What is the time of fasting in islam? What is the commencement of ramadan? When fasting start in islam? What are the 3 stages of ramadan?
A) Time of Fasting
The time of fasting is the period from the second dawn (true dawn) to sunset. According to some jurists, the first birth of the second dawn is taken as a starting point for it is the most cautious act. According to others, it is valid when the light extends and starts to disperse. This is more suitable for those who are fasting. In short, according to the first view, it is necessary to start fasting from the first break of the second dawn, and according to the second view, when the light begins to disperse with the break of dawn. The time to start fasting is called “imsāk time”. Today, people who fast are freed from the burden of making such observations, since imsāk times according to cities and towns are published on calendars in hours and minutes based on astronomical observations and calculations made in advance.
A person who does not know the exact time of imsāk tries to determine the second dawn by following the eastern horizon according to his own observation, and if he is in doubt about the dawn, it is more virtuous to stop eating and drinking. However, in such a situation if he continues to eat and drink, his fast will still be considered complete. If it is found out later that he ate and drank after the dawn, he has to make up for that day’s fast.
Confirming the commencement of the fasting in Ramadan can be either by sighting the crescent when the weather is clear or, when the sky is not free of such obstructions, by completing the month of Shaʿbān in thirty days. For Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an, “Hence, whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it…” The Prophet also said, “The month (of Ramadan) may consist of twenty-nine days; so when you see the new moon, observe the fast and when you see (the new moon again at the commencement of the month of Shawwāl) then break it, and if the sky is cloudy for you, then calculate it (and complete the month of Shaʿbān to thirty days).” In another narration of Bukhari, it is stated, “The month of Ramadan may consist of twenty-nine days. So do not fast till you have sighted it (the new moon) and if the sky is cloudy for you, then calculate.” Another version narrated by Muslim is as follows, “When the Prophet was talking about the month of Ramadan, he said that “the month is thus, and thus, and thus,” and he flapped his hands with all their fingers twice. but at the third turn, folded his right thumb or left thumb (in order to give an idea of twenty-nine), “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 in the month of Shaʿbān and Shawwāl).” Two, three, or four months of the lunar year can have twenty-nine days.
If a fasting person doubts whether the sun has set or not, it is not permissible to break the fast. If it is not possible to understand the truth of the matter after breaking his or her fast, he or she has to make up for it. If he or she finds out that he or she broke his or her fast before the sun sets, according to the Ḥanafis, atonement is also required.
It is permissible for a fasting person to make saḥūr and ifṭār based on individual research. If such a person cannot find another means, he will have saḥūr according to his strongest opinion, and when he is satisfied with the break of the dawn, he begins his fast and he can break his fast by researching about the sunset, again according to his strongest opinion. However, it is a precaution that a person who cannot predict whether the dawn has risen or not should start fasting as soon as possible, and a person who cannot predict whether the sun has set or not, should not immediately break his fast.
In order to start or break the fast with other customarily used signs such as the sound of cannons or drums or the lighting of lamps on the minarets, care must be taken to ensure that they are reliably regular and can be seen and heard from all sides. In places where the beginning of the fast (imsāk) is announced together with a call for the dawn prayer, it is also necessary to recite the call for the prayer on time. Taking into account that the adhān may be delayed, the time should also be checked from a reliable calendar and clock.
B) Sighting the Ramadan Crescent
Beginning from the twenty-ninth day of Shaʿbān, research for sighting the crescent commences. In order to end the month of Ramadan, it is also necessary to observe the crescent of the month of Shawwāl. If the crescent of Ramadan is seen, the Ramadan fast begins the next day, and if the weather is cloudy, the days of Shaʿbān are completed to thirty days. Then the fasting begins. The Shawwāl crescent is observed after the twenty-ninth day of Ramadan. If the crescent is sighted, the next day, Ramadan Feast commences. If not, Ramadan is observed for thirty days.
The beginning of each lunar month is confirmed either by seeing the crescent or by completing the days of the previous month to thirty.
Anyone who sees the crescent must utter takbīr three times. According to what was narrated from Ibn Umar (ra), he said: “When the Prophet saw the new moon, he used to say the following supplication:
“O, Allah! Bring it (this crescent) over us with blessing, faith, security, and peace for us. (O crescent), my Lord and your Lord is Allah.”
It is valid to see the new moon after sunset. According to Abu Ḥanīfa and Imam Muhammad, if the crescent is seen before or after the zawāl time, neither the fast starts nor does the fast break on that day. Perhaps this crescent is the crescent of the next night. According to Abu Yusuf, the crescent seen after zawāl belongs to the next night, and the crescent seen before the sun at the meridian belongs to the previous night. So with this, Ramadan or Eid becomes certain. For, unless a crescent is two-night old, generally it cannot be seen before the sun at the meridian.
According to the Shafiʿis, the Malikis, and the Ḥanbalis, the crescent seen during the day is not important for this crescent definitely belongs to the next night. In this regard, the words of experts in astronomical calculations cannot be taken into account, either. Besides, the new moon must be seen at night.
The method of confirming the crescent of Ramadan:
A) When the sky is clear, a large crowd must see the crescent to confirm Ramadan or Eid. It has been left to the Muslim state to determine the number of the crowd. A single person from a large community in the open-air saying, “I sighted the crescent” creates suspicion.
According to a narration from Abu Ḥanīfa, when the weather is clear, the testimony of two just witnesses is enough to confirm the sighting.
B) If the sky is not clear; If there are things that prevent vision, such as fog, clouds, and dust, the testimony of one just, intelligent, adolescent Muslim is sufficient. It is necessary to start fasting by stating that he has seen the crescent moon. The measure of being just is that a person’s good deeds are greater than his bad ones or, according to the sound view, no bad deed is known from him. Whether that person is a man or a woman does not change the ruling because the issue of sighting the crescent is a religious order and is similar to conveying the news. In this case, it is not necessary for the person to say “I testify”. The witnessing of the person who sights the crescent is done before the judge, and in the regions where there is no judge, it is done in the village or neighborhood mosque, in the presence of the people. Based on his testimony, people start fasting.
It is also valid for someone else to testify before the judge based on the testimony of someone who sighted the crescent. If the head of the Muslim state or the judge does not accept the testimony of the person who sighted the crescent, the person who sighted it must fast alone. If he does not fast that day, he will make up for it. There is no need for atonement because it is possible that what he sighted was not the crescent, but his or her own imagination.
According to the Shafiʿis, fasting becomes obligatory for all people with the judgment of the judge, even if it is based on the testimony of only one just witness confirming that he sighted the crescent. As a matter of fact, Abdullah Ibn Umar (ra) saw the crescent and informed the Prophet about it. Based on this, the Prophet (saw) both fasted and ordered people to fast. Therefore, the judgment of the judge removes the negative aspect and fasting becomes necessary for the adherents of other schools in that town.
The beginning of the month of Ramadan can also be confirmed indirectly. For example, if a creditor applies to the court for a debt to be paid on the first day of Ramadan and proves that the month of Ramadan commenced based on the testimonies of two witnesses who sighted the crescent, this decision will also constitute the beginning of fasting for Muslims.
The new moons of the months of Shawwāl and Dhu’l-Hijja are confirmed by the testimony of two just men or a man and two women when the weather is cloudy. In addition, the witnesses’ characters should also be cleared. There is a difference of opinion on whether or not the expression “testify” must be used and whether questioning is required or not.
In a settlement where there is no judge or governor, if two just people report that they have sighted the Shawwāl crescent even though it is cloudy, there will be no harm for the people to break their fast and commence the Eid.
If only the judge sights the crescent of Ramadan on a cloudy day, if he wishes, he can appoint someone else as deputy and testify that he has sighted the crescent, or if he wishes, he directly announces to the people to fast. However, in confirming the crescent of the Eid, witnessing by only one person is not adequate because through such an act of witnessing an act of worship will come to an end. Moreover, the meaning of testimony is connected to the rights of people so the testimony from anyone that is less than two people is not considered sufficient.
According to the preferred view of the Shafiʿis, the testimony of one just person is also sufficient in confirming the new moon of Shawwāl, and when the judge decides on it, the celebration of the feast begins.
If Shawwāl’s new moon has not been sighted, Ramadan must continue for a full thirty days. If, after a full thirty days of Ramadan, Shawwāl’s new moon is still not sighted and if the sky is clear, the fast may not be ended on that night; rather, the following day fasting continues as well and the witnesses who testified to seeing the new moon at the beginning of Ramadan must be judged not to have been reliable. If, on the other hand, the sky is not clear, the fast must be broken that night, and that day must be considered to belong to Shawwāl. This is the view of the Ḥanafis and the Malikis. The Shafiʿis hold that if people began fasting based on the testimony of someone known to be of good character and if they have fasted Ramadan for a full thirty days, then properly speaking, they must bring their fast to an end after this, whether the sky is clear or not. As for the Hanbalis, they hold that if the beginning of the Ramadan fast was based on the testimony of two witnesses of proven good character, if a full thirty days of Ramadan have been fasted, and if the Shawwāl new moon is not seen on the eve of the 31st day, the fasting must end. If, on the other hand, the beginning of the Ramadan fast was based on the testimony of a single witness known to be of good character or based on an estimation that the month of Shaʿbān was 29 days due to cloud cover and the like, the 31st day must be fasted as well.
C) Difference of the Rising Places of the Moon
The moon and the sunrise differ from town to town and from continent to continent. Therefore, the opinion of the jurists on whether it is farḍ for all Muslims in the east and the west to start fasting on the same day is divided into two groups:
1) According to the majority of jurists, the differences in the rising places of the moon are not taken into account and all Muslims should start fasting at the same time. This is also the preferred view of the Ḥanafis.
Accordingly, if the Muslims in the west were to sight the crescent of Ramadan, it would become obligatory to fast for the people of the east who heard about it. However, for this, the testimonies of the community that sighted the crescent must be subject to the decree of the judge. Otherwise, the report of a mere opinion will not be binding for the people of the town who do not sight the crescent. The communication of the news happens as follows: Two just people come before the town judge and say, “We bear witness that the crescent has been sighted in such and such a town, and that the judge of that town decreed the commencement of Ramadan in accordance with its procedure”.
Regarding the different rising places of the moon, it does not rely on the news given beforehand by the calculus and astronomy experts. For the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadan) and give up fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwal), and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it), complete thirty days of Shaan.” This hadith attaches the obligation of fasting upon all Muslims to the condition of seeing the crescent. For this reason, it would be sufficient to see the new moon by a community or a person whose testimony is accepted.
On the other hand, the majority of scholars compare countries that are far away in this regard to countries that are close to the place where the new moon is seen. Distinguishing between these countries is rather a strained interpretation and is not based on any evidence.
2) According to the Shafiʿis, when a crescent is seen in a town, it’s ruling only binds the towns close to it, not the distant ones. According to the sound view, this differs according to the rising places of the moon. However, this difference does not occur at a distance of fewer than twenty-four leagues.
The Shafiʿis rely on the evidence of sunnah, analogy, and reason, considering the different rising places of the moon.
In a hadith transmitted from Kurayb (ra), the following is stated, “Umm Faḍl, daughter of Ḥārith, sent Kurayb ibn Abi Muslim (d. 98/716) to Mu’awiya (d. 60/679) in Syria. Kurayb said, “I arrived in Syria, and took care of Umm Faḍl’s needs 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 (ra) 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 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 (saw) has commanded us.”
This hadith indicates that Abdullah Ibn Abbas (ra) was not content with the sighting of the crescent by the people of Damascus and that sighting the crescent by the people of one city is not binding for the people of another city.
Another proof in this regard is the following hadith narrated by Abdullah Ibn Umar: “The month of Ramadan may consist of twenty-nine days. So do not fast till you have sighted it (the new moon) and do not break fast, till you have sighted it (the new moon of Shawwal), and if the sky is cloudy for you, then calculate.” This hadith also shows that the obligation for fasting depends on seeing the crescent but what is meant by this is not that all members of society must have seen the crescent, but it should have been seen by a part of them.
The Shafiʿis also compared the moon to the sun. When the sunrises are different, the prayer times are different, and when the moon’s rising places are different, the beginning and the end of Ramadan must be different.
Of the two views above, the view of the majority is worthier of preference in that it unites the Muslims and removes the differences between them. The science of astronomy has revealed that the time difference between the birth of the moon in a Muslim country and the birth of the moon in a Muslim town, which is the farthest from this town, is only nine hours. That is why all Muslim countries are common in parts of the night. In these countries, it is possible for the persons who are in charge of observing the crescent to convey the news of sighting the new moon to each other at the same time, with today’s technical means. The fact that all Muslim countries worship on the same day and celebrate joyful holidays on the same day strengthens the spirit of unity.
On the other hand, if the movements of the crescent are determined by astronomical calculations in advance or the crescent is observed with instruments that are not affected by obstructions such as clouds, the beginning of Ramadan is based on the fact that the crescent remains above the western horizon after the sunsets. However, when the crescent is observed with the naked eye if the sun sets within 15 or 20 minutes after it, it disappears in the sunlight and cannot be seen. In such a case, it becomes possible to see the moon with the naked eye only the next day. As a result of this, there may be a day difference between those who apply the principle of observation with the naked eye and the places based on advanced calculations or observations by instrument.
It is possible to calculate this from the magnitude of the angle formed by the moon with the horizon as the sun sets on the second day. Accordingly, a conclusion must be reached by taking into account that if the moon sets just after sunset (within about 15 or 20 minutes), it cannot be seen with the naked eye. In this regard, an average method can be followed and the principle of the moon being at a visible point above the horizon can be taken as a basis. For the Messenger of Allah (saw) and his Companions accepted the actual sighting of the moon as the beginning of Ramadan, and in case the moon was not seen or there was an obstruction that prevented vision, such as clouds, they chose to complete the month of Shaʿbān to thirty.
 Al-Baqara, 2: 185. See al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 5, 11; Muslim, Ṣiyām, 4, 7, 8, 17-20; Al-Nasā’ī, Ṣiyām, 8, 9, 10, 11; Abū Dawūd, Ṣiyām, 7; Ibn Maja, Ṣiyām, 7. See al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 11; Muslim, Ṣiyām, 7, 17, Aḍāḥī, 41; Abū Dawūd, Adab, 102. Al-Zuhaylī, al-Fiqh al-Islamī wa Adillatuh, II, 601. Jaziri, ibid, pp. 741-742. Al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 5, 11; Muslim, Ṣiyām, 4, 7, 8, 17-20; Abū Dawūd, Ṣiyām, 7; Ibn Maja, Ṣiyām, 7. Ibn Abidīn, ibid, II, 131-132; al-Shurunbulālī, ibid, p. 109; al-Ṣan’ānī, ibid, II, 151; Bilmen, ibid, p. 282 ff. . One league is 5544 meters, 24 yards x 5.544 = 134 km. According to Imam Shafiʿi’s last view, the travel distance is 4 barids = 48 miles = 88.704 km. See al-Nawawī, al-Majmūʿ, IV, 322, 323. Muslim, Ṣiyām, 28; Abū Dawūd, Ṣawm, 9; al-Tirmidhī, Ṣawm, 9; al-Nasā’ī, Ṣiyām, 7; Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, I, 306. Al-Bukhari, Ṣawm, 11, Maẓalim, 25, Ṣalāh, 18, Aymān, 20, Nikāḥ, 83, 91, 92; Muslim, Ṣiyām, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 25. Raḍā’, 97; al-Tirmidhī, Ṣawm, 6; al-Shawkanī, Nayl al-Awṭār, IV, 189 ff. See Ibn Abidīn, ibid, II, 131 ff., Reail, I, 253; al-Shurunbulālī, ibid, p. 109; Ibn Rushd (Averroes), ibid, I, 278; Al-Qurṭubī, Jamī’, II, 296; Al-Zuhaylī ibid, II, 606, ff.; al-Shawkanī, ibid, IV, 189 ff.
Source: Basic Islamic Principles (ilmiḥal) According to the Four Sunni Schools With Evidence From The Sources of Islamic Law, Prof. Hamdi Döndüren, Erkam Publications