Statement on Determining the Start of the Islamic Month
by Mateen A. Khan (Trenton, NJ)
This is a brief explanation of some salient points justifying our continued implementation of moonsighting as the marker by which we begin each Islamic month. We take the Prophet ﷺ as a guide, an example, and a teacher. He taught his Companions the methodology to clarify rulings and they, in turn, developed and passed it on to those after them. In a famous exchange with Mu`ādh ibn Jabal, he taught him to look first in Allah’s book to resolve a question.[i] If he was unable to find a clear answer there, he was directed to look in the Sunnah. If he found an explicit answer in the Sunnah, there was no need to proceed further. The answer to the issue of starting the Islamic months is found in this simple, effective prophetic methodology. Without an explicit method mentioned in the Qur’an, we look to the Sunnah and there, we find authentic and explicit direction to begin each month with the crescent’s sighting.[ii] The Prophet ﷺ did not offer another method. Sighting the crescent was his Sunnah. So, in humbled deference to him, we desist in offering our opinions and simply, follow.
We believe the months of Ramadan, Shawwāl, Dhu al-Hijjah, and indeed, all months of the Islamic calendar to be opportunities for blessings and occasions to come closer to Allah. The Prophet ﷺ and his Companions would anticipate many of the months searching for extra worship. For example, when asked about the virtues of fasting on Āshūrā’, `Abdullah ibn Abbās answered, “When you see Muharram’s crescent, then count the days and fast on the 9th day.” When asked, “Is this how Allah’s Messenger ﷺ used to fast for it?” He replied, “Yes.”[iii]
We believe, like centuries of Muslims before us, the best way to start an Islamic month is to search the sky for the crescent. The search and subsequent sighting are acts of worship. We know this because it was his ﷺ habit to search for it and to show gratitude through praise upon seeing it. Whenever the Prophet ﷺ saw the crescent, he repeated three times, “A crescent of good and right guidance. I believe in Him Who created you.” He would then say, “Praise Allah, Who has made such and such a month to pass and has brought such and such a month.”[iv] Additionally, he made a point to attach another act of worship, supplication, to these acts of worship. Upon seeing the crescent, he would say, “Allah is the greatest. O Allah, bring it over us with blessing and faith, and security and Islam, and the ability to do what you love and pleases you, O our Lord! (Addressing the moon) Our Lord and your Lord is Allah.”[v]
Twelve times a year, the Prophet ﷺ and his followers searched the sky seeking Allah’s blessings and security, and they sought to increase their imān and islām. Although true for every month, he paid attention to Ramadan by anticipating it’s crescent one to two months prior. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ used to be particularly mindful of Sha`bān’s crescent more so than the other months. Then, he would fast with the sighting of [the crescent of] Ramadan. If it was clouded over, he would count (Sha`bān) as thirty days and then, he would fast.[vi] In another narration, he commands others to do the same, “Account for the crescent of Sha`bān to (observe) Ramadan.”[vii]
We find no greater honor or guidance than to walk in the prophetic footsteps and to obey the prophetic command. We find no greater degradation or misguidance than to willfully allow the death of a prophetic practice by abandoning it. He urged us with such words as, “He who revives my Sunnah, loves me. Whoever loves me will be with me in Jannah.” And, “He who loves my Sunnah, loves me. Whoever loves me will be with me in Jannah.” And, “He who revives my sunnah, revives me. Whoever revives me will be with me in Jannah.”[viii]
After having been informed of these prophetic words, we cannot in turn willfully allow a sunnah to cease in practice. With much consideration of the discussion on starting the Islamic months, we have decided to continue walking in the well-trodden path of guidance that is the path of the Prophet ﷺ, the salaf al-sālihīn, and the majority of Muslims across the globe to this day. We ask Allah for His guidance, His love, and a place with His Messenger ﷺ in Jannah. Amīn.
[i] Abū Dāwūd 3592, Al-Tirmidhiī 1327
[ii] Numerous hadiths and Companion statements stating to the effect, “Fast (the month of Ramadan) with the sighting of [the crescent]. And stop fasting with the sighting of [the crescent]” in Bukhārī, Muslim, Nasa’ī, Abū -Dāwūd, Muwattā’, and others.
[iii] Muslim 1133a
[iv] Abū Dāwūd 502
[v] Sunan al-Dārimī 1729, Tirmidhī 3451
[vi]Sunan al-Dārulqutnī 2149
[vii] Tirmidhī 687
[viii] Tirmidhī 2678, Al-Jami’us Saghir 834, Kanzul ‘Ummal 19981