Why are the Muslims not united in their fasting?

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about those who call for the ummah to be united in fasting and for the moon sighting to be based on its sighting in Makkah. He said:

This is impossible from an astronomical point of view, because of the sighting of the new moon, as Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said, differs, according to the scientists who are well-versed in this field. Because it differs, then each country should have its own ruling, according to the reports and according to science.

The evidence from reports is the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasts) that month”

[al-Baqarah 2:185]

If it so happens that people in a remote region of the world do not see the new moon whereas the people of Makkah do see it, then how can the words of this verse apply to those who have not seen the new moon? The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when you see it and stop fasting when you see it.” (Agreed upon). So if the people of Makkah, for example, see it, then how can we expect the people of Pakistan and countries further east to start fasting, when we know that that the new moon has not yet appeared in their region, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) connected the start of fasting to the sighting of the moon?

The scientific evidence is the correct analogy which we cannot contradict. We know that dawn appears in eastern regions of the earth before it appears in western regions, so if dawn has appeared in eastern regions, do we have to stop eating even though it is still night where we are? The answer is no. If the sun has set in eastern regions but it is still day where we are, is it permissible for us to break our fast? The answer is no. And the new moon is exactly like the sun, except that the timing of the new moon is monthly and the timing of the sun is daily.  The One Who said (interpretation of the meaning):

“and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Sawm (fast) till the nightfall”

[al-Baqarah 2:187] is also the One Who said (interpretation of the meaning):

“So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasts) that month”

[al-Baqarah 2:185]

So the evidence of both the texts and science indicates that we should establish a separate ruling for each place when it comes to starting and ending the fast, and this should be connected to the physical sign which Allaah has described in His Book and which His Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) established in his Sunnah, namely the sighting of the moon and the sighting of the sun or dawn.

End quote from Fataawa Arkaan al-Islam, p. 451.

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