From the Rulings of Fasting Ramadhan
Sheikh Muhammad Bin Saleh Bin ‘Uthaymeen
My brothers: Indeed fasting Ramadhan is a pillar of Islam. Allah says, “Oh you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you just as it was prescribed for the people before so that you may be pious. Fasting during a certain number of days. But whoever of you is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days; and [in such cases] it is incumbent upon those who can afford it to make sacrifice by feeding a needy person. And whoever does more good than he is bound to do does good unto himself thereby; for to fast is to do good unto yourselves – if you but knew it. It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was [first] bestowed from on high as a guidance unto man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Hence, whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it; but he that is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days. God wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship; but [He desires] that you complete the number [of days required], and that you extol God for His having guided you aright, and that you render your thanks [unto Him].” And the Prophet (SAW) said, “Islam is built upon five things, testimony that there is no God except Allah, and that I am his messenger, the performance of prayers, the compulsory charity, the performance of the pilgrimage to the House of Allah, and fasting in the month of Ramadan”. Agreed upon. And in Muslim with fasting in the month of Ramadhan before pilgrimage. All of the Muslims have agreed on the obligation of fasting during Ramadhan. It is clearly mandatory in the religion of Islam. If someone denies that it is an obligation, then they have disbelieved and they should repent, if not then they will die a disbeliever who has apostated from Islam, not to be washed or given the kaffan or prayed upon in the janazah, or have duah made for them to be given mercy, or buried in a Muslim grave, instead they have to have a hole far away dug for them so that they may not harm others with their bad smell, or harm their families with their presence.
Ramadhan become obligatory in the second year of Hijrah. So the Prophet (SAW) fasted for 9 years and fasting went through two stages.
The first stage was that a person was given a choice between fasting and feeding a poor person, with fasting being more preferred.
The second stage was fasting without the choice as is stated in the Saheehayn on the authority of Salama bin Al ako’o (RA) that when the verse “For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent” was revealed, that whoever didn’t want to fast would feed a person, until the following verse abrogated the original verse by saying, “whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it; but he that is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days.” So Allah made it obligatory without giving a choice. The fasting is not obligatory until it is certain the beginning of the month has been reached, and there is no fasting before the month begins, as the Prophet (SAW) said, “None of you should fast a day or two before Ramadan except for a man who customarily fasts. He should fast that day.” (Bukhari) And the beginning of the month is determined in two ways.
The first way, is by seeing the new moon as Allah says, “Whoever of you lives to see this month should fast it” and the saying of the Prophet (SAW), “If you see the new moon then fast.” (Agreed upon) It is not a condition that everyone has to personally see the new moon, if someone trustworthy witnesses, then it is obligatory on everyone to fast.
The witness must have a mature brain, must be Muslim, must be trustworthy and also have good vision. As for a young person, or an insane person, then their witness is not to be taken. Also, a disbeliever is not to be taken as a witness as is related by Ibn Abbas (RA) who said, “A Bedouin came to the Prophet (SAW) and said, “Indeed I have seen the new moon for the start of Ramadhan” so the Prophet (SAW) said, “Do you bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah?” he replied “yes”, then he said, “do you bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” he replied, “yes”, then he said,” Oh Bilal, tell the people to fast tomorrow.” (Narrated by The five except for Ahmad) Of those not to be taken witness include, a person known as a liar, a hasty or impulsive person, a person with weak eyesight who it is impossible for them to see it. It is possible for Ramadhan to start on the witness of one person as is stated by Ibn Umar (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said, “The people saw the new moon, so I told the Prophet (SAW), and he fasted and ordered the people to fast.” (Abu Dawood and Al Hakim) and in Muslim said, “Whoever sees it, it is obligatory on them to tell those in charge of the Ummah” The start of Fasting, Eid, and Hajj are all done in the same procedure. If someone is in a far away place and they see the new moon, then they should fast and try their best to reach this news to those in charge of the Ummah. And if the news of the start of the month and end of it reaches someone before the government broadcasts it, then it is obligatory to follow the news. It is an Islamically legal proof that should be acted upon, as the Prophet (SAW) ordered Bilal to tell the people to fast as soon as he heard about the start of the month, and made it obligatory on them to fast.
If the start of the month is Islamically legal, then there is no need for calculation (manazil) of the moon. Because the Prophet (SAW) made the ruling according to seeing the moon, not by it’s calculation, as He (SAW) said, “When you see the new moon fast, and when you see the new moon stop the fast.” (Agreed Upon) He (SAW) also said, “If two Muslim witnesses see the new moon then fast, and stop the fast.” (Ahmad)
The second way to start the month is by finishing the month before it. The lunar months can only be 29 or 30 days. The majority of the time you will find that 1 or 2 months in a row to be 30 days with the third month being 29. So when the previous month reaches 30 days, then the legal ruling is to start the next month even if you don’t see the moon. As the Prophet (SAW) said, “Fast when you see the new moon, and break your fast when you see the new moon, and when you cannot see it, then count 30 days.” (Muslim) and in Bukhari with the ending of, “If it is too cloudy then finish 30 days of Sha’baan.” In Saheeh Ibn Khuzamaa it is related that ‘Aisha (RA) said, “The Prophet (SAW) used to memorize the days in Sha’baan more than he would in other months, then he would fast at the sighting of the new moon, if he couldn’t see it, then he would count 30 days, then he would fast.” (Also related in Abu Dawood and Dar Qutni who declared it Saheeh)
With these ahadeeth it has been made clear that Ramadhan is not started without the sighting of the new moon, if you don’t see it then finish Sha’baan and do not fast on the 30th day. As Ammar bin Yassir (RA) said, “Whoever fasts on the day that there is doubt whether it is Ramadhan or not, then that person has disobeyed Abul Qaasim (SAW).” (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhe, and An-nisaae)
Oh Allah give us the ability to follow the guidance, and make this month a month of good and blessings, and help us to obey You and keep us from the path to disobedience to You. And forgive us, and our parents, and the Muslims, with Your mercy. And send your Peace and Blessings on our Prophet Muhammad and on his family and his companions and those that follow them until the Day of Judgment.