Every year, differences appear here and there regarding the sighting of the new moon of Ramadan. This is due to different sightings, different opinions. What we want to stress here is that there should be more unity and this unity can be achieved by making collective decisions by the representatives of the Ummah in each region and not by individuals acting arbitrarily on their own.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states the following: It is not absolutely necessary for each and every locality to sight its own moon; rather, if the moon is sighted in one region and the others have received the information in time for them to act upon the same, they can start fasting. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “Fast when the moon is sighted, and break your fast when the moon is sighted. If the skies are cloudy, and you are unable to sight it, then complete thirty days of Sha`ban and fast the next day.”
The above hadith has been interpreted in two different ways by scholars. The first view is that of the majority, which holds that the sighting of one region is binding on others, provided that they can act upon the information; the second view is that of a minority, which holds that each region has to sight its own moon.
This second opinion is understandable in view of the fact that people in the past, due to a lack of means of communication, were not able to act on the news of moon sighting in other parts of the world where such information took weeks or even months to reach.
But today because of the fact that the whole world has become like a global village, there is no need to continue insisting on the view that each region sights its own moon. Such an opinion flies in the face of the higher purposes and objectives of the Shari`ah in its worship and ritual observances, one of which is definitely to create unity and solidarity among its adherents.
therefore, the first view is the most consistent and most realistic in today’s world to follow; it has been expressed thus in the famous fatwas compendium of the Hanafi scholarship compiled in India under the directive of the Emperor Aurangazeb. It states, “The most preferred view in the (Hanafi) school is, if the moon is sighted in the east it is binding on the west, provided the information can be received in time for them to act upon it!”
having said this, I must conclude by saying that the decision to choose one of the above views must ultimately be made collectively by the congregation or representatives of the Ummah in each region and not by individuals acting arbitrarily on their own; to decide such matters arbitrarily by individuals would only result in chaos and confusion.
In any case, go by the decisions of the community in your area and help them move towards unity as much as possible through education and persuasion. May Allah help us all to see the beauty and wisdom underlying the precepts of the Divine Shari`ah and follow them accordingly in order to realize the results in our own lives, aameen.