Published on alt.muslim, November 3, 2005.
Eid Mubarak, we say today; Mabrook! Have a Blessed Eid.
It's a wholesome, almost New Age greeting.
But within the community, we all know there is a whole lot of whining and carping, with almost all of us taking one of three stands: a) the need to stay true to tradition and actually sight the moon, b) the need to follow the dates in the Holy Land (currently manifested in the form of the geo-politicaly entity known as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) or c) the need to get with the times and science and use the wonderful blessings of science in these highly evolved times and go totally scientific and take the uncertainty out of the calendar (never mind that the suggested "fixed" calendar has been around for centuries--our wonderfully well-educated friends still insist it is the fruits of modern science that make this possible, but I digress). All three sides complain that it is a sign of the state the Ummah is in that we don't all just agree on one date--of course, with their preferred option being the one that should be adopted.
But let's look beyond the carping: what happens in practice is pretty cut-and-dried; some mosques hold prayers one day, some do it on others. And for the common Muslim, that rarely-mentioned aspect of Islam, Ijma, or the democratic consensus of the community, rules the day, and you go to pray where your neighbours and friends--that is, your community--does. And all the while the three types of whining proceed without interruption, A very few of us, in my experience, point to that one tradition of The Prophet that we have been told about: the one that says that even if you see the moon yourself but your community celebrates on the "wrong" date, you should celebrate with the community.
But here's the point I would really like to make on this eve the festival--a night our elders tell us is one of the most blessed, sanctified nights of the year, right up there with the Night of Mi'raj (the Acsension) and the Night of Qadr (Power):
Why not look at the issue of community from the opposite angle; have you considered the possibility that, uncertainty or not uncertainty, this is a test? If we can't stay civil while we disagree on this matter and continue to love each other as fellows in one faith, what chance do we have of ever rising above other disagreements; like the ones that so often lead some of us to call others kafirs and murtad and so on?
Think about it; we never tire of telling others that Ramazan is the month when we are supposed to work on building the spirit of charity, patience, and compassion within ourselves--but the moment it's over, in fact, on the very topic of when it's over, we turn into inflexible, it's-my-way-or-you're-a-braindead-bigot fanatics. And I AM talking about all sides; those who would rather follow traditional interpretations AS WELL AS those who would rather follow the Holy Land AS WELL AS those who love science and go on endlessly about how much wonderful progress humanity has made and how we can now determine to the milimicrosecond the birth of the new moon. If this wasn't such a holy night, my next sentence would have included the words "pox", "all" and "houses". Instead, in the language of the industry I spend my days working for:
The uncertainty is a feature, not a bug--read the doc.
Let us try to see if we can agree to disagree with each other in Peace, with patience and compassion, as a community, a Jama'ah, an Ummah.
We never tire of saying that the word "Islam" comes from the root "Salaam", or peace. When we claim to be Muslims, we are saying we are "those that have Peace" (Ma'As Salaam); the community that adopts peace as our way. So my brothers and sisters--let's adopt peace in our own persons and within the community. Let us, in this holy season, not just tell CSPAN and CNN about it; let us start with our own communities and practice it towards each other; let us feel it; let us live it.
As Salaam Alaikum, and Eid Mubarak; Peace Be On You and have a Blessed Eid.
Postscript, November 3, 2005:
The Zaytuna Institute's position this year on the matter, while critical of the decision to celebrate on Thursday, repeats the spirit of my post in their penultimate paragraph:
"However, there is another consideration, that is the spirit and intent of 'Id. As one of the great signs of Allah, whose underlying spirit is unity, and celebration, we feel that if a Muslim is in an area where the overwhelming majority of his/her community, family, and friends are celebrating the 'Id on Thursday, November 3, 2005. He/she should join them if his/her heart is at peace with that decision. However, he/she should make up the day out of precaution as soon as possible."
[The full article is at: http://www.zaytuna.org/articleDetails.asp?articleID=86 ]
Sounds like you are experiencing the identical petty contradictions within the Ummah that divide us Christians within the "Body of Christ". But I think Islam brings something valuable to this problem that Christianity has omitted:
It is my understanding that the "imprecision" of the Ramadan calendar is not only a test (as you suggest), but a direct and knowing means of reminding Humans that our endlessly arrogant little projects, concepts and conceits are tiny, petty and insignificant when considered alongside the vastness of God's Compassion, Power and Will. So we are obliged to let the exact dates for launching Ramadan and celebrating Eid float, subject to somewhat randomized happenstance, and to procedures which cannot be conclusively pinned down sufficiently to convince everyone to agree on a single date. The result? We must learn to live somewhat at God's whim, and also to gracefully accept the consensus of our community for some things, even if we are convinced we know 10% or 20% better than others.
To me, this is a part of the genius and blessing which Islam provides -- an example of modesty and of recognition of Humanity's actual humble place within Creation, that we in other Faiths ought to better understand and emulate.
Al Salaam Alaikum. Shalom. Namaste. Peace.
Eid Mubarak friend!
Humanity Check interfaith peace and reconciliation project
Santa Rosa, CA (USA)
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