In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
AMJA continues to keep a close eye on the affairs of the Muslim minorities of the West and the disputes and differences that occur at the beginning and the ending of the blessed month of Ramadan. This is AMJA’s declaration concerning this matter.
First, AMJA considers the Muslims being united on the ending and beginning of the fast to be a very important goal of the Lawgiver, especially for a Muslim community within one city. Thus, if the majority of the community in a region are of the view that one should abide by astronomical calculations, then it is best for the others to follow them in that opinion, so that they will all be united and not divided. Following calculations is the opinion of some scholars and it does not contradict any unequivocal Shareeah texts that are not open to interpretation. [Thus, there can be some accommodation on that point.] Being accommodating with respect to differences of opinion is even more appropriate in the case where the majority of the community insists on seeing the new moon but they differ as to whether each region must have its own sighting, given that this difference of opinion has been longstanding and respected in the fiqh.
Second, AMJA currently follows the opinion that the month is to be based on the sighting of the new moon while using definitive astronomical calculations to reject a sighting but not to affirm the sighting. Furthermore, AMJA does not follow the view of “differences in region,” that is, that each region of the world must have its own sighting. This current position of AMJA is the view of the majority of the scholars, both in the past and present. At the same time, though, AMJA does realize the hardship that people face as they wait for the sightings from countries in the West. Those who believe that each region has its own sighting take this issue into consideration and they do not require a people of one region to follow anyone else’s sighting. On the other hand, those of the view that one sighting anywhere is sufficient for everyone take into consideration the uniting of all Muslims and that the texts concerning fasting and breaking the fast based on the sighting of a trustworthy person are addressed to all the Muslims. AMJA is of the view that a good combination of these two approaches that covers the different goals could be achieved by following any sighting that takes place to the east of a region but not what takes place in regions further west. In this way, Muslims can know the beginning of the month or its end before they disperse from the Ishaa (Night) Prayer—thus they will be able to pray Taraweeh and prepare for the fast at the beginning of the month and for the Eid Prayer at the end of the month. The dispute as to what defines a “sighting region” is an old dispute. What should be taken into consideration is the possibility of the news reaching the people in such an appropriate time that it will be easy for them to act upon that news. AMJA is of the opinion that it is not possible to define parameters that are not going to be disputed. Thus, AMJA sees the time zones in a land as vast as the United States as the best proxy that will achieve the desired goals. The inhabitants of each time zone should act in accord with the sightings of their region (time zone) as well as any sighting in lands east of them. In this way, when Ishaa time arrives, the matter will be clear for them.
We turn to Allah first and last to unite the views of His servants and guide them to the straight path. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad and his followers. All praise and thanks are due to Allah alone.
AMJA Resident Fatwa Committee