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To see or not to see…

by Fe'reeha on 3rd November, 2005 at 5:50 am    

…..the eid moon - this is the question facing Muslim community right now. Within the spectrum of British Muslims, the issue of moon-sighting is fast becoming moon-fighting.

When Regent’s mosque (Central mosque for Muslims) announced day before yesterday that it would not celebrate Eid yesterday, most thought it was probably a new beginning of having ‘one collective eid’ instead of two confused Eid-ul-fitr days every year.

But then Birmingham mosque declared earlier yesterday morning, there was no way they could produce the moon tonight so there could not be a chance of a collective eid.

Earlier this month, the moon sighting for the month of Ramadan had caused equal amount of confusion with the month of Ramadan starting on three different dates in Britain.

Islamic calendar is based on astronomy, and moon-sighting is not such a complicated concept. The twelve months of the year depend on the sighting of crescent, if you see a moon, it’s the beginning of the new month, if you don’t, it’s the 30th day of earlier month.

Above is the concept, on which all Imams agree. The problems arise around the following questions:
- What if people in different directions of the same city have different experience of moon sighting
- What if the location is cloudy (like Britain)
- Should astronomical methods be used?
- Shall we follow Saudi Arabia?

In Britain, the tussle is between the Central mosque with an Arab hold, and mosques of Asian dominated areas.

The Regent’s mosque follows Saudi calendar. This calendar has already calculated dates of the next 30-years of Ramadan through astronomical devices. This seems a systematic approach but is not accepted by the mosques in Bradford, Birmingham and east London.

The Pakistani mosques believe Regent’s follow Saudi’s only because they get funding from them. These Imams also believe one has to follow the country one lives in, and not the country of origin like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia etc.

In between the two forceful opinions, the British Muslims are stuck.

Dr Muzamil Sidiqi says:

The problem with us Muslims in Europe and North America is that we do not have one official body that would make this decision for us. Every Islamic center considers itself a country and makes its own decision. This is a wrong situation.

We Muslims should make one national Hilal observation committee. This organization should have qualified and trustworthy religious scholars as well as astronomers and whatever they decide should be followed by all the Islamic centres in the country. Unless we do this, the confusion will remain

At present, the problem continues causing not only confusion but embarrassment for British Muslims. Te situation is so preposterous that at times, next door neighbours are living in different months of the year. For instance I went to say eid mubarak to my neighbour a few years ago only to find out she was fasting. (Eid is in Shaban, fasting is in Ramadan).

Asking for holidays from employer is another matter. Could there ever be one Eid?

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  1. blue mountain — on 3rd November, 2005 at 6:17 am  

    We have done these instinctive things for generations, and we are easy with them and they brook no mucking around. It was the mullas who got a bee in their bonnets, and wanted a central ‘committee’ to oversee the sighting of the moon and decide dates. Mostly it probably was because they got the appointments for themselves, with limousines and offices and perks, but from day one they made a right mess of it.

    Regularly, for more than a decade now, they have met each Ramazan, over a sumptuous feast I am sure, to do their thing. They scour the sky, they get reports from all over the country, and they phone their friends and minions, and they say not a blinking word while the whole country waits, until eleven-o-clock, when there is a hurried announcement on radio that the moon has not been sighted!

    Just as regularly, at ten past eleven, some demented friend of two of the members call them from some obscure hilltop in the north to announce that he has indeed seen the moon. The two immediately kick up a fuss that their friend is more reliable, and sharp-sighted than all the other one hundred and fifty millions who did not see the moon. The Committee breaks up in a huff, and each one goes back to his own constituency to make his own proclamation.

    By morning all is chaos. People in some areas are busy celebrating Eid, others are fasting their back off, and some are killing themselves yelling that the Committee was off its rocker because Eid was two days ago, and they had missed it altogether. All this in the age of instant communication all over the globe and all the way to the moon itself. Now the same people are chickening out over making fools of themselves, and want the Committee disbanded. But don’t be fooled, that is not all. In the small print the resolution wants us to give the Theka over to someone in Saudi Arabia! That is not just dumb, it is mischievous! It is also a classic case of Khasiyaani Billi Khamba Nochay!


  2. Jess — on 3rd November, 2005 at 9:13 am  

    I have to deal with enquiries on this subject as part of my job. It’s always so complicated, because no-one seems to follow quite the same set of rules. So perhaps some kind of central decision might be a good idea!

    Part of the problem arises from this: the new crescent won’t be visible from the UK until tomorrow, but it will be visible in southern asia and the middle east, africa, south america and the USA tonight. And if you were lucky, you might have just seen it last night if you were in chile/brazil/argentina. About all I can do is give people the relevant information, and let them make the decision.

  3. Siddharth — on 3rd November, 2005 at 11:36 am  


    Could there ever be one Eid? Yes, but only if there ever could be consensus about which Mosque’s moon sighting to follow. Throw in national and denominational allegiances. So, unlikely.

    Why don’t Muslims use charts or Lunar phase calendars? They have been around since the Middle Ages and in fact were devised by Islamic Astrologers! And whats more, they’re impartial. A quick google produced hundreds and this is just one

    A have asked this many times only to be told to stop disturbing a perfectly good infighting brawl about who sighted the new moon or didn’t. Its totally ludicrous. And before you say it, I know, I know, the Wahhabbis will squeal bid’ah!! (innovation).

  4. Ahmad — on 3rd November, 2005 at 12:40 pm  


    Good article which poses some good points.

    These debates aren’t even religious but have turned political.

    It’s a shame that we get so close then there are always people who ‘think better’. If people could understand that the greater good is having collective worship on the day rather than bickering on when Eid is.

    Also Eid is a sunnah prayer, I’m not denouncing it at all but there are larger compromises for the sunnah prayer compared to the Fard prayers.

    It’s a state of mind thing were people think ‘they know better’ and are more pious than the evil evil saudis so much so, we shouldn’t even listen to the scholars from there.

    It just baffles me on why people don’t put their differences aside so that we can have a collective Eid.

  5. Natasha Ali — on 3rd November, 2005 at 1:28 pm  

    Probably because Mullahs are busy making speeches against the US and the UK, that they do not have time to look at the issues that matter to the community directly.

  6. Fe'reeha — on 3rd November, 2005 at 2:00 pm  


    Yes, Muslims do follow lunar calenders. But ironically, there are as many different lunar calenders as there are mosques. I have eight in my desk right now…and all of them give differesnt timings of prayers (only minutes a part).

    Good comment! I could have people having different eids in different parts of the world. But it indeed is a comic tragedy that we have different eids in the same city, even in the same area.

    blue mountain:
    Ha! ha! Very interesting analysis!

  7. Masood — on 3rd November, 2005 at 2:03 pm  

    We do require a central body to solve this major issue.
    Yet, the one central body that we do have, the respected MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAIN is probably not interested in solving matters which do not bring in media headlines.
    Check their website, they are encouraging people to have two eids.
    I guess its a body without a brain!!!

  8. Siddharth — on 3rd November, 2005 at 2:15 pm  

    Fe’reeha, its likely that charts may differ by a matter of minutes. But they won’t differ by a matter of days and for each Islamic national and denominational group. There isn’t one moon for Brelvis and one for Saudis, for Phillipina Muslims, Iranians, Turkish Kurds, followers of Nazim al Qubrus and so on…

    It seems astronomically stupid (excuse the pun) that Muslims will use charts for all the months of the year, for the start and end of the individual days of Sawm (fasts) in the month of Ramadan but rely on subjective moon sightings for the one day of Eid.

  9. Fe'reeha — on 3rd November, 2005 at 2:28 pm  

    Hmmm! Interesting point, Sidhart. Any Imams listening? Unlikely!

  10. Natasha Ali — on 3rd November, 2005 at 2:30 pm  

    The Imams are probably watching some X-channel film so they can give a fatwa against it. (And before someone else points out, I know all Imams are not running after fame).

  11. shihab — on 3rd November, 2005 at 3:06 pm  

    Funny how the arabs are the first to bang on about how advanced they were in terms of astronomy thousands of years ago. True, except they haven’t moved on since. I realse religion decrees faith is more powerful than science, but the moon isn’t a matter of opinion. Maybe it’s time to look to the west for once, they sell lunar calenders.

  12. Siddharth — on 3rd November, 2005 at 3:07 pm  

    Natasha: oooh u cynical.

    Meanwhile, the neanderthals who read LGF can take heart in the fact that while the Muslim Ummah were working to organise themselves into a global para-military Kalipha, they forgot to create a consensus on what day to observe Eid!

    Anyway, on a more serious note: I got me a new pair of trainers for Eid. :-D

  13. shihab — on 3rd November, 2005 at 3:57 pm  

    I should read more. Is today eid then? My folks are in saudi arabia and I fancy some eid type food. I wish I had friends.

  14. Siddharth — on 3rd November, 2005 at 4:01 pm  

    I should read more

    Dude, start with anything by Seyyed Hussein Nasr.
    Eid Mubarak.

  15. shihab — on 3rd November, 2005 at 5:03 pm  

    Cheers Siddy, I wish I’d read your suggestion before I went to the library. I’ve come back with Enid Blyton. It’s a 2006 annual so shouldn’t be about gollywogs hopefully

  16. rizwand — on 3rd November, 2005 at 5:20 pm  

    My mother said, that back in Africa, one of our family friends would send out an African boy to scout the night skies in search of the moon. If it was cloudy and there was no moon, they would have to keep fasting.

    ah, to simpler times.

  17. Sunny — on 3rd November, 2005 at 6:00 pm  

    Riz - and what is the boy ran off to do something else? Then you'’re in trouble :|

  18. rizwand — on 3rd November, 2005 at 6:10 pm  

    that’s what I thought as well … I just hope they treated him well !

  19. Natasha Ali — on 4th November, 2005 at 12:27 am  

    My eid has started——-eid mubarek!

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