Saudi Arabia: Who Spots the Moon


Ramadan is expected to start on/about the first of August and will end on/about the 29th of August.  Ramadan is declared by the official spotting of the Crescent (new) moon.  Now my question is who is given the responsibility of spotting the moon?  I found that there is the Islamic Crescent’s Observation Project which has certified members around the world who spot for the Crescent moon.  Yet I have not been successful towards determining who has the authority to spot the moon and officially declare Ramadan has started in Saudi Arabia.  There are many sites which one can go to and find out about tracking the moon and how technology can be used to spot the moon.  However in Saudi Arabia, Ramadan does not commence until there has been a visual sighting of the moon.  I realize the spotter could not be the Grand Mufti since he is blind.  I checked the Ministry of Religion’s website and could not find any data there about an official moon spotter.


The closest answer I found was on this website about the Tahhari group which states that the only responsible authority of announcing the official start of Ramadan in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the Higher Court.


4 Responses

  1. There’s always issues regd the moon sightings. as with everything else there are atleast 2 or 3 intrepretations to what to do if you see the cresent and the rest don’t.there’s also the usual controversy about seeing it in africa and saudi an america and why everyone should follow saudi!!!!

    If you happen to listen to one of these discussions , It will literally make you head spin.

    I know a few of F’s friends and even F inthe midst of a date issue – kinda look out and if they see the moon they start the next day morning, if not they start with the rest of the world. I don’t think they care too much for the head honcho shiek of the local mosque 🙂

    I used to prep a lot before when R was fasting , and make huge quantities of food for him before sunrise 🙂 nowadays it’s only F and me and i’m sporadic faster at best.. it takes me a week to get into it and still i need my morning chai – sun or no sun. F is as usual low-mantainence, gets his own breakfast like any other day just does it before a certain time. — which acco to me is how it is supposed ot be done, if you are to feel the pangs of hunger 🙂 not sleep you way thru the day and pig out all nigth long.

    I call it F’s wt control – he loses atleast 6-10lbs during ramadhan easy !!! wish i could od that.

  2. Saudi Arabia adopts a fixed formula for establishing the start of the Islamic month using the Umm Al-Qura Calendar which is not dependant on local moon sighting. However,they do not use the fixed calendar for Ramadan, the Eids, or Hajj.

    Sighting of moon a must, Ulema board


    MAKKAH – The Board of Senior Ulema dismissed the idea of determining the beginning of Ramadan with astronomic calculations without visibly sighting the month’s crescent, Al-Madina reported.

    The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Aal Sheikh, said astronomic calculations are based on mathematical equations and are not acceptable in terms of fasting. He said the Prophet’s (pbuh) Hadith of “Fast at its sighting” and the one of “Do not fast until you sight it” were clear and decisive.

    The Board finished discussing the issue last Tuesday and concluded to continue depending on sighting the crescent since only three members agreed on using the mathematical calculations instead.

    ‘Fasting begins only after moon sighted’


    MAKKAH: The Saudi Council of Senior Scholars has rejected the demand that the beginning and end of lunar months should be determined on the basis of astronomical calculations.

    “Shariah does not accept astronomical calculations based on mathematical computing as the basis for the beginning and ending of Ramadan,” said Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, grand mufti of Saudi Arabia and chairman of the council.

    “If anyone doubts our moon-sighting, fasting and feasting, it betrays his weak faith and defective perception,” the grand mufti, who is head of the Administration of Research in Religious Sciences and Fatwa said. He cited a Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which says, “You start fasting when you see (the moon) and stop it when you sight (the next moon) and when it is hidden by clouds, complete (30 days of) fasting.”

    The grand mufti added that it is obligatory on the Muslims to start fasting when any Muslim known for his honesty and healthy eyesight claims to have sighted the new moon. This is the practice in the Kingdom, he said, dismissing suggestion that Muslims may depend on astronomical calculations to begin fasting in Ramadan and celebrate Eid.

    It is the Supreme Judicial Council that announces the sighting of the new moon to mark the beginning of Rajab (seventh month of the Islamic calendar), Shaaban (the month preceding Ramadan), Ramadan, and the three months following it, Al-Madinah newspaper reported.

    The senior scholars’ council concluded a series of discussions on the issue and came to the conclusion on Tuesday that sighting of the moon should be the basis of a month’s beginning though three of its members supported the idea of depending on astronomical calculations.

  3. Every year, without fail, there is uncertainty and lunacy around “Islamic Lunar Calendar” among Muslims around the world about the beginning and the ending of the fasting month of Ramadan. A new Muslim month starts with the first sighting of a crescent Moon. The problem is that most Islamic scholars insist on actually seeing the Moon rather than use scientific/astronomical calculations.

    As a result there are official moon sighting committees in Muslim countries and more informal groups in the US, the UK, and in several European countries. In an age when we can calculate positions of the sun and the moon for thousands of years and have actually landed humans on the moon, it is amusing to see a group of unsure people gazing up at the sky looking for the moon to determine a calendar. Sure some defend this practice using doctrinal arguments, but ultimately it says a lot about the Muslim backward attitude towards science and nature.

    Actually, Allah/Koran makes it really simple: merely prescribing lunar calendar and not making actual sighting mandatory. Mohammed/Hadith, on the other hand contrary to Allah’s commandment, prescribes actual sighting of the crescent every month. There we go again …. another of myriads of cases where muslims take the word of Mohammed over Allah; yet they vehemently deny that they do not worship Mohammed. Such hypocrisy! Concept of a united Ummah … another huge hypocrisy!

    When my family and I lived in India/Pakistan during the 70’s, I remember the moon sighting committees. These committees were paid by the governments to search for the crescent moon each month. Ignored for 11 months, they would come into spotlight for the start of each Ramadan. They would set up telescopes on top of a tall buildings in downtown New Delhi/Karachi and search for the moon. They searched even on days when it was astronomically impossible to see the moon. I guess they could not rule out the moon simply speeding up to show up a day earlier than what its usual path would predict.

    And if you think this problem is going to be resolved soon – think again. Perhaps the best example of lunacy comes from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) – an organization of 57 Muslim countries. They want to spend $10 million to build and launch a satellite to keep track of those pesky phases of the moon. You might think (or wish) that this was a joke from the Onion website or that I was simply making this up. But alas – there really are plans for such a satellite. Why can’t they simply Google for the phases of the moon for free :)- and invest those millions in the much needed basic science research.

    An acceptance of a calculation-based calendar by the Muslim world will be an important step for them. It will show a willingness to reinterpret and adapt doctrines for modern times and perhaps more importantly, it will show a trust in understanding of nature as revealed by science. I hope the resolution happens before the establishment of a permanent colony on the Moon – it will be mighty hard to look for these phases from the lunar surface :)-

  4. This is brilliant if you are a muslim in the Netherlands, weather is mostly overcast here so it will take a while before anybody can sight any kind of moon if at all.
    I suppose Allah forgot this meteorological fact when making up this moon sighting rule.
    Of course Muslims in the Netherlands also have bad luck because unlike Saudi Arabia we have seasons and vastly differing daylight hours, which means very short nights at the moment. And as the Muslim calendar is not a realistic one the days will get longer and the nights will get shorter as Ramadan moves forward in the year.
    It seems a bit strange to me that an all knowing deity couldn’t think this whole fasting during daylight thing out a bit better. It seems Allah was only aware of circumstances in the Middle East.

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