The following is a letter to the editor:
Recently, a Muslim organization, the American Muslim Union (AMU), has been advocating for Teaneck to officially recognize the two Muslim holidays of Eid as school holidays. But as the Imam of Nida-ul-Islam mosque and the father of three children in the Teaneck public school system, I question this initiative. The Township of Teaneck, in line with its tradition of tolerance and accommodation, already provides Muslim students with a halal food option, ability to make the daily prayers, join the Friday congregation at the mosque and allows for Muslim students to take off on their religious holidays – and for this we are thankful. The AMU’s proposal in theory, for us, Teaneck Muslims, sounds great. This could be another step in validating the Muslim space in American society. However, as well-intentioned as this goal seems, at best, it is only conditionally acceptable goal – and here’s why.
The Islamic devotional practices and worships are based on a lunar calendar. The Islamic lunar calendar follows the phases of the moon where each month starts and ends with the witnessing of the crescent moon that follows the invisible new moon. Because the visibility of the crescent moon for the following year cannot be calculated with certainty in the present year, the probability of its visibility will span a total of three days. This means that for the BOE to accommodate the day of Eid with certainty they will have to recognize three days for each of the two Muslim holidays. Logistically this is impractical. Though there has been some interest from Muslim Americans to adopt a pre-calculated calendar in order to more easily facilitate vacations from work and school, the majority still wants to adhere to the traditional Islamic method of moon-sighting.
In Bergen County, the three prominent mosques have an umbrella organization called the Eid Committee of Bergen County. This group was formed after years of dispute and divide within the local Muslim community regarding the start and end dates of our holy month of Ramadan. This caused the Muslims within our common locality to observe the holidays on different days. In some instances, families within the same town, neighborhood, or even households would end up observing the start and end of Ramadan on different days. The Eid Committee was formed to alleviate this problem. In doing so they agreed to follow the traditional view regarding moon-sighting.
If the BOE ends up recognizing the day of Eid it will cause a divide within the Muslim community, as Muslims will feel the pressure to adopt a pre-calculated lunar calendar. This will no doubt cause the discord from the years prior to the formation of the Eid Committee to resurface as the Muslims who want to follow the traditional method will continue basing the start and end dates of the month based on the visibility of the crescent while those who are either indifferent or inclined to the pre-calculated method will adopt the pre-calculated calendar. Though the greater Muslim community in America peacefully co-exists despite this issue of difference, this type of division within such a local setting will have the adverse affects as stated above. For this reason the BOE’s current stance on the Muslim holiday where Muslims students have the option to take off on the Eid is sufficient for our community.
It is surprising that before starting such a campaign the AMU did not at least discuss this issue officially with the valid leadership of the Muslim community for this matter, i.e., the Eid Committee or the Imams of the respective mosques. If the AMU is successful in this campaign I can personally guarantee as the Imam of Nida-ul-Islam mosque, that my mosque and its congregant will continue following the traditional method of moon-sighting and will not be held to following the pre-calculated calendar.
-- Abdul Muqtadir Sikander
Abdul Muqtadir Sikander is Imam of the Nida-ul-Islam mosque and father of three Teaneck public school students
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