Allah (subhanahu wa ta’alaa) says in the Glorious Qur’an, “They ask you (O Muhammad [sallAllahu alayhi wa salam]) about the moon. Say: ‘They are seasons fixed for mankind and for the pilgrimage.’ The Prophet of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) has said, “Keep fast after seeing it (the moon), and break fast after seeing it (the moon)”. The aforementioned verse (ayah) and tradition (hadith) are clear that months on the Islamic calendar begin with the sighting of the new moon. The discussion then arises in regards to whether or not a sighting of the moon marks the beginning of the calendar month for that specific region or if it marks the beginning of the calendar month for the entire world. According to Mufti Ebrahim Desai:
“The Jurists (Fuqahaa) have differences of opinion on whether Ikhtilaaf-e-Mataalih is considered (Mu’tabar) or not. According to the Zaahir-e-Riwaayat (view considered for Fatwa), it is not considered which means that one reliable sighting anywhere (not only Saudia Arabia) in the world is valid. However, the problem in the sighting of the moon, as [you] correctly stated that there are many errors in the sighting of the moon in Saudi Arabia. If the errors are rectified and after Shahaadah of an individual’s sighting the moon, decision is taken in consultation with the officials of the Hilaal Sighting Committee, then it will be valid for the entire Muslim Ummah. Similar procedures must be put in place in other countries as well, as the moon may be sighted elsewhere and not necessarily Saudia Arabia.
In view of the present discrepancies in moon sighting, the view that Ikhtilaaf-e-Mataalih is considered may be adopted and each country should make their own independent decisions. It is incorrect for the Muslims in North America (especially the Arab brethren) to follow Saudia Arabia’s ruling on Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha due to the moonsighting being inconsistent with Shari’ah laws of sighting the moon”.
It is often stated that in the spirit of unity that there should be an agreement throughout the world on the days of Ramadan, Hajj, and the two Eids. Mufti Taqi Usmani comments about this topic in response to an article written about joining with Saudi Arabia in celebration of our holidays on the same day for the sake of unity. He says:
1. The article has laid much emphasis on the concept of unity of the Muslim Ummah, which no one can deny. At the same time, however, one must appreciate that unity does not mean that the entire Muslim Ummah throughout the world should perform their acts of worship at one and the same time, because it is physically not possible. It is evident that when people in Saudi Arabia are performing their Fajr prayers, those in North America may still have not completed their Isha prayers of the previous day. Similarly, when Muslims in Los Angeles offer their Fajr prayers, those in India and Pakistan are offering their Maghrib or Isha prayer of the same day.
2. If it is made obligatory on all the Muslims in the world to offer their acts of worship at one and the same time for the sake of unity, such unity can never materialize (because of the time differences). It is, therefore, obvious that offering one’s acts of worship at different times do not affect the concept of Muslim Unity.
What does the Muslim unity mean?
It means that all Muslims should treat each other with brotherly sympathy and affection and should not spread disorder and dissention among them. Nor should they invent new ideas foreign to the teachings of Quran and the Sunnah which may lead to division and conflict among Muslims.
It is also astonishing that the article views the celebration of Eid al-Adha on different days as being against the concept of Ummah while in the matter of celebration of Eid ai-Fitr, this concept is dispensed with. If the celebration of Eid al-Fitr on different days does not affect the concept of unity, how can it be said to harm unity in the case of Eid al-Adha.
3. It is true that Eid al-Adha falls immediately after the day of Arafat in Saudi Arabia, but it is not necessary that the Muslims in every country should follow the same dates in their respective areas. Hajj, no doubt, is tied with a particular place but the celebration of Eid al-Adha is not confined to that place alone. It is celebrated everywhere in the world and cannot be tied to the Saudi calendar.
4. The article admits that the celebration of Eid al-Adha in other countries was never linked with its celebration in Saudi Arabia throughout the past 14 centuries. This, the author’s claim was because of a lack of communication facilities. With vastly improved communication today, they argued that everyone almost anywhere can find out the day of Hajj, and should celebrate Eid al-Adha based on Saudi calendar.
There is a clear admission in this argument that it is not obligatory according to Quran or the Sunnah to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to Saudi calendar. Had this been so, Muslims would have tried their best to find the exact date of Hajj in Saudi Arabia. It is not correct to say that it was not possible in those days for people living outside Saudi Arabia to know the exact date of Hajj, because this date is normally determined on the first night of Zul-Hijjah. There is a nine day period until Eid, which is more than sufficient to acquire this information. However, no jurists has ever stressed that such information be collected in order to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to Saudi dates.
Further, if the argument of the article is accepted and it is held that the real intention of Quran and Sunnah was to link the celebration of Eid al-Adha with the Saudi dates, as a mandatory provision for all Muslims in the world, it means that the Shari’ah has stressed a principle which was not practical for 1300 years. It is not against the Quranic declaration that Allah does not make a thing mandatory unless it is practical for the human beings.
If the authors argue that the celebration of Eid al-Adha was not linked with the dates in Makkah in the past but it has become a mandatory requirement of the Shari’ah now, then the question arises, who has abrogated the previous principle and on what basis? There is no provision in Quran or the Sunnah which orders the Muslims to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to their local dates up to a particular time and to link it with the dates in Makkah thereafter. Whoever considers this and similar questions arising out of this unprecedented theory advanced in the article can appreciate its fallacy.
Mufti Shah Muhammad Nawal ur Rahman has stated that the hadith of which the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) has mentioned about starting and stopping the fast upon sighting of the moon is actually for the individual in a specific region and not for the entire world. The dear Mufti has said that there have been instances throughout our history where the pious predecessors in Mecca and Medina have fasted on different days. Furthermore, he clears up a common misconception in which he states that the new month comes with the sighting of the moon and not the birth of the moon – which has often been claimed by those who are advocates for the lunar month starting at the calculated timing of its birth – as the scientific birth of the moon could not be calculated fourteen centuries ago.
Finally, Maulana Mohammed Abdullah Saleem has also mentioned – specifically in regards to Eid ul Adha being based upon a regional sighting, but in a manner which can be understood for all Islamic calendar dates:
“Allamah Shaami writes that as far as the view that there are multiple horizons for the world, this is a matter wherein there is no dispute; this is a matter that cannot be denied. Allamah Shaami further writes that the only case where there is room for dispute in regards to whether there are multiple horizons or a universal horizon is in the case of Eid-ul-Fitr and the initiation of Ramadan. Notice, that Eid-ul-Adha is not mentioned. Let us for the sake of future discussion look at the different points of views regarding the horizon and Ramadan/Eid-ul-Fitr.
Shafite scholars and the Hanafite scholars Zay’li’ and Saahibul Faidh, are in agreement that there is only one universal horizon for the world in the matter of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr. However, the according to the more accepted Hanafite view, in addition to Malaki and Hanabalite scholars, this is not a valid conclusion i.e., there are multiple horizons in the matter of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr. This is based on a broader interpretation of the hadith– begin fast with the sighting of the moon and terminate the fast with the sighting of the moon– than that of the Shafite scholars, Imam Zayli’, and Saahibul Faidh, all of whom take a more restrictive interpretation of the same hadith to support their view. Allamah Shaami then writes in regards to Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha the following: It is understood from the discussion in Kitab-ul-Hajj that the view of multiple horizons is correct in the matter of Hajj. If it is known that the crescent (of Dhul-Hijjah) was seen a day earlier in another town it will not make anything obligatory on them (the people of the town who saw the moon a day later) . Can this be said about the sacrifice of those not performing Hajj as well? The reasoning is clear. Multiple horizons is adopted in the rulings of fasting because of its being related to ‘sighting’; ‘sacrifice’ is contrary to it. Apparently, the sacrifice is like the timings of the prayers. Every two has to go by its own time. Therefore, it is valid for those who are sacrificing on the third day according to their sighting even though it may be the fourth day according to the sighting somewhere else”.