3. Testimony of a witness determines sighting
Sighting is determined by the process of testimony of a witness. If no new moon is sighted then Sha’baan/Ramadhaan is deemed to be 30 days and is continued. On the 29th day of the month the Muslim goes out to sight the moon. If he sees the new moon the next month has began and the next day will be the first day of the month. And if he doesn’t then the next day will be the 30th.
The question arises that what if one cannot see the moon because the sky is clouded over? The issue of clouding over is irrelevant today because the Muslims are so many and widespread that the moon can be spotted in different parts of the world. It isn’t possible for the whole world to be clouded over. And in our times long distance communication is fast. Unlike in the past it was limited to a 20-30 mile radius because this was the furthest a horse could travel in a single night. And it was possible for that area to be clouded over completely.
So in this case when the moon is not sighted due to it being clouded over then one must complete thirty days of the month and either start or finish his fasting. Even if scientific information and astronomical calculations say that the moon is there, if it is not sighted by a witness then one should complete the thirty days.
One must also understand that the beginning and ending of Ramadhaan is a legal process and not an astronomical process. It depends on the sighting of the moon by a reliable witness. We see that the Prophet (sall Allahu’ alayhi wa sallam) took the testimony of a reliable witness, even though there could’ve been the possibility of the person hallucinating or just thinking that he saw the moon when in reality he didn’t or he saw something else. Ramadhaan does not necessarily have to coincide with the moon coming and going. Therefore the important matter here that is relevant to the beginning or end of Ramadhaan is the testimony of the witness who saw the moon. We base this on the proof that the Prophet (sall Allahu’ alayhi wa sallam) said “…fast when you see it…” [Muslim Book 6 #2318] and he (sall Allahu’ alayhi wa sallam) did not say “….fast when the moon is there…”
Chapter 1: Fasting in Ramadhaan
1. A pillar of Islam
2. Obligation of Fasting
3. Sighting of the Moon for start of Ramadhaan
4. One reliable witness’ presence is sufficient
5. Conditions that make Ramadhan Obligatory for an Individual
6. Expiation for the inability to fast due to age or illness
7. Requirements of a valid fast
8. Obligations to fulfill during fasting
9. Recommended acts of fasting
Chapter 2: Conditions in which breaking fast is Permissible, Impermissible, or Recommended
Chapter 3: That which Invalidates Your Fast
Chapter 4: Repayment of Missed or Broken Fasts
Chapter 5: Recommended, Disliked, and Impermissible Days of Fasting
(Chapter 4 & 5 – Insha’Allah comming soon around Eid al Fitr)