Answerd by Shaykh Yūsuf Badāt
As a masjid operating in the Greater Toronto Area in Canada, is it a must to be part of one of the moon-sighting committees? Can we as a masjid independently make our decision to start Ramaḍān or ʿEīd?
In the Name of Allāh, Most Kind, Most Merciful
Thank you/ Jazāk Allāh Khayr for your question.
In an Islamic government where the ruler or his appointed authority makes such decisions, one must adhere to the official declaration. One should follow the verdict even though one may have a disagreement in terms of the method adopted to determine the month of fasting or ʿEīd.
In countries like Canada, where there is no Islamic government nor agreed central Islamic authority, committees are generally formed to help formalize a united date for Islamic rituals and or celebrations. If participating in such committees, one is able to expand the unity and uniformity of the communities, then it would be advisable to join such alliances. If however, there are numerous committees and participation in such groups would not really make a big difference in unity or uniformity due to multiple verdicts by the various committees, it is neither necessary nor obligated to join such moon-sighting committees.
The current state in the Greater Toronto Area is such that there are at least five such establishments that declare the announcements for lunar Islamic months and festivals. In such a scenario one can affiliate with any. If not, each masjid and Islamic center may independently make a decision [obviously] in consultation with their local trusted Islamic expert[s], imam[s] or scholar[s]. There would be nothing wrong with this, provided the views and declarations of others, that are not synchronized with your stance, are respected. Argumentation and personal attacks against those disagreeing with your stance are to be avoided. All scholarly views regarding commencement of the lunar calendar are to be respected and appreciated. The general layman is advised to follow the verdict of their local Islamic centers, Islamic scholars and local communities to maintain unity in their localities.
It is worthy to note that all views regarding establishing the lunar islamic months are based in reliable jurisprudence. Whether it is calculations, local, international or Saudi declarations. There is tremendous flexibility in this issue from an islamic point of view.
Imam ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān Al-Jazayri writes,
“There is no condition of the ruler’s judgment to establish the new crescent or the obligation of fasting upon people. However, if the ruler has declared a judgement [in an Islamic government] on the confirmation of the crescent based on any Islamic reliable view of his school of jurisprudence, then fasting would be wājib (necessary) upon the common Muslim public even though it may differ with the Islamic views of some of the people and their personal schools [of jurisprudence]. This is because the ruler’s verdict removes the difference and disarray. This is agreed by all schools of jurisprudence.” (Kitāb Al-Fiqh ʿAlā Madhāhib Al-ʿArbaʿah)
“In the Shāfʿīe school, a declaration from the ruler to commence the month of fasting is mandatory.” (Majmūʾ Li Al-Nawawī)
“If one has seen the crescent [to commence fasting for Ramaḍān] himself while others including the ruling authority have not [established or agreed to the sighting], fasting is wājib (necessary) on him even though others may not fast. This individual shall fast without imposing on others. This is the consensus amongst jurists.” (See: Al-Fatāwa Al-Hindiyyah Fī Fiqh-Al-Ḥanafiyyah, Bidāyat Al-Mujtahid, Al-Muḥalla, Al-ʿUddah)
And Allāh Knows Best