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Debate: Does holy day fall on local time or Saudi time?

Debate: Does holy day fall on local time or Saudi time?

Mar 6, 2001

Chicago Sun-Times
March 6, 2001 | CATHLEEN FALSANI
Tens of thousands of Chicago area Muslims will gather today at mosques, Islamic centers and huge convention centers to celebrate Eid al Adha-the end of the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

The Eid is one of the most holy days in the Muslim calendar, marked by special prayers, the sacrifice of animals and family gatherings.

But the Eid also is tinged with a little controversy over the date on which it should be celebrated.

Several thousand Muslims in the Chicago area marked the Eid on Monday, the day it is celebrated in Mecca. Those celebrating the Eid today calculate the day according to the sighting of the new moon- Monday night.

“There are two schools of thought and both agree with each other to disagree,” said Sheikh Mohammed Amin, a Muslim scholar who heads the Darul Qasim Institute of Higher Learning in Lombard.

“The first says we must coordinate the date of the Eid according to the hajj. Since the hajj was (completed) on Sunday, we should celebrate the Eid on Monday,” Amin explained. “The second view says we must follow the sighting of the moon in our local area.”

According to the lunar sighting, the Eid is today, he said.

Aminah McCloud, professor of Islamic studies at DePaul University, said for years the two schools of thought have been trying to come up with a unified date for the Eid, which not only marks the end of the hajj but commemorates the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismael, in obedience to God, according to Islamic teaching.

“It would be nice for the sake of unity to have it on the same day. I think the communities recognize that and are working on it,” McCloud said.

To that end, earlier this year the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of North America convened a meeting of Muslim scholars to determine the best way to fix the Eid date, said Kareem Irfan, president of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.

“They deliberated specifically on this and issued a ruling: Eid should be celebrated on the basis of local moon sightings,” Irfan said.

Still, some Muslims adhere to generations of tradition saying the Eid should be celebrated everywhere when it’s celebrated in Mecca.

The date debate is relatively modern.

“It’s been a problem ever since we’ve emigrated. In our own countries they followed the same day throughout the country,” Amin explained.

Large-scale, group Eid celebrations will be held today at McCormick Place in Chicago, the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park and in Bolingbrook and Elk Grove Village.

The Nation of Islam and Imam W. Deen Mohammed’s Muslim American Society also will mark the Eid today.
But Bridgeview’s Mosque Foundation of Chicago, the Islamic Cultural Center in Northbrook and a few other groups decided to mark the Eid on Monday with their fellow faithful in Saudi Arabia.

In the end, it doesn’t matter that much: Muslims are taught they must celebrate the Eid within three days of the hajj’s end.
“Within those three days, you’re OK,” McCloud said.

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