`Ala Hadrat Imam Ahmad Rida (raHimahullah) on Sighting the Moon (courtesy of raza-academy.com)

From al-Fatawa riDawiyya of Sayyidi Ala Hadrat Imam Ahmad Rida Khan Baraylawi al-Hindi, nawarAllahu ta`ala marqadahu
Vol 4., pg. 546-547, fatwa # 157, question # 25

Question: 25
Muharram al-Haraam 1320 A.H.,
Question sent by Al-Sayyid Hassan Khan Bahadur from Baadah Nawaab Sahib, Barodah, Gujerat.

How do the `ulama of the deen advise that the confirmation of the sighting of the (new) moon be done in accordance with the Shari`ah ? Include with your answer Urdu translations of authentic references from the Kutub (of al-Fiqh al-Hanafi).

ANSWER:
There are seven ways of establishing the sighting of the new moon according to Shariat.
The acceptance of the testimony of the person who witnessed the sighting of the new moon himself.

It is sufficient for only one person to confirm the sighting of the new moon for the blessed month of Ramadan, provided that he is a sensible, mature (adult) person who is not impious (not in the habit of transgressing the Laws of Shar`ia, and if such a person alone declares that, “I have witnessed the appearance of the new moon for the blessd month of Ramadan on the evening of such and such date”, then his testimony is acceptable. Even if the person is a slave girl; or even if it is a person whose background is not well known, and whose internal sense of righteousness is unknown but whose external state conforms with the acceptable norms of Shari`a; even if such a person does not testify before a panel of judges (Majlis al-Qudda); even if the person does not declare that, “I testify…”; even if he does not narrate the circumstances of the appearance of the moon in relation to wherefrom he saw it, where the moon appeared or how high above the horizon it appeared, etc. (the sighting will still be valid). This applies to the sighting of the moon on the 29th of Sha`ban in unclear skies due to the appearance of clouds or dust (due to a sandstorm).
In the case of clear skies, the submission (of the sighting of the moon for Ramadaan) by even one person living in the jungle, in a house located at a high point (mountainside) would be sufficient. However, it must be ascertained whether a large number of Muslims living in these areas are inclined towards seeking the appearance of the new moon regularly, or whether they are (in fact) indisposed to such activity and show no interest at all.

In a situation where no interest is shown (by the Muslims to regularly sight the moon), it would be necessary for TWO people (to establish the sighting of the moon) even if their backgrounds are not known. Otherwise, a large group of people (Jama`ah al-`Adhim) would be required to witness and confirm without doubt the appearance of the moon, even if the (Jama`ah) group consists of slaves and impious people. And if the group of people (witnessing the appearance of the moon) continues to increase in size to such an extent that the intelligence (of a person) finds it absurd to accept the confirmation (of the sighting of the moon) by so many people as false, then such confirmation will become acceptable to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

FOR THE BALANCE OF THE ELEVEN MONTHS, it is absolutely necessary at all times for two males of righteous character; or one male and two females (all) of righteous character; who should all be free people (not slaves), but whose external and internal state has been established (as good), and conforms with the requirements of Shariat, to appear before a Shariat Judge (Qadi al-Shari`ya) and testify with the words, “I bear witness (Ash-hadu) that I had seen the appearance of the (new) moon for this month on the evening of such and such day, at such and such time.” In those places which do not have a Shariat Judge (Qadi al-Shari`ya), then the declaration of witnessing shall be made before the most learned Mufti with the knowledge of Fiqh, residing in the town. And in those places where neither a Shariat Judge (qaDi) nor a Mufti can be found, in the presence of the Muslims (of that place) the declaration of witnessing with the words, “I bear witness (asH-hadu) …” by the two righteous males or one righteous male and two righteous females shall suffice. This is the method always prescribed for (confirmation of witnessing the appearance of) the new moon for these 11 months (excluding Ramadan).
However, for the `iDayn, if the skies are clear and the Muslims (of the area) are not indisposed to seeking the appearance of the new moon (i.e. they are always in the habit of looking for the new moon); and if two people living in the jungle or (in a house) on a high point have not come forward (to confirm witnessing), then in such a case it would be necessary again for a large group of people (Jama`ah al-adhim) to witness and confirm the appearance of the moon.

Similarly, where all the Muslims of an area, organise and supervise the regular sightings of the NEW MOON FOR MUHARRAM, for example; and during conditions with clear skies people living in the jungle or (in a house) on a high point do not come forth (to confirm witnessing of the moon), then in such a case, again, a large group of people (Jama`ah al-`Adhim) would be required (to confirm the moon sighting for that community) in the same manner as was applicable to confirm (the moon sighting) for Ramadan and `iDayn as described earlier. (Reference: Durr al-Mukhtar of Imam al-Haskafi)

Note: Only the first method is discussed

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