“The second issue is the insistance some Muslims make in following the moon-sighting of Saudi Arabia. It must be understood that while Makkah is the home of the House of Allah and the birthplace of the Rasul (s.a.w.s) it is not the capital of Islam, there is no such thing! There is no sensible reason for Muslims living here in the UK to follow the moon-sighting of Muslims living thousands of miles away in Arabia. For those who argue that by us all following Makkah the ummah will once again unified, this argument is neither true or logical. Historically, as the ummah grew, and Muslims spread to different lands it was a natural occurrence that months would begin on different days in different countries as obviously the moon would be seen at different times in different countries. In fact, in most cases people would have had no idea on what day Muslims in other countries had begun the month. It is only now with advancements in communications and media that we are able to see and know what Muslims in other countries are doing merely by switching on the television. This point is evidenced in a Hadith narrated in Sahih Muslim and Sunan at-Tirmidhy.
Kurayb said: Umm Fadl, daughter of Harith sent her son Fadl to Mu’awiyah in Syria. Fadl arrived in Syria, and did what he’d been sent by her to do. It was there in Syria that the month of Ramadan commenced. Fadl saw the new moon (of Ramadan) on Friday. He then came back to Madina at the end of the month. Fadl says in the hadith: Abdullah ibn Abbas asked me (about the new moon of Ramadan) and said: When did you see it? I said: We saw it on Friday night. He said: (Did) you see it yourself? I said: Yes, and the people also saw it so they observed the fast and Mu’awiyah also observed the fast. Thereupon ibn Abbas said: But we saw it on Saturday night. So we shall continue to observe the fast until we complete thirty days or we see the new moon of Shawwal. I said: Is the sighting of the moon by Mu’awiyah not valid for you? He said: No; this is how the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s) has commanded us.
What this hadith shows us is that just as Muslims around the world will not pray Dhuhr simultaneously, rather each area will pray based on their perspective on the sun, similarly, it is not necessary for them all to start and end fasting simultaneously. It also shows us that the argument that following a single sighting worldwide is in the interests of unity is weak, while at the same time local unity among the Muslims is essential. Before we look to what Muslims living thousands of miles away in Makkah or elsewhere are doing we should look to what our fellow Muslims living in the same city are doing and seek unity on that, more localised basis. What the hadith also shows us is that moon-sightings are not binding on distant places. Ibn Rushd has cited consensus of the scholars that the obligation of fasting based on a sighting in another area is not observed for places which are very distant from one another, such as Spain and Arabia.”
Extract of a khutbah by Imam Hanif Whyte at Ihsan Mosque, Norwich.