How do we determine when Eid should be celebrated?

Prophet Muhammad PBUH has taught us through his Sunnah about the decision-making process of determining the Islamic calendar and celebrations of Eid-Ul-Fitr and Eid-Ul-Adha. It should be immediately clarified that the process is different in determining the beginning and end of Ramadan and Eid-Ul-Adha. The Islamic Association of Raleigh follows the widely accepted scholarly opinion that Ramadan and Eid-Ul-Fitr should be determined by moonsightings throughout the world. The IAR policy requires two scientific facts to accept citing of the new crescent from any place in the world. The first condition is the moon has to be born scientifically, and the second requirement the moon has to set after sun set and not before. The IAR uses data available by the Naval Observatory to determine where throughout the world the moon may be visible and awaits confirmation of moonsightings in those regions only. For example, if the moon could possibly be visible in Australia, the IAR awaits any confirmation from Australia about any moonsightings. However, if it is not scientifically possible to view the moon in China, the IAR will not accept any moonsighting claims from China. The policy of using both science and visual sightings of the moon guarantee the most accurate decision in beginning and ending Ramadan. Since the Holy Month of Ramadan exists and is celebrated all throughout the world, it is expected and acceptable that the different continents of the world may celebrate on different days based on their own regional moonsightings.

The process is quite different however for Eid-Ul-Adha. The pillar of Hajj, which is the basis of the Eid-Ul-Adha celebration, only exists in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The IAR again follows the universally accepted opinion that the Day of Arafat should be celebrated only in conjunction with the Hajj. The Day of Arafat exists only as performed by the Hujjaj (people performing Hajj), and therefore should be accepted by all other Muslims as such. Eid-Ul-Adha should also then be celebrated on the same day as the Hujjaj. Therefore, the IAR follows the decision in Makkah for Eid. The European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), the Fiqh Council of North America, and ISNA have all accepted this opinion. The following is a passage from a statement issued by the ECFR:

The institution of Hajj is very old, coming from the time of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH). The Hajj ceremonies were well known to the Arabs long before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) himself performed Hajj before receiving Nubuwwah (Prophethood). The Prophet (PBUH) also observed fasting during the month of Ramadan even before receiving the revelation of the Qur'an. It was during the month of Ramadan that he received the first Qura'nic revelation while at Hira. He initiated the two Eids after his migration to Madinah to denote the start and end of the Hajj season.

The months of Hajj begin with the first day of Shawwal and Hajj ends with the Wuquf of Arafah. That is perhaps the reason that the Prophet (PBUH) introduced two days of festivities to celebrate the beginning and end of the Hajj season, as Imam Ibn Taymiyyah has clearly stated. Even the month of Dhul Hijjah is named after Hajj. The Qur'an and Sunnah both glorify the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. The first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are most sacred days because they are connected with Hajj. Therefore, the two Eids are not independent institutions; they are closely connected with some obligatory pillars of Islam, such as fasting and pilgrimage to Makkah. The Prophet (PBUH) was guided by Allah SWT to choose these two specific days as Eids because of their deep connection with two of the most significant acts of Islamic worship i.e., fasting and Hajj.

The sequence of Qur'anic verses in Surah al-Baqarah (2:183-203) may be cited as a supportive evidence for this position. The Qur'an first mentions the obligation of fasting and then gives the rulings about Hajj. The commandment of sacrifice is also primarily addressed to the Hujjaj and then to Muslims at large. (Surah Hajj: 28; 36) Even the Takbeerat of Tashreeq are originally mandated for Hujjaj. Ordinary Muslims follow Hujjaj in these commandments. Many Classical jurists have particularly noted this connection between the rituals of Eid al-Adha and the rites of Hajj. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah, for instance, makes a significant observation. He says that the animal slaughter at Mina is the original rule and all other localities are to follow Makkah in that. That is why Eid al-Adha is the greater of the two Eids. It is called the Day of al-Nahr and the Day of Great Hajj because this Eid is connected with the sacred timings and with the sacred places. The famous Hanbali Jurist Hafiz Ibn Rajab explains that Eid al-Adha prayer should be performed within the timeframe of the movement of Hujjaj from Muzdalifah to Mina. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal maintained that Eid al-Adha prayer should be offered within the time period when the Hujjaj moved from Muzdalifah to Mina and threw pebbles. Imam Ahmad clearly stated that the ordinary Muslim's Eid prayer had to follow the Hujjaj movement and actions.

Imam al-Bhaghawi states that Ibn Abbas, Imam Malik and Imam Shafa'ee are of the opinion that Muslims all over the globe are to follow the timings of Hujjaj vis-à-vis Takbeerat of Tashreeq. Imam al-Khazin attributes this opinion also to Ibn Umar. Imam al-Sarkhasi reports that Imams Shafa'i and Abu Yusuf were of the same opinion. This indicates that many established authorities within all the four known schools of Islamic Fiqh agree that Muslims all over the globe are to follow the Hujjaj in the Takbeerat al-Tashreeq timings.

Though there are other opinions about the exact timings of the Takbeerat of Tashreeq, the above sources are presented to make the point that many jurists held the opinion that the Eid al-Adha rituals such as the Eid prayer, act of sacrificing animals and even Takbeerat al-Tashreeq are in subordination to the acts of the Hujjaj. Therefore, it is not correct to say that Eid al-Adha is an absolutely independent Islamic institution, totally detached from Hajj and fully self-regulating according to each locality. Juristic and historical evidence indicate to the contrary and show that Eid al-Adha was always attached to the institution of Hajj. It is precisely celebrated to imitate and remind oneself of some of the acts of Hajj. Eid al-Adha is as much connected with the sacred places as with the sacred timings.

During the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, the rituals of Hajj and the acts of Hujjaj in and around the city of Makkah become paramount for Muslims all over the globe. Many Muslim jurists have said that the Day of Arafah and the Day of Eid al-Adha are to be determined by the actual stay of Hujjaj in Arafah and their slaughtering of the animals. Some jurists hold that this rule is specific to the Hujjaj; but others have argued that this rule is generic and applies to all Muslims. Some jurists even say that this rule applies even if the Hujjaj made a mistake and stood at Arafah on a wrong day, say a day ahead or later than the real 9th of Dhul Hijjah. This is the position of all the known Muslim jurists. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah narrates that there is no difference of opinion among the jurists that the month of Eid al-Adha should be observed in unity. No jurist has ever allowed that those who sighted the Moon should go by their sighting and do the Wuquf in Arafah or slaughter the animals according to their actual sighting. They must go with the Imam and with the majority of Muslims. Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali goes further than that. He, like many other Hanbali, Maliki and Shafa'i jurists, concludes that the Day of Arafah is not the exact day of the 9th of Dhul Hijjah but what was celebrated by Muslims as the Day of Arafah by staying at the place of Arafah. Likewise the Day of Eid al-Adha is not the exact day of the 10th of Dhul Hijjah but the day after Hajj to the best of their knowledge even if it was proven to be on a wrong day. They derive this rule from the authentic Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) when he said, "Eid al-Fitr is when you celebrate breaking your fast and Eid al-Adha is when you slaughter your animals..."

Therefore, Eid al-Adha is not disconnected from Wuquf of Arafah and Hajj as some contemporary scholars contend. Hajj and Eid al-Adha are mutually well connected. The two Eids were not prescribed by the Prophet (PBUH) without context. They were intertwined with completion of the month of Ramadan and with Hajj. The Prophet (PBUH) linked start of the new month with actual moon sighting as it was the only authentic source available at that time to confirm the month. He did not depend upon news of sighting from Makkah for the first eight years of Hijrah as the Ka'abah was occupied by polytheists who were not very careful about the Hajj dates. The Shari'ah did not require Muslims to find out about the exact date of Hajj and Arafah in order to avoid causing hardship to the Ummah. However, it is clear that wherever Muslims could figure out the actual Day of Wuquf, they had preferred to fast on that day and celebrated their Eid and sacrificed the animals on the following day. The reason is that the increased reward has more to do with the global gathering of Muslims and performance of Hajj rather than the day of Eid or Eid prayer itself.

It is pertinent to note here that there is no clear cut text which requires all Muslims of the world to celebrate Eid al-Adha after the day of Hajj. There are plenty of indirect references in the Qur'an and the Sunnah that connect this day of festivity with the acts of Hajj and Wuquf. Furthermore, there is no text whatsoever, in the Qur'an, Sunnah or in any authentic classical book of Fiqh, that either the Prophet (PBUH), his Companions or any other Muslim scholar has ever required to go, knowingly, against the known day of Wuquf of Arafah as announced by the Hajj authorities. Hajj is an expression of Muslim unity in addition to being a source of many spiritual reminders. It has political as well social dimensions. This aspect can be fulfilled only if the Muslim Ummah is united in observing it especially once it has become possible to know through rapid means of communication when the Hajj is going to be performed. In our present circumstance there is no justification, under any rules of fiqh, to go against the Day of Hajj. Currently, going with Hajj is more beneficial (Maslahah) than celebrating Eid al-Adha independent of Hajj.

The IAR has consistently followed these opinions for many years and intends on continuing this process. If you have any more questions about the process, please contact Sheikh Baianonie.