The question of two Eids has been a major issue for the Muslim community of Great Britain for many years. All members of the Muslim community have had to face the brunt of its adverse affects. The worst hit are the young people and those working in a non Muslim environment. It must be made clear that the following article is written with the sincere intention of attempting to clarify the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in today.
All Islamic days of celebration are based on the Lunar (Moon) month, not as the English calendar which is based on the Solar year. The basic dispute begins with this point. When does the Lunar month begin?
A very famous Hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammad narrated by Abu Huraira and quoted in Bukhari gives us clear direction:
"(Begin your) fast when you see it (hilal/crescent) and finish your fast when you see it (hilal / crescent). If the Hilal is not visible due to clouds then complete the period with 30 days…"
From this Hadith we learn clearly that according to the law of the Shariat the beginning of the new lunar month is from the first sighting of the HILAL.
What is this HILAL?
- Very often we hear the term 'new moon' offered as a translation, even this is unclear! Researching from the Qur'an, Sunnah, some classical Muslim scholars and with the aid of modern technology we have derived the following basic definition:-
- Hilal the name given to the visible moon when it is on the horizon 8 degrees away from the sun. If it is any distance less than this then the moon will come under the powerful rays of the sun and not be visible to the naked eye.
- From this it becomes apparent that the beginning of a new Islamic lunar month begins from the time of Hilal, i.e. when the moon first becomes visible.
So where and when does the moon become visible?!
- This and much more detailed and accurate information about the moon is today widely available. The Royal Greenwich Observatory in Cambridgeshire have full time researchers and sophisticated telescopic machinery which they use to calculate exact details of sightings throughout the world. They publish their findings in the Whitakers Almanac
- This year on the 7th April 1997 (the date which has been used as the first of Dhul Hijja) the moon was still covered by the rays of the sun, it was not at the required 8 degree distance for there to be a physical observation, anywhere in the world, even at the furthest west land in the world, America.
- In Britain the new moon was born at 11.02 a.m. but at the time of sun set the moon also set amidst the rays of the sun, hence making sighting impossible. Those who still hold that there was a sighting have been proven scientifically wrong. Islamically also such a judgement which has any kind of doubt cannot be taken as binding and hence must also be considered as incorrect.
For these very strong Islamic reasons many Muslim countries who still hold steadfast to the correct Islamic position on the moon sighting are celebrating Eid ul Adha on FRIDAY 18th APRIL. These Muslim countries include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and the closest to Europe, Morocco.
The real cause of the two Eids
- It is extremely saddening and unfortunate that the Saudi government and many other eminent scholars who follow this opinion have adopted the beginning of the new month from the birth of the new moon, regardless of whether it is capable of being physically seen, as the Prophet stipulated so strongly.
- They argue that the presence of the new moon being on the horizon for even a few minutes is enough to fulfil the Islamic criteria. However astronomical data proves that a 'few minutes' is not enough for physical observation with the eye because the rays of the sun will overshadow it.
- This is the real cause of the two Eid scenario, not the Maulvis or the mosques!
Until the Saudis change their policy, year in, year out we will find that there are two Eids, theirs always being one day earlier than the rest. Those people who take the Lunar month beginning with the sighting of the Hilal (for which the Shari proofs have been stated), will always begin their month a day after the initial birth of the moon. To date the majority of the Ummah have always adopted this latter position and this is indeed the correct position of the Shariat.
What a mockery?!!
If everyone was to go back to the original Islamic position then those of us living, studying and working in this society could easily plan ahead and reserve holidays etc. Information relating to the moon sighting is readily available and already published years in advance, there is no reason why we should go on suffering the humiliation and mockery in the work and study place. Schools, colleges, universities, factories, offices, in fact all organisations Muslim and non-muslim are suffering unnecessarily due to this problem.
If people were to follow the Qur'an and Hadith rather than their 'leaders' we wouldn't have this problem. Note well the example of places like Scotland and even (believe it or not) Pakistan, where all Islamic parties/groups have unified under the correct Islamic banner and subsequently celebrate Eid together on Friday 18th April 1997.
The question of unity.
One of the biggest arguments often presented in relation to the new moon is that of Unity. It is said that for the sake of unity we should simply follow the one Saudi announcement about Hajj and hence the whole world would be able to celebrate Eid on the one day.
- A very admirable wish but we must remember that unity is only proper and legal in Shariah when the point of unity is itself correct and legal. If through unifying on a particular point, a legal Shari injunction or obligation is omitted or even over looked, that would not be true unity rather it would be termed Islamically as 'fasaad' or corruption (To find the closest translation)and hence sinful.
- Thus as far as following the Saudi announcement goes we are sure that by now you are convinced that their announcement about witnessing the moon was legally and scientifically incorrect and hence not capable of being followed. It was witnessed by thousand of pilgrims in the Ramadan of 1984 that after the 28th fast on the 29th night at sehri time an announcement was made that Eid will be prayed that morning and the initial announcement about the beginning of Ramadhan was wrong! Everyone was advised to keep one extra fast after Eid as kaza.
- The idea of the whole world unilaterally celebrating Eid on the same day will only be possible when and if there is one Islamic rule all over the world. Even then it is proven from the time of the Khulafa e Rashideen that there were two Eids celebrated because one area didn't see the hilal when another did. Every country can only demand a exclusive right over its own territory but it is obviously limited by its own jurisdiction. No where in the world do we find examples to show it true that another country must necessarily follow the rules set by another, especially when the country in question has in the past made serious and obvious blunders!
- Others argue that the witness of one person anywhere in the entire world is binding upon all Muslims throughout the world. This will only be the case firstly if the sighting is valid according to legal opinion (as discussed above) and then also only if the witnesses information is obtained through personal contact. Information received via T.V. and satellite is mere news and information not a legal witness.
What of the Hajj and sacrifices of the millions of people over there now
- Another popular contention is that Eid should simply be celebrated the day after Hajj. This will only prove to be true only if the fundamental point of beginning the month has been correctly observed. As we mentioned at the start of this article, the pronouncement of all Islamic events must be based upon the sighting of the new moon.
- As mentioned earlier those people who are there are currently directly under the jurisdiction of the Saudi government, they have no choice but to follow their judgement. For this reason their Hajj and qurbanis will still be valid Islamically but since we are under no such restriction, for us to follow them, knowing that the pronouncement was wrong would be a serious mistake.
Following the non -muslim scientists from the observatory is giving precedence to non-muslims over muslims.
- Many Muslim scholars have permitted the use of information from a scientific observatory to establish the sighting of the moon. The list is too long to mention in full and their works are very detailed so a quite straightforward reply to this would be to say that information is obtained through scientific, telescopic machinery. That machinery is neither muslim or non-muslim. Facts are established through this machinery as a means to reaching the correct Islamic position on moon sighting.
- No doubt you will now be able to judge for yourself what the correct Islamic position on Eid is. This article was a brief attempt to clarify to our youth especially some very complex and detailed legal arguments surrounding the moon issue. We hope and pray that it has been of benefit and that it serves as witness to us for our sincere intentions on the day of judgement.
- A single Eid for all Muslims throughout the Muslim world and even in one country looks almost impossible from the facts presented however working towards a single Eid in one city or town may still be a practicality. We urge all cities to try and come together and meet to make this a reality