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بسم الله والحمد لله وصلى الله على رسول الله وبعد
Bismillah, we start by the name of Allah the Creator, the one that does not need anything, He has no shape or form, He does not resemble any of the creations, Allah exists without a Place. We ask Allah to raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad, his kind Al family and Companions

Question:

Assalamu Alaykum,

This happens every year. Some people fast when others aren't and some even celebrate Eid when some are fasting. Why do some countries start Ramadan earlier than others?

 

Answer:

Bismillah, praise be to Allah and we ask Allah to raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad more and to grant us sincerety,

Dear brothers and sisters, know that the reliance on starting Ramadan is simple and is based on 2 matters:

1- Sighting the moon, if not seen due to cloud then

2- Completing Sha^ban 30 days.

All Muslims on the 29th night of the month of Sha^ban start going to hilltops to try to sight the moon after sunset, if they see it, then next day is Ramadan, if not then they complete Sha^ban to 30 days. None relied on calculations.

 

So the obligation of fasting the month of Ramadan begins upon the occurrence of one of two matters: To sight and see the crescent of Ramadan after the sunset of the 29th day of Sha^ban (the month directly preceding Ramadan) or, if the crescent is not seen, then completing thirty (30) days of Sha^ban.

All Scholars of Islam agreed that to start Ramadan we must sight the moon, and if we did not see the moon, then we complete the month of Sha^ban as thirty days. The lunar months are either 29 or 30 days, so if the moon was not sighted on the night of the 29 of Sha^ban, then we consider the next day to be the 30th of Sha^ban, and Ramadan would start after. As Muslims We rely on the Qur'an, Sayings of Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) and the great scholars of Islam such as ash-Shafi^iyy, Malik, Abu Hanifah, and Ahmad (Radiallahu ^Anhum).

 

So why do some people fast Ramadan earlier than others? It's because some rely on the astronomical calculation. So basically they establish Ramadan based on the calendar that has been calculated by astronomy. However this is NOT an acceptable method in Islam.  NONE of the scholars of Islam agreed to rely on calculations of astronomy on the beginning of Ramadan. This is because our Prophet told us clearly to rely on sighting the moon.

Al-Bukhariyy and Muslim narrated that the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, said:

" لا تَقَدَّمُوا رَمَضانَ بِيَومٍ أَوْ يَومَين صُوموا لرؤيتِه وأفطِرُوا لرُؤيتِه فإنْ غُمَّ علَيكم فأكْمِلوا عِدَّةَ شَعبانَ ثلاثينَ يوما"

which means: "Do not fast one or two days before Ramadan. Start the month when you see the crescent, and end it when you see the crescent. If you are blocked from seeing it, then complete thirty (30) days of Sha^ban."

The Prophet made this clear statement, but those who oppose said: "We are going to fast whether or not we sight the crescent, whether or not it was cloudy--as long as the astronomer has instructed with that!! and this opposeso the Prophet's saying and the Muslim Scholars.

Also another hadith Malik, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhiyy and an-Nasa’iyy narrated from the route of Ibn ^Abbas, that the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, said:

which means: "Do not fast unless you sight the crescent and do not break your fast unless you sight it. If it is cloudy, then complete the count to thirty (days)."

After this hadith and the Ijma^, how come some dare to rely on astronomy and calculations and neglect sighting the moon?

Imam An-Nawawiyy, may Allah have mercy on him, documented that ruling and confirmed it. He said in Rawdat at-Talibin: "The results of the calculations of the astronomers do not make it obligatory to fast, neither for them nor others."

Also Shihab ud-Din ar-Ramliyy ash-Shafi^iyy, in his famous fatawa, said: "Rather than accepting calculations, the Prophet, who followed Allah's Revelation, completely omitted them by saying: <<We are a nation which does not rely on writing or calculation to know the beginning or the end of the month. The month is either twenty-nine (29) or thirty (30) days.>>" He said in Sharh al-Minhaj: "Our companions (i.e., the Shafi^iyys) said according to what is authentic, the beginning of Ramadan is not confirmed by the calculations of those who calculate--even if they were trustworthy. The companions of AbuHanifah unanimously agree on that."

 

What should you do?

If you could not see the moon, and if no other Muslim country sighted the moon, then follow the Muslims in completing Sha^ban as 30 days, and do not fast the day of doubt, because it's not permissible. Do not accept any reliance on the calculations of the astronomers rather, follow the Prophet and all the Muslims who rely on sighting the moon or completing 30 days of Sha^ban.

 

Allah knows best.

For details on this topic and more scholarly sayings about it, read:

http://alsunna.org/Sighting-the-Crescent-of-Ramadan.html