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Fiqh of Fasting - 3

2014-07-01
July 1, 2014

 

JUST LIKE STARTING (OVER)

 

The fiqh of fasting Ramadān

 

LESSON 3:

Methods of establishing the beginning and end of Ramadān

 

There are three recognized methods of establishing the commencement of Ramadān and Shawwāl.

No mention is found among them of the spurious method of astronomical calculation, which is not recognized by the authentic savants of Ahl as-Sunnah.

The Lawgiver has made the cause (sabab) of the obligation to fast Ramadān the sighting (ru’yah) of the new moon, and not its mere existence (wujūd), which is no more than an indicator of the possibility that it might be sighted.

Since that topic is worth a separate detailed treatment, we will set it aside for another, more suitable time.

 

Method 1: Sighting the crescent by two men of integrity

 

It is even better if a larger number of men of verified integrity (‘udūl) attest the sighting of the new moon.

A man of integrity (‘adl) fulfils the following criteria:

He is Muslim, past puberty, capable of discernment, and free from patent sinfulness.

 

What is the evidence (dalīl) that the sighting of the Ramadān crescent by a pair of men of integrity establishes the starting point (and the end-point) thereof?

 

There is more than one such evidence:

 

  • Mālik has reported from Nāfi’, the freed slave of ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Umar from the latter (the golden chain of hadith-transmission), that the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, mentioned Ramadān and thereupon said: “Do not fast it until you sight (taraw) the crescent, and do not put an end to it until you sight it. If the sky above you is cloudy, you should compute for it a full 30 days.
  • Mālik has reported on the authority of ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said: “The month is 29 days (at least), so do not fast it until you sight (taraw) the crescent, and do not put an end to it until you sight it. If the sky above you is cloudy, you should compute for it a full 30 days (فَاقْدُرُا لَهُ).
  • Mālik has reported on the authority of ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Abbās that the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said: “Do not fast it until you sight (taraw) the crescent, and do not put an end to it until you sight it. If the sky above you is cloudy, complete for it a full complement of 30 days (فَأكْمِلُوا الْعَدَدَ ثَلاثِينَ).
  • Inter alia an-Nasā’ī has reported on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās that the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said: “Fast pursuant to its sighting (li-ru’yatih) and end the fast pursuant to its sighting. If the sky above you is cloudy, complete for it a full complement of 30 days (فَأكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ ثَلاثِينَ).
  •  Inter alia an-Nasā’ī has reported on the authority of Abū Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, said: “If you sight (ra’aytum) the crescent you should fast, and if you see the next crescent you should complete 30 days’ fasting.
  • Declaratory law consists in: Causes (asbāb), conditions (shurūt) and impediments (mawāni’). We have already explained that the entry and exit points of Ramadān are determined by a triggering cause: the act of sighting the new moon. The causes by which the judgments of the Law are known have been set up by the Lawgiver, not by any government or committee of scholars and administrators. The Lawgiver is Allah, directly or through the Messenger, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam. The Lawgiver has decided that it is the actual sighting of the crescent, rather than a mere astronomical calculation, which acts as the relevant cause. In so doing, the Lawgiver has made things easy for the generality of people, the ignorant and the educated, as pointed out by Imām al-Māzarī: “If the legal obligation to fast Ramadān depended on calculation, matters would be made tight, since only few people can be familiar with it, whereas the Revealed Law is built on what the multitudes know.” The Dīn of Allah is easy. Our Sicilian-Arab predecessor al-Māzarī died as early as 536 AH (1141 AD). The argument is by no means new. It is a reheated argument. It has been debunked century after century. The only difference is the modern devolution: The paladins of the Law quashed it then, but are being overcome nowadays. The gallant judge from Sevilla, Abū Bakr b. al-‘Arabī, clarified the point further: “The Lawgiver made the judgment depend on sighting (ru’yah), which is possible for the entire creation. In the same manner, He, glory to Him, has set up the causes of acts of worship everyone is mandated to carry out. He made all of them clear by being apprehended through direct perception, since creation includes the savant and the ignorant fellow, the sharp intellect and the inadvertent mind, yet all of them share such direct perception” = it has been facilitated for the totality of mukallafūn.
  • When the Lawgiver made fasting and ending the fast, as well as the hajj, conditional on the crescents, He made them conditional on their sighting as opposed to their mere existence. In some of the ahādīth quoted above, you have seen the Prophetic use of the imperative “uqdurū”. What is the meaning of this taqdīr? Is it a form of calculation? No, this taqdīr simply means “computing a full 30 days”. The word is thus ambivalent (mujmal), capable of more than one legitimate interpretation. It thus calls for what particularizes it (mufassal) so as to explain its ambivalence away. The clarifying particularization of such ambivalent term is found in that other cluster of ahādīth which explain it as “the completion of the month by a full 30 day period”. Interpreting an ambivalent word in the texts of the Law by what is clarified through particularization is an arch-principle of the Law agreed upon by all experts of usūl al-fiqh. It is in this way that ambivalent texts are understood. The cause is the moon sighting. If cloudy conditions impede it factually, then 30 days must be fasted to complete the month (= “computed” in that sense), since we are mandated to enter and exit acts of worship based on certainty, as underlined by Judge Ibn Abū Bakr b. al-‘Arabī in his juristic exegesis Ahkām al-Qur’ān. Another Iberian master, al-Qādī ‘Iyād, said: “One cannot soundly interpret the meaning of his (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam) statement “faqdurū lahu” as meaning the calculation of astronomers. Hardship would in fact accrue to people if that was required, since not everyone knows and understands such a calculation, and legal accountability (taklīf) is only valid if it is founded on what is known and apprehended by all and sundry.”
  • Informed consensus (ijmā’) further evidences the judgment that sighting is the cause, and can be used against the few dissenting Shāfi’iyyah who (prior to this age of pervasive decadence) relied on the forecast of astronomers. Imām al-Bājī and al-Hattāb (the author of the magisterial Mawāhib al-Jalīl) both related from Mālik via Ibn Nāfi’ (as-Sā’igh) that it was compulsory not to follow or emulate any political authority who relied on astronomical calculation in this matter. This is the voice of the Salaf!

 

It is the Sunnah, and not the Book, which has established the cause for determining the entry and exit of Ramadān. As already intimated in a previous lesson, there is no such evidence in His statement: «Any one of you who are resident (shahida) for the month should fast it» (Sūrah al-Baqarah: 185), since shahida bears in the āyah the meaning of being resident rather than the meaning of witnessing / sighting. The mas’alah is a separate one. Otherwise, one would interpret the āyah, quite absurdly, as signifying that whoever failed to sight the new moon would not be required to fast.

 

Method 2: Sighting the crescent by a large group of people lacking judicially recognized integrity

 

If a large group of people, even though no man of integrity is included among them, sights the new moon, the beginning and end of Ramadān are sufficiently established thereby, since such a multitudinous sighting evinces certainty. It does so due to the impossibility, in the ordinary course of things, of so many people agreeing upon a lie. It is however necessary that each member of such a vast group, which can comprise both men and women, independently attests his sighting of the crescent without merely passing on the report of someone else who sighted it.

 

Once a political authority has ruled that the month has begun (or ended) based on:

 

  • Sighting by two men of integrity, or
  • Sighting by a multitude of people individually lacking judicially recognized integrity –

 

And once

 

One (1) man of integrity (‘adl)  reports the fact that the political authority has ruled that the month has begun (or ended) based on either an ascertained sighting by two men of integrity or an ascertained sighting by a multitude of people individually lacking judicially recognized integrity, the community is bound by that report, the whole community, and all its members must start or end the fast.

But is that community a locally or regionally or nationally based one, or are its frontiers global?

That is one of the issues to be tackled in the lesson following the current one if Allah so wills.

 

Method 3: Completion of full 30 days

 

That is true either at the beginning of Ramadān or at the beginning of Shawwāl, when the sky is cloudy or when, in spite of the sky being clear, the moon is not sighted for one reason or another, given that the criterion is sighting the moon and not its sheer astronomical existence.

 

Next lesson:

·        Are there circumstances where the sighting by one person suffices to determine the beginning or the end of Ramadān?

·        Who is bound by a sighting somewhere on the globe?

 

·        What is the day of doubt, and what are the judgments pertaining to it?

 

 



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