Astronomical Data & the Testimony for the Sighting of the Moon

There has arisen a discussion about the correctness of a testimony of a Muslim sighting the moon if astronomical data contradicts the timing of his sighting. Here are some of my thoughts on what needs to be looked at when approaching this subject. Please feel free to comment if you have anything to add, correct or challenge.

  1. The mind is not a source for shari rules. The shari rules are deduced from text and not rational thought or branches of rational thought like scientific method. Whilst this point may sound obvious many are applying science where it does not belong. Increasingly we are seeing this understanding is losing traction in the Muslim collective psyche.
  2. It is well established that the sighting of the hilal Muslims is sufficient testimony to end the month of Ramadhan or indeed start it. I think this opinion is not disputed by those advocating rejecting testimony on the basis of science. What they dispute is how could it be witnessed on the basis of solid data that indicates its impossible for it to be seen.
  3. According to the book rules of evidences by Sheikh Ahmed Daour , the only evidences that are acceptable in the shara are in this quote “The testimonial evidences are of four types and they are the following: confession (iqraar), oath (yameen), testimony (shahaadah) and authentic written documents (mustanidaat khattiyyah). There is no testimonial evidence other than these four categories. As for circumstantial evidences they are not considered part of the testimonial evidences by the Sharee’ah, since no evidence has been presented that indicates they are part of the testimonial evidences.”
  4. The sighting of the moon thus falls under the category of shahaadah, i.e testimony of a person. The question then arises when can that testimony be rejected ? It can only be rejected if the conditions for testimony are breached. The one making the testimony must be absolutely sure before he makes his testimony this is the shariah requirement upon him or her i.e what they are testifying to must be as clear as the sun (or the moon in this case) and must have been seen or sensed directly by the person providing testimony.
  5. Some of the conditions for a testimony to be valid are, the one giving the testimony must be Muslim , mature (baaligh) , sane (‘aaqil), trustworthy/just ( adil) i.e not fasiq. The nisab minimum amount of testimony is 1 person in moonsighting for eid/ramadhan. Clearly if they are giving false testimony they would not be adil.
  6. Those that advocate taking astronomical calculations to invalidate the testimony of Muslims, follow a rational line of thought, built on their minds. There is no shari understanding thus far presented to override the way shariah views testimony . So those that charge that scientific data precludes the possibility of the witness seeing the hilal, are making an accusation that the provider of the testimony did not see the moon. They are at risk of maligning an upright person.
  7. Whilst living in the West it is easy to adopt western legal norms and precedents unwittingly, one must be careful when adopting positions. In this particular issue whilst scientific data may be admissible to cast doubt on a witness statement in English law the sharia is unique . The sharia views witnesses and the issue of testimony in a different light to the western legal systems. Herein lies one of the issues that the proponents of rejecting testimony or at least “updating the understanding” have – in that they lose sight of the fact that the shariah is unique and western legal precepts can’t be overlaid on it. They do that by not thinking clearly and articulating the underlying premises to their point, thus mixing shariah and western laws and precepts.
  8. It is true that the Astronomical New Moon occurs every 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds. The date and time of this invisible New Moon is commonly found in almanacs, newspapers and calendars. These facts can help with estimating when the moon can be looked for but cannot replace the shariah obligation of sighting the moon nor can they be used to negate testimonies of moonsightings by trustworthy Muslims.
  9. As perhaps a side point, the world is not run on the basis of justice and truth – it is run by the nastiest and vilest of humanity. Only Islam can provide justice and truth to the world. During the recent rona crisis we have seen how Western institutions, it scientists, it’s media and its politicians have been corrupted by corporations and financial interests. Their data or opinions are far from reliable and ought to be examined very carefully. There is a tendency amongst Muslims particularly those from amongst us in the professional classes to give carte blanche to data released from various institutions and bodies and accept it to be true as it may have been reviewed published etc .
  10. In various posts I have noticed differences in the timings of when the moon should technically be born, which one is correct? Once the khilafah is established this issue will be properly dealt with, so we do not have to go through all this year in year out. May Allah (swt) wake up the Muslims so that they can tear down the occupation of their minds and lands.

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