Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

Sighting The Moon Is Globally Binding

My first question regarding fasting is the issue of  sighting the moon. I once read an English translation of an answer by the late Saudi scholar Ibn Uthaimin  (May Allah have mercy on him) who considers himself a  Hanbali and he said the main position of the Hanbali  school is on the local sighting and he preferred this

This is quite strange as some Salafis in the  US strongly support the international moonsighting  position (which is endorsed by Al-Albani) and make it  almost like a question of aqidah.

The strong Hanbali  position is on the international sighting. Is this  correct?

If we live in a Muslim country (like  Malaysia), that supports the local sighting, what  should we do? Can we privately fast a day earlier and  break our fast a day earlier (according to the  international sighting)? I have always preferred the  international sighting but not followed it.  [...]

Shafi'is seem to prefer the  local position as endorsed by Imam Al-Nawawi (May  Allah have mercy on him)

[Question slightly reformatted]

Whether or not a locally sighted moon is binding for distant lands is an issue that comes up each year. The mu`tamad position with the Shafi`is it that it is binding only for lands that share the same horizon. The position with the Hanbalis is that it is globally applicable. And within each mathhab, you can find supporters for both positions.

What is important for everyone to understand from the very beginning is that both sides have their evidence, and both sides can respond to each other's evidence. No one ignored the Qur'an and Sunna, rather each side understood the texts in a slightly different way.

As for the position in Hanbali mathhab:

The relevant section in Zad Al-Mustaqni` reads that
if the people of one land site it, it is necessary/binding for the people--all of them--to fast
Someone could argue that "the people" ("al-nass") refers to all people in the land where it was sighted, or that it means all people in general. The second seems most likely because the phrase "al-nass" indicates universality, and "kulluhim" is another phrase indicating the same and gives emphasis. So it's best to see what we can dig up in other books.

Al-Raud Al-Murbi`
On (p172) there is something to the effect that if people spotted the moon in the beginning of the month and then traveled a long journey to another land where they did not see the new moon at the end of the month that they would break their fast. This supports the idea that sighting the moon locally is binding for distant lands as well.

Dalil Al-Talib & Nail Al-Ma'arib & Hashiyat Al-Lubadi
On (p269, Ashqar edition) the basic text and commentary agree with the above: one witness in one land is good enough for the entire ummah. The hashiyah does contradict this.

Al-`Umdah & Al-`Udda
On (p196) there isn't really anything either way.

On (p101) there is no indication of there being an alternative opinion, but it does list an opinion that if the imam fasts the people fast with him

Akhsar Al-Mukhtasiat
On (p144) there isn't really anything useful, but in Ibn Badran's hashiyah there is.

He says that in Al-Furu` and Al-Iqna` that the moon being sighted in one land suffices for other lands, even if they do not share horizons; and that Ibn Taymiyyah said it suffices only for lands that share the same horizon (just like the mu`tamad Shafi`i position).

He then adds another issue: if the sighting is reported by means of the telegraph, is it binding? He wrote an answer to it in one of his books of fatawa for Kuweit which I do not have, but he says here that the end result is that if the person passing on the information is trustworthy then it is. And Allah knows best.

Ghayat Al-Muntaha
On (1: 320) it says that if it spotted in one land, all people must fast.

Kashaf Al-Qina`
On (2:303-4) it says what Sheikh `Abd Al-Qadir Ibn Badran wrote above.

Also noteworthy on (2:303) is this phrase: "Sheikh Al-Islam Zakariya said in Sharh Al-Buhja". Ma sha Allah; such wonderful adab with Sheikh Al-Islam Zakariya Al-Ansari Al-Shafi`i. This is how people are supposed to refer to each other's mashayakh.

And may Allah be well pleased with all of the scholars just mentioned.

So, I really don't see how Ibn `Uthaymin (Allah have mercy upon him) can say that the opinion in the Hanbali mathab is that the locally sighted moon is only locally binding. I can find nothing at all to support this. Ibn `Uthaymin is a Hanbali, and in fiqh he is said to be quite knowledgeable. I would be curious as to whether or not he actually said this. It would not be difficult to find out, since he has a commentary on Zad Al-Mustaqni`, however I do not possess it so I cannot verify it.

As for the other questions: I decline to answer. You need a faqih, and I am at best a reporter of what can be found in books.

And Allah knows best.

wa al-salamu `alaykum