Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, which is based on the appearance of the crescent moon (Luna). The Lunar calendar months are made of either 29 or 30, so is Ramadan.
Sighting of this blessed month is based on one of the following cases:
When Sha’ban completes thirty days.
It has been reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) Said:
“Fast (Muslims) when you see the crescent. If it is obscure to you, then complete thirty days in the count of Sha’ban.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) took great care to determine precisely the beginning of Sha’ban because one can then count twenty-nine days and watch for the crescent of Ramadan or complete thirty days before starting to fast. This is indicated in the Hadith narrated by Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her):
“The Messenger (ﷺ) used to be more concerned about determining the beginning of Shaban than about other months. Then he used to fast at the sighting of the crescent of Ramadan. If it were obscure, he would count thirty days of Shaban and then fast”. (Abu Dawud and Ahmad)
Sighting of the crescent
Allah the Highest has set crescent sighting as the only means for determining dates of various Islamic occasions such as Ramadan, Eids, and Hajj. He said:
They ask you (O Muhammad) about the new moons. Say: These are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the Hajj (pilgrimage)’. (Quran: Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse: 182)
Regarding Ramadan, He the Most High said:
So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm fasts) that month… (Quran: Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse: 185)
Similarly, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) emphasized that crescent sighting is required in determining the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadan. This is also indicated in the Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:
Observe fasting upon sighting the crescent and break your fast upon sighting it (the new moon). But if it is not possible to sight it, complete the month of thirty days”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
In addition, it has been agreed that witnesses are needed to establish the Sighting: Two trustworthy Muslim witnesses. This is indicated in the saying of the Prophet (ﷺ):
“If two just Muslim witnesses (testify that they saw it) then fast or break your fast”. (Ahmad)
One reliable and trustworthy Muslim witness can be accepted. This is indicated in the Hadith narrated by Ibn ‘Umar :
People were looking out for the crescent of Ramadan. I informed the Prophet (ﷺ) that I saw it. So he fasted on the following day and ordered people to fast”. (Abu Dawud)
The above discussion highlights a general command to all Muslims to abide by the crescent sighting of two or one trustworthy Muslims. Anyone who rejects this would indeed disregard the consent of the Muslim scholars and would be attempting to spoil the beauty and simplicity of this religion, and, worst of all, would be directly and openly disobeying Allah S Messenger (ﷺ).
As long as the witnesses are apparently acceptable and trustworthy Muslims then we must follow their testimony and fast (or end the fasting).
It is recommended that whoever sights the crescent of Ramadan, or any other month for that matter, or being informed about new crescent, should say:
“Allah is Greatest. Allah, make it the beginning, the beginning of prosperity, faith, peace, and total submission to Allah. Your Lord and mine is Allah”.
The New Moon phase is defined to be the moment when the moon is almost directly between the Earth and the Sun. At this moment the moon’s dark surface faces the Earth. The New Moon is therefore completely invisible. The date and time of this invisible New Moon are commonly found in almanacs, newspapers, and calendars.
The Islamic month begins with the visible first crescent and not with the invisible New Moon. The first crescent is usually sighted in the western sky just after sunset on the first or second evening after the New Moon phase. The sighting depends on the age of the crescent, the time difference between sunset and moonset and the angular distance between the sun and the moon.
We should not confuse the New Moon with the visible thin crescent. We should realize that a crescent following a lunar month of 30 days will look larger and stay longer than the crescent following a month of 29 days.
The first date of the month is proved in the following way:
- If a person sights the moon himself.
- If a person confirms he has sighted the moon, and his words assure or satisfy another person as well as everything else assuring or satisfying him.
- If two trustworthy persons say that they have sighted the moon, the first date of the month will not be proved if they differ about the particulars (i.e. particular details as to how it was sighted).
- If 30 days pass from the 1st of the moon of Shaaban whereby the 1st of Ramadan is proved and if 30 days pass from the 1st of whereby the 1st of shawaal is proved. If the moon is high up in the sky or sets late, it is not proof of the fact that it appeared the previous night. However, if the moon is seen before noon, that day will be treated as the 1st of the month (i.e. it will be assumed that the new moon appeared the previous night). Similarly, if there is a halo (crown of light) around it, it goes to show that the new moon appeared the previous night.