Eid and the Friendly Employer
- I need to take one day off to observe my religious holiday.
- Sure, no problem.
Is that the one you call Eid?
- Does the word have a meaning?
- Yes. Joy.
- When does your Eid fall?
- Thursday or Friday.
- Oh! You have the choice of two days. I like the flexibility of your religion.
- No, No. The Eid will be either Thursday or Friday. But I cannot tell at this point.
- Oh. It is kind of a mystery, a religious secret that you do not share with other people.
- No, No, NO. It is all about the moon.
- The moon?
- Yep. Our religious calendar is a lunar one.
- So why can’t you know in advance then?
- Well, because we are supposed to see the moon in our own eyes.
- Oh. I understand now. Your religion is an animistic religion, and the moon is a holy thing for you.
- Absolutely not. We are strictly monotheistic. We believe that the moon is God’s creation and that the universe follows natural laws.
- Cool. So you follow the normal lunar calendar.
- No. There is a committee that decides when the day of Eid falls. It is a trusted committee. It is formed of people who are very knowledgeable and religious.
- Ah. I see. I see. You believe that some religious people control the movement of the moon, and they issue a fatwa in that effect.
- Not at all. Our religion is very very scientific. In fact, there are astronomers on that committee.
- I am confused now! Why don’t your astronomers stick to the lunar calendar?
- Look. It is quite complicated. It is because of a hadith, a statement by Prophet Muhammad.
- What does this statement say?
- It says you begin your fasting when you see the moon, and you confirm the Eid when you see the moon of the next month.
- Sounds logical for me.
- Well. The rest of the hadith says that if it were cloudy, continue fasting the 30th day of the month.
- That is also logical.
But tell me: if it remains cloudy to the next day, did he say that you should keep fasting?
- Then your prophet was scientifically correct, and has followed the lunar calendar. Why don’t you follow the lunar calendar?
- We have to sight the moon by the unaided eye.
- I thought you said that your religion respects science.
- Yes. We use science to estimate the probability of seeing the moon.
- So you leave certainty for probability.
- Look. We follow the hadith.
- But doesn’t the hadith ask you to follow the calculation when certainty is attainable?
- What do you mean?
- By calculation, the lunar month cannot be more than 30 days. If sighting the moon is meant for its own sake, then you should continue fasting until you see it by the unaided eye.
- We follow the hadith. The hadith did not say explicitly to follow calculation.
- Do you mean that the Prophet should have told his people to go to an observatory that did not exist, or to have referred them to logarithmic tables that were not in place yet?
- Of course not; that wouldn’t have made sense.
- Exactly, he was consistent with the level of accuracy of astronomical knowledge of his time.
- Look. Our religion is beautiful and it encourages taqwa, especially in issues related to ibada.
- But would it not be more taqwa if you seek more accuracy in issues of ibada?
- Look. It is a complex matter. Period.
Shawwal 01, 1426/02-01-2006
Tagged: Muslim Society