By Ghulam Rasool, New Age Islam
Every year, as the beginning of Ramadan approaches, Muslims the world over start yearning to see the new moon of Ramadan in order to observe the first fast of the blessed month. But on the other hand, serious debates and controversies also emerge around the Muslim world. Every year, theological controversies appear in many Muslim countries regarding the sighting of the new moon of Ramadan. It happens mainly because of different sightings and different schools of thought among Muslims. But who are the worst hit by this jurisprudential clash of ulema? Obviously, you, we and a common Muslim like me.
The blessed month of Ramadan requires us to exhibit the true spirit of unity and integrity. But ironically, we start the very glorious month with huge differences over the moon-sighting which sometimes lead to unnecessary divisions among ourselves. With only a couple of days left for the moon of Ramadan, it is high time we reflect on proper ways to get out of this dilemma. We should not forget that unity is the spirit of Ramadan al Mubarak, and this can only be achieved by unanimous efforts and collective decisions made by the representatives of Ummah in each region and not by individuals acting arbitrarily on their own.
More importantly, we should strive to achieve our unity on all occasions and in all aspects, not only in the beginning and end of Ramadan and celebrating the Eids. It is totally against the spirit of Islam for Muslims in the same country to be divided in their rituals and their Islamic dates and events. The Islamic spirit is against division and disunity. That is why Muslims are not allowed to hold two congregational Prayers in one mosque at the same time.
Delving deeper into this regard, Dr. Sano Koutoub Moustapha, professor of Fiqh and its principles, International Islamic University, Malaysia, states the following:
“Indeed, it is disheartening to know that the Muslim countries and communities around the globe will surely be fasting on different days. Thus, each country or community has its own way to determine the beginning and end of Ramadan.
However, I believe there is no compulsion or obligation that Muslims must fast on the same day if they are living in different countries.
“In other words, it shouldn’t be considered as a disunity when Muslim countries and communities fast on different days, as this was happening in the first century of Hijrah and the hadith of Kuraib is well known about it: Kuraib reported that Umm Fadl, daughter of Harith, sent him (her son Fadl) to Mu`awiyah in Syria. I (Fadl) arrived in Syria and did the needful for her. It was there in Syria that the month of Ramadan commenced. I saw the new moon (of Ramadan) on Friday. I then came back to Madina at the end of the month. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) asked me (about the new moon of Ramadan) and said, ‘‘When did you see it?’’ I said, ‘‘We saw it on the night of Friday.’’ He said, ‘‘(Did) you see it yourself?’’ I said, ‘‘Yes, and the people also saw it and they observed fast and Mu`awiyah also observed fast.’’ Whereupon he said, ‘‘But we saw it on Saturday night. So we would continue to observe fast till we complete thirty (fasts) or we see it (the new moon of Shawwal).’’ I said, ‘‘Is the sighting of the moon by Mu`awiyah not valid for you?’’ He said, ‘‘No, this is how the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) has commanded us’’ (Muslim).”
However, it is forbidden and prohibited for Muslims living in the same country or community to fast or end their fast on different days. For example, the Muslims in India must fast on the same day, they must refer to the unanimous consensus of Indian Muslims, not the leadership of Muslims in any other country. They don’t need to refer to Muslims in Europe, America, Africa, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or anywhere else. Thus, Muslims should follow the directives and instructions adopted by the Islamic jurists or Darul Qada (دارالقضاء) in their community. All in all, it is forbidden to bypass the general consensus of Muslims in the country or community. Unity is the only objective behind such Islamic concepts.