What follows is the statement of Zaytuna Institute concerning the beginning of Ramadan. We here at NID endorse Zaytuna’s position on this issue.
As Muslims we have a clear methodology for determining the beginning of the lunar month. We start all months upon the initial physical sighting of the waxing crescent moon on the western horizon of the evening sky. The method for beginning the month of Ramadan is no exception as the Messenger of Allah, peace upon him, has said: “Begin your fast upon sighting [the crescent moon] and end your fast upon sighting [the next crescent].” The four schools of Sunni Islam hold that this is an unambiguous, clear textual proof that is not open to subsequent interpretation.
Here at the Zaytuna Institute, we have consistently adhered to this methodology. With the assistance of an experienced international team of crescent observers, we endeavor to share with the Muslim community information concerning the beginning of the lunar months, with special attention paid to the months of Ramadan, Shawwal, and Dhul-Hijja. Insha Allah, we will continue to provide this service to our community.
As for starting Ramadan based upon mathematical calculation, we have found no convincing argument that this was ever a practice of the Muslim community and truly believe based upon the position of our great jurists and masters of independent juristic reasoning (Ijtihad), that the text is unequivocal and thus not open to any new Ijtihad. Furthermore, we understand the issue not to be one of sound difference of opinion but rather innovation and should be avoided. The Prophet, peace be upon him said, “Beware of introduced affairs [in our religion], for every introduced affair is an innovation and ever innovation is a type of going astray.” And God alone knows best.
Having said that, we never desire to see any divisiveness in our community and request that Muslims avoid disputes and bitter arguments concerning this point. Those who have put forward calculation as a method are doing so with their understanding that it is a way of facilitation for the Muslims in the West. They are scholars in their respective areas of expertise. And while we differ with their attempts at a new Ijtihad, we believe their intentions are sound and that their honor (‘Ird) should be respected. Rather, we encourage our brothers and sisters to consider the various arguments and then make a mature decision bearing in mind the prescient advice of our noble Prophet, peace upon him: “Leave that which causes you doubt for that which eradicates doubt.”
May Allah bless everyone with a productive and beneficial month of fasting. …and the last of our prayers is all praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.