Q/A On Ramadan From the Imam
Assalamu Alikum Wa Rahmatu Allah Wa Barakatuh
We would like to congratulate our community with the blessing month of Ramadan and we pray to Allah to accept from us our righteous deeds and to forgive our sins.
The following are some questions and answer regarding Ramadan 1426 H (2005)
Q1. When was the first day of Ramadan for the year 1426 H-2005 in North America?
It started on two different days: Tuesday October 4th and Wednesday October 5th, 2005.
Q2. Why there is such a difference?
The lack of an agreed upon authority representing all North American Muslims to determine such day has lead to this discrepancy. Consequently, decision makers in different communities took the task of determining the commencement of Ramadan using different legitimate methods.
Q3. Can you highlight some of these methods?
There are two main Fiqh factors to be considered in this matter:
First factor: Ittihad Al-Mataala’a vs. Ikhtilaf Al-Mataala’a
A- “Ittihad Al-mataala’a” If the moon was sighted in one country all the other countries who share at least part of the night with the place in which the moon was sighted must abide by that sighting.
B-“Ikhtilaf Al-mataala’a” Each location has its own moon sighting. That is to say, if the moon was sighted in one location, other places need not consider that sighting and therefore do not fast if they did not see the moon in their own location.
Second factor, the reliability of the moon sighting report:
Scholars have two different opinions towards accepting or rejecting a moon sighting report: A- To accept the report of the crescent sighting of the qualified witness regardless of the age of the moon. B- To accept the report of the crescent sighting after considering specific astronomical criteria.
Q4. Why not accept exclusively the astronomical calculations?
First, although the date and time of each New Moon can be computed exactly, the visibility of the crescent cannot be predicted with CERTAINTY because it depends upon many factors. Accordingly what may be accepted by some astronomers may not be accepted by others.
Second, this uncertainty between astronomers has divided the scholars of Fiqh; The Mufti who is going to issue an Islamic Fatwa and not a scientific fact, may either ignore the uncertainty of the astronomers and accept the report of the qualified witnesses as mention in the Hadeeth or may consider the opinion of an appointed astronomer council as a matter of necessary verification beside the qualification of the witnesses.
Q5. Where do we (MIA) stand?
We have adopted “Ittihad Al-mataala and the sighting we accept must not contradict decisive scientific visibility calculation” (there will be a different document clarifying how we reach this decision and how it should be implemented)
Q6. Why were we late in announcing the beginning of Ramadan?
The visibility of the new crescent on Monday October 3rd, 2005 was classified by astronomers as being “not impossible” to be seen thus it was within the realm of possibility for it to be sighted. Consequently, and since we are not following any specific country, we were in need for time to review the reliability of the moon sighting report from scientific point of view and apply the necessary Fiqh basic in order to ensure that we are implementing our method with objectivity.
Q7. Who else started Ramadan on October 4th, 2005?
Many other communities, for the time being I recall, Calgary, Vancouver, southwest Washington, New England, Greater Boston…
As a matter of knowledge, the European Fiqh (an independent Fiqh Council led by great scholars of Islam among them Sheikh Qaradawi and Sheikh Faisal Mawlawi) has declared Tuesday October 4th to be the first day of Ramadan
Q8. Who is right and who is wrong?
The determination of the beginning of Ramadan is a Fiqh issue and is subjected to Ijtihad. All will be rewarded for their Ijtihad In Sha Allah. Every one has his evidence and arguments and no one could claim that his decision is the absolute correct. What is more important is to remain united among ourselves.
Q9. What do you advise?
We need to acknowledge the difference of opinion. The difference in the determination of the beginning of Ramadan should not be a mean and/or be the justification for friction and tension among the Muslims. The companions of the Prophet (PBUH) celebrated Eid Al-Fitr on two different days in two close cities without wronging one another. In order to help our Muslim leaders toward achieving one agreed upon method for North American Muslims, we have to help in providing a healthy productive environment in which issues can be discussed without resorting to confrontation, friction and conflict.
We pray to Allah to strengthen our unity, to bless our efforts and to forgive our shortcomings. Allah knows best.