Sighting The Moon And Planning For Ramadan Amidst Covid-19 Crisis By Imam Murtadha Gusau

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Friday, Sha’aban 23, 1441 AH (17/04/2020)

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Bestower of Mercy

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon the Messenger, his family, his Companions and those who follow him till the Hour is established.

Dear brothers and sisters, Abdullah Bin Umar (RA) stated that: I heard Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) saying:

“Fast when you see the moon (Ramadan), and cease fasting when you see it (Shawwal) but if it is cloudy for you then count the month (as thirty days).” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

In another narration, he Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“If it is cloudy for you, count out thirty days.” [Muslim]

In another narration, he said:

“Complete the number of days as thirty.” [Al-Bukhari]

Respected servants of Allah, these narrations prove that the beginning and end of Ramadan is based on the physical sighting of the moon and if the sky is obscured due to cloud cover or a dust cloud then one completes the thirty days of the month of Sha’aban and takes the day after that as the first day of Ramadan. That is because the origin is that the month continues to thirty days unless the moon is sighted making it twenty-nine days. So, if there is cloud cover, it is obligatory to wait and complete thirty days for Sha’aban and not be hasty. And if that is the case when there is cloud cover―then it is even more obligatory that we complete the thirty days of Sha’aban when the skies are clear, and the moon is not sighted. That is because the origin is that a month is not twenty-nine days unless the new moon is sighted with the eyes on the twenty-ninth night. This is further proven by the narration of Abu Hurairah (RA) who said that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“Complete the number of days of Sha’aban as thirty.” [Al-Bukhari]

Abdullah Bin Umar (RA) narrated:

“The people tried to sight the moon and I informed Allah’s Messenger that I had seen it. So, he commanded the people to fast the month (of Ramadan).” [Abu Dawud, Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim; and authenticated by Sheikh Al-Albani in Al-Irwa]

In the previous narration, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) stated:

“Fast when you see the moon and cease fasting when you see it.”

This does not entail that everyone has to see it and the Hadith of Ibn Umar proves that the sighting of just one trustworthy Muslim is sufficient for all the Muslims. If it is expected that a particular night may be the night of Ramadan, then it is recommended for the people to look out for the moon to signify the start of the month. So, people should not rely on others, instead, those who are able and capable should seek out the moon and this type of mutual cooperation benefits all the Muslims.

The Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) acceptance of Ibn Umar’s moon sighting proves that the report of a singular trustworthy person (male or female) is sufficient for all the Muslims―and it is not a condition that many people sight it before it is accepted. As for the sightings of the non-Muslims, then that it is not accepted as proof. The sighting must be established by a trustworthy Muslim, male or female.

The sighting of one woman who is trustworthy is accepted. This is something stated by the scholars and jurists.

The beginning of Ramadan should be announced to the people by the Muslim leader (Sultan of Sokoto in the case of Nigeria) or whomever the Sultan as a leader appoints. And this can be done by radio, television, telephones, internet, or by sending messages to the various parts of the country, etc.

So, all these narrations prove that the moon sighting for Ramadan is established in one of the two ways:

1. The physical sighting of the moon by a trustworthy Muslim or Muslims.

2. Or, if is not sighted or the sky is obscured, then by the completing thirty days of Sha’aban.

* Uniting the Ummah by Starting and Finishing Ramadan on the Same Day

As for what has become common practice in this age where we see some ignoramuses and those who pretend to be people of knowledge predicting the beginning of Ramadan using moon-phase calculations, then that is misguidance from the Sunnah and an innovation in Islam―it is something that Allah did not legislate and nor did the Prophet (Peace be upon him) allow, even though it was available to him. The onset of Ramadan is known by only two methods: either through the sighting of the new moon or by completing thirty days of Sha’aban. There is no third way.

Astronomy was known and present in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), his Companions and the early Muslim scholars―the motion and position of the moon throughout the months was known to them yet they never relied on that. Additionally, calculations can be wrong, and they require detailed knowledge that is not known to most people, and the Islamic religion gives ease, and all praise is for Allah.

Allah the Most High connected the fasting month to that which is apparent and known to the general folk and the educated such that everyone knows it and it is not difficult or hard. Sighting of the crescent moon (hilal) or counting the thirty days of Sha’aban is known to everyone, and it is easy. That is not the case with moon-phase calculations which is not known to everyone.

Also, calculations and predictions are open to error and differing and involve speaking ignorantly about affairs that the Shari’ah does not allow. Ibn Umar (RA) narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“We are an unlettered nation, we neither write nor use calculations. The month is like this and this, i.e. sometimes twenty-nine days and sometimes thirty days.” [Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa’i]

What is understood from this Hadith is that the month can sometimes be twenty-nine days and sometimes thirty days when seeking out the new moon of the month.

So, those who proclaim to the people and make announcements calling to accept their predications―and they cast doubts in those who have sighted the moon and claim that whoever sighted it has opposed the view of the astronomers because “it was not possible for the moon to have sighted on a particular night”―then all of this is from their ignorance of Islam and the revelation (Wahy), and they speak without knowledge. It is a must they are refuted, and their opinions rejected because they are playing with the religion of Allah.

It is important to give this matter the importance it deserves and not open the door to ever fraudster and innovator to enter and throw doubts at the people in the affairs of their worship. All praise is due to Allah that the rulings of worship are connected to things that are clear and manifest. The prayers are prayed at clearly established times: Fajr is at the onset of the true dawn till sunrise, Zuhr is known by the midday sun when it casts a shadow, Asr begins when a shadow of an object is equal to its height, Maghrib is after the Sun has set and Isha begins when the afterglow of redness in the sky disappears―all of these matter are clear. Likewise, with fasting in Ramadan―it is known by the sighting of the moon, and if not (due to cloud cover), then by the completion of the thirty days of Sha’aban. This is ease from Allah the Most High who said:

“And He did not place upon you in the Religion any difficulty.” [Surah Al-Hajj: 87]

So, as for the five daily prayers, then they are witnessed and seen by the viewing of the sun – when it reaches midday, it is seen; when it sets in the evening, it is witnessed. When the twilight-redness disappears, it is witnessed by sight obligating the Isha prayer; when Fajr appears, it is witnessed. These are all matters seen and witnessed. They do not require calculations, except in situations or locations where it cannot be witnessed and seen, when the sun is concealed. So these timetables are a sign or an indication of the entry times of the prayers.

Some people may ask, for those people living in places where the Sun does not set. Are they to resort to calculations? And how are they to pray? Are they to pray in accordance to the times of prayer of the country closest to them?

The case of these people has been put to the Committee of Major Scholars and an edict was issued with respect to them. So if they experience within twenty-four hours, night and day [visibly], then they can eat and drink in the night, and they must fast in the day. So if they have in a twenty-four hour period both night and day, then they must fast, even if it is a short time-period. They are to fast in the day, and break their fast in the night. However, if within a twenty-four hour period, they do not have a night and day passing through it, then they must rely on the timings of the closest country to them that has a distinct day and night within a twenty-four hour period – and they are to follow them [in prayers and fasting]. And they are to follow the timings of that country in their fasting and their breaking of the fast – i.e. follow the timings of the country closest to them that experiences both night and day within a twenty-four hour period.

So, in these times, you see the people organising conferences, workshops and conventions for the purpose of uniting on a single day to begin fasting (based on these calculations and predictions) in order to unite the Muslims who are divided.

My response is that the Muslims have been fasting since the era of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) till now, and the people of Sunnah and Hadith have never had a problem in following the Prophetic guidance. Dispute and disunity occur when the Sunnah is abandoned―and it is by returning to the Book and Sunnah that will unite the Muslims not by trying to unite them upon a singular start to Ramadan or a united moon sighting.

So, where are their calls to return to the Book and Sunnah in matters of Aqidah (belief), Tawhid, worship and Sunnah? Is it only the crescent moon (hilal) they wish to unite around and focus on? This is due to their ignorance and it goes against what Allah has revealed.

Muslims will not be united except through the rectification of their beliefs. As for each sect carrying on in its own path, each having its own set of beliefs concerning Allah, then unity will never be achieved like that. In fact, they will continue to hate each other, boycott one another and wars will break out between them and “every sect rejoices in what they have.”

As for the affair of fasting in Ramadan, even if they all started to fast on the same day, they will still not achieve this so-called unity because none of them will abandon their oppositions to the aqidah (belief) and the Sunnah.

* If the new moon is seen in a particular country, then is everyone obligated by the sighting of that country?

People often asked the following question: If a trustworthy person sights the moon in Saudi Arabia, is fasting therefore obligatory upon the people of Nigeria, Yemen, Kuwait and Bahrain or are they to look to the differences that occur in the rising of the moon in the different regions/countries of the earth?

Concerning this I said yes one pays attention to and looks to the differences that occur in the rising of moon in the different countries. So if the countries share the same rising of the moon due to their proximity, then they are obligated to fast together on the same sighting. However if the moon-rising differs between the countries, then each countries seeks out its own sighting.

Furthermore, it is possible that people in different countries will begin their fasting on differing days in accordance to their sighting of the moon or due to cloud cover. This happened in the time of the Sahabah (Prophet’s Companions) yet that did not lead them to be divided because each of them followed the Sunnah.

So, the question arises: If the new moon is seen in a particular country, then is everyone bound by the sighting of that country? The answer is that where countries share in the moon rising, i.e. it is known that the moon appears in each of these countries at the same time, then fasting is obligated on all the inhabitants of these countries. However, if the rising of the moon differs in one country compared to another due to the large distances between them, then the sighting in one country is not obligated upon those living far away until they sight it themselves based on the saying of the Messenger (Peace be upon him):

“Fast when you see the moon and cease fasting when you see it.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

So, if the appearance of the moon is known to differ due to distances between countries, then each country should seek its own sighting. This seems to be the stronger of the opinions of the scholars.

Imam An-Nasa’i (rahimahullah) has a chapter in his Sunan entitled:

“People of distant countries differ in their moon sighting.”

Then he reports that Kuraib (rahimahullah) mentioned that Umm Al-Fadl sent him to Mu’awiyyah (RA) in Sham, then he said:

“I arrived in Sham and fulfilled her errand. While I was there, I saw the crescent moon (hilal) of Ramadan on Thursday night [Lailatul-Jumu’ah], then I left out and arrived in Madinah at the end of Ramadan. So, Abdullah Bin Abbas asked me, ‘When did you see the crescent moon of Ramadan?’ So I said: ‘We saw it on Thursday night.’ He said: ‘You saw it on Thursday night?’ I said: ‘Yes. And the people saw it too so, they fasted and Mu’awiyyah fasted.’ So Ibn Abbas said: ‘But we saw it on Friday night [Lailatul-Sabt] and we will not stop fasting until we complete the thirty days or when we the crescent moon again.’ I said to him: ‘Is not the sighting of Mu’awiyyah and his people sufficient for you?’ Ibn Abbas (RA) replied: ‘No. This is what Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) commanded us with.’” [An-Nasa’i and At-Tirmidhi; and declared Sahih by Al-Albani]

Dear brothers and sisters, the people of Syria saw the moon on Thursday night, so they fasted the first of Ramadan on Friday. The people of Madinah did not see it till Friday night, so they fasted on Saturday as the first day of Ramadan. So, there was a difference of one day between them and Ibn Abbas said:

“We will not stop fasting until we complete the thirty days or when we the crescent moon again.”

And he did not go by the sighting of the people of Syria, nor did he consider it to be binding on him. So, for this reason Imam An-Nasa’i gave this Hadith the chapter heading:

“People of distant countries differ in their moon sighting.”

And Imam At-Tirmidhi in his Sunan gave it the chapter heading:

“For the people of every country, there is their own moon sighting.”

However, there is another opinion that states that regardless of the distances between the countries, if it is sighted in one place, then everyone is obliged to fast based on that one sighting due to the narration of Abdullah Bin Umar (RA) who said:

“The people tried to sight the new moon and I informed Allah’s Messenger that I had seen it. So, he commanded the people to fast the month.” [Abu Dawud, Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim; and authenticated by Sheikh Al-Albani in Al-Irwa]

So, if the people differ on which of these approaches to take, then the affair should be referred back to the sincere Islamic scholars. If they conclude that one position is stronger than the other based on their ijtihad, then that is given consideration.

As for those who rebuke us, and instead utilise moon phase calculations and come with the ruling that when there is a contradiction between the physical sighting and the moon phase calculations (and predictions), then the physical sighting cannot be relied upon! They mean that acting upon the Prophetic narrations should be rejected in favour of calculations. This is the peak of opposition to the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him)―and these opposers wish to unite the Muslims on a calculation method, and that is not possible because there is no unity upon falsehood.

As for the people of Sunnah, then they have two positions: firstly, those who say that one physical moon sighting suffices all the Muslims regardless of where they live, and secondly, those who say that each country has its own sighting. These two positions of Ahlus-Sunnah do not harm their unity because both opinions (or ijtihads) are based on the Sunnah and the understanding of the Sahabah.

* Planning for Ramadan During the Coronavirus Pandemic

My beloved people, with Ramadan few days away, people are taking to social media to share their thoughts and concerns about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect Islam’s holiest month.

The traditions of Ramadan, estimated to begin on April 23 or 24 this year, are centered on group gatherings: communal tarawih prayers, the evening meal of iftar in which Muslims break their fast together, shared food in Ramadan tents and other religious and social events with family and friends.

This Ramadan will very likely begin with the continuing covid-19 pandemic, lockdown and the resulting physical isolation. That means we need to make arrangements now to figure out how we will get the best out of this blessed month in this unique circumstance, especially with some of our Mosques closed.

Fasting is a personal act of worship but Ramadan is a great opportunity for regular social get together as well. So let the family committee begin about planning for this unique Ramadan. Maybe you can announce this meeting immediately. Make sure everyone in the family participates.

Put a “Countdown to Ramadan” notice on the fridge. It is most likely that April 23 or 24 will be the beginning of Ramadan this year. Let’s bring it to our home. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) would fast on Mondays and Thursdays, and in the days preceding Ramadan, he would fast more. It is not required for us to do so, but it may help bring Ramadan to our hearts.

Many Muslims already have a small area in their homes designated as a Mosque or prayer area. If you don’t, this is one thing to decide in your meeting. Where will it be and who will be responsible for it? In my case, our home does not have a separate space, so our living room has a place for all of the prayer rugs and we keep one prayer rug always in place. Next to that is a shelf holding copies of the Qur’an.

In preparation for Ramadan, please put up your area’s Salat timings on the fridge. For each of the five daily prayers, someone should be designated to call the Adhan and to lead salat. Please pray together.

With everyone at home, and some getting bored, others getting worried, why not engage children to start decorating the home for Ramadan. I have a 25-year-old tamarind plant in one corner of our living room. We plan to place small lights on it to bring some life to the living room.

Ramadan is when the Qur’an was first revealed. As we welcome the month of Ramadan, the month of the Qur’an, learn how the Qur’an was revealed and how it was preserved. Maybe this could be a pre-Ramadan online assignment for all Islamic classes. I have traveled to many countries and have seen copies of the Qur’an printed in all continents. I actually own a small photocopied portion of the copy of the Qur’an from Khalifah Uthman Ibn Affan’s time, may Allah be pleased with him. Isn’t it a miracle that this book has stayed the same? No other book is like it.

Ramadan is the month of Du’a (supplication to Allah), but don’t wait for Ramadan to make Du’a. Start asking Allah to lift this misery of the Covid-19 pandemic from us so that we can get to our Mosques, and hug and meet each other. We miss all of that time of connection and closeness.

Pray for those doctors and health workers who are saving lives in hospitals; pray for those struggling to live; pray for those who cannot get to a hospital. Each Du’a should begin by thanking Allah for all that we have, then thanking the Prophet (Peace be upon him) through Salawat for connecting us to Allah Almighty.

Then, we must ask Allah for His forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. Following that, we can start asking Him for what we want. All sincere Du’as are accepted. He listens when we talk. But He decides which way He will accept our Du’a. So trust Him. Sometimes we don’t understand His reasoning. That is the reason in Surah al-Kahf (chapter 18 of the Qur’an) He provides a window to His mysteries. You don’t have to pray in Arabic. Talk to Allah in the language you know. He knows all languages including the language of tears.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of people are walking in Nigeria to get to their homes. Some are walking as far as 600 miles. They are poor people who have lost their jobs as the country institutes orders for self-isolation. Two billion people live on a dollar a day. That is not just food, that is everything. We are way better off. Most of these people have no permanent jobs. They earn every day to eat. Now, there is no way for them to eat. In a world where the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer, misery is increasing for a whole lot of people. Wallahi we will not be good Muslims if we don’t carry these people in our hearts, in our Du’as, and in our resolve to change the world.

Ramadan is not about food. It’s about consuming less and sharing more. We must feel the hunger. So plan a healthy menu. Don’t overeat. Fill your plate with less than what you used to eat before Ramadan. Plan on spending less on groceries. And send what you save early enough for those who are hungry. What is your monthly budget for groceries? Can you reduce it by half? But do enjoy samosas and pakoras, some staple Iftar food items, once in a while. Don’t completely abandon those. While at home this Ramadan, we might be moving less, so let’s rely on low calorie intake. I have been following a dollar a day fast now for years. I don’t even feel it after a few days and end up losing some amount of money in Ramadan.

While planning for Ramadan, remember Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)’s mission. He was one of the most successful people in the world. His mission and the mission of all of the Prophets sent by Allah Almighty is mentioned by Allah in the Qur’an: to help people establish Qist – peace, justice, fairness, and equity in the society (Qur’an, 57:25). He was successful in doing that. In his last sermon, he assigned that duty to all of us. So while preparing for Ramadan, remember that Salat, Zakat, fasting, and Hajj, are all spiritual tools that connect us to Allah and prepare us to fulfill the Prophetic mission of making this world a just place for all.

Please turn this covid-19 crisis and lockdown into a blessing by being obedient to Allah, giving charity and assisting the poor, and by reading the Qur’an and memorising at least two short/medium Surahs of the Qur’an. Please try it.

May Allah Almighty allow us to reach the month of Ramadan and may our sins to be forgiven, May Allah shows his mercy upon the whole world and save us from coronavirus and may His mercy prevail and heal the world before and after Ramadan.

O Allah, our Lord, our Protector, we are your servants, in need to You, prisoners before You (servants under Your control), we ask that You remove this coronavirus epidemic and this danger from the Muslims specifically and the World generally, and that you exchange it for ease, and with goodness, general and specific, for indeed no one forgives the sins except You, and no one is capable of removing the affliction except You, You are our Lord, and our Protector, You are sufficient for us and the best of Protectors.

O Allah remove what You have sent, O Allah remove what You have sent, O Allah remove what You have sent from this coronavirus epidemic, and replace in its place relief, and ease, and goodness and good health, for the Muslims specifically and for the World generally, for indeed You are able to do all things.

Allah the Mighty and Majestic, You are the One able to do everything, and You tests Your servants, and was it not for Your mercy, pardoning and goodness, then not an animal would have remained upon the face of the Earth, but You, the Sublime and Most High, is full of Kindness, Most Merciful, and You are capable of everything, and You are near and the One who answers, and You are the praiseworthy Guardian, You are our Protector, how excellent a Protector, and how good a Helper, O Allah remove what you have sent, O Allah remove what you have sent, O Allah remove what you have sent from us, from the Muslims specifically and the World generally, O Allah spare us the evil of the evildoers, and the plots of the wrongdoers, and the evil of what occurs in the night and day, for indeed You are capable of everything, there is no recourse or resort away from you except to You, Glorified (and Exalted) be You [above all that] we have been of the wrong-doers, O Allah remove from us all affliction, Glorified (and Exalted) be You [above all that] we have been of the wrong-doers, O Allah remove from us all affliction, Glorified (and Exalted) be You [above all that] we have been of the wrong-doers, O Allah remove from us every affliction, and coronavirus epidemic, and every evil and trial, indeed You are able to do all things, You are our Protector, what an excellent Protector and Helper, Allah is sufficient for us and the best of protectors.

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.

 

 

 

 

 

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusauimam@gmail.com or +2348038289761.

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