Procedures For Moon Sighting

The foundation of all Islamic laws are based on ease and simplicity, not on scientific calculations, assumptions, nor on in-depth research. The reason for the ease and simplicity is that the laws of Islam are meant for people of all races, cultures, and civilizations. Whether a person lives in a metropolitan city, on an island, or in a village, the laws of Islam are simple, easy to understand, and more importantly, easy to follow. Logic and wisdom would dictate that a law which will be followed by Muslims from all walks of life be simple, and not be based on science, philosophy, or on modern technology, so that any Muslim can fulfill his or her obligation. For example, the fasting of Ramadan which is obligatory upon all of us is based on seeing the Hilal, and not based on calculations. Similarly, the lunar months have been established based on the sighting of the Hilal. It is a simple way for one to know when to start and stop fasting; a method anyone can follow.

The issue of Hilal sighting, from one perspective, is the same as any general matter which directly affects the benefit or harm of a person. From another perspective, it deals with one’s ‘ebaadah (worship) and integrity. The conditions for Hilal Sighting and its reporting are slightly lenient than those required for other matters of Shariah. In general matters, a testimony is only required when someone makes a particular claim; however, in the case of a testimony for Hilal Sighting, a claim is not required. This is unanimously agreed upon by the majority of the Fuqahaa (Jurists).

The conditions of a testimony mentioned by the Fuqahaa (Jurists), are as follows:

  • The witness must be a Muslim; a non-Muslim’s testimony is not acceptable regarding the sighting of the Hilal.
  • The witness must be sane; an insane person’s testimony is not acceptable.
  • The witness must be an adult; a minor’s testimony is not acceptable.
    (the above mentioned 3 conditions are the same as required for other of dealings in Islam)
  • The witness must not be blind.
  • The witness must be just and honest.
  • The most important factor that must be present in all Shahaadahs (testimonies) is that the witness be a “just” person as Allah Ta’aala has mentioned it specifically in the Quran: "And take testimony from the just and honest amongst you". The definition of a just person in the terminology of Shariah is: That Muslim, who abstains from the major sins, does not persist on the minor ones, and whose good deeds are more in comparison to his bad deeds”. (Taken from Fatawaa Aalamgiri). In contrast, a Muslim who commits major sins and persists on minor ones, and whose bad actions outweigh his good actions is considered a Faasiq (sinner). The jist of this condition is that the witness should be a just Muslim & not a Faasiq (sinner).
    Note: All the Fuqahaa do unanimously agree on the fact that it is not mandatory for a Judge to accept the testimony of a Faasiq eye witness and make a decision based on it; however, if the Judge has reasons to believe that the eye witness is not a liar and subsequently he does decide on the Faasiq person’s testimony, this decision will be considered valid. (Taken from Hidayah, Sharah Wiqaayah, Durre Mukhtaar, Shaami, Aalamgiri, etc.)
  • The words "I testify" must be used in the testimony; without these words, the testimony will not be accepted. The reason is that the words “I testify” render the meaning of “swearing under oath” and denotes the fact that the person is testifying as an eye witness. Therefore, it is necessary that at the beginning of the testimonial, the witness must say that; I testify that such incident happened in such a manner". It means that I swear under oath that I myself have witnessed this event.
  • The witness must be an eye witness, i.e., he or she was present in that event, and not testifying on hearsay.
    Note: If a person cannot present his or her self due to a valid reason, the alternative would be to send representatives instead; two males or, one male with two females (all of who must be Muslim, sane, and adults). The representative’s testimony will be on behalf of the original witness, hence they will tell the judge that: "We are testifying on behalf of so and so person, who has witnessed the event himself but could not be present due to so and so reason, therefore we are testifying on their testimony."
    Reference: All these conditions are taken from the booklet “Ruyate Hilal” by the Late Grand Mufti of Pakistan, Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (R.A).

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