the crescent, and don’t break [your fast] until you see it. And if it is obscured from you then count it (faqduru lahu).”
Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaibah related to us. Abu Usamah related to us. ‘Ubaid Allah related to us from Nafi’, from Ibn ‘Umar y, that the Messenger of Allah e mentioned Ramadan and brought his hands together, saying: ‘The month is such and such and such (and he tied his thumbs when saying the third) so fast upon seeing it and break [your fast] upon seeing it, and if it is obscured from you then count (faqdiru lahu) thirty.’
Imam an-Nawawi: (faqduru lahu) In an narration we have ‘count 30 days’, and in another narration we have ‘If you see the crescent fast and if you see it break [your fast] and if it is obscured from you then count it.’ In another narration: ‘If it is obscured from you then fast thirty days.’ In another narration: ‘If it is obscured from you then complete the number.’ In another narration: ‘If the month is obscured from you then count thirty.’ In another narration: ‘If it is obscured from you then count thirty.

These ahadith are not necessarily interpreted because they don't need to be. Seeing means seeing. It's interesting that this council chooses to use the same ahadith to dismiss the differing of sighting zones but they don't understand the ahadith to mean the pure, physical sighting of the moon. As an additional point, claiming that we only need to know that the crescent moon is there, using the argument that the verb ra’aa can also mean ‘to know’ based on Surah al-Fil [105] verse 1, is flawed because a semantic possibility is not the same as a contextual possibility, the former being not as restricted in number as the latter. If we wish to explore the semantic possibilities of ra’aa why not look at Surah as-Saffaat [37] verses 102-5, in which we see the same verb, and its noun, being used to mean ‘an opinion’ and to mean ‘a dream’. The same can be found in Surah Yusuf [12] verse 4-5. The ahadith about moon sighting, as with any text, must be understood in context. If not, we allow for the possibility that our lunar calendar could be based on people having dreams about the moon.

[4) Muslims in Europe should follow this principle when determining the start and the end of the lunar months especially the two months of Ramadhan and Shawwal. These dates should be established in advance in order to help them better perform and organise their worship and what linked to it from festivals and celebrations in the societies that they live in. ]

Establishing these dates in advance is innovation. This is not what we have been commanded to do. Please see Sahih Muslim bi Sharh An-Nawawi v.7 p.165-7. All months, not just Ramadan and Shawwal, are determined by the physical, naked-eye sighting of the moon. If it seen after 29 days then then month is 29 days. If it isn't seen the month is 30 days. It's that simple.

[5) The council advises its members, the Imams of the mosques, and the scholars of Shari’ah in Muslim and other communities to work on establishing a culture of respect for the decisiveness and accuracy of the astronomical calculations when it decides that sighting in their own geographical zone is not possible, because of the absence of `iqtiran. In such circumstances, calling to attempt sighting of the crescent or accepting claims for sighting in that zone is not acceptable. Based on the above the Secretariat General for the European Council for Fatwa and Research announces that with regards to the sighting of the crescent of the blessed month of Ramadhan for the year 1430 Hijri /2009 Gregorian the available astronomical data confirms the following:]

This counterfeit council is effectively encouraging believers to dismiss the Sunnah in favour of innovation. Naked-eye, physical moon sighting has served this Ummah for over a millennium, so why should it be dismissed now? Please see Imam al-Mazari's statement above. If one actually holds the position that astronomical calculations are superior to naked-eye moon sighting, i.e. believing them to be superior to what we have in the Sunnah of our Beloved Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, then this is a belittling of the Sunnah. This Deen is complete and can be applied in every time and place. Please see Al-Ma'idah 5:3. Believing that this Deen is somehow incomplete is kufr.

[1) The crescent of the month of Ramadhan for the year 1430 Hijri will be born at 10:02 and 35 seconds GMT on Thursday 20th August 2009. This is at 13:02 and 35 second according to Makkah Al- Mukarramah local time.
2) Sighting is possible in large parts of south west Latin America. For example, in the city of San Diego the
sun sets at 18:17 while the moon sets at 18:51, that is 33 minutes after sunset. The crescent’s position above the horizon will be more than 5 degrees. In the city of Lima, Peru, the sun will set at 18:05 and the moon sets at 18:31, that is 26 minutes after sunset and its position above the horizon is 6 degrees.
3) Therefore, the first day of Ramadhan for the year 1430 Hijri shall be by the will of Allah (the most high) on Friday 21st Aug 2009.
We take this occasion to congratulate the Muslims on the coming of the blessed month and we ask Allah (the all high) to make it a month of goodness, blessing and glory for Islam and Muslims.
May Allah Accept from us and you the good deeds and all praise are to Allah the lord of the worlds.

The Secretariat General – Dublin
20th Sha’ban 1430 hijri, 11th August 2009.]

Most of the UK actually fasted on Saturday, August 22nd, largely due to the fact that the government of Saudi Arabia made a late announcement on Thursday August 20th. Their initial position was that Ramadan would start on the 21st. Nonetheless, for the sake of unity in the UK, Muslims living there should establish their own local calendar, for all the months. Astronomical calculations can only be used to dismiss an erroneous sighting, never to establish that a new month has begun. Following the government of Saudi Arabia is also an invalid position. The logical solution to this problem should be obvious; go back to the Sunnah.

Wa Al-Hamdu lillahi Rabbi Al-Alameen, wa as-Salatu wa As-Salaamu ala Rasulillah

Assalaam alaykum,

Related Posts

Moon Sighting: The Evidence from Sahih Muslim with Commentary by Imam Yahya Al-Nawawi

When is Ramadan?


Muhammad said...

Salamun 'alaykum

please educate upon the seeing of the moon, what are the masaa'ail?

where should i be looking and when?

should i be in the location on three consecutive days?

and where was the best place in Nottingham in which you succesfully sighted the moon on a number of occasions?

Mahdi Lock said...

Assalaam alaykum,

Jazakum Allah khairan for the message.

The masaa'il are discussed in the two articles on Moon Sighting that were on the Notts New Muslims website. I can email them to you if you'd like.

The time to to look is the 29th of every lunar month, right after maghrib, and you should be looking in the general region of where the sun is setting. You do not need to look for three consecutive days.

As for the best place in Nottingham, Cinder Hill is probably the best location but any high point that has a clear view of the western horizon should do, and with Allah alone is every success!

Assalaam alaykum,


Anonymous said...

Salaamun 'alaykum

I went to the hill in Bullwell in the beginning of ramadaan to sight the moon, did not know what i was looking for, but i made the effort. Have you personally seen the moon from this location?
Abdur Rasheed

Mahdi Lock said...

Assalaam alaykum,

Whilst in Nottingham I saw the moon several times outside my house in Plantation Side, Bobbers Mill. I only went to Cinder Hill a few times and, to be honest, I don't recall making a positive sighting there. That doesn't mean it can't be done from that location. I just didn't make a positive sighting the few times that I went.

I hope that helps!

Muhammad said...

So this can be done by standing at the vine centre?

Thank you for your respsonse

wa as-Salaam and Eid Mubarrak

Mahdi Lock said...

Wa alaykum assalaam and Eid Mubarak to you as well,

I never tried from the Vine Centre. I use to stand on the little hill outside 35 Plantation Side. Basically, you just have to have a clear view of the western horizon, and with Allah alone is every success.

Assalaam alaykum,