Should Muslims use astronomical calculations for establishing the start and end of Ramadan?

Dr. Adel Elsaie

Disputed Ramadan Dates Can Be Reconciled, Says Duke Scholar

Here is a case where Muslims have 2 Fatwa for establishing the beginning and end of Ramadan. If we have Caliph for the Islamic Ummah, many of our Fiqh, political, fighting problem will be solved InShaa Allah. May Allah have mercy on us.

Can we say that this is a case of multiple correct answers? I just pray to Allah SWT that no Muslim, somewhere, accuses me of not being a Muslim (Wa Aliyaz Bi Allah) for asking this question. Believe me I am Muslim, Al Hamd le Allah.

Possibility of Multiple Correct Answers


Evidence for this is an incident in which the Prophet (SAW) witnessed the companions disputing, but did not rebuke them for doing so. The incident relates to the dispute regarding the Asr prayer on their way to Bani Qurayzah. The Prophet instructed the companions to go and fight the Jews. He said, "Do not pray until you get to Bani Qurayzah". On route to Bani Qurayzah the time for Asr was drawing to a close. A dispute ensued. One group understood the prophet's command metaphorically, thinking that the Prophet (SAW) meant hurry up. A party of the believers prayed there whilst the others prayed after Asr time when they arrived at Bani Qurayzah.

When they next met the Prophet (SAW) they asked him who was right and who was wrong. It is important to note the response. Only one of them could have been right, but the Prophet (SAW) did not point out who that was, rather he said, "Whoever performs ijtihad and errs will receive one reward. Whoever performs ijtihad and arrives at the correct answer gets double the reward."

Had it been haram to differ, the Prophet (SAW) would have rebuked those differing from the correct opinion and praised those who were right. This example teaches us to tolerate opposing Islamic opinions which are arrived at by those qualified to do so after performing ijtihad.

The scholars in the past recognized this; "The most learned amongst the people is also one who is most knowledgeable of the difference amongst the people" (Ghazali, Shawkani, Abu Zahrah)

Before performing Ijtihad it is a prerequisite for a scholar to be aware of all the differences on the issue at hand.

My Own preference, and I am not Faqih or Saudi

I believe that both methods are correct. The great benefit to agree on one method is for the Unity of Ummah.

So the whole Muslim Ummah can follow astronomical calculations OR we follow Saudi Arabia, since we all follow

them on Hajj.

Should they follow the European Council even though they use astronomical calculations?



We run an Islamic center in the city in Britain, and we want to establish the dates of the beginning and end of Ramadaan for the people who pray in our center. Our goal is to try to unite the Muslims on this matter, but some of them think that we should sight the moon whilst others think that we may use calculations. The European Fatwa Council has its own view on this matter, please note that it is the body which takes care of issuing fatwas to the Muslims in Europe. Our question is: Should we follow the European Fatwa Council even though they use calculations to determine the beginning and end of Ramadaan, or should we continue our efforts to unite the mosques in Our city even though that goes against the view of the Council?.


Praise be to Allaah.

It is not permissible to use astronomical calculations to establish the beginning and end of Ramadaan. It is obligatory to sight the moon as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when you see it (the moon) and break your fast when you see it.”

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1909; Muslim, 1081. See also question no. 1602.

The Muslims are agreed that it is not permissible to follow astronomical calculations instead of sighting the new moon if the sky is clear. However if the sky is cloudy then some of the scholars held an odd view and said that it is permissible to follow astronomical calculations, but this applies only to the person doing the calculations.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

It is a basic fact of Islam that we must sight the crescent moon with regard to fasting, Hajj, ′iddah, eelaa′ (period of four months abstention which is required if a man swears an oath that he will not have marital relations with his wife) and other rulings that are connected to the lunar calendar. There are many texts from the Prophet which indicate that, and the Muslims are unanimously agreed on that. No difference of opinion was known concerning that in the past or in modern times, apart from some fuqaha′ after the third century AH, who claimed that if the new moon is covered by clouds it is permissible for an astronomer to follow calculations himself, so that if his calculations indicate that the moon could have been sighted he may fast, otherwise he should not.

This view, even though it is subject to the condition that there be clouds and it applies only to the astronomer, it is an odd view that is outweighed by the consensus on the opposite view. With regard to following calculations when the sky is clear or applying the results of the calculations to the general public, this is something that no Muslim has ever suggested.

Majmoo′ al-Fataawa, 25/132.

Based on this, it is not permissible to follow the Council mentioned if they depend on astronomical calculations and not on sighting of the crescent.

So you have to sight the moon as is the command of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and as is the consensus of the Muslims.

May Allaah help you to do that which He loves and which pleases Him.

And Allaah knows best.

The Fiqh Council of North America


Islamic Lunar Calendar

While it can be argued that "seeing the hilaal" is a method used to determine the beginning of the Islamic lunar months, The Fiqh Council of North America concludes that it is not the only method to do so. Hence, after careful research, deliberations and discussion The Fiqh Council of North America has adopted a new position regarding the determination of the beginning of the Islamic lunar months. This position is based primarily on the following Fiqhi premises:

Sighting the Hilal (ru′yah) is not an act of ′ibadah in itself; it is rather a means to know with certainty about the beginning of the new month related to Islamic ′Ibadat.

Ru′yah as a means was indicated and used by the Prophet �peace be upon him- because he himself said that the Ummah at that time was not literate and did not know how to write or to calculate (complicated astronomical data).

Some classical jurists were willing to accept the calculations.

Some classical jurists refused to allow calculations in this matter because in their time astronomy and astrology were not quite distinct sciences. Jurists were suspicious that astronomical predictions may not be based on exact science but on whims, conjectures, magic etc.

During the last century an increasing number of Muslim jurists indicated that calculations could be used to negate erroneous reports of crescent sighting. Some jurists were of the opinion that calculations could also be used as a positive method to determine the new Islamic lunar months.

There are now many Muslim astronomers who have been working for many years to develop a global lunar Islamic calendar. Fiqh Council particularly appreciates the efforts of its consultants Dr. Imad ad-Dean Ahmad, Dr. Khalid Shaukat, Dr. Muhib Durrani and Dr. Ahmad Salamah.

Dr. Salah Soltan and Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah also presented scholarly papers to give thorough evidence from Fiqh Perspective that the use of calculations is not against the Sunnah of the Prophet , peace be upon him.

The Fiqh Council of North America considered the following factors in making its decision:

Use of calculations in determining the Islamic date is not against the Sunnah.

Sure astronomical methods are now available to determine Islamic dates of Ramadan and the two Eids.

Shari′ah is based on ease and considers the convenience of people.

Announcement of Islamic dates ahead of time will reduce a lot of hardship, chaos and confusion that happen every year at the time of the beginning of Ramadan and the two Eids.

Announcement of Islamic dates will help Muslims to plan their activities, to take day off from their work, students can take day off from their schools and many other benefits will result from this.

Announcement of these dates will also remove unnecessary financial burdens from the Muslim community in North America.

Muslim of America will become more united in their celebrations.

Muslims of America can also work to have their Islamic holidays officially recognized.

The Muslim community of North America will lead a way towards the development of a unified global Islamic calendar for the whole Muslim world.

Fiqh Council will continue working with the Imams and scholars of the communities to develop a consensus in this matter. It is, however, hoped that whether some of us agree or disagree with this position, we shall all recognize the validity of ikhtilaf in this issue and that the Ummah should be united in brotherhood despite any legitimate fiqhi differences.

Brief Explanation:

Discussion of a number of research papers led to the conclusion that the use of calculation both in negation as well as affirmation of the beginning of the new Islamic Lunar months has a firm basis in the Qur′an and Sunnah as well as in the opinion of some classical and contemporary jurists.

The new moon (i.e. time of conjunction) is when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun closest to the Sun-Earth line. This time of conjunction is precisely predictable by astronomical calculation.

The conjunction before 12:00 GMT would give enough time to the new moon to be visible somewhere on the globe before the end of the night in North America.

Related Links:

Conference and Decision

Article on Astronomical Calculations by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah (doc)

Article on Moon Issues by Salah Soltan

Article on The Unity of Horizons or Variety of Horizons - by Dr. Shah (pdf)

Explaining the Fiqh Council Position (pdf)

Astronomical Calculations - Response to Some Critics by Zulfiqar Ali Shah

Reading, Sighting and Calculating - Louay Safi

Moon Sighting and Calculations - Muneer Fareed