Muslim Calendar needs immediate standardization

"We celebrated Eid on 23rd October. Why your country celebrated on the 24th October? Didn’t your country do moon sighting?"
"I live in UK. I’m from India. I followed Eid calendar from India, in which India officially celebrated Eid on the 24th"
"No you are wrong. I live in UK too. I’m from Saudi Arabia. We celebrated Eid on 23rd."
The above conversation actually reflects the situation of last year’s Eid al-Fitr . What does this mean? To me it’s very simple, it means we Muslims are far from ready from being united. We Muslim are too much divided. Non-standardized Muslim calendar – is it an old issue? Yes it is. We have been talking for long. We like to blame rather than to solve.
I was called to make this homework after a few friends keep on telling me that government of Malaysia don’t do moonsighting (hilal) but fix the date (pre-decided). This is actually not true. I don’t want to elaborate the detail in here, because that’s not my aim in this chapter. Perhaps these links can clarify the misunderstanding:
What I am more concern as a Muslim is the unity. Whether we like it or not, we Muslims must be united. 
"And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves"
– Surah al-Imran [3:101]
Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha reflect the unity among Muslims around the world. The unsynchronized Eid day is one of many examples showing how divided Muslims are. Take a look at the Eid al-Fitr celebrated last year (in the table below), in which I used international date line as a point of reference.



22 October 2006

Nigeria[1], Senegal and Tanzania[1]

23 October 2006

Bahrain, Djibouti, France, Holland, India[1], Iraq[1], Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria [2], Palestine, Pakistan[1], Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tanzania[2], Tunisia, Turkey, U.A. Emirates, UK[1] and USA

24 October 2006

Algeria, Brunei, Egypt, India[2], Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Japan, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan [2], Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania[3], Thailand, UK[2] and Yemen

25 October 2006

Bangladesh, Pakistan[3] – Lahore

We Muslims had actually celebrated our big day in FOUR different days across the globe in 2006!!! How sad….
The official Eid al-Fitr for all South East Asian Countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnem and Cambodia) was 24th October, as well as the East Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and China).
In the Middle East, some celebrated on 23rd October (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar and UAE), while some others celebrated on 24th October (Jordan, Syria, Oman, Yemen and Egypt). In Iraq, the Sunnis celebrated on 23rd, while the Shias celebrated on 24th. If we put Iraq aside, still the Sunnis are not united. Very sad isn’t it? Because it happened within the same region.
India, UK and a few Europe countries also have two Eid days, 23rd and 24th. In UK for intance, at the mosques which were dominated by Indians celebrated their Eid on 24th, while at the mosques which were dominated by Arabs celebrated their Eid on the 23rd.
Pakistan and Tanzania were the worst, in which Eid al-Fitr was celebrated in three different days within the same country.
Upon doing my homework, I read a lot of arguments considering the difference. Among those are:
[1] Astronomical calculations were used instead of the conventional moon sighting method.
[2] Moon sighting technique varies from country to country.
Regarding the first, what I’ve learn – it’s prescribed in the Quran to decide the beginning of Ramadan by means of moon sighting.
"… So whoever among you sights (the crescent on the first night) the month (of Ramadan), he must observe sawm (fast) that month…"
– Surah al-Baqarah [2:185]
Also in a hadith, Prophet (PBUH) said, "Whenever you sight the new moon (of the month of Ramadan) observe fast, and when you sight it, and when you sight it (the moon of Shawwal) break it, and if the sky is cloudy for you, then observe fast for thirty days."
– Narrator: Abu Hurairah [Sahih Muslim: 2378]
So moon sighting is not a choice but it is MANDATORY. Regarding the second one, whether we like it or not, we must standardize our moon sighting technique. It’s not as simple as looking at the sky and say, "Hey look I can see it!". There is a rule and there is a method of measurement. Do homework please.
Okay, say if we solved argument [1] and [2], do you think we can have a synchronized Muslim calendar?
My answer is NO. Sorry brothers and sisters. We will never solve this problem UNLESS we have our own Islamic Date Line.
Until this chapter is written, I still couldn’t find any sites explaining Islamic Date Line. Perhaps I’m wrong or overlooked, but please anybody correct me or show me the Islamic Date Line… please.
We Muslims do not realize that the current International Date Line is the source of problem. We can use the line as a point of reference but not in the case of structuring our Muslim calendar. No we can’t. Let me explain why.
Allah has made the land of the prophets (Middle East) very special. Where is Kaaba located? It is neither located in America, Iran nor Malaysia. The one and only in Saudi Arabia. Most of the important events happened in the land of the prophet(s). Therefore the land of the prophet(s) should be marked as the starting point for the change of day in Islamic calendar. Please click the timezone map below in order to see the proposed Islamic Date Line. I proposed that the Islamic Date Line starts from the Arabian Peninsular, in which Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait bordering the date line, followed by Iraq and Turkey. Other countries that will border the line in the Nothern hemisphere are Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. In the Southern hemisphere, the change of day in Islamic calender will happen first at Mauritius and Reunion Island, followed by Madagascar, Somalia, etc.
If we follow the current International Date Line, Japan, Malaysia and India are ahead of Saudi Arabia by six, five and two & half hours respectively. But if we use the proposed Islamic Date Line, Japan, Malaysia and India are behind Saudi Arabia by 18, 19 and 22.5 hours respectively. Now we take the last year’s Eid al-Fitr as an example. Say all Middle East countries followed Saudi Arabia and celebrated Eid on 23rd October 2006, and all South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia countries celebrated Eid on 24th October 2006 (using the International Date Line as the point of reference). But if we use the proposed Islamic Date Line as the point of reference, Eid al-Fitr was celebrated in the same day (1st Shawwal) by all these countries, in which Japan, Malaysia and India celebrated 18, 19 and 22.5 hours later (but still in the same date).
What we need to do is to follow the announcement from Saudi Arabia. Is it so hard? No. Some might argue, we must celebrate at the same time in all places all over the world. I hope we can do that but we must remember the earth has been divided into 24 time zones. If my brother prays Zohor prayer in Saudi Arabia, how can I pray Zohor prayer the same time in Malaysia (because at 1 PM Saudi Arabia equivalent 6 PM Malaysia)? So one place must go earlier than another. So please be logical.
The question is why can’t we have Islamic Date Line? I’m here not to challenge the Islamic Authority of such countries. Who am I to do that? I wrote this chapter for the sake of Muslims unity. We have been divided enough. Enough is enough! What I want to see is the one and only Muslim calendar that applies to all Muslim countries all over the world. Is it too much to ask?
Finally, please forgive me for my words. It is a fact that we can’t make everybody happy. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Your comment and critics are welcome.
Note: I wonder what will happen to our Eid day this year. No action means we are going to celebrate many different days again this year. Ya Allah help us….

2 Comments (+add yours?)

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