Posted at 12:36 PM ET, 08/29/2011

Eid al-Fitr date confused by new moon sighting times around the world


A man looks into high-powered binoculars in Amman on Sept. 29, 2008,where top clerics met for the traditional sighting of the Shawwal moon, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and the start of Eid al-Fitr. (Mohammad Abu Ghosh - Associated Press)
Update: The new moon has been spotted! Saudi Arabia has now said the Eid al-Fitr holiday will begin Tuesday.

Depending on where Muslims are around the world, the sighting of a sliver of the new moon at sunset that signals it is Eid al-Fitr — the day the month-long Ramadan fast can be broken — could happen Tuesday or Wednesday, spreading confusion over the day on which Eid really falls.

Eid’s date was never a problem in the past. But increasing global connectivity, the Wall Street Journal suggests, has made the difference in sighting times evident around the world.

This year, followers in North America, Europe and the Middle East will see the moon and argue Eid falls on Tuesday, while India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia will see it and argue for Wednesday. Many others are just confused.


To make it easier, many countries follow the lead of Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.

The Saudi Supreme Court, however, has not yet decided whether Eid is on Tuesday or Wednesday this year. Journalist Amira Al Hussain tweeted where she came down on the matter:


Others will use science to inform their decision.

At midnight, official astronomical committees will scan the sky for the elusive sliver of moon. A group of scholars called the Fiqh Council of North America will lobby for using precise astronomical data to mark Eid’s start. The Islamic Crescents’ Observation Project, which shares global moon sighting data, will show that the moon is going to be sighted in South America first, an observance not likely to be taken kindly by Saudi Arabia.

Muslims’ five daily prayer were once dependent on the sightings of the sun, but have now become standardized, with prayer times published by local Islamic authorities. But the WSJ writes that there’s a feeling around the world that a holiday as important as Eid “should be celebrated by all on one day.”

By  |  12:36 PM ET, 08/29/2011

 
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