The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has issued a statement on the question of fasting on the 9th Dhu al-Hijjah. It comes on the back of reignited debate on social media on whether South Africans should fast on the Day of Arafat, which will be marked on Saturday in Saudi Arabia, or the following day, which is marked as the 9th of Dhul Hijjah in South Africa – after the new moon was not sighted in South Africa.
The unfortunate misrepresentation of fact—both in Sharīʿah and in history—that accompanied the recent attempt to resurrect debates of three decades ago has necessitated that the Fatwa Committee of the MJC make the following declaration:
1. The MJC remains committed to observing occasions on our religious calendar in line with a regional sighting of the moon. This includes Ramaḍān, both Eids, as well as the fast of the Day of ʿArafah.
2. Correlation between what the ḥujjāj do at ʿArafah, and the fast of the Day of ʿArafah, is a fallacy unknown in the history of Islam until the very recent past.
3. The significance of the Day of ʿArafah is neither restricted to, nor contingent upon the proceedings of the ḥujjāj at ʿArafah. In Madīnah, RasūluLlāh ﷺ and the Ṣaḥābah observed the fast of ʿArafah up to the year 8AH when no one but polytheists were present at ʿArafah.
4. The historical record presents clear evidence to the effect that in the very year that RasūluLlāh ﷺ performed ḥajj, the moon for Dhu l-Ḥijjah was seen in Madīnah one day later than in Makkah. (See al-Suhaylī, al-Rawḍ al-Unuf vol. 7 pp. 578-579; Ibn Kathīr, al-Fuṣūl fī Sīrat al-Rasūl, p. 220)
5. This local sighting continued to be followed in Madīnah. For almost a millennium and a half there is absolutely no evidence of Madīnah or any other city ever attempting to align their fast of the Day of ʿArafah with what transpires on the plain of ʿArafah.
6. The preferred day to observe the fast of the Day of ʿArafah will be the day corresponding to the 9th of Dhu l-Ḥijjah 1440 according to our regional sighting of the moon. For this year that day will be Sunday the 11th of August.
7. Fasting on any day of the month before the local 9th remains an act of great merit, as it forms part of a period in which good deeds are most beloved to Allah.
8. In matters of Sharīʿah, the MJC is neither governed by the preferences of its leaders and officials, nor bound by any agreement concluded on grounds deemed to lack persuasive Sharʿī foundation. As ʿUlamā, the General Majlis of the MJC as well as the Fatwa Committee have exercised, and continue to exercise oversight over its elected leaders.
9. While the above is our unequivocal position, we look with respect upon the views of those who differ with us in this regard. In the hope that this attitude will be reciprocated, we earnestly beseech those responsible for resurrecting this issue to act in the best interests of our community.