Beginning of Ramadan: Following the Saudi Moon Sighting

Edited by Adil Salahi
Publication Date: 
Mon, 2006-09-11 03:00

Q. Some people in my home country do not begin the Ramadan fast according to their country; they follow Saudi Arabia. They do the same with the Eid and mark it on the same day as in Saudi Arabia, while people at home may be still fasting. Please comment.

A.S. Al-Jaidy

A. These people are well meaning. They think that Islam is practiced in its best form in Saudi Arabia and they want to follow it. But their practice is wrong because it does not have a solid basis. If we were to extend their practice to its logical conclusion, we should offer prayers according to the timings in Saudi Arabia, rather than our own timings. Thus, we should import Saudi calendars and follow the timings indicated in them. Similarly, we should fast the same number of hours as fasting is indicated in Saudi Arabia. This is easy nowadays, because of satellite television. We can always watch the time in Saudi Arabia and follow it. Needless to say, no one will agree to this although some logical argument could be presented in its support, such as the unity of all Muslims.

Yet the practice of all Muslims is that each locality has its own timings. The difference in prayer time between Jeddah and Dammam, at the two coasts of Saudi Arabia is around an hour. No one suggests that it should not be observed. In fact if it is not observed, we run the risk of having our prayers rendered invalid.

The difference in starting Ramadan has always been known, and the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) companions accepted it. Abdullah ibn Abbas asked someone who had traveled from Damascus to Madinah about the day they started Ramadan.

When he was informed of the day, he mentioned that the people of Madinah sighted the moon on a different day. People asked him whether he would defer to the sighting in Damascus since it was the capital city of the Muslim state at the time, but he said: “Each have their own sighting.” This is a clear answer to those people by one for whom the Prophet prayed to be a scholar. Needless to say, he was a scholar of high distinction.

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