"Imam Suliman, why did you not finish 30 days of Sha'baan instead of accepting testimony from Morocco and South Africa and starting Ramadhan from Saturday? Isn't this the same as others accepting it from Saudi Arabia?"
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh
My position on the matter has been explained many times and you can watch the debate on Islam Channel where I have clarified my stance and other similar videos
Now to your specific question about Ramadhan 1438, Insha'Allah.
Astronomical Calculations and the Hilaal
It is abundantly clear that the sun and the moon follow a precise calculated path
ٱلشَّمۡسُ وَٱلۡقَمَرُ بِحُسۡبَانٍ۬
[55:5] The sun and the moon [move] by precise calculation,
Astronomical data clearly told us that the Moon was present on British horizon and you can check that with the monthly Wifaqul Ulama astronomical data sheet which is prepared every month.
Looking for the Hilaal
There were many Muslims who went out to look for the Moon, including myself. You must have seen my videos and updates from our optimal location in Norbury. We had binoculars because this Hilaal couldn’t be sighted by the naked eye.
Hilaal Sighting Domino effect
If a Hilaal sighting is genuine then it will confirmed by other sightings consistently. We our Ulama who have direct contacts with Reunion and Hilaal was sighted in the Indian ocean and all the way across Africa, then France and to America (much later) like a domino.
So there is nothing wrong with these sightings. Science and observation confirms it.
This is affirmed by Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah (RA) as follows:
ابن التيمية: أحدها: ان الرؤية تختلف باختلاف التشريق والتغريب، فإنه متى رؤي في المشرق وجب ان يري في المغرب ولاينعكس، لأنه يتاخرغروب الشمس بالمغرب عن وقت غروبها بالمشرق، فإذا كان قد رؤي ازداد بالمغرب نوراً وبعداً عن الشمس وشعاعها وقت غروبها، فيكون أحق بالرؤية، وليس كذالك إذا رؤي بالمغرب، لأنه قد يكون سبب الرؤية تأخرغروب الشمس عندهم، فازداد بعداًوضوءً، ولما غربت بالمشرق كان قريباً منها. (مجموعه الفتاوى جلد13 ص62)
“...One of them being that if the hilal has been sighted in the east then this will necessitate sightings in the west. However this is not true the other way round. This is because the time of sunset in the west is after the time of sunset in the east. If the moon has been sighted (in the east) then one will observe a much brighter and a more illuminated moon in the west...[Majmu‟ Al Fatawa Volume 13, Page 62]"
British Latitude and Location
We know that our unique location does pose some challenges to monthly sighting. The Hilaal is difficult to sight due to our weather patterns and also due to our location. If we start having 30 days in our Islamic months, in a decade or so, you will doing Hajj while the other British Muslims will still be in Muharram. Islamic shariah commands us to avoid 28 or 31 days. You need to really labour on this point and come to grips with our reality.
We need to be practical and realise our unique challenges due to our location and prevent getting out of synch with the rest of the world.
Accepting confirmed sighting from the East
Scholars have deliberated and discussed these matters and as per the principles of Islamic jurisprudence it is perfectly fine to accept sighting from the East. Morocco happens to be our nearest Muslim country with a fantastic Moon Sighting system.
Sighting in South Africa can also be followed and it is explained here:
I am South African so I have contacts with South African Scholars and knowledge of what happens there...
Unity amongst British Muslims
We don't exist in a vacuum and nor are we commanded to break apart the thread of unity of 3 million British Muslims. The principles is for Scholars to exert themselves to unite as much as possible on correct principles. Remember that I am saying to unite "on correct principles" and not just unite "on any principles"
أَخْبَرَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، حَدَّثَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بْنُ الْمُنْذِرِ، حَدَّثَنَا إِسْحَاقُ بْنُ جَعْفَرِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ، حَدَّثَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ الأَخْنَسِيِّ، عَنْ سَعِيدٍ الْمَقْبُرِيِّ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ " الصَّوْمُ يَوْمَ تَصُومُونَ وَالْفِطْرُ يَوْمَ تُفْطِرُونَ وَالأَضْحَى يَوْمَ تُضَحُّونَ " . قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ غَرِيبٌ . وَفَسَّرَ بَعْضُ أَهْلِ الْعِلْمِ هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ فَقَالَ إِنَّمَا مَعْنَى هَذَا أَنَّ الصَّوْمَ وَالْفِطْرَ مَعَ الْجَمَاعَةِ وَعُظْمِ النَّاسِ
Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that : the Prophet (peace be upon Him) said: "The fast is the day the people fast, the breaking of the fast is the day the people break their fast, and the sacrifice is the day the people sacrifice." [Tirmidhi]
We unfortunately have a situation in Britain where Muslims are split. It is sad and tragic. My job as a Scholar is to do my utmost to try to remedy the situation and not make it worse.
There was no reason yesterday to reject sighting in the East and create further divisions for 3 million British Muslims.
Comparisons with Saudi Arabia?
You need to ask the Scholars who bring you news from Saudi Arabia about their reasons and criteria.
I along with many others try to sight the Moon, and the data on Wifaqul Ulama is publicly available for the past 6 years. You can see that sometimes a month starts after 29 days, sometimes 30 days are completed. Sometimes South Africa is followed and sometimes it is not. (Actual and credible) British Moon Sighting triumphs Morocco and you can see it after analysing the reports.
When Morocco is followed you will direct see communication via Fax to British Scholars.
South African Scholars also directly communicate to British Scholars.
Why am I answering this question?
I was on location yesterday and didn't join the Ulama conference call (for the decision) because on location I had problems with mobile coverage and signal.
Nevertheless, I agree with the decision.
I didn't have to take the time to answer your question but I have done so to make you realise the enormous effort, meticulous research, collaboration and work which goes on every single month to bring you Moon Sighting information.
This is done month after month after month.
This has been going on for over a decade.
I would like Brothers (and Sisters) such as yourself to ask the same questions to my esteemed colleagues and contemporaries who bring you news from Saudi Arabia and evaluate their processes and systems.
Transparency, transparency, transparency…
I would like for you as a British Muslim to demand and expect transparency. There is no hidden agenda here.
You need, in fact you have a right to know how your Scholars reach their decisions. I have asked Wfaqul Ulama to clearly articulate their process, answer questions in detail and to make the whole process as plain, transparent and clear as humanly possible.
There are presentations, studies, FAQs on Wifaqul Ulama site, visit and click on “Islamic Months”
They invite the scrutiny and your questions. What is it that Muslims find difficult to comprehend, after over a decade of looking at declarations month after month?
I request all British Muslims to think and independently evaluate the situation. I humbly request Scholars to do the same. In fact, I ask them to join and actually observe the _Hilaal_ like we do.
I am human and I make mistakes but I will continue to serve the religion of Allah Ta’ala to the best of my ability and I will continue to serve the Muslims of Britain in consultation with (other) Scholars. I request your duas for myself, my family and the whole of Ummah.
I stand by my decision as I don’t see any errors or problems with it.
May Allah Ta'ala give you the best of reward.