Rulings of sighting the new crescent moon
1- As you know, one of the following three conditions occurs at the beginning or end of the each month: The crescent sets before the sunset; the crescent sets along with the sunset; or the crescent sets after the sunset. Please clear the following matters: First, which one of the three above-mentioned conditions would be considered the beginning of the month according to Islamic law? Second, if we take into consideration that these three conditions are accounted for in the farthest places of the world using accurate calculations, is it possible to benefit from these computations to figure out the beginning of the month in advance, or it is necessary to observe it with the naked eye?
A: The basis of determining the beginning of the month is the crescent that sets after sunset which can be observed before sunset in the customary way. The astronomical calculations are not reliable unless confidence is obtained through them.
2- If the crescent marking the beginning of Shawwal is not observed in a city by the local people, and if the radio or television announces the beginning of Shawwal, should the local people act upon the radio announcement, or should they ascertain by investigating whether Shawwal has commenced?
A: If the radio or television announcement makes them feel sure that Shawwal has commenced, or if there is a decree by the Supreme Religious Authority [wali al-faqih] announcing the beginning of Shawwal, then there is no need for investigating further.
3- If it is difficult to ascertain the beginning of the month of Ramadan, or Eid al-Fitr, because of the inability to observe the crescent at the beginning of the month due to clouds or for some other reason, and if the count of the month of Sha`ban or the month of Ramadan did not add up to 30 days, is it permissible for us in Japan to go by the horizon in Iran or should we rely on the regular calendar? What is the rule?
A: If the crescent has not been ascertained by being sighted even in the regions located at the same longitude with your city, or on the evidence of two just witnesses, or on the basis of a decree by a religious authority announcing the end of Ramadan, it is obligatory to observe caution by ascertaining the beginning of Shawwal. The sighting of the crescent in Iran, which is to the west of Japan, cannot be a basis regarding the beginning of Shawwal for one residing in Japan.
4- Is the sameness of horizon (the longitude) considered to be a condition in regards to observing the crescent?
A: It is sufficient that the crescent be sighted in the areas of the same horizon, or nearby, or in the areas to the east.
5- What is meant by sameness of horizon?
A: When certain areas are located on the same longitude, according to astronomy, they are said to share the same horizon.
6- If the twenty-ninth day of the month was the day of Eid al-Fitr in Tehran and Khorasan, is it permissible for the residents of areas like Bushehr to break their fast too, though the horizon of Tehran and Khorasan differs from the horizon of Bushehr?
A: If the difference between the longitude of two cities is such that the new moon cannot be seen in one of them when sighted in the other, its sighting in the city located to the west of the other is not sufficient for the residents of the city to the east, where the sun sets earlier than in the city to the west, and is sufficient when the case is the reverse.
7- If the Islamic scholars of a city differ regarding the end of Ramadan, and one considers all of them to be just and precise in their investigations, what is the duty of the city's inhabitants?
A: If the difference between the two testimonies is one of contradiction, in the sense that one of them claims the crescent to have been sighted and the other claims that certainly it has not been sighted, the duty of the inhabitants is to decide the matter through other means. However, if the first group testifies to the sighting of the new moon, but the second group does not claim to have seen it, the inhabitants have to accept the view of the first group if they are known to be just. Also, the people have to follow if the Supreme Religious Authority [hakim al-shar`i] issues a decree announcing the end of Ramadan.
8- If a person who sees the new moon knows that the city's religious authority is not able to see the crescent for some reason, is it his duty to inform the religious authority that he has observed the crescent?
A: It is not his duty to do so, unless his not doing so can cause some depravity.
9- As you know, most Islamic scholars have written in their book of practical laws [Risalahs] that the beginning of Shawwal can be proved only through five methods. However, announcement of the end of Ramadan by a religious authority is not among those methods. Such being the case, how can most of the people break their fasts when the beginning of Shawwal has been ascertained by the major marji`s? What is the duty of a person who is not convinced of the new moon's sighting by such means?
A: Unless a religious authority issues a decree announcing the sighting of the new moon, the mere ascertaining of it by him is not sufficient for others to follow him, unless they are convinced thereby of the end of Ramadan.
10- If the Guardian of the Muslims' affairs [Wali Amr al-Muslimeen] issues a decree announcing the next day as Eid al-Fitr and the media report that the crescent has been cited in certain cities, does it determine the Eid for all the cities or only those cities and for others on the same longitudes?
A: If the decree issued by the religious authority includes all the cities, his decree is Islamically reliable for all of them.
11- If on the evening of Eid al-Fitr, the moon appears as a very fine crescent, does it mean that the next day is the first of Shawwal and that the Eid was declared by mistake? Is one required to make up [do qada] for the last day of Ramadan?
A: The thinness or thickness of the moon and also its position in the sky are not lawful evidence in deciding the first or second of a month. But if it brings conviction to the person bound by religious obligation [mukallaf], he is obliged to act in accordance with his knowledge in this case.
12- Can the night of the full moon, which is the night before the fourteenth of the month, be taken as a reliable basis for calculating the first day of the month so as to determine whether the Day of Doubt was the thirtieth of Ramadan, for example, so that whoever did not fast on that day may have evidence concerning the necessity to make up [do qada] for the thirtieth day of Ramadan and whoever fasted that day, considering Ramadan to continue, may know that he is free of obligation?
A: That which has been mentioned does not constitute a lawful evidence for anything mentioned. However, if it brings knowledge to the person bound by religious obligation [mukallaf], his obligation is to act in accordance with his knowledge.
13- Is watching out for the new moon a wajib kifa'i [a duty that if done by someone, it is ceased to be obligatory upon the others] or something to be done as an obligatory caution?
A: It is not Islamically a legal duty in itself.
14- What are the methods adopted to ascertain about the sighting of the crescent of the beginning and end of Ramadan?
A: Deciding the beginning of any lunar month is only possible through one of the following methods: sighting the new moon by the person bound by religious obligation [mukallaf] himself; the testimony of two just witnesses to that effect; numerous reports that bring conviction that the moon has been sighted; completion of 30 days since the month's beginning; or the decree of a religious authority.
15- Suppose it is permissible to follow certain government's announcement about the sighting of the crescent which could act as a scientific standard for other countries, then, is it necessary for it to be an Islamic government in order to ascertain that the moon has really been sighted, or can one accept it even from a tyrannical government?
A: The criterion in this regard is the person's assurance that the new moon has been sighted in the area where its sighting is sufficient in relation to the person bound by religious obligation [mukallaf].
16- If the crescent is seen in one country, would the sighting become generalized for all other countries, especially regarding the crescent of the Holy month of Ramadan?
A: It would become generalized for neighboring countries or these countries in which sunset occurs later i.e. to the west of that country.
17- If one saw the crescent before the zawal time, would this day of sighting be considered to be from the coming month?
A: The mere sighting of the crescent during the day, even though before the zawal time, is not a shar`i evidence that this day belongs to the coming month. However, if this sighting has made one certain that this day belongs to the coming month, the ruling of the coming month would be applied to it.
18- Is the presence of the lunar halo an evidence that it is the crescent of the second night?
A: The lunar halo is not a shar`i evidence that the crescent is of the second night.
19- What is the ruling regarding the prisoner or the captive who could not become certain about the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan?
A: If they suspect that Ramadan had begun, they are obliged to act according to this suspicion. Otherwise, they are permitted to delay their sawm until the certainty is there that their sawm occurred either during or after Ramadan and not before it.
20- Is the delay of the setting of the crescent moon after the evening twilight an evidence that it is of the second night?
A: The setting after the evening twilight would not prove this.
21- If one had broken his fast and then it is appeared that the crescent had been sighted through one of the legally accepted methods, is he obliged to abstain from food for the remaining of the day?
A: He is obliged to abstain from food for the remaining of the day from the moral aspect.
22- Is the sighting of the new crescent through a binoculars or telescope or the like is sufficient?
A: The sighting of the new crescent with these means is also reliable and its ruling does not differ from that of the naked eye since the standard is to say it has been by eyes. However, computerized photographing of the crescent moon or the like which could not be considered as real sighting is problematic.
Adopted from the book : "Questions & Answers About Fast Accroding to Ayatollah Khamenei's Fatwa"
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