Arrival of Ramadan
This event is confirmed by sighting the new moon, even if it is seen by only one just person, or by the passage of thirty days in the immediately preceding month of Sha’ban.
Ibn ‘Umar said: “The people were looking for the new moon and when I reported to the Messenger of Allah that I had seen it, he fasted and ordered the people to fast.” This is related by Abu Dawud, al-Hakim, and Ibn Hibban, who declared it to be Sahih.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet instructed: “Fast after you have seen it [the new crescent] and end the fast [at the end of the month] when you see it. If it is hidden from you, then wait until the thirty days of Sha’ban have passed.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Commenting on these reports, at-Tirmizhi states: “Most knowledgeable people act in accordance with these reports. They say that it is correct to accept the evidence of one person to determine the beginning of the fast. This is the opinion of Ibn al-Mubarak, ash-Shaf’i, and Ahmad. An-Nawawi says that it is the soundest opinion. Concerning the new moon of Shawwal [which signifies the end of the fast], it is confirmed by completing thirty days of Ramadan, and most jurists state that the new moon must have been reported by at least two just witnesses. However, Abu Thaur does not distinguish between the new moon of Shawwal and the new moon of Ramadan. In both cases, he accepts the evidence of only one just witness.”
Ibn-Rushd comments that: “The opinion of Abu Bakr ibn al-Munzhir, which is also that of Abu Thaur and, I suspect, that of the Zhahiri school of thought, is supported by the following argument given by Abu Bakr al-Munzhiri: there is complete agreement that breaking the fast is obligatory, that abstaining from eating is based on one person’s report, and that the situation must be like that for the beginning of the month and for the ending of the month, as both of them are simply the signs that differentiate the time of fasting from the time of not fasting.”
Ash-Shaukani observes: “If there is nothing authentic recorded that states that one may only accept two witnesses for the end of the month, then it is apparent, by analogy, that one witness is sufficient, as it is sufficient for the beginning of the month. Furthermore, worship based on the acceptance of one report points to the fact that such singular reports are accepted in every matter unless there is some evidence that specifies the peculiarity of specific cases, such as the number of witnesses concerning matters of wealth, and so on. Apparently this is the opinion of Abu Thaur.”
According to the majority of scholars, it does not matter if the new moon has been sighted in a different location. In other words, after the new moon is seen anywhere in the world, it becomes obligatory for all Muslims to begin fasting, as the Prophet said: “Fast due to its sighting and break the fast due to its sighting.” This hadith is a general address directed to the whole Muslim world - that is, “if any one of you sees the moon in any place, then that will be a sighting for all of the people.”
According to ‘Ikrimah, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, Salim, Ishaq, the correct opinion among the Hanafiyyah, and the chosen opinion among the Shaf’iyyah, every “country” (or territory) is to take into consideration its own sighting and not necessarily to follow the sighting of others. This is based on what Kuraib said: “While I was in ash-Sham, the new moon of Ramadan appeared on Thursday night. I returned to Madinah at the end of the month. There, Ibn ‘Abbas asked me: ‘When did you people see the new moon?’ I said: ‘We saw it on Thursday night.’ He said: ‘Did you see it yourself?’ I said: ‘Yes, the people saw it, and they and Mu’awiyyyah fasted.’ He said: ‘But we saw it on Friday night. We will not stop fasting until we complete thirty days or until we see the new moon.’ I said: ‘Isn’t Mu’awiyyah’s sighting and fasting sufficient for you?’ He said: ‘No . . . This is the order of the Messenger of Allah.’ “This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and at-Tirmizhi.
About the hadith, at-Timmizhi says: “It is Hassan Sahih Ghareeb. Scholars act in accordance with this hadith. Every land has its sighting.” In Fath al-’Alam Sharh Bulugh al-Maram, it is stated: The [opinion] closest [to the truth] is that each land follows its sighting, as well as the areas that are connected to it.”
Sighting of the Crescent by one Person
The scholars of Fiqh agree that if only one person sees the new moon, he is to fast. ‘Ata differs and says that he is not to fast until someone else also sights the new moon with him. The correct position is that he is to break the fast, as ash-Shaf’i and Abu Thaur have ruled. The Prophet has based the fast and its breaking on the sighting of the moon. One’s own sight is enough for him and there is no need for another person’s sighting.
The Essential Elements of the Fast
The fast has two essential elements (literally, “pillars”) that must be fulfilled for it to be valid and acceptable. They are:
1. Abstaining from acts that break the fast
This point is based on the Qur’anic verse: “Eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then strictly observe the fast until nightfall.”
This is also based on the following hadith: “When the verse ‘Eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you...’ was revealed, I took a black thread and a white thread and placed them underneath my pillow. During the night I looked at them to see if I could distinguish between them. In the morning I went to the Messenger of Allah and mentioned that to him and he said: ‘It is the black of the night and the white of the day.’”
2. The intention
Allah instructs in the Qur’an: “And they are ordained nothing else than to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him.” The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Actions are judged according to the intention behind them, and for everyone is what he intended.”
The intention must be made before fajr and during every night of Ramadan. This point is based on the hadith of Hafsah which reported that the Prophet said: “Whoever does not determine to fast before fajr will have no fast” (that is, it won’t be accepted). This is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa’i, at-Tirmizhi, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah. Ibn Khuzaimah and Ibn Hibban have classified it as Sahih.
The intention is valid during any part of the night. It need not be spoken, as it is in reality an act of the heart which does not involve the tongue. It will be fulfilled by one’s intention to fast out of obedience to Allah and for seeking His pleasure.
If one eats one’s pre-dawn meal (Sahoor) with the intention of fasting and to get closer to Allah by such abstinence, then one has performed the intention. If one determines that one will fast on the next day solely for the sake of Allah, then one has performed the intention even if a pre-dawn meal was not consumed.
According to many of the jurists, the intention for a voluntary fast may be made at any time before any food is consumed. This opinion is based on ‘Aishah’s hadith: “The Prophet came to us one day and said: ‘Do you have any [food]?’ We said, ‘No.’ He said: ‘Therefore, I am fasting.” This is related by Muslim and Abu Dawud.
The Hanafiyyah and Shaf’iyyah stipulate that the intention must be made before noon (for voluntary fasts). The apparent opinion of Ibn Mas’ud and Ahmad is that the intention may be made before or after noon.
To be continued