Visibility of Crescent
In a hadîth-i-sherîf quoted in Marâqil-falâh, it is declared: “When you see the Moon start fasting! When you see her again, stop fasting!” According to this command, the month of Ramadân begins when the waxing moon (the new crescent) is first sighted. In Ibni ’Âbidîn’s discussion of the qibla and in the books Ashî’at-ullama’ât and Ni’mat-i islâm, the authors ‘rahmatullâhi ta’âlâ ’alaihim ajma’în’ note that starting to fast by referring to a calendar prepared or by calculation before seeing the new crescent is not permissible.
It is also declared in Ibni Âbidîn, “To understand the beginning of Ramadân it is not convenient to follow astronomical calculations. For the beginning of Ramadân occurs with seeing the crescent in the sky. It was declared in a hadith-i-sherif, “Start fasting when you see the crescent!” Rising of the crescent is not understood by seeing but by calculation. The time found by calculation is the exact time. However, as the crescent can be seen at the night it rises, it can be invisible that night but can be seen the second night, instead. Starting of Ramadan was commanded according to the rising of the crescent but according to its being seen.” Since the calendars mark the rising of the moon but not its being seen, the beginning of the month of Ramadan cannot be understood with calendars.
It is written in Fatâwâ-i-Hindiyya as well that it is not permissible to begin (fasting in) Ramadân. When the crescent is seen in a city at the thirtieth night of Sha’bân, it becomes necessary to start fasting all over the world. The crescent seen during the day belongs to the night to come.
It is wâjib-i-kifâya [for every Muslim] to look for the new crescent on the thirtieth of the month of Sha’bân at the time of sunset and to go to the Qâdî and inform him as soon as they see the new moon. Taqiy-y-ud-dîn Muhammad ibni Daqîq states that the new moon can never be sighted before one or two days after the ijtimâ’i neyyireyn = conjunction.
In every century, in every place, the month of Ramadân would start by seeing the crescent. But in recent years the month of Ramadân is commenced with calculation of the rising time of the crescent. By doing so, beginning of Ramadân is not appropriate with Islam.
It is written in the book Majmû’a-i Zuhdiyya: “A person who sees the new moon of the month of Shawwâl cannot break his fast. For, in cloudy weather, it is necessary for two men or one man and two women to give the testimony of having seen the new moon of Shawwâl. If the sky is clear, it is necessary for many people to witness the moons of Ramadân and Shawwâl.” It is stated in Qâdî-Khân: “If the new moon sets after the Shafaq, (night prayer,) it belongs to the second night (of the new month); if it sets before the Shafâq, it belongs to the first night.
At places where Ramadân and the month containing the days of ’Iyd cannot be discovered by testimony of witnesses as prescribed by the Sharî’a, the first day of the month of Dhu’lhijja and hence the tenth day, that is, the first day of the Iyd of qurbân are calculated. The first day of the ’Iyd is the day determined by this calculation. Or it is the next day. It cannot be the previous day. Because the new moon cannot be seen before it appears in the sky.
The moon not only accompanies the Sun and the stars in their daily east-west motions, but also moves solo in a west-east direction around the earth. This motion is faster than the Sun’s (apparent) annual motion from west to east. The moon completes one revolution in 27 days plus 8 hours. Therefore, it completes its daily tour approximately fifty minutes plus 30 seconds after the stars. The Sun, on the other hand, completes its tour four minutes after (the stars). Consequently, the moon reaches the meridian later than the Sun did the previous day and sets 45 minutes after the Sun the first night. There is an angle of approximately five degrees between the plane of the lunar orbit and the ecliptic plane. Once each revolution, the Sun, the earth and the moon become aligned with one another, the Sun and moon sharing the same orientation with respect to the earth. This state of collinearity is called Ijtimâ’i neyyireyn = Conjunction. In this state the face of the moon in our direction becomes obscure. We cannot see the moon. This period of time is called Muhâq (Interlunar Period, Dark Moon, or Dark of the Moon). There is not a fixed length of this period of muhâq. It varies from twenty-eight hours to seventy-two hours. The Ottoman calendars give a maximum of three days. The time of conjunction is exactly the middle of the period of muhâq. Scientific calendars provide monthly tables showing the variations in its length. Since the earth revolves about the Sun, too, the duration of time between two conjunctions is 29 days and 13 hours. At the time of conjunction, the Sun and the moon pass the meridian at the same time. The moon can by no means be seen anywhere before the angle between the Sun and the moon as seen from the earth, which is termed Beynûnet (elongation), has become eight degrees [approximately fourteen hours after the moment of conjunction]. When the angle becomes eighteen (18) degrees maximum, the moon comes out of the state of invisibility and the new moon appears on the western horizon within the forty-five minutes during sunset. However, due to the fifty-seven minute lunar parallax, when it reaches a position five degrees above the horizon, it can no longer be seen. After the moon comes out of the state of invisibility, the new moon can be observed in places situated on the same longitude as the location where the sunset is taking place. As for later hours, or, at night it can be observed after sunset in countries west of these places.
The purpose for these calculations is not to determine the time when the lunar month begins, but to determine the (beginning of the) month when the new moon can be seen. Those who say that it began before Friday night should not be believed. Imâm-i-Subkî  also said so. We should not believe people who falsify the Imâm’s statement (Commentaires of Tahtâwî and Shernblâlî). It is stated as follows on the two hundred and eighty-ninth page of the first volume of Ibni ’Âbidîn, during the discourse on how to find the direction of qibla: “Scholars said that we should not trust calendars in learning the first day of Ramadân-i-sherîf. For, the fast becomes fard after the new moon is seen in the sky. Our Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ stated: ‘Begin to fast when you see the new moon!’ On the other hand, the appearing of the new moon depends on calculation, not on seeing it; calculation is valid, and the new moon appears on the night indicated by calculation. Yet it may be seen on the following night instead of that night, and it is necessary to begin the fast on the night it is seen, not on the night it must appear (according to the calculation). Such is the commandment of Islam.” It is an act of worship to look for the new moon in the sky. As is seen, announcing the beginning of Ramadân-i-sherîf beforehand is an indication of not knowing Islam. Likewise, the first day of the ’Iyd of Qurbân is determined by observing the new moon for the (beginning of the) month of Dhu’lhijja. The ninth day of the month of Dhu’lhijja, the ’Arafa Day, is the day found by calculation or calendar, or the following day. The hajj performed by those who climb the ’Arafât a day earlier is not valid. So none of them can be a hadji. It is wajib to observe the Ramadân crescent over the apparent horizon on the west when the sun sets on the 29th day of Sha’bân.
When an ’âdil person, that is, a person who does not commit grave sins, having Ahl-as-sunna belief, sees the crescent in a cloudy weather, he informs the judge or the governor. If he [judge or governor] accepts, Ramadân starts at that place.
The words of a bid’at holder, a fâsiq are not acceptable. In clear weather, a lot of people must report. If the crescent is not observed, the month Sha’bân is considered thirty days and the next day becomes Ramadân. Ramadân does not start with calculation or astronomical calculations. It is stated in Bahr, Hindiyya and Kâdi-Khân, “If a prisoner in dâr-ul-harb fasts for one month without knowing the beginning of Ramadân, he might have started fasting one day earlier, on the second day or on exact day. In the first case, he will have started one day before Ramadân starts and made ’Iyd on the last day of Ramadân. In the second case, he will not have fasted on the first day of Ramadân and he will have fasted on the ’Iyd as his last day of fasting. In both cases, he will have fasted for twenty-eight days of Ramadân and he will have to make two days of qadâ after the ‘Iyd. On another possibility as the third case, it is doubtful that all thirty days of his fasting match the real time of Ramadân. For the fasting on the doubtful days will not be sahih, he has to make two days of qadâ.” It is understood from this that those who start fasting not by seeing the crescent but by calendars which are prepared earlier, must make two days of qadã after the ’Iyd. It is, for instance, said, “How is it made up fasting two days as qadâ after Ramadân? There is no such thing in any book.” It is wrong to say this is not written in books. For Ramadân would start by seeing the crescent in every place at every time. There was no need to fast two days as qadâ. Today, however, the month of Ramadân is being started at the time when the new moon is beforehand calculated to be sighted. Therefore, the beginning of Ramadân is out of keeping with the ahkâm-i-islâmiyya (rules of Islam). That this misapplication should be rectified by fasting for two days with the intention of qadâ after ’Iyd of Ramadân is written in Tahtâwî’s annotation to (Shernblâlî’s commentary to) Marâq-il-falâh. If one begins fasting without observing the new moon indicating the beginning of Ramadân and then if the new moon is observed on the twenty-ninth night, which will mean (that the following day is the beginning of the following month, Shawwâl, the first day of which is at the same time the first day of) ’Iyd, qadâ for one day is performed, (that is, one fasts one day again), after the ’Iyd, if the month of Sha’bân is known to have begun upon the observation of the new moon. On the other hand, it is written in (the celebrated books) Hindiyya and Qâdi-Khân that, if the month of Sha’bân is not known to have begun upon the observation of the new moon, one makes qadâ for two days, (that is, one fasts for two days with the intention of qadâ.)
Ibni Âbidîn “rahima-hullahu ta’âlâ declares in his work Sham “It is wâjib-i kifâya for all wise and bâligh (at the age of puberty) to look for the crescent, that is, the new moon in the sky in the beginning of the month of Ramadân. It is also wâjib to inform the qâdi, that is, the judge when they see [the crescent]. It becomes fard for all Muslims [in all countries] to fast that day when the qâdi accepts and announces [the beginning of Ramadân]. In cloudy weather, the word of one ‘âdil Muslim is accepted. A lot of people have to say in clear weather. At places without a Qâdî or a Muslim governor, Ramadân begins when an ’âdil person says he has seen the new moon and those who hear this, have to start fasting. It is not permissible to start Ramadân with calendar, with calculation. There is no value of their calculation to start the Ramadân even if they are ‘âdil. The fasting for Ramadân does not start with the report of them about the rising day of the Ramadân crescent. Imâm-i Subki “rahima-hullahu ta’âlâ”, one of Shafi’î scholars, says, “If there is somebody claiming to have seen the crescent on the night of the thirtieth of Sha’bân but if it is informed one night after according to the time determined by calculation, in this case, the calculation is to be believed. For the one determined by calculation is definite. It is impossible to be seen before it rises.” [Beginning of Ramadân by seeing the crescent can be one day after the day found by calculation. But it can’t be one day before.] Shams-ul-aimmah Halwânî “rahima-hullahu ta’âlâ” declared, “Beginning of the month of Ramadân becomes by seeing the crescent. It doesn’t become by rising of the crescent. Since the calculation determines the night when the crescent rises, the beginning of the month of Ramadân cannot be understood with calculation. When Ramadân begins at one place upon two ’âdil Muslims’ saying “we have seen the crescent” or with the judge of the qâdi, it becomes necessary to begin fasting in all parts of the world. The times for hajj, qurbân [sacrifice] and prayer times are not so. When times for these are determined according to one place will not necessitate being the same at other places, as well.” [In other words, these three are local.]
Since the calendars state not the seeing of the crescent but its raising, the beginning of Ramadân can’t be understood by calendars. It is wrong saying that “We have seen the crescent” at previous night of the night which calendars state. [The hajj of those who follow such wrong word and goes up to ‘Arafât will not be sahîh. They don’t become hajis.]TURKIYE CALENDAR