Muslims are no strangers to division. There are disagreements over culture, sects, schools of thought, dress. It’s no secret that we can’t agree on much of anything. And Ramadan and Eid are no exception. Because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, it changes every year. Muslims are supposed to look to the sky for the new moon signaling the start of the Holy Month based on the hadeeth, “Fast when you sight it [the new moon] and stop fasting when you sight it….”
In my experience, the start of Ramadan is never that much of a controversy. Most people don’t mind starting a day later but even if you’re in the group that begins early, you figure you need to get used to it eventually so no biggie. But Eid is a completely different story. Around the last week of Ramadan, the question of when Eid will be begins. Around night 27 and 28, the discussion reaches its fevered pitch. People need to make plans; shopping for clothes and gifts, after-prayer breakfast plans and parties. Eid al-Fitr is a BIG DEAL.
This year, I celebrated the last two weeks of Ramadan in Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn has a large, diverse Muslim community. Mosques during taraweeh prayers are full of people, which can be simultaneously a blessing and a great test of patience. During my stay here, I was staying at my sister’s. Her family attends a mosque not too far from her house. The rest of my family, my parents and siblings, attend a different mosque. Soon, Eid predictions started coming in via Whatsapp groups. We deferred to our relatives overseas: “when do they think Eid will be?” Here in Michigan, it seemed like every mosque was calling Eid for Wednesday. All except one. Yep. The very one my sister’s family attends. The imam of the mosque said he was basing his decision on scientific calculations, and declared Eid would be on Tuesday. The others were going based on the fact that they didn’t see the moon.
Since I don’t live here, I wasn’t sure what to do. My husband was overseas at the time and I asked him what he thought I should do. He was celebrating on Wednesday but left the decision to me. Great! In the end, I decided to celebrate with my host family. I mean, it would’ve been pretty uncomfortable to wake up to Eid celebrations while we were still fasting. Plus, I was their guest. (Getting to eat a day early had nothing to do with it! Stop judging me!)
The night before our Eid, we went home instead of going to taraweeh prayers like everyone else. It felt weird. The entirety of Ramadan, my family got together for potluck iftars. Between my parents, my siblings and my uncle’s family we were about 50 people. MashaAllah. (Go on, say it). We were a community unto ourselves. But now, we were suddenly separate families.
Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones celebrating early. At Eid prayer, the mosque was quite full of worshippers. My uncle’s family and my brothers-in-law and their families were among them. At least we were able to celebrate with some of our family. Our kids had each other to spend the day with. But I couldn’t help but look around and miss the ones that weren’t there. I started to think about all the Muslims separated from their families and said a little prayer for them. There was so much to be thankful for. In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t even a blip on the radar.
Unfortunately, not every disagreement amongst Muslims is that easily overlooked. Looking at conflicts around the world, things can escalate rather quickly. And for that reason, it is a shame when we can’t get even the happy occasions right. We need this.
But I am hopeful Muslims will get it right eventually. We are a family after all. And families fight but the connection is always there. Maybe now is the best time of all to start making those connections stronger. Spreading more salaams and becoming more active in our communities. A house divided cannot not stand. Muslims need to stand.