Why should Muslims in Malawi pray the 2013 Eid-ul-Fitr on Friday and not Thursday like the rest of its neighbors?
Scientific calculations all show that almost all countries in Africa were supposed to have the crescent sighted on Wednesday evening and based on these calculations, other neighboring countries announced the end of the month of Ramadhan despite the fact that they actually never sighted the moon itself.
Malawians in 2009 and 2010 faced this dilemma as Muslims prayed Eid-ul-Fitr prayers on two different days because they had differences of opinion on whether to follow other countries or to wait for the actual sighting itself.
This confusion was exacerbated by Muslims of foreign nationalities who were keen to follow the calendars of their respective countries. Following the Malawian calendar would have meant fasting for 31 days (!) in some instances.
Being on the same time zones, is it not convenient that neighbouring countries, should pray on the same day?
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: ” I heard Allah’s Messenger (SAW) saying, ‘When you see the crescent (of the month of Ramadhan), start fasting, and when you see the crescent (of the month of Shawwal), stop fasting; and if the sky is overcast (and you can’t see it) then regard the month of Ramadhan as of 30 days.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol 03, Book of Fasting, Hadeeth No 124)
In another variation, ‘Abdulllah bin ‘Umar also narrated: ” Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, ‘Do not fast unless you see the crescent (of Ramadhan), and do not give up fasting till you see the crescent (of Shawwal), but if the sky is overcast (and you can’t see it), then act on estimation.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol03, Book of Fasting, Hadeeth No 130)
It is not enough that the moon is sighted in another country. Islamic tradition does not allow that the sighting of the moon at one town should be valid for another town situated at a considerable distance from it.
Kuraib reported that Umm Fadil, daughter of Harith, sent him (Fadil – her son) to Mu’awiya in Syria. “I (Fadil) arrived in Syria, and did the needful for her. It was there in Syria that the month of Ramadhan commenced. I saw the new moon (of Ramadhan) 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 Ramadhan) 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 observed fast and Mu’awiya also observed fast,’ whereupon he said: ‘But we saw it on Saturday night. So we would continue to observe 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 (SAW) commanded us.” (Sahih Muslim Book 006, Hadeeth No. 2391)
In the subsquent Hadeeth number 2392, Ibn “Abbas is stated to have reported that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said that “Verily Allah deferred it (the new moon) till the time it is seen, so it is to be reckoned from the night you saw it.”(Sahih Muslim Book 006)
And in Hadeeth number 2393, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) is reported by Ibn “Abbas to have also said: “Verily Allah derrefed its sight, but if (the new moon) is hidden from you, then complete its number (thirty).” (Sahih Muslim Book 006)
In Malawi, from Chitipa to Nsanje, from Mangochi to Mchinji, nobody saw the moon on Wednesday, so it is apparent to complete the fasting days to thirty.
Therefore, the reason why Muslims in Malawi will pray Eid-ul-Fitr on Friday is because the crescent of Shawwal was not sighted throughout the country.