In the name of God the most Gracious, the most Merciful,
By the grace of God, we gather every year to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha. Eid-al-Fitr is on the first of Shawwal, marking the end of Ramadan. Eid-al-Adha is on the 10th of Dhul-Hajj; marking the end of the Hajj ritual. There are ritual and spiritual aspects to both days, for example:
In Muslim countries, each Eid is observed on a single day. The Ministry of Religious Affairs is responsible for declaring Eid and once that is done, the whole country observes that day as Eid. In the UK, depending on the community, Eid is observed on one of two different days.
Every year, we receive questions and comments about which day Eid should be observed in the UK. In this article, we discuss this topic based on the Quran and Hadith.
Guidance from the Quran
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًۭى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍۢ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ
Translation of Quran (Surah Baqarah: 185): “The month of Ramadan is one in which the Quran was sent down as guidance to mankind, with manifest proofs of guidance and the Criterion. So let those of you who witness it fast it.”
From this verse, we see that the person who witnesses the month should fast in it. Likewise, when they witness the end of the month they should observe Eid.
Guidance from Hadith
The Prophet (PBUH) makes it clearer; as reported in the Book of Fasting in Sahih Muslim he said:
“ إِذَا رَأَيْتُمُ الْهِلاَلَ فَصُومُوا وَإِذَا رَأَيْتُمُوهُ فَأَفْطِرُوا فَإِنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَصُومُوا ثَلاَثِينَ يَوْمًا ” Sahih Muslim 1081a – Book of Fasting
Translation of (Sahih Muslim 1081a – Book of Fasting) “If you see the new moon (of Ramadan), then do fast. And if you see the new moon (of Shawwal) then break the fast. And if the sky is cloudy then complete 30 days of fasting”.
So the Prophet (PBUH) connects the starting of the month to sighting the new moon, and the end of Ramadan (and therefore the day of Eid) to the sighting the new moon.
The etiquette of disagreement
Now let’s look at the issue of disagreement. There was one time when some of the companions (RA) were travelling; the time of prayer came, but they disagreed on the direction of the Qibla. Since they couldn’t agree on the direction of the Qibla, they each went and prayed it separately. They came and reported this to the Prophet (PBUH). He asked them to each draw lines in the ground showing the direction they believed the Qibla to be. They each drew different lines. Did he tell them off, or tell them they’re all wrong and to repeat the prayer? No. He said, you’re all fine. We have to reflect on why he said that.
He said that because, as reported in a well known Hadith, he (PBUH) explained:
إنما الأعمال بالنيات، وإنما لكل امرىء ما نوىRiyad as-Salihin 1 as reported in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim
Translation (Riyad as-Salihin 1): “Actions are [according] to intention, and every man is credited with what he intended.”
Since the companions (RA) intended to pray in the direction they believed to be the Qibla, their action was accepted. This doesn’t mean we can all choose a different direction to pray – the direction of the Qibla is prescribed and once determined and agreed must be followed without deviation. The relevance of this Hadith is that if an issue is not agreed upon, we should try to do our best until a correct consensus is achieved, and not focus on the disagreement itself.
So regarding moonsighting and Eid, rather than focusing on one group being right and one group being wrong, we should focus on peoples actions being accepted based on their good intentions (even if there is an outward difference in action), and we should work towards achieving consensus.
The importance of the Jama’a
When it comes to practically deciding which day to observe, we are guided by the Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH).
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَجْمَعُ أُمَّتِي – أَوْ قَالَ أُمَّةَ مُحَمَّدٍ صلى الله عليه وسلم – عَلَى ضَلاَلَةٍ وَيَدُ اللَّهِ مَعَ الْجَمَاعَةِJami` at-Tirmidhi 2167
Translation of (Jami’ Tirmidhi 2167): “Indeed, Allah will not gather the community of Muhammad PBUH to act upon something wrong, and the hand of Allah is with the Jama’a.”
So for me personally, I have been the Khateeb of The Mosque and Islamic Centre of Brent (also commonly known as Cricklewood Mosque or Brent Mosque) for many years and I have been praying here for many decades – so this is my community, this is my Jama’a. So my advice for myself and anyone who asks me would be to observe the day of your community. If you live in Luton and the whole of Luton observes on one day, I would advise you to observe Eid on that day. When you break away from the Jama’a it is like a sheep breaking away from the flock; you become easy prey for the wolf – Shaytan.
In conclusion, the day of Eid should be determined based on sighting of the new moon. If there are differences of opinion, we should work towards a consensus and try not to focus on our disagreements. Actions are accepted according to intentions; this principle should be a guiding principle in our lives, encouraging us to be tolerant and accepting of others. Then when it comes to personally determining which day to observe Eid, my advice for myself and anyone who asks me is to stick to your Jama’a. Over time, I hope and I pray that the Muslim communities of the UK can unify to become a united Muslim community, with its own British culture.