Chasing the moon: Why India celebrated two Eids

By Uzair HasanRizvi

The past 48 hours have been nerve-wracking as always. As Eid-al-fitr drew closer, the excitement among the Muslims rose, but with a very important question: “Chand kab hai? (When will the moon be sighted?)”

For Indian Muslims, the sighting of a new moon is no less than a catch-22 situation, as some of the clerics announce the dates in advance, based on astronomical calculations, while the others insist on sighting the crescent with a naked eye in order to fulfil religious obligations.

The former kind had announced the date of the birth of Hilal (Crescent) in advance, even this festive season. According to Dr Kalbe Sadiq, vice president of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the new moon was to be born on July 5; Eid would have been celebrated on July 6 and mind you, for last ten years, his dates have been accurate.

However, both Shia and Sunni clerics and their respective moon committees could not spot the moon with the naked eye on July 5 due to the thick cloud cover in most parts of the country.

Also read -A personal history of spotting Eid ka chand

The Sunni clerics then came to the conclusion that the moon has not been sighted. However, Shia clerics waited for a confirmation before making an official announcement.

Things went out of control later that night when viral forwards on social media claimed that Eid had been declared in India and South East Asia for Shia Muslims. Many were caught unawares, it was nearly time for Sehri in India, and scores of believers were confused whether they should fast or not.

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Image via moonsighting.com explains visibility of the moon on July 5.

What had happened? In Islam, if the weather conditions do not permit the moon sighting in one city, one waits for testimonies from Muslims living in other cities, and those testimonies must be confirmed thoroughly.

It was revealed that the moon was sighted in Kargil and parts of Kashmir, however, it took time to confirm and reconfirm the sighting and after consultation with the leading Shia clerics in Iran and Iraq, who accepted the testimonies, Eid was declared in India and South Asia.

Two Eids

Shia Muslims in India celebrated Eid on July 6, along with Sunni Muslims of Kerala, who follow the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia, as did the Sunni Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir, where the moon was sighted; some also say that Kashmiris always go with the testimonies of moon sighting in Pakistan. For the remaining Indian Sunni Muslims, however, Eid was on July 7.

Science versus tradition

But a crucial debate has been thrown open here: if weather conditions do not permit moon sighting, should we rely on scientific calculations?

A few days ago, I had raised this issue in an article, and drawn upon the statement of Syed Khalid Shaukat, a Sunni Muslim astronomer and scientist in America and founder of moonsighting.com.

Shaukat, a firm believer in scientific calculations also corroborated by Islam, had observed in an article, “Today, Muslims have expertise and access to technology to understand the calculations of when and where the sighting occurs. Recorded data shows how the science of moon sighting is compared with the actual observations. The results show that calculations of sighting and observations have matched every month.”

The Fiqh Council of North America, the Islamic Shura Council of North America and all the leading Sunni and Shia moon sighting councils in the West, as well as a few in Asia adhere to this view.

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Eid celebrations at Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.(PTI)

However, the clerics relying on traditional ways of moon sighting do not agree with this. Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, president, Markazi Chand Committee, says Muslims should only believe in the physical sighting of the moon.

He emphasises the importance of adapting modern science to religion, but maintains that we cannot do away with an ancient tradition and practise that is acceptable to millions of people across the globe.

So, once again, there is a division: this time it is not Shia versus Sunni, rather science versus tradition. Yes, the moon should be sighted with the naked eye, but what if conditions make it impossible?

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Imagine Muslims living in a place where there is no clear sky for days, what should they do? There modern science and astronomy come handy.

If Muslims cannot see the moon, but you know it is born, they should go ahead with scientific calculations the same way they calculate daily prayer timings one year in advance through astronomy. Why not do the same for Eid?

It is necessary that the infusion of science goes hand in hand with Islamic traditions.

Two Eids in India come as a double bonanza for food hedonists. As for me, I did not celebrate Eid on either of the days, to express my gratitude and respect to all the innocents killed by terrorists during the month of Ramzan, from Baghdad to Istanbul to the rest of the world.

For those who celebrated the festival on either day, Eid Mubarak!

 

 

Extracted fromdailyo

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