Since the arrival of Muslims from the Indian subcontinent in the UK, Moon Sighting news was taken from Morocco. This was based upon Fatāwa received or given from our Dārul Iftā of India and Pakistan.
Our ‘Ulamā Jamā’ah was named ‘Majlis ul-‘Ulamā UK’ in 1966, and renamed ‘Jam’īat ul-‘Ulamā in 1971’.
Allāmah Khālid Maḥmood Ṣāḥib, نور الله مرقده, was the Amīr of Jam’īat ul-‘Ulamā (JU) in 1971.
Until around 1983/84, almost everyone followed Morocco. At this point, Jam’īat ul-‘Ulamā decided to start following Saudi Arabia due to the late arrival of news from Morocco, etc.
A number of ‘Ulamā disagreed with this move and created another organisation by the name of Hizb ul-‘Ulamā (HU), who remained with Morocco.
A key point to note here is that this is the starting point of the whole ikhtilāf. If the dissenting ‘Ulamā stayed with JU and did not create HU, we may have remained united. They started this ikhtilāf and now say to us that doing ikhtilāf is fitnāh. Double standards!
On the 29th of Ramaḍān,1986, JU declared ‘Eid the next day. HU didn’t.
The next day, HU found out that a fax had arrived from Morocco very late and that it was ‘Eid in Morocco as well.
Mawlānā Yā’qūb Kāvi (Qāsmī) of Dewsbury was one of the founders of HU together with Marḥūm Mawlānā Mūsā Karmādi. Both resided in Dewsbury and were best friends.
Not absolutely certain why but Mawlānā Yā’qūb Kāvi decided not to break his roza and Mawlānā Mūsā did.
The key point to note here is this was a HU issue. No wrong doing at all on the part of Morocco. Ramaḍān 1986 was in the hot summer month of July. UK and Morocco time zones are the same. So, if the moon is sighted after maghrib, and then Shar’ī Shahādah is taken with witnesses, etc., and then the Awqaf Ministry issues the verdict, all this does take some time. In those days not everyone had a landline telephone, and there were very few (accessible) fax machines. The one HU were relying on was at Marḥūm Muḥammad Bhai Munshī’s house. His office was in his house and that is where the fax machine was. Apparently, as he had closed his office, he saw the fax late in the morning and informed HU. In my view, nothing wrong at all. Late arrival of news, but the news was genuine. Otherwise, why would it come so late?
Thus the drama unfolded. HU split into two. Mawlānā Yā’qūb Kāvi and his followers, although they did not break their rozā, have never ever moved from Morocco to this day. From that day in 1986, the followers of Morocco have always been on the increase.
Mawlānā Mūsā Karmādi and his followers met with JU and a meeting was set up in Dārul Uloom Bury. This was the first of 3 meetings. All 3 took place in 1986 most probably.
Not really sure but, in the first meeting, it was decided to follow Morocco for 3 months of the year and Saudi Arabia for the other 9 months. Ḥāji Yā’qūb Bājibhai of Bolton has more info regarding this first meeting. It is a crucial piece of the jigsaw.
Ḥāji Yā’qūb Bājibhai came to the UK in 1975 and served as president and secretary of Zakarīyā Masjid from 1981/82 to 2000. HU had made his house their Bolton base between 1984 and 86. There was a great need to publicise HU’s stance and Ḥāji Yā’qūb Bhai was well connected with all the Bolton Masjids. He did all the leaflet and poster distribution for HU during those first 2 crucial years of their formation. He remained with Morocco, and at over 80 years of age, is still with Morocco. A key person with a lot of internal info regarding this whole issue, he is fully aware of the politics of the issue. He used to take his advice from the then Imām Ṣāḥib of Zakarīyā Masjid, Mawlānā Faiz ‘Alī Shāh Ṣāḥib, who had initially been invited to the UK by Marḥūm Ḥaḍrat Mawlānā Yūsuf Motālā Ṣāḥib, نور الله مرقده, to teach in DU Bury. However, that did not materialise and Zakarīyā Masjid appointed him as Imām. Mawlānā Faiz ‘Alī Shāh Ṣāḥib had taught Riyāzi (astronomy) in Dārul Uloom Deoband for 12 years, and advised Ḥāji Yā’qūb bhai to remain with Morocco.
The second meeting took place in Blackburn, possibly in the community hall of Masjid-e-Anīsul Islām on Troy Street. Mawlānā Yā’qūb Miftāḥī was the chairman of the Masjid committee and also the secretary of HU. Not sure but I think it was decided in this meeting that HU should meet with JU and start following Saudi Arabia. A number of Fatāwā were also obtained in favour of following Saudi Arabia.
The 3rd and final meeting took place in DU Bury in 1986. Mawlānā Yā’qūb Kāvi did not attend this meeting. It was decided that JU and HU would come together to form the Markazi Ru’yat-e-Hilāl Committee (UK Central Moon Sighting Committee).
An agreement was signed by 11 members of JU and 11 members of HU. This agreement came into force from 1987.
The key point to note here is the agreement clearly states local Moon Sighting first, thereafter taking the news formally from Saudi Arabia for all 12 months of the year, not just Ramaḍān.
So now we have the CMSC following Saudi Arabia, and Mawlānā Yā’qūb Kāvi, and those with him, following Morocco.
As ‘Ulamā and Muftiyān-e-Kirām scrutinised the month start dates since 1987, it became apparent that the info being received from Saudi Arabia was more or less in line with their pre-calculated Umm ul-Qura calendar.
Maybe on the odd occasion, there was a difference between the Umm ul-Qura calendar and actual sighting reports coming from official sources in Saudi Arabia. This is recorded on the Umm ul-Qura website under a separate section, for reference.
As more and more doubts were coming to light, many ‘Ulamā tried to discuss the issue with the CMSC but were unsuccessful.
Hence, the formation of Wifāqul ‘Ulamā (WU), in approx 2008.
The Batley Moon Sighting Committee (BMSC) finalised their criteria soon after, in 2008.
The New Crescent Society (NCS) came about most recently, in 2016. They have collected actual sighting data for 4 years. NCS director, Imād Aḥmed, who teaches at the Royal Observatory (Greenwich), has produced videos on how to sight the moon, for the public.
Another group worth a mention is the Islamic Crescents Observation Project (ICOP), which came about much earlier, in 1998.
The Barēlwī community has never been involved in this, and have never followed JU, HU, or CMSC.
The CMSC may be representing approximately 35% of the UK only at present, give or take.
Last year (2020), Mawlānā Islām ‘Alī Shāh, of the CMSC, promised me that if any Masjid following the CMSC requests a meeting with us, we will happily come for a discussion. Even if any Imām of a Masjid that is following the CMSC wants a discussion, we will come.
However, they will not come to a meeting arranged by me, as I am not representing a CMSC Masjid, nor am I an Imām of a CMSC Masjid.
A humble request – if any CMSC Masjid or Imām can host this meeting, I will help coordinate, اِنْ شَاءَ الَّلهُ.
Finally, please arrange it now. Strike whilst the rod is hot. Go for the first available possible date.