Confusion over Eid-ul-Fitr!

By somayya | November 30, 2008

Confusion over the moon-sighting can be a problem

Confusion over the moon-sighting can be a problem

We Muslims recently celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr. There are a select few in my area who never celebrate Eid on the same day as the majority of others. The mosque that my family attends usually follows Saudi Arabia. Whenever someone over there has sighted the moon, we get a confirmation on the phone, then it is announced in the mosque. Whoever is in the mosque will then relay the message to family and friends, making sure everyone knows the moon has been seen, and therefore Ramadan is over.

This year though, my local mosque decided to take part in something that they hoped would unite us all, at least in the town of Middlesbrough anyway! People from several mosque committiees had a meeting, regarding the issue of unity at Eid time. They felt that we all should all follow when the moon is sighted, instead of following a calendar, or deciding what day to celebrate it on, before a moon has even been seen! Everything seemed to be going quite well at first. The mosques involved agreed to it, and the day we would start Ramadan together was set. (It was decided to ‘set’ a day a few days in advance, so that everyone would follow it, and not get all confused if another country announced it differently).

Ramadan began for us on the 1st of September. I am well aware that not everyone in the United Kingdom did it that day, even many predominantly Muslim countries were not all starting Ramadan on the same day. It just always happens this way, perhaps maybe that’s how the moon appears in certain countries, depending on weather conditions etc. (Yes I know, there is only one moon, but it seems to be seen differently by different countries, something that cannot be helped I suppose!)

I cannot say for sure which country would be considered absolutely correct, because if many countries come forward and they have sworn that they sighted the moon, then I suppose in that country, that ruling should be then followed. The general thinking is that we try not to pay attention to what is going on abroad, we should follow what has been declared in our own local area. That doesn’t even mean, for example, the whole of Manchester will be starting Ramadan on the same day! It’s a big city, and it will most probably be announced differently, according to what mosque you attend. It is probably a very good idea to follow the mosque you attend regularly, so that when it comes to Eid prayer, and praying the Taraweeh prayers, you can keep in sync with your own community. If we’re not all united, can’t we at least be united in our own local communities?

The real trouble began when the mosques decided we would do Eid on Wednesday 1st October. Somebody had consulted astronomers. They estimated that the moon would be right to celebrate Eid on the Wednesday. (I am not saying this decision is right or wrong, but it was a decision that was taken, we are only human, and unfortunately make mistakes sometimes). This was then announced in my local mosque, at the jumma prayer, the Friday before 1st October, so that people would be aware which day the mosque would hold Eid prayer.

The proper problems began when Saudi Arabia announced that Eid-ul-Fitr would be on the Tuesday, not the Wednesday as the mosques had pre-planned. You must understand that it was pre-planned to allow people to know exactly when Ramadan would end for our community, at least, that’s how I understood it. It caused absolute uproar, instead of uniting people, it had made Muslims argue with each other, more like dis-uniting!

My family were unsure of what to do, as we were all so used to our mosque following Saudi Arabia. They said they were going to stand by their decision. I think maybe they didn’t want to confuse people further. Some people, including close friends of mine, decided to stick by Saudi’s moon-sighting, and celebrate the day before the rest of us did. I actually went to iftar on the last day of Ramadan (which some people were celebrating as the day of Eid), I was happy and relieved to find that the overwhelming majority had stuck with the decision of the mosque. They all agreed that it’s better to stick with your community. Yes, maybe in Saudi everyone was celebrating, but they are thousands of miles away from our little town! They weren’t exactly right on our doorsteps, celebrating with us! People in Saudi were simply following what THEIR mosques had told them! They wouldn’t change if they heard another country was doing it differently, how can you even begin to guess who is wrong and who is right? That judgement is way over anyone’s head.

My father decided he would seek guidance from a sheikh, and called one who he always calls, when he needs advice. The sheikh knew straight away what to tell us. I have the same ruling, answered by a sheikh by the name of Ahmad Kutty (Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada) written on paper, so I will quote it exactly as it is written:

Question: If I broke my fast on Tuesday according to Saudi Arabia, although my community continued fasting, do I have to make up this day?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Fast with people, and break your fast with people, and offer sacrifice with people.” As explained by Imam Ibn Taymiyah, this means you should have followed your community in the beginning AND ending of Ramadan; you should NOT have followed Saudi Arabia by yourself as an individual; if, however, they (your community) chose to follow Saudi Arabia, then that is another issue altogether. Individuals are not supposed to make such decisions. Based on this, you ought to make up for the day you have missed (the day you chose to follow Saudi instead of your community). May Allah inspire us to act rightly and may He forgive us all our slip-ups, Ameen. Allah Almighty knows best. (Sheikh Ahmad Kutty).

I have tried my best inshallah with this article, incorporating my own opinions, along with those given by highly educated scholars of Islam. I hope that it has helped people who did not know, or were not sure what to do when such complications arise. Please leave a comment, and let me know what you all think, inshallah.

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