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Determination of Eid al-Adha
Justice Maulana Mufti M. Taqi Usmani
[This article is included here for academic interest only. This year (1421 AH), The
Shura Council of North America (which includes ISNA) has unanimously agreed to base Eid
al-Adha determination on local moonsighting in North America. This welcome decision should
end all controversy on this subject and bring about the same unity on Eid al-Adha that we
have been witnessing on Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr.
Historical Note: A few years ago Islamic Society Of North America (ISNA) had
widely circulated a paper regarding determination of Eid al-Adha. It strongly suggested
that all over the world Eid al-Adha determination should follow the announcement of Hajj
dates in Saudi Arabia. Here is a scholarly evaluation of that claim by Mufti Taqi Usmani.]
I have gone through the article of ISNA and with the utmost respect for their sentiment
for Muslim unity, I am forced to say that the view expressed in the article (Eid al-Adha
on next day of Arafat) is in total disagreement with the teachings of Quran and Sunnah,
and with the Shari'ah position recognized throughout the centuries. This is an
unprecedented view which has never been adopted by any of the Muslim jurists during the
past 1400 years, and it has a number of intrinsic defects and anomalies, some of which are
- The article admits that the celebration of Eid al-Fitr should be tied to the sighting of
the moon in each country and should not be linked with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr in
Saudi Arabia. At the same time, however, the article calls for celebration of Eid al-Adha
according to the Saudi Calendar regardless of the local dates, which means Eid al-Adha
will be celebrated in North America on 8th or 9th of Zul-Hajjah. It is thus clear that the
theory proposed in ISNA's article is impractical.
- The article has laid much emphasis on the concept of unity of the Muslim Ummah, which no
one can deny. At the same time, however, one must appreciate that unity does not mean that
the entire Muslim Ummah throughout the world should perform their acts of worship at one
and the same time, because it is physically not possible. It is evident that when people
in Saudi Arabia are performing their Fajr prayers, those in North America may still have
not completed their Isha prayers of the previous day. Similarly, when Muslims in Los
Angeles offer their Fajr prayers, those in India and Pakistan are offering their Maghrib
or Isha prayer of the same day.
- If it is made obligatory on all the Muslims in the world to offer their acts of worship
at one and the same time for the sake of unity, such unity can never materialize (because
of the time differences). It is, therefore, obvious that offering one's acts of worship at
different times do not affect the concept of Muslim Unity.
What does the Muslim unity
It means that all Muslims should treat each other with brotherly sympathy and affection
and should not spread disorder and dissention among them. Nor should they invent new ideas
foreign to the teachings of Quran and the Sunnah which may lead to division and conflict
It is also astonishing that the article views the celebration of Eid al-Adha on
different days as being against the concept of Ummah while in the matter of celebration of
Eid ai-Fitr, this concept is dispensed with. If the celebration of Eid al-Fitr on
different days does not affect the concept of unity, how can it be said to harm unity in
the case of Eid al-Adha.
- It is true that Eid al-Adha falls immediately after the day of Arafat in Saudi Arabia,
but it is not necessary that the Muslims in every country should follow the same dates in
their respective areas. Hajj, no doubt, is tied with a particular place but the
celebration of Eid al-Adha is not confined to that place alone. It is celebrated
everywhere in the world and cannot be tied to the Saudi calendar.
- The article admits that the celebration of Eid al-Adha in other countries was never
linked with its celebration in Saudi Arabia throughout the past 14 centuries. This, the
author's claim was because of a lack of communication facilities. With vastly improved
communication today, they argued that everyone almost anywhere can find out the day of
Hajj, and should celebrate Eid al-Adha based on Saudi calendar.
There is a clear
admission in this argument that it is not obligatory according to Quran or the Sunnah to
celebrate Eid al-Adha according to Saudi calendar. Had this been so, Muslims would have
tried their best to find the exact date of Hajj in Saudi Arabia. It is not correct to say
that it was not possible in those days for people living outside Saudi Arabia to know the
exact date of Hajj, because this date is normally determined on the first night of
Zul-Hijjah. There is a nine day period until Eid, which is more than sufficient to acquire
this information. However, no jurists has ever stressed that such information be collected
in order to celebrate Eid al-Adha according to Saudi dates.
Further, if the argument of the article is accepted and it is held that the real
intention of Quran and Sunnah was to link the celebration of Eid al-Adha with the Saudi
dates, as a mandatory provision for all Muslims in the world, it means that the Shari'ah
has stressed a principle which was not practical for 1300 years. It is not against the
Quranic declaration that Allah does not make a thing mandatory unless it is practical for
the human beings.
If the authors argue that the celebration of Eid al-Adha was not linked with the dates
in Makkah in the past but it has become a mandatory requirement of the Shari'ah now, then
the question arises, who has abrogated the previous principle and on what basis? There is
no provision in Quran or the Sunnah which orders the Muslims to celebrate Eid al-Adha
according to their local dates up to a particular time and to link it with the dates in
Makkah thereafter. Whoever considers this and similar questions arising out of this
unprecedented theory advanced in the article can appreciate its fallacy.
- Finally, I would like to inform you that the question of sighting the moon for each
lunar month including Zul-Hijjah was thoroughly discussed at the annual sessions of the
Islamic Fiqh Academy (held in Jordan, October 11-16, 1986) attended by more than a hundred
outstanding scholars of Shari'ah. The academy adopted the resolution recommended that all
Muslim countries should determine all the lunar months including Zul-Hijjah on the same
basis for both Eid al-Fitr as well as Eid al-Adha.
This resolution represents the
consensus of Muslim jurists throughout the world. The proposal contained in the ISNA
article, however, goes totally against this consensus.
Before parting with the subject, I would like to emphasize that such unprecedented
proposals can never advance the cause of Muslim unity. Rather, they may create a new point
of disunity and dissention among Muslims. Before venturing such opinions as definite
"Fatwa", these should be discussed at some responsible international forum of
contemporary Muslim jurists like the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah.