Here in South Africa, we sight the moon according to the Sunnah to determine whether it is the start of Ramadan, or the end respectively. And not every location in South Africa gets to sight the moon.

So a lot of towns and cities wait to hear from our Imam as the Musjid as to whether any other confirmed sightings took place, and whether or not Ramadan will start on that night, or whether Eid eve is upon us, and so on.

This is all achieved with telephone, mobile phone, and internet. There is a very short time span between Maghreb (when the moon can be sighted) and Esha, the night prayer - before which the sighting must be confirmed - so the only way we acquire confirmation in such a short period is thanks to technology.

But how did they do it during the Prophet's (PBUH) & Sahaba's (MABPWT) time? If the moon was sighted in Medina, but not Makkah, how did they pass the message on fast enough? This would also apply to just maintaining the lunar calendar. Ignoring Eid and Ramadan, they would have needed a consistent way to keep the lunar calendar constant throughough specific towns, and cities within the same location....so how did this all happen?

I tried searching for an answer by Googling, but I don't think I'm using the correct phrasing - or maybe nobody's asked. Thanks.

  • 1
    Salam and welcome to IslamSE the Q&A site about Islam. Please consider taking out tour and checking our help center to learn more about our site and model. Why would you exclude a local sighting? See also What are the opinions on moon sighting as per the classical scholars? where this is addressed!
    – Medi1Saif
    Jun 18, 2018 at 13:34
  • @Medi1Saif Thank you for your greatly-informative input. (in response to non-edited comment by Medi1Saif - "By local sighting!". Now in response to edited comment - "Why would you exclude local sighting?" - Please read my question in full before blasting out an answer. My question pertains to confirming Ramadan/Eid to other cities in the same region that did not sight the moon. Jun 18, 2018 at 13:35
  • Note that traveling by night was not that easy at the time.
    – Jamila
    Jun 19, 2018 at 5:40

1 Answer 1


In fact most of your assumption must be answered with no. During the time of the prophet and that of the 4 righteous caliphs the news about the new month was not passed from one city to another. Each city fasted or broke fast according to the local sighting in best case there have been a kind of announcement for the surroundings.

Ahadith clearly show that people in Medina used to fast on different days as those for let's say al-Kufah and it was accepted by both sides.

See for example (all of the ahadith are the linked in What are the opinions on moonsigthing as per the classical scholars?):

Kuraib reported that Umm Fadl, daughter of Harith, sent him (Fadl, i.e. her son) to Mu'awiya in Syria. I (Fadl) arrived in Syria, and did the needful for her. It was there in Syria that the month of Ramadan commenced. I saw the new moon (of Ramadan) on Friday. I then came back to Medina at the end of the month. Abdullah b. 'Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) asked me (about the new moon of Ramadan) and said:
When did you see it? I said: We saw it on the night of Friday. He said: (Did) you see it yourself? I said: Yes, and the people also saw it and they fasted and Mu'awiya also fasted, whereupon he said: But we saw it on Saturday night. So we will continue to fast till we complete thirty (fasts) or we see it (the new moon of Shawwal). I said: Is the sighting of the moon by Mu'awiya not valid for you? He said: No; this is how the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) has commanded us. Yahya b. Yahya was in doubt (whether the word used in the narration by Kuraib) was Naktafi or Taktafi. (Sahih Muslim)

As the ruling is to observe the moon and not to fast or break fast until one sees a crescent moon:

  • Do not fast till you see the new moon, and do not break fast till you see it; but if the weather is cloudy calculate about it. (Sahih Muslim)

  • Observe fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break it on sighting it. But if (due to clouds) the actual position of the month is concealed from you, you should then count thirty (days). (Sahih Muslim)

So the lunar calendar was only locally consistent, as almost all people were able to recognise a hilal, which is no more the case today. This changed later when the scholars of madhhabs started deriving rulings from different ahadith and interpreting them.

Mekkah is certainly not close enough to Medina (> 400km distance) so that people of earlier days might pass a message within an appropriate time!


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