Moon sighting for Ramadan fast

IN the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Praise be to God, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee alone do we worship, and from God alone do we seek aid, help and assistance. Guide us in the right path, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray (Qur’an 1: 1 – 7).

Say: He is God, The One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him (Qur’an 112: 1 – 4).

The sighting of the moon to herald full month Ramadan fast as enjoined by God for Muslim believers is crucial. Ramadan is the ninth lunar month of Islam, when fasting is prescribed by God for all Muslims. “O ye who believe. Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God” (Qur’an 2: 183). This demonstrates that fasting has been made compulsory for the continuous line of generations of 124,000 Prophets and Messengers since the creation of humanity from Adam to  Noah, Ibrahim, Moses, Isa (Jesus), and then Muhammad (SAW) (Qur’an 3: 33 – 34; 4: 163 – 165; 5: 19; 4: 84 – 90; 23: 23 – 50; 57: 26 – 27).

It is the injunction of Allah that new moon should be sighted as a measure of time for the Islamic calendar for daily activities, acts of worship, Muslim festivals, including pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah. “They ask thee concerning the new moons. Say: they are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men and for pilgrimage. It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back; it is virtue if ye fear God. Enter houses through the proper doors and fear God that ye may prosper” (Q. 2: 189).

Indeed, the subject of the new moon provides a good transition between the Ramadan fast, which begins and ends with the new moon (crescent); the pilgrimage (Hajj), whose 10 days in the 12th lunar month of Dhul-Hijjah commences with the new moon; and the defensive wars which Islam had to fight in self-defence from the pagans, who unleashed terrors to kill, maim, and debar Muslims from the pilgrimage of Hajj after they had driven them out of Makkah. “The number of months in the sight of God is 12 (in a year) so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred; that is the straight usage. So wrong not yourselves therein and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together. But know that God is with those who restrain themselves.  Verily the transposing (of a prohibited month) is an addition to unbelief: the unbelievers are led to wrong thereby: for they make it lawful one year and forbidden another year in order to adjust the number of months forbidden by God and make such forbidden ones lawful. The evil of their course seems pleasing to them. But God guideth not those who reject faith” (Q. 9: 36 -37).

Since the creation of the universe some 10-15 billion years ago, the movement of the earth against the moon has been used to determine the dates by the Almighty, rather than the sun as being used in the Chinese, Gregorian and other calendars.

Despite the digital technology that is used to determine the weather and the appearance of the moon, it is amazing how Nigerian Muslims use politics, power, creed, and ignorance to create confusion in the sighting of the moon to begin Ramadan fast. From the South Pole, which has Antarctica as a land mass, the globe rotates from around Australia, while the North Pole is located in the Arctic Ocean around Alaska in the United States of America.

Hence, countries around South Pole area will see the moon and start fasting ahead and the earth gradually rotates round to the North Pole for others to follow. Beyond the technology, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) advise us thus: Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said, “Fast after you have seen it [the new crescent] and end the fast [at the end of the month] when you see it. If it is hidden from you, then wait until the thirty days of Sha’baan have passed.” [Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]. In a related hadith recorded by Imaams al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Messenger (SAW) said: “Do not fast until you see it (the moon), and do not breakfast until you see it (the moon), and if you could not see it, continue Sha’baan to thirty days.”

In another Hadith, the son of Umar related that the Prophet said: “The month is 29 days, so do not fast until you see it, and if you could not see it, complete the month; continue Sha’baan to thirty days.” [Recorded by Imaams Muslim and Ahmad].

Meanwhile, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), A’isha, related that the Prophet (SAW) was very watchful to see the crescent of Sha’ban where he was not so for the other months, and he used to fast Ramadan when he saw the crescent, and if he could not, he would count thirty days and fast (Bukhari and Muslim).

The son of Umar said: “The people looked to see the crescent, so I told the Messenger of Allah (SAW) that I have seen it, so the Prophet fasted and ordered the people to fast.” [This was recorded by Imaams Abu Dawood and Ibn Habbaan corrected it; Al-Haakim said: it is an authentic hadith according to Muslim’s condition].

In a related hadith, Ibn Abbaas said: “A Bedouin came to the messenger of Allaah (SAW) and said: ‘I have seen the crescent of Ramadaan,’ so the Prophet said: ‘Do you witness that there is no God but Allaah?’ The Bedouin said: ‘Yes!’ Prophet said: ‘Do you witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah?’ The Bedouin said: ‘Yes!’ Then the Prophet asked Bilaal to inform the people to fast the next day.” [Abu Dawood, Tirmedhi, Ibn Habbaan and Al-Haakim].

May Almighty Allah guide us aright in observing the Ramadan fast correctly. Ameen.

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