Hilal Issues : Replies From Najaf, 24
Following public requests to obtain
responses to various questions on 'Moonsighting' directly from Najaf, the
Hilal Committee of IEB submitted 22 questions in Zilqad 1425 AH.
Alhamdulillah IEB received responses
from Najaf dated 24 Ramadhan 1426 AH as detailed
In your esteemed opinion, the
expressions like “man shahida minkum…”
in the Qur’مn or “sum li ’r-ru’ya…” in
hadth has mawd;‘iyyat or
tar;qiyyat for the beginning of the
Sighting has been taken as a
‘tariqiyyah’ – means to ascertain the
manifestation of the crescent in the
horizon such that it can be sighted with the naked eye, if there were no
impediments like clouds, etc. If another method – other than sighting –
could be used to ascertain the presence of the Crescent in the manner
specified, it would suffice.
In Tawdihhu ’l-Masمail (mas’ala no.
1744) and Minhaju ’s-Saihiyn (mas’ala no. 1044), your eminence has defined
the ittihad or ishtirak of ufuq as“the actual sighting in the first city
would necessarily be followed with the sighting in the second city if there
were no barriers like clouds, fog,
mountains, etc.” This had been commonly
taken to mean that any sighting in the east will automatically necessitate
its sighting in the westirrespective of the distance.
But in al-Fiqh li ’l-Mughtaribeen;n,
you have further qualified the range of ittihad ’l-ufuq by saying “as long as
the latitude of the two locations are not greatly further away from one
another” (question no. 115) and “as long as they are not far apart on the
latitude lines” (question no. 116).
Different interpretations are given by
our scholars in the west in understanding the phrases “greatly
further away” or “far apart”. And so our
If the astronomical data confirms to us
that if the moon is sighted in the east (for example in Dar-es-salaam, in
East Africa), the chances of it being sighted in the west within the curve of
possibility (for example in New York) is greater even though they are
far apart on the latitude lines — is the scientifically defined range of
possibility of moon sighting accepted as
the range for ittihمdu ’l-ufuq?
Sighting in the East does not
necessarily mean the crescent will be
sighted in the West. Even though the Crescent
gets bigger as it heads West, sighting is dependant on appropriate altitude
above horizon and suitable distance from the Sun. Sometimes, a Crescent is
sighted in the East because, at Sunset, it is, say, 8 degrees above the
horizon and cannot be sighted in the West after several hours because it is,
say, only 2 degrees above the Horizon.
When your Eminence declares that you are
satisfied that the crescent has been sighted for the holy city of Najaf,
we derive full satisfaction that the crescent has been sighted. However,
because of a great latitude difference, our home city does not share
the horizon with Najaf, can we, then, follow your declaration?Answer 3
Confirmation of sighting in Najaf does
not necessarily mean possibility of sighting (if there are no impediments)
in London and other Northern areas.
a) If the answer to the above is no, and
you recommend ihtiyat;t,
can your Eminence please guide us as to
how we can observe ihtiya;t.
One could undertake a journey on the day
one suspects could be Eid, eat something after arriving at the
Hadd-e-Tarakkhus, and then give Qadha of
Could there be an overriding principle
to justify us following your declaration, for example:
i. avoidance of disunity amongst mu’minen
who follow different Maraji’ with different
crescent sighting criteria, or ii. to avoid disrespect to our revered Marja’ because his muqallidin do end up observing the 1st of month a day
after the others, or iii. to avoid the confusion caused by
different interpretation and application of your Eminence’s crescent
sighting criterion by your honourable appointed agents around the
Differences arising from the differing
Fatawa of Maraje’ in the issue of Crescent Sighting is not a new thing.
This should not cause divisions nor should it be used to undermine the
status of any of the Maraje’. As regards
to the Fatwa of Sayyid (may the Almighty
grant him a long life), it is clear and there is no room for differences in
The traditions of Holy Imams of Ahl al-Bayt
(a), dismisses the calculations of the Munajjim/Hussa;b. In your
Eminence’s opinion does this apply to modern day Astronomers?
Astronomers who use mathematical
calculations to determine the
conjunction of the new moon, its altitude at Sunset,
and other similar data is normally acceptable as long as it is from
reliable and competent astronomers and
are free from errors. However, if these
calculations were based on empirical data and experience (as some mention)
such as criteria that determines when the Crescent can be sighted with the
naked eye using the size of the crescent that is illuminated, altitude
above the horizon, distance from the sun, etc. then these have no
significance except if these were
conducive to acquiring certainty on its validity.
Reliable astronomical calculations
suggest that in our city, the crescent would be visible at sunset on the 29th
of the month. However because of barriers like clouds, fog, mountains,
etc., the crescent is not sighted in our city or in other cities that share
our horizon. Can we consider the next
day as the first of the new month just
on the basis of possibility of the moon sight without the actual sighting
Simple ‘suggestions’ cannot be
considered. However, if there was
certainty (Itmi’nan), then one would have to act
Some scholars espouse that there is not
a single riwa;yah that specifies
the requirement of sighting the crescent
by naked eye. What is your Eminence ’s expert opinion regarding the use of
optical aid like:
a) low level binoculars
b) powerful binoculars
‘Crescents were made for people to tell
time’ – as the Holy Qur’an stipulates. A crescent that can only be
seen by aids cannot help the general
public in telling time. Based on this,
there is no consideration for a crescent sighted using optical aids like
In case of reported crescent sighting
(either single, double or multiple), are we required to inquire about the
basis of the sighting whether it
conforms to the criterion that is valid
according to our Marja’ – for example naked eye or telescopic
Only if a testimony complies with the
conditions laid down by his Marja’, can a person use the testimony as a
Hujjat for him to mark the beginning of the new month. He would thus have to
ascertain that it does comply.
If the horizon is cloudy at sunset and
if we have the facility of flying in an aircraft above the cloud, should we
make an effort to look for the
crescent from the aircraft?
Would such a sighting be acceptable:
a) for the passengers in the aircraft
who observed the crescent?
b) for the mu’minn of the city
If the role of the aircraft was simply
to rise above the impediments like clouds, then a sighting would be
sufficient both for those on board the
aircraft as well as those who inhabit
the region above which the aircraft flies.
Modern day Astronomers agree unanimously
that the crescent cannot be sighted at conjunction and for a period of time
until the separation between the sun and the moon has exceeded 6.8 degrees.
What is your Eminence’s opinion on this?
This is not an issue of jurisprudence (Fiqh)
Can we reject a valid Bayyinah that has
testified to a sighting during this period?
If certainty is acquired from them
(astronomers), then it would be the certainty that would prove the fallacy
of the ‘Bayyinah’ and hence the ‘Bayyinah’ would be rejected.
Modern day Astronomers agree unanimously
that the sun has to be at least 5 degrees below the horizon before the
light from the sun light on the horizon to have diminished to a level that would
allow the new crescent to be sighted.
a) What is your Eminence’s opinion on
b) Can we reject a valid Bayyinah that
has testified to a sighting during
Our response would be same as that to
the question above.
Astronomical calculations in which we
have full confidence for the daily prayers times and for the eclipses, give
us very accurate times for moon
set. Can we reject a valid Bayyinah that
has testified to a sighting after the moon has set on that horizon?
Moonset times are determined by
Mathematical calculations and, as long
as these are reliable and error free, no
testimony to the contrary should be accepted.
Modern day Astronomy is a very
specialized subject and the application
of their calculations to reject a sighting
is normally difficult for an average
mu’min to comprehend. What is your
Eminence’s opinion regarding setting up
a committee of Religious Scholars who are
fully conversant with your rulings and who are also conversant with
Astronomical calculations, to deliberate
on the possibility of crescent sighting for
each month and to advise your followers of their duties?
This is good, but not essential. Legal
obligation can be determined without recourse to it.
Regarding sharing the horizon between
two cities, such that a confirmed sighting in one can apply to the other,
our observations over a number of
years has shown that two cities that
share the horizon in one month would not necessarily do so in subsequent
months. In other words, the curve of possibility of moon sighting changes
from month to month. Does your Eminence agree that we ought to calculate the
common horizon independently every month?
Yes, this is true.
What is the ruling regarding going out
to look for the crescent of any new month? (wa;jib, mustahabb or mubah)
Some scholars are of the opinion that it
is ihtiya;t to look for the Shawwa;l crescent so as to avoid
falling into a hara;m act by
fasting on the first of Shawwa;l.
What is your Eminence’s expert opinion?
Searching for the new Crescent is
Mustahab. The prohibition of fasting on Eid day is a legal obligation and not an
inherent one. Thus, one who fasts believing that the new month has not
begun will not be committing a sin even if the contrary were to be proven later.
On the 29th of the month, if we
attempted to sight the crescent but
failed or neglected or were too pre-occupied,
and then if we start receiving
reports about sighting:
a) from our home city,
b) from cities with whom we share the
c) from cities with whom we do not
share the horizon,is it our duty to investigate the
credibility of the report and the reliability of the reporter:
a) in case of a single report of
b) in case of multi reports of
It is not incumbent to verify and
investigate all this. It is sufficient
to conclude that the new month has not
begun and if the contrary were to be
proven later, necessary steps be taken
to rectify it.
If a mu’mīn sights the new
crescent, should he follow his
conviction, given that when he reports the sighting,
he finds that either:
a) others have failed to sight the
crescent in similar circumstances, or b) the astronomers say that there was
no possibility of sighting, or
c) he lacks the experience of knowing
about new crescent position, shape, moonset times etc., yet he believes that
what he saw was the crescent.
If he does not believe – a reasonable
degree of belief – that he has committed an error in perception, as is
happening a lot, he has to act on
his sightings. But if he believes there
could be an error even though it was because information he has read from
astronomers which said it would be impossible to sight the new crescent at
the time and place that he believed he had seen, he will NOT act on his
sightings because he will not have obtained certainty.
If there are scholars who we rely upon
for guidance, and they have derived satisfaction after investigation that
the crescent has been sighted, should we accept their declaration
unconditionally or are we required to
inquire that the basis of their declaration
conforms with a correct application of our Marja's criterion for crescent
You must acquire certainty (Itmi’nan) on
the reliance they have over the reports and testimonies of sighting
which must comply with the conditions that make it legally binding according
to the Marja’ of your taqleed.
How does your Eminence define Shiya;’?
Shiya’ as in one of the means of
establishing the new crescent is the
spread of sighting amongst a large group of
people. This is conditional, however, on acquisition of knowledge and
certainty (Ilm wa Itmi’nan). If not, it
has no bearing.
Is there a minimum number of individuals
that constitutes a valid Shiya’?
For shiya that is conducive to knowledge
and certainty, there is no minimum number. Whatever acquires the knowledge
and certainty will be enough.
What are the qualifying characteristics
of individuals who constitute a Shiyah’?
Some characteristics that should be
present in those who claim to have sighted the crescent include an
understanding that stems from
experience; awareness of errors and its sources;
cautious in that they are not impulsive; and other similar ones that
would allow acquisition of certainty from a fewer numbers of testimonies.
If a person is easily convinced in
circumstances where others are not normally satisfied, would this
conviction be still valid?
Only if the conviction is based on
logical deductions, not otherwise.
Regarding the Shiya;a;’ that is
valid for generating satisfaction of crescent sighting from cities that share
Does a handful of people scattered over
a number of cities constitute a valid Shiya;a;’?
We have mentioned earlier that
acquisition of certainty is paramount
and this cannot be obtained when there are
large numbers who go out in one
country in search of the new crescent
and only a few claim to see it; even though they collectively form a
Do we have to inquire about the number
that went to observe but failed to see, in order to validate the Shiya;a;’?
We have mentioned earlier what does and
what does not influence the acquisition of certainty.
How many reports of confirmed sightings
would constitute a Shiya;’
to over-rule astronomical calculations
that suggest that a sighting is not possible that evening?
As mentioned earlier, the number of
reports are insignificant; what is significant is the acquisition of
certainty. Confirmation by astronomers
that it may not be possible to see the
new crescent already has a negative effect on acquiring certainty.
Can a Shiya;a;’ comprising of
individuals who have not sighted but are satisfied with a small number of
reported sightings, be considered as a valid means for deriving satisfaction of
There is no consideration for this
Regarding Shiya;a;’ that are
valid for generating satisfaction of crescent sighting from cities that DO
NOT share our horizon:
a) Does a handful of people scattered
over a number of cities constitute a valid Shiya;a;’?
b) Do we have to inquire about the
number that went to observe but failed to see, in order to validate the Shiya;a;’?
c) How many reports of confirmed
sightings would constitute a
Shiya;a;’ to over-rule
astronomical calculations that suggest
that asighting is not possible that evening?
d) Can a Shiya;a;’ comprising
of individuals who have not sighted but are satisfied with a small number of
reported sightings, be consideredas a valid means for deriving
satisfaction of crescent sighting?
e) Can a Shiya;a;’ comprising
of scholars who we rely upon forguidance, who have not sighted the
crescent, but are satisfied with a smallnumber of reported sightings, be
considered as a valid means for deriving
satisfaction of crescent sighting?
Since the ruling of Sayyid, may the
Almighty give him a long life, states that there is no bearing on reports of
sighting from regions that do not
share the horizon with the country where
you reside, it is pointless to answer the various scenarios presented
in this question.
As a matter of principle, for the holy
month of Ramadha;a;n, should
we aim for the completion of 30 days and
hence not bother with crescent sighting on the 29th?
You can base (the beginning of a new
month) on the completion (full thirty days) of the current month, as long as
nothing to the contrary is
established. It is not wajib to search
and investigate sighting of the new crescent. However, as mentioned earlier,
it is Mustahab (recommended) to look for the new crescent.
If a mu’min has an understanding of your
rulings regarding crescent sighting and on sharing the horizon, and finds
them perfectly in agreement with astronomical data, but finds it
difficult to reconcile with Marhum Grand
Ayatullah Sayyid Al-Khui’s
interpretation of the common horizon,
would it be valid for your Muqallid who is
continuing with the taqlid of Sayyid Al-Khui
on other issues, to revert to your
Eminence’s Fatwa on this particular issue?
He cannot do that just based on what has
been mentioned, and the Almighty is All Knowing.
Signed: Office of Ayatullah Seestani,
Date: 24th Ramadan 1426