Understanding the preparations made by Prophet for the month of Ramadan is possible through the information narrated by the Companions of the Prophet as well as the Sunnah on this matter. When one examines the narrations on this topic, two issues emerge as the most important:
Determining the beginning of Ramadan (The sighting of the crescent)
Determining the beginning of Ramadan occurs through the sighting of the crescent. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) wanted for the crescent to be researched before the month of Ramadan began and wanted fasting to occur after the sighting of the crescent took place.
Abdullah bin Omar (ra) narrates:
"The Messenger of Allah said the following in reference to Ramadan,
"The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, once mentioned Ramadan and said, "Do not begin the fast until you see the new moon, and do not break the fast (at the end of Ramadan) until you see it. If the new moon is obscured from you, then work out (when it should be)."
Aisha (ra) narrates:
"The Messenger of Allah used to count the days in Shaban in a manner he did not count during any other month; then he fasted when he sighted the new moon of Ramadan; but if the weather was cloudy he counted thirty days and then fasted."
There are many hadith from Prophet Muhammad regarding the start of the month of Ramadan. How can one sight the crescents for the month of Ramadan and Shawwal? When all of the hadith on this matter are examined, one can see statements that allow for two interpretations.
The sighting of the crescent is a subject which has been discussed from the very beginning of Islam and has sparked never-ending debates. The essence of the debate is this: Will the sighting of the moon with bare eyesight be relied upon for Ramadan to begin, or is it permissible for us to depend on astronomical calculations?
The sighting of the crescent after the sunset marks the end of the current month and the beginning of the next month according to the lunar calendar. Because the crescent, when it first comes out, is very thin and disappears in a short time, sighting the first day of the crescent requires a great deal of attention and experience. If there is slight fog, it will not allow for the crescent to be seen. For this reason, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ordered for the month to be counted as 30 days.
The real debate surrounding the topic is whether or not one can act based on the information provided by the science of astronomy. In this regard, the argument of those who hold that the information gained from astronomy cannot be binding, appears to be quite weak. Since our Prophet (pbuh) said "Begin fasting when you see the new moon," what is binding is the sighting of the crescent itself, not how the crescent is sighted. Arguing that the word "ru'ya" used in the hadith means "seeing with one's own eyes" is pushing the matter, because the word in classical Arabic also has meanings such as "understand and comprehend."
In actuality, our Prophet's words show that the community he was in did not have the knowledge and experience to engage in such precise calculations and that this matter is a special issue based on calculations.
Classical period scholars of Islamic jurisprudence accepted the judge's ruling on this matter as being binding in order to bring an end to the debates on the sighting of the crescent. In order to end the meaningless and unnecessary debates which take place in our country every year, the best option is to follow the calendar of Turkey's public expert on this matter, the religious Affairs Directorate of Turkey, which is calculated and announced based on certain astronomical calculations. And those who are not satisfied with an astronomical calculation and believe that the crescent needs to be sighted with the bare eye, may take seeing the moon in that state with their own eyes as the basis for their decision granted they don't drive the issue off on a tangent and cause fitna (provocation).
Fasting on a doubtful day
Prophet Muhammad ordered against fasting on "Yawm-i Shek" (Doubtful day). If there is doubt as to whether the day after the 29th of Shaban belongs to Shaban or Ramadan, this day is called a "doubtful" day. Prophet Muhammad forbade fasting on this day.
On narration from Abu Hurayra (r.a.), "The messenger of Allah said: "None of you should welcome Ramadan by fasting the day or two days before the month. (However) if the person is in the habit of fasting, then they should fast."
This hadith forbids the fasting of two days leading into the month of Ramadan as well as the day before. Islamic scholars hold that the hadith on this matter have to do with the forbidding of the kind of fasting which stems from the concern over it being Ramadan and maintaining a state of safeguard. However, the continuation of the hadith states that a person who has intended to fast for more than two days during that time may spend the two days leading into Ramadan fasting in order to continue their fasting which they had begun prior to that date. Furthermore, when we examine the fact that Nesi' (changing the order of the months) was rampant among the Arabs of the Jahiliyya -- and this practice was changed by a verse in the Holy Qur'an -- it is possible to see the ban on fasting during a doubtful day as a ruling attempting to prevent any practice which is similar to that of days of the Jahiliyya.