The Merit of Fasting (2/2)
The Official Beginning and End of Ramadan
1) The beginning of Ramadan becomes official when the new moon is seen. Its
end is officially fixed when the new moon of the next month (Shawwal), is
seen. Once the new moon of Ramadan is seen, fasting becomes obligatory for all
those who are required to fast it. When the new moon of Shawwal is seen, the
fast comes to an end, and everybody should break the fast. The Prophet (Peace
be upon him) said: "Fast when you see it (the new moon) and break the fast
when you see it (the new moon)."
2) The seeing of the new moon becomes official by the testimony of one upright
Ibn ‘Abbas reported: "A Bedouin came to the
Prophet (Peace be upon him) announcing that he had seen the new moon of
Ramadan, whereupon the Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked him: "Do you profess
that there is no God but Allah?"
The Bedouin said:
"Yes." Then the Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked him "Do you profess that
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah?" The Bedouin answered: "Yes". The Prophet
(Peace be upon him) then ordered Bilal (his muazzin) to call on the Muslims to
fast the next day.
3) As to the seeing of the new moon of Shawwal, announcing the end of Ramadan
fast, the testimony of one upright Muslim is not enough.
In his commentary on Muslim's collection of hadith) al-Nabawi
said that the ulamas were unanimous that the testimony of one upright Muslim
for the Shawwal new moon is not enough, except Abu Thawr who considered it
4) In the event of it being impossible to see the new moon of Ramadan because
of weather conditions, then the month of Sha'ban (the month preceding Ramadan)
should be a full thirty days.
The Prophet (Peace be
upon him) said: "Fast when you see the new moon and break the fast when you
see the new moon ; but if it is hidden, let Sha'ban be completed as thirty
5) Likewise, in case of the new moon of Sha'ban not being visible because of
bad weather conditions, Ramadan shall be a full thirty days, on the strength
of the Prophet's (Peace be upon him) instruction to "fast when you see the new
moon and break the fast when You see the new moon and if it is hidden by cloud
or fog, count thirty days".
6) Man's knowledge of astronomy is now very accurate, so much So that
astronomers can calculate the hour, minute and second (every day of the lunar
year) of the appearance and disappearance of the moon in every country of the
This information is published in advance of every lunar year. Therefore, a man
who has acquired this information can, even when he cannot actually see the
new moon, fix the beginning and end of his fast accordingly. The Prophet
(Peace be upon him) says in this connection: "Fast when you see it, and break
the fast when you see it; but if you cannot see it, calculate it." In his
commentary on the Qur'an, al-Qurtubi said:
Abdullah, a prominent figure of the generation following the Prophet (Peace be
upon him), and Ibn Qutayba, a famous linguist, stated that astronomical
calculations should be resorted to in cases of cloudy skies, and that these
calculations be regarded as official." This verdict was accepted at a time
when the knowledge of astronomy was not so extensive and accurate as it is
today. Such a verdict should be even more acceptable at the present time.
It is to be noted here that the Prophet (Peace be upon him),
addressing the ordinary man, ordered that the month be counted as thirty in
case the new moon could not be seen ; whereas, addressing people to whom
astronomical knowledge was available, said that the month should be
This is an example of the wisdom of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in
addressing each group of people according to their educational standards.
7) The appearance of the new moon may differ from one country to the other,
even though they may all be in the same latitude. For instance, if the new
moon is seen in one country, the appearance is valid so far as those countries
to its west are concerned, but not so for countries to its east.
Kurayb told the following story...
"I saw the new moon
in Damascus on Friday. At the end of the month I arrived in Medina. Ibn ‘Abbas
asked me about the new moon and I said that I and everyone else had seen it on
Friday, and that everyone including Mu'awiya observed the fast on that day.
Ibn ‘Abbas said that the people in Medina had seen the new moon on Saturday
and that they were still fasting in order to complete thirty days. I asked if
the witnessing of the new moon and the fasting of Mu'awiya were not enough
testimony for him. Ibn ‘Abbas replied "No, for this is how the Prophet (Peace
be upon him) instructed us".
Medina, where Ibn ‘Abbas
lived, is to the east of Damascus. That is why Ibn ‘Abbas had to abide by the
Prophet's (Peace be upon him) instructions until the new moon could be seen on
Saturday in Medina.
8) If the new moon is seen in any country, the people of every other country
falling in the same day longitude should observe the fast on the same day.
9) There is a school of Muslim thought which considers that the people of any
country where the new moon is seen can deputize for all Muslims everywhere in
the world. Thus fasting begins with the seeing of the new moon in that
country, likewise in all other countries even though the new moon might not
have been seen there.
The Intention to Fast During Ramadan
For the fast of Ramadan to be valid, one has to make up one's mind, or
formulate the intention, during the night of the day he will fast.
Hafsa (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon
him) said: "whoever did not make up his mind to fast before dawn, then his
fast is not valid".
The intention is an act of the heart; it is not necessary to utter it; it is
enough to harbour it. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Acts are judged
by the intentions prompting them".
Commenting on the hadith reported by Hafsa, al-Shukani said that it makes it
necessary to formulate the intention to fast at any time of the night and that
it is necessary to renew the intention every day of fasting.
The intention is essential only in the fard (obligatory fasting). It could be
formulated during the day in the tatawwu' (i.e. voluntary) fast.
Source: Al-Siyam "Fasting"