Something I cannot quite get my head around is the argument that happens every Ramadan and every Eid ul-Fitr. When does Ramadan start? And when does Ramadan end? When is Eid?
Both the start and the end of Ramadan, (the festival marking the end of Ramadan is called Eid ul-Fitr) is determined by the sighting of the new moon.
When I converted to Islam in 2010, it quickly became apparent that the confusion surrounding the new moon sighting is quite a sham. A sham and a shame. After all, is the moon visible or not? It’s a big white thing in the sky...how hard can this be?
Differing authorities, it would seem, have differing views and this results in them bickering over the sighting (or not). This then leads to confusion and inconvenience for the millions of Muslims adhering to the different authorities.
Many mosques the world over rely on the Saudi Arabian moon sighting (Hilal in Arabic) every year and as such, in 2011, Eid was celebrated on Monday, August 29. This is due to the fact that the new moon cannot be sighted from all positions on the globe. For example, the UK was only able to "visibly" see the moon on Wednesday, August 31st.
However, a few other authorities disagreed that the new moon had been sighted by the Saudis and went to the extent of suggesting that they had in fact, mistaken the planet Saturn for the new moon. Indonesia, who frequently disagrees with the Saudis over Hilal, declared that Tuesday, August 30, was the correct end of Ramadan and the start of Eid ul-Fitr. Reuters article.
The bickering tends to be more of a political issue than a strictly religious one, but that did not hold back Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Asheikh from condemning the opposing authorities in his khutbah at Friday’s prayers in Mecca on September 2nd.
Islam teaches us that the moon follows the laws of Allah and science agrees with this fact. The cycle of the moon is one of the most constant things and it is possible to calculate it’s cycle many years into the future.
In January 2011, I distinctly remember looking up when Ramadan would start and the majority of websites and books (both Islamic and non-Islamic) all agreed that August 1st would be the start of Ramadan. This date was not a guess; it was based on calculations (scientific) based on the predictable lunar cycle.
To Muslims: the sighting of the moon is not rocket science. I do not personally have to "see" the moon with my own eyes to confirm that my fast can end. I relied on my local mosque and on scientific fact which all pointed to Monday, August 29 as the start of Eid ul-Fitr. Despite living in the UK (where, by right, Eid should have only begun on Wednesday) I chose to go with the Saudi’s sighting, as did my local masjid.
Why does this happen year in and year out? Allah only knows the hearts of those who bicker over such a basic thing.