Thursday, December 4, 2008

Eid Mubarak - when is it?

I wonder if there will ever come a time when we will not dispute over when we celebrate our major holidays such as Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and mark the beginning of Ramadan.

Weird thing is, the Qur'an takes a strong position against those who thrive on mastery of inane matters. In Surah Kahaf (8:18), for instance, it makes it clear that debating issues that are of little significance and on which there is not clear-cut final resolution is not an activity that behooves people of faith:

"Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear..."

Yet, so many Muslims seem to have such hardened positions on moon-sighting and determination of Islamic calendar dates, when the fact of the matter is, it is vastly more important to celebrate Eid together than get that darned date "right".

The comedy-tragedy on this issue occurred when after years of educating and lobbying, Muslims in a city convinced the local school board to declare Eid day as a holiday. As the Muslim community fell in sujood to thank Allah, the phone rang. It was the school board president, he wanted to know what day Eid would fall that year, so he could put it on the school calendar. OK, so I made this story up, but if it hasn't already played out across American, it's only a matter of time.

A young, fast-speaking, African-American Imam from New York who embraced Islam as an adult used to say: "Muslims man! We master the minor and miss out the major." (Now say that ten times out loud in a New York accent, to get a feel for what the Imam sounded like!). Time to read Surah Kahaf again...

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