Sighting the New Moon
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Fast when you see the new moon and break your fast when you see the new moon, and if you are not sure, then complete the number of Sha’baan as thirty days.”
Islam is easy and its rules apply to everyone, mankind and jinn alike, regardless of whether they are scholars or illiterate, settled or nomadic. So Allah made it easy for them to know the times for the acts of worship, and made their beginning and end signs which everyone can know.
He made the setting of the sun the sign for the beginning of Maghrib and the end of ‘Asr, and He made the disappearance of the red glow in the sky the sign of the beginning of the time of ‘Isha’.
He made the sighting of the moon after its disappearance at the end of the month the sign of the beginning of the new lunar month and the end of the previous month.
He did not give us the task of knowing the beginning of the lunar month from something which is known to only a small number of people, namely astronomy and its calculations.
Thus the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah make the actual sighting of the new moon the signal for the Muslims to start fasting Ramadan; they stop fasting when they see the new moon of Shawwaal; the dates of Eid al-Adhaa and Yawm ‘Arafaat are similarly determined.
Allah says (interpretation of the meanings):
“… So whoever among you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan), he must observe sawm (fast) that month…” [Al-Baqarah 2:185]
“They ask you (O Muhammad) about the new moons. Say: these are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage…” [Al-Baqarah 2:189]
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) made the beginning of the fast conditional upon the confirmed sighting of the new moon of Ramadan, and the ending of the fast conditional upon the confirmed sighting of the new moon of Shawwaal; he did not connect this to calculations of the movements of stars or other heavenly bodies. This is how it was done at the time of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), during the rule of the Khulafa’ al-Raashidoon, at the time of the four imams, and during the three centuries which the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said were the best.
Referring to calculations of the lunar months to start and end periods of worship, instead of actually sighting the new moon, is a bid’ah (reprehensible innovation) that has no good in it and has no basis in Sharee’ah. The best of all is to follow the salaf (the pious predecessors) in religious matters, and the worst of all is to follow newly-invented innovations in religion.
May Allah protect us and you and all the Muslims from tribulation, both obvious and hidden.
And Allah knows best!