For this year’s Eidl Fitr, I had a mixed experience of being confused and funny at the same time. Like most Muslims who are awake in the middle of the night, after praying Tahadjud (explain) while waiting for the Sawul (early meal before sunrise during the month of Fasting), I was glued at my computer monitor, trying to get more information as to the moon sighting.
My first post regarding the Eid was taken from the declaration of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and the National Darul Ifta that says that the moon was not seen on the evening of August 7, 2013.
Based on this declaration my wife and I ate our meal and begun our niyat (intention to fast) for the day. HOwever, my friend and brother in Islam who is from Zamboanga informed me that the moon was sighted in Basilan and Sulu. Thus, the Region 9 Darul Ifta revised their pronouncement of the Eid. That instead of Friday, August 9, 2013, they moved a day before.
These conflicting statements made me and my wife even more confused. I begun reviewing what the Sunnah and Hadith of the Prophet (SAW) had to say about this based from the Holy Quran.
The most authoritative Hadith (Hadith No 1906, Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Book of As-Saum, Vol 3) states: Abdullah bin Umar narrated: “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) mentioned Ramadan and stated: Do not observe fasting unless you see the crescent moon (of Ramadan), and do not give up fasting unless you see the crescent moon (of Shawwal); but if the sky is overcast and you cannot see the moon, then act on estimation (i.e. count 30 days each for Shaban and Ramadan).”
This Hadith looks so simple and yet, just like any issues confronted by Muslims in the whole world, this simple Hadith will have several opinions and interpretations from Muslim religious scholars.
Unfortunately, instead of moon sighting, it becomes moon fighting. Different Muslims declare their own interpretations and analysis of the sacred texts and practices of the Phophet (SAW).
Lets review these opinions and interpretations of Muslim scholars. Before we proceed, we must understand and accept that all these principles are valid. They are valid given the proper context and background upon which they are actually being applied.
What are these opinions?
The Hadith mentioned above defines the lunar cycle of the Hijrah calendar. Based on this hadith, we have the group of Muslims who are in the opinion that it should be a local sighting meaning they don’t care about whatever the local should be sighted. Their “local” means the setting in Saudi Arabia. Thus, they do not care what is happening in New York, Manila, or Tokyo. Thus, they are the “literalist” group. They see the whole world as one community and their basis of that community is the set up in Mecca.
The second opinion is saying, “fast all of you when somebody sights it”. So, the people who said “whoever sighted in the world then we all fast”. Then that opinion is following the same Hadith words right beside each other. This is what we may call as the “universalist” group.
Then we have the third opinion that says we need to calculate the cycle of the moon, hence, this group are what we may call as the calculation-type of opinion. Their basis is also from the Hadith. Because the prophet of Allah has said and at the end of this Hadith that if it is cloudy and you cannot sight the moon then you should have calculate it in 30 days. Hence, they will say, “look we know when the moon is going to be sighted by calculation should long in advance so let’s just follow the calculation”.
Then we have the fourth opinion. This is still connected with the Hadith and this simply follows whatever their place of origin or back home does. This also had caused a lot of confusion. They will say “I just gonna following my place of origin or country back home. Whenever they see the moon, I’m gonna follow it.”
Based on these four opinions, we can see a lot of confusion. This happens year after year.
The question is, how do we reconcile these opinions?
Based on my research and study of Islam, we can find the answer from the Hadith of the Prophet (SAW). The Hadith says, “follow your religious leader and the community must be one”. The religious leader must choose only one of the different opinions and his decision must be scientific and with rational basis. He must follow the hadith and arrive at the consensus of the community.
There is confusion when the Muslim community (like in our country) does not have a clear religious leader. We do have the Darul Ifta, however, with all due respect to them, their voice and their influence to our people does not reach the grass roots level of our communities. Although we could say that majority of the Muslim Filipinos follow their advice and guidance, but there are groups that will still based their belief and interpretations following one of the opinions mentioned above.
I hope our religious leaders will be united, once and for all. I hope the Darul Ifta will be united. They have to be visible in all our communities. They have to make a stand on certain issues and concerns of the Muslims in our country are confronting day in and day out. We need their presence. We need to know the essence and meanings of Islamic principles on current events like the recent bombings in Mindanao. Do they condemn these bombings? In this way, we can have one unified Muslim community in our country.