Questions on Hilaal / Moon Sighting

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Hilal Issues : Questions & Replies From Najaf, 24 Ramadhan 1426

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 below. .

Question 1
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 Islamic month?
 Answer 1
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.

Question 2

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 question is:
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?

Answer 2
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.

Question 3
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.

Question 3a
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.
Answer 3a
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 the fast.

Question 3b
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 world.
Answer 3b
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 its interpretation.

Question 4
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?
Answer 4
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.

Question 5
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 itself?
Answer 5
Simple ‘suggestions’ cannot be considered. However, if there was certainty (Itmi’nan), then one would have to act accordingly.

Question 6
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
 c) telescopes.
Answer 6
‘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 telescopes, etc.

Question 7
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 sighting.
Answer 7
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.

Question 8
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 below?
Answer 8
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.

Question 9
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.
Question 9a
What is your Eminence’s opinion on this?
Answer 9a
This is not an issue of jurisprudence (Fiqh)

Question 9b
Can we reject a valid Bayyinah that has testified to a sighting during this period?
Answer 9b
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.

Question 10
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 this?
b) Can we reject a valid Bayyinah that has testified to a sighting during
this period?
Answer 10
Our response would be same as that to the question above.

Question 11
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?
Answer 11
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.

Question 12
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?
Answer 12
This is good, but not essential. Legal obligation can be determined without recourse to it.

Question 13
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?
Answer 13
Yes, this is true.

Question 14
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?
Answer 14
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.

Question 15
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 horizon,
 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 sighting?
 b) in case of multi reports of sighting?
Answer 15
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.

Question 16
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.

Answer 16
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.

Question 17
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 sighting?
Answer 17
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.

Question 18a
How does your Eminence define Shiya;’?
Answer 18a
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.

Question 18b
Is there a minimum number of individuals that constitutes a valid Shiya’?
Answer 18b
For shiya that is conducive to knowledge and certainty, there is no minimum number. Whatever acquires the knowledge and certainty will be enough.

Question 18c
What are the qualifying characteristics of individuals who constitute a Shiyah’?
Answer 18c
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.

Question 18d
If a person is easily convinced in circumstances where others are not normally satisfied, would this conviction be still valid?
Answer 18d
Only if the conviction is based on logical deductions, not otherwise.

Question 19
Regarding the Shiya;a;’ that is valid for generating satisfaction of crescent sighting from cities that share our horizon:

Question 19a
Does a handful of people scattered over a number of cities constitute a valid Shiya;a;’?
Answer 19a
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 reasonable number.

Question 19b
Do we have to inquire about the number that went to observe but failed to see, in order to validate the Shiya;a;’?
Answer 19b
We have mentioned earlier what does and what does not influence the acquisition of certainty.

Question 19c
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?
Answer 19c
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.

Question 19d
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 crescent sighting?
Answer 19d
There is no consideration for this whatsoever.

Question 20
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?
Answer 20
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.

Question 21
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?
Answer 21
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.

Question 22
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?

Answer 22
He cannot do that just based on what has been mentioned, and the Almighty is All Knowing.

Signed: Office of Ayatullah Seestani, Najaf, Iraq
Date: 24th Ramadan 1426


His Eminence Ayatullah al-Udhma Syed Ali al-Husaini Sistani (DZ):

We offer prayers of peace and safety and hope you are in the best of health.

We write to inform you that the majority of the mu’mineen of Europe, particularly the youth, are fully conversant with your ruling on the issue of moon sighting and the theory

of differing horizons. Your office has repeatedly provided comprehensive guidance on these issues for which we are very thankful.

However, unfortunately it appears there is a group that has not fully understood your rulings and believe either that you do allow Ruju’ (permission to refer to another mujtahid) on the matter of moon sighting, or that the notion of Tab’id (Partial Taqlid - whereby one can refer to any other mujtahid of equal standing) is valid in this matter.

The proof they present is that one is unable to identify an A’lam Mujtahid (most learned jurist) and hence the ruling on Tab’id (Partial Taqlid) can be applied and another Marja’ can be followed that has a ruling based on the theory of ‘Unity of Horizons’, and, as a result, can celebrate Eid al-Fitr on their preferred day.

The youths of our community who have been your muqallidin for the past 14 years are confused and are requesting your Eminence to provide guidance on this issue.

Question: Under the notion of Tab’id (Partial Taqlid) can one refer to another Marja’ so that Eid can be celebrated on a preferred day?

Please do not forget us in your duas. From: Concerned Mu’mineen of Europe


Bismihi Ta’ala

Those who do the Taqlid of Agha (DZ) cannot refer to another (Marja) on the issue of moon sighting.


Office of Ayatullah Sistani – Najaf

29 Ramadhan 1427

30th day of Shaban is called Yamul Shak (doubtful day) if you do not receive news about Ramadan moonsighting on 29th evening or before the end of 30th day.
It is haram to fast on 30th Shaban with the niyat intention of 1st of Ramadan.

It is Mustahab to keep fast on 30th Shaban but the Niyyat (intention) should be either
(a) with the Niyyat of Mafiz-zimma (to discharge my responsibility), or
(b) with the Niyyat of any Qaza fast of previous Ramadan, if any, or
(c) with the Niyyat of Mustahab Shaban fast.

If you do a double Niyyat of fasting (i.e. 30th Shaban or 1st Ramadan), then such a Niyyat is wrong according Ayatullah Khui, but it is OK according to Ayt Khomeini and Ayt Seestani.
If you are fasting on 30th Shaban, and if, at any time on that day, you get the news of moon sighting of 29th Shaban, then you must immediately change Niyyat to Niyyat of 1st of Ramadan.
If you have fasted on 30th Shaban (with any Niyyat), and afterwards you come to know that it was 1st of Ramadan, then your fast will automatically be counted as fast of 1st of Ramadan.

If you are not fasting on 30th Shaban, then following actions are necessary on you:
(a) If you get the news after sunset of 30th Shaban or later that the moon had been actually sighted on evening of 29th Shaban, then you have to keep Qaza of 1st Ramadan after the month of Ramadan.
(b) If you get the news of moon sighting after Zawal time (Islamic mid-day), then it is haram to eat or drink or do anything, which is not allowed during fasting from that time onward until Iftar time on that day, and you have to do Qaza of 1st of Ramadan later on.
(c) If you get the news of moon sighting before Zawal time (Islamic mid-day), then
    (i) if you have not eaten or drunk anything or done anything which breaks fast, you must immediately do the Niyyat of fasting of Ramadan for  that day,
   (ii) if you have eaten or drunk something or have done anything which breaks fast, then you have to act as if fasting for the rest of the day, and then do Qaza of 1st of Ramadan later on.


But how can we have more than one Eid?"   The answer: why not?!

Instead of making mountains out of molehills, Muslims should try to resolve such issues with a little bit of common sense. If Ramadan ends on Wednesday for some people (i.e. Thursday Eid) and on Thursday for muqallids of Ayt. Khui (i.e. Friday Eid) and on Friday or Saturday for the muqallids of Ayt. Seestani in Europe (i.e. Saturday/Sunday Eid),  surely there is nothing wrong in it.  Each one interprets the 'Sighting of New Moon' according to the verdict of his religious authority and their interpretation of the verdict.  This is a sign of a healthy & mature community which is prepared to think and lead rather than follow others without understanding.      

If the other members of your family are fasting on the day you are celebrating Eid, and you are not, just drink a glass of water in the morning – you don't have to eat a four-course meal in front of them! In regards to Eid prayers, most places have services to accommodate various situations, and even if your community doesn't, keep in mind that Eid prayers are not obligatory during the occultation of the Twelfth Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance) and can also be offered individually (Ayatollah Sistani: Islamic Laws, ruling #1525).  Remember in Islam, the Day of Eid is a day of Ibadat and not merry making and Ibadat should be performed according to its religious rules and regulations and not as we think fit or for our own pleasure or as others do.   

In days long gone by, the same things used to happen, only we did not know because we as a community, we all mostly followed only one Marja and we lived in a small towns or villages - so we all used to celebrate Eid together, thinking that the whole world celebrated it with us.  Today, with Ilm, education, outlook and our circumstances we re spread around the globe and so we find this phenomena a bit vied.

Furthermore, even if we see the Arab community celebrating Eid on one day, the Pakistanis the next days, and as usual the mature Khoja community after them, what exactly is the big deal?  In many parts of the Muslim world, people celebrate Eid for a whole week.  The more, the merrier! I for one fail to see the problem with being able to dress up, visit friends and having delicious meals in the evening for three days instead of just one!  Talking to Non-Muslims, whenever they ask me about Eid Day, I tell them that we celebrate Eid over 3 days - everyone at their convenience and this avoids many questions from them. 

Instead of panicking and rushing to hurl the vilest accusations at our religious scholars, andturning and twisting their research and presentations to suit our needs, let us try to be a bit more reasonable. Unity does not mean uniformity. Instead of becoming upset at such minor differences, let us learn to appreciate and enjoy the blessings of variety and diversity.

Also, we must realize that even if we ignore all jurisprudential differences, we still would not be able to avoid the issue of multiple Eids. Indeed, we see that during the caliphate of Imam Ali (peace be upon him), a man once came and told him that he had sighted the crescent for the month of Shawwal, while no one else had. The Imam a.s.  told him that since he has sighted the moon himself, it was Eid for him the next day, but for the rest of the community, since there were not two reliable testimonies (as required by Shariah), it would be the 30th of Ramadan.  So while it was haram for the man to fast the next day, it was in fact wajib upon everyone else!

Hence, for those who have proper knowledge and understanding of Islamic jurisprudence, this is really a non-issue. In all honesty, the moonsighting drama has nothing to do with unity or keeping our families intact. The Shia world has had multiple Eids for centuries now, so it is hard to fathom why this has become such a divisive issue. The fact of the matter is that this is a simple jurisprudential technicality which certain nefarious elements have hijacked and used to attack our Maraja-e-Taqleed, and many simple-minded Shias are sadly following suit. If we are really so concerned about maintaining unity, let us keep in mind that the one institution that has safeguarded and protected Shi'ism for the past 1200 years and the only platform that is capable of uniting us, is the same Marjaiyyat which we so quickly rush to accuse of causing disunity amongst us!

On a final note, History tell us that in the 16th century, as Mongol armies were about to overrun Baghdad, the Muslim world was too busy fighting among itself over apparently a far more pertinent matter: whether it is permissible to consume owl meat or not!  While they were busy discussing this issue, Baghdad was captured and run over.  Today, as we face enemies and calamities from all sides, let us learn from our own history, let us cease from wasting so much time and energy complaining about such trivial matters, let us unite under the banner of the Marjaiyyat, and let us focus on the greater problems that threaten to overrun our communities and the Muslim Ummah today.  Remember the famous statement of Ayt. Khomeini (r.a.) who used to say: "Muslim world is fighting whether to keep hands open or closed during prayers, forgetting that enemies are ever ready and waiting for the chance to chop those hands."