Question: Is it permissible for a Muslim to rely upon astronomical calculations in order to establish the beginning and ending of fasting or is it a must that the new moon is seen?
Response: The Islaamic Sharee’ah is a merciful legislation and is general. Its rulings are appropriate to all of man and jinn upon their differing status whether they be scholars or illiterate, city people or villagers and for this reason Allaah made it easy for them the way to establish the timings of different forms of worship. He made signs showing their beginning and end times all these people can participate in establishing that. He made, for example the disappearing of the sun a sign for the beginning time of the Maghrib prayer and for the ending time of the ‘Asr prayer. He made the setting of the red horizon a sign for the beginning time of the ‘Ishaa. prayer. He made the sighting of the new moon after it had been hidden at the end of the previous month a sign for the beginning of the new lunar month and for the end of the previous month and he did not burden us to establish the beginning of the lunar month by means that only a few people know, that being knowledge of the stars and the science of astronomy. In this manner did the text from the Book (the Qur’aan) and the Sunnah make the sighting of the new moon and it being spotted as a sign for the Muslims to begin fasting the month of Ramadhaan as was the sighting of the new moon of Shawwaal a sign to stop fasting. The situation is also the same when establishing the ‘Eed of sacrifice and the day of ‘Arafah. Allaah (‘azza wa jal) said:
“So he who from amongst you should witness the month should fast it” [Soorah al-Baqarah, Aayah 185].
And Allaah (‘azza wa jal) said:
“They ask you about the new moons, say these are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage” [Soorah al-Baqarah, Aayah 189].
And the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) said:
“When you see it (the new moon) then (start to) fast and when you see it (again) break your fast (stop fasting). If your vision was impaired (due to clouds or mist) complete the period of thirty days”.
So he (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) ordained that fasting start by affirming the sighting of the new moon of Ramadhaan and the end of the month of fasting be by affirmation of the new moon of Shawwaal. He (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) did not link any of that to astronomical calculations nor to the movement of stars. Based upon this, the people acted in the time of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) and in the time of the righteous Khaleefahs, the four Imaams and the three generations that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) bore witness to, with virtue and goodness. So going back to the science of astronomy to affirm the lunar months in beginning and ending forms of worship without actual sighting is from the innovations that has no good in it and has no basis in the Sharee’ah. And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is holding fast to that which the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) and the righteous predecessors were upon by affirming the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadhaan, the `Eeds and the times of Hajj and their like with the sighting of the moon. And all good is in following the predecessors in religious matters and all evil is in the innovations that were introduced into the religion. May Allaah protect us and all the Muslims from all trials, open or hidden.
And with Allaah lies all the success, and may Allaah send prayers and salutations upon our Prophet Muhammad (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) and his family and his companions.
The Permanent Committee for Islaamic Research and Verdicts, comprising –
Head: Shaykh ‘Abdul ‘Azeez ibn Abdullaah ibn Baaz;
Deputy Head: Shaykh ‘Abdur-Razzaaq ‘Afeefee;
Member: Shaykh ‘Abdullaah Ibn Ghudayyaan;
Member: Shaykh ‘Abdullaah ibn Munee’
Fataawa Ramadhaan – Volume 1, Page 60-61, Fatwa No.27;
Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah lil-Buhooth al-‘Ilmiyyah wal-Iftaa. – Fatwa No.386