This interpretation may look as if it is a very convenient and easy method of fixing the lunar months. Islam is easy to practice and beginning Ramadan when you see Hilaal and ending it when you see it again and if it is clouded counting the month as 30 days may appear to be very easy and practical.
‘Fa’in gumma alaikum’ means if it became difficult and doubtful. The translation ‘clouded’ will license people to make it 30 whenever it is clouded and this is contrary to Quran and Sunnah. The Prophet SAW warned: The month is 29 so do not fast without consulting the Hilaal and do not observe Eidul Fitre without seeing it, but if it became difficult and doubtful complete 30 days.
Let us see what happens when we begin fasting after seeing the Hilaal. The ayaths of the Quran and the Ahadhees which explain this tells another story.
“Soomoo li ru’uyathihi…..” is a portion of the Hadhees which explains the verse 2:189, “Yas’aloonaka anil Ahillathi qul hiya mawaakeethu linnasi wal hajji”, meaning “They ask you about the phases of the moon, tell them they are dates for the people and Hajj”. Thafseer Ibn Kathir explains quoting the Hadhees
“Ja’alallahul ahillatha mawaakeetha linnasi fa soomoo li ru’uyathihi wa afthiroo li ru’uyathihi, fa’in gumma alaikum fa uddoo salaaseena youman”. “Allah has appointed phases of the moon as dates for the people, so fast according to its view and celebrate Eidul Fitre according to its view and if it became doubtful for you then count the month as 30 days. This is a very clear explanation regarding phases of the moon and lunar dates depicted by them. But some people who have no idea about the moon phase, the moon age, moon’s manaazil etc have mistaken Ahillah for Hilaals which are seen to the naked eye on the first day of every month.
They believe that Ramadan begins when they see it without worrying whether Hilaal they saw was the first , second or third according to the height and size of the crescent. They do not realize that the word ‘Hilaal’ itself is not used in this Hadhees and in the Quran as well.
Quran which came to lead people from darkness to light will not lead them to darkness.
We can see how Dr. Qaradawi explains this Hadhees.
He says: “In the language of the faqeeh, we might say that the hadith both indicates an objective and specific means for achieving it. The objective in the hadith is clear, to fast the entire month of Ramadan without missing a single day, or without fasting in a month other than Ramadan, like Sha’ban or Shawwal. And that is to take place through ascertaining the beginning of the new month, and the end of the old one, by any means possible, so long as such means are available to the general populace without causing them hardship or difficulty in their religion.”
So it is very clear that compulsory fasting must be in Ramadan only. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Ramadan cannot begin on two or three days. It will begin only on one day. In all calendars a month begins only on one day.
The first of Ramadan of 1430H should be Friday for all people. It should not be Saturday for some people and Sunday for some others in the world. This condition will be created if everyone began Ramadan according to his sighting of the Hilaal. The Prophet SAW ordered us to fast when the people fast. It is a ritual performed all together beginning in one day and ending in one day. Fasting on the day of feasting is Haraam in Shariah. Then how can the people in the world do it on two or three days? It will be wrong and ignorance which is contrary to the spirit of Islam, which has no crookedness.
Therefore “Soomoo li ru’uyathihi….” does not mean that we should begin fasting whenever we see the hilaal and end fasting whenever we see it again as generally believed.
What is the meaning of Ahillah and how is it important for the dates (“Mawaakeeethu linnaasi wal hajj”)?
Quran translated in different languages render “Ahillah” as ‘new moons’. I have examined Quran translations in eight languages. All give the same meaning. Ahillah does not mean ‘new moons’ even though it is the plural of Hilaal. Tabari, Ibn Kathir, Kurtubi etc give clear explanation. People wanted to know how the moon waned and waxed and they asked the Prophet SAW about it. It is clearly known from this that they did not ask about the Hilaals seen on the first day of every month. They asked how the moon waned and waxed.
Allah SWT ordered the Prophet SAW to tell them the purpose behind it. So he SAW tells them they are dates for people and Hajj. People need dates to record and plan their activities of daily life. They were not a community like us using paper and pen. Very few of them knew that art. So their dates were not in calendars as we have today. They looked at the moon for their date. Their true calendar was hung in the sky while our false calendars decorate our walls deceiving us in our dates.
The Mufassireen say that Quran should be interpreted from Quran. One ayath explains the other. So we should look into Quran, not into man-made dictionaries for understanding the meanings of the words used in the Quran.
The word ‘Ahillah’ is used in Quran only once in 2:189. It is not used again anywhere else in Quran. People say that Ahillah is the plural of Hilaal. But ‘Hilaal’ is not found in Quran. Then, how can we know the meaning of this word? In Surah Yaaseen this word is explained in the verse 36:39, “Wal qamara qaddarnaahu manaazila hatta aada kal urjoonil qadeem”. “We have appointed stages for the moon till it returned like an old urjoon (date stalk)”. Moon does not remain in one place or stage in the sky always as sun is seen to us. It changes its position or stage as well as its shape everyday and at last it comes back as it began and resembles like an old urjoon (date stalk).
This is another form like Hilaal which is one of the phases of the moon seen on the first day of the month. So it is clear that the word ‘ahillah’ means different shapes of the moon seen to us in different stages of its travel. We call them ‘phases’ in English.
The other word is ‘Mawaakeeth’. This is plural of ‘meekath’ which is found in many places in Quran. It means date. “Inna youmal fasli kaana meekathan” “the day of harvesting is a fixed date“. Now we get the meaning of “Hiya mawaakeethu linnasi wal Hajj” from Quran as: “they are dates for people and Hajj”. So we know that phase of the moon show us our dates for our daily needs as well as for our religious observances. This tells us that we should not use different calendars for civil and religious purposes. We must use the phases of the moon for our dates in all purposes. This ayath forbids use of any other calendar. But without realizing this we have chosen the Gregorian calendar, invoking the wrath of Allah SWT upon us by disobeying His order! May Allah SWT save us!
What does Ru’uya mean?
The word ‘Ru’uya’ is from the verb “ra’aa” which means ‘to see’ or ‘understand‘. The word ra’aa is used in many places in Quran in different meanings, to see, to know to understand etc. ‘Ru’uya’ the noun form of “ ra’aa ” can be translated as “sight, view, appearance” etc in English. In Quran it is used in both the meanings “to see” as well as to “understand“. The Quran explains Ra’aa in its different meanings beautifully in verse 37:102 “And when his son was old enough to walk about with him he said: Oh, my son. I have seen (Araa) in a dream that I am slaughtering you. So look, what do you think (tharaa)! He said: Oh, my father! Do what you are commanded, you shall find me Insha Allah among the patient”.
We must interpret words in Hadhees without contradicting Quran.
“Soomoo li ru’uyathihi and afthiroo liru’uyathihi“, what does it denote?
It means begin fasting according to its view and celebrate Eidul Fitre according to its view. We must find out the dates by observing the moon phase which denotes the date and find out the beginning of the months exactly by observing the waning and waxing phases of the moon. If the observation failed due to clouds and it became doubtful complete 30 days to make it sure. This is not a sanction to make a month of 29 into 30 whenever a cloud covered the crescent.
What was the custom of great Sahaabas like Ibnu Abbas RA and Ibn Omer RA in practicing the same Hadhees…
They knew how to find out dates by observing the Ahillah, phases and Manaazil, stages of the moon. It is very simple and they would have found out their dates without mistakes. But we firmly believe: ‘the month begins after we see the Hilaal’! This is a lie that has been told many times and perpetuated till all people have believed that Hilaal is seen on the last day of every month! In fact Hilaal, the waxing crescent becomes visible only on the first day of the month, never on the last day on which moon has no phase. Vide. Ibn Kathir 36:39
Is it possible to fast on the first of Ramadan and observe Eid on the first of Shawwal by sighting the hilaal through naked eye? What are the problems in that method?
It is impossible to catch the first day by the method of Hilaal sighting, because the month begins after seeing the crescent. Hilaal is seen only on the first day of the month after sunset and if you fasted after seeing it you would certainly fast on the second day of Ramadan and would miss the first day!
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) will not give us an order which cannot be practiced. We have given a wrong meaning to the sayings of the Prophet SAW without knowledge about the moon and its phases. Translating “Soomoo li ru’uyathihi…” as: “fast when you see the crescent…” is not appropriate. The words ‘li ru’uyathihi’ means “according to its view“. Someone without knowledge in the subject interpreted it as “begin fasting when you see it” and all others have blindly repeated it again and again till the idea that month begins after Hilaal is seen got established in the minds of the people.
It is impossible to begin the fasting on the first of Ramadan if one waited till the Hilaal is seen. Then fasting will begin on the second or third day of Ramadan as it happens in India, Pakistan and other countries always and they do not realize the mistake. They blame, un-necessarily, Saudi Arabia for beginning the month one or two days in advance!