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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

DRAMA ON THE EID FESTIVAL AND MOONSIGHT CONTROVERSY IN TANZANIA.

BY MOHAMED MATOPE

There was confusion on Saturday night over whether the new moon of Shawwal was sighted to mark the end of the Ramadan. This confusion will probably go down in Tanzania history as a tragedy of the Tanzania Muslim Council, (BAKWATA)’s, own making. 

Image result for Ramadan moon

The controversy first erupted on social media in response to Friday’s announcement by some BAKWATA’s officials declaring Eid al-Fitr to be observed on Monday. In short, the announcement was dumb and lacked logic because the holy month of Ramadan begins and ends by moon sighting.

The debate about Moon sightings has a long historical background in Tanzania. What was unique this year, however, was the inconsistency and lack of clarity on how to arrive at the decision of the Eid festival.

This whole drama started on Saturday evening at about 7pm, when the news of the sighting of the moon came from Saudi Arabia. BAKWATA argued that Saudi Arabia was too far for them to agree with its sighting of the moon. 

A Few hours later, Mufti of Uganda Sheikh Yahaya Kakungulu announced their sighting of the moon. The council stated that the moon has to be sighted in the coastal area if the sighting has to be appropriate and agreeable. Then news of the moon sighting came almost simultaneously from Mtwara and Mbeya. Even with these two announcements, the council still refused to announce the Eid festival.

There is no doubt that members of the council had good intentions. They all know that one-day they will be standing in front of Allah to answer questions about their decisions. They will be accountable for those decisions. All of them want to unite and not divide the Muslim community. But the division in opinion already exists, therefore, it is their responsibility to find an area of compromise.

Arguably, if you look at the Muslim community right now you will see two factions: One side believes in the local sighting, and the other follows the Saudi sighting. Nevertheless, they both agree it is a greater sin to fast on the Eid day than eating on the Ramadan day. 

If this were the case, then it would be wise to reach a consensus by determining a geographical area based on the radial distance of the country. This designated area will be used in sighting the moon and thus announcing when it is appropriate to celebrate the Eid for the entire country.

Of course, it is impossible for all Muslims all over the world to celebrate the Eid on the same day as some factions expect. Even Christmas, celebrated on December 25, does not fall on the same day everywhere. Tanzania for instance, celebrates Christmas exactly 12 hours ahead of Hawaii in United States.

However, when neighboring countries announce the sighting of the moon, we should acknowledge their contribution or possibly agree with them. Think about this dilemma, if you live in Kagera region which is about 300 km from Kampala, Uganda and over 1000 km to Dar-es- salaam, the BAKWATA head quarter which country should you observe the Eid with?

13 comments:

  1. Matope i was ready to whip you with kiboko with your point that it's greater sin to fast on Eid day than eat on holy month of ramadan and i just hang up a phone with my imam.He said you are right in the sense of there is only one Eid and 29 days of ramadan.Ramadhan can be made up ,Eid can't . I don't if you were following that line of thinking?

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  2. Great summary and sensible conclusions. Only issue is that for Bakwata it is an issue of control and being "holier than thou", and therefore reasonable solutions and explanations are not going to change their minds. The rest, I hope, benefit from this.

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  3. I believe the writer's points are very well spoken, yet, another issue should be added to this on going controversy is scientific methods of moon sighting: astronomical sighting are based upon proven facts, not fiction, about the moon's conceptions, not the mere possibilities of false/mistaking sightings. Therefor, Ramadan will never start and end at the same day and time everywhere. With the knowledge or science of astronomy, at least we can be certain of the new moon and its hilaal...!

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  4. The game was cooked on Friday when Eid was announced by BAKWATA, why didn't they wait for a moon to arrive? . Don't be fooled guys.The answer to you question if i were me living in Kagera i would go with Uganda's decision.

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  5. As a Muslim-American, I commend the author for this well-researched and balanced piece that perfectly showcases the diversity of opinion in the local Muslim community as well as comfortably navigates issues of religion and science. Well done.

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  6. We do not face any problem during other months of the year except for Ramazan and Shawwal. The reason is participation of people who are not experts but enthusiasts. Difference of a day or two should not cause any trouble.

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  7. This method of determining moon is fool proof. If Muslims can ever agree, we can say let us all follow Makkah. If moon is sighted there, then the Muslims in the rest of the world should follow that. That will the basis of unity as well.

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  8. Good article - thanks for helping us understand the issue. I hope people in charge implement your suggestions. I was just wondering: In most of the world, from Japan in the East to the US in the West, Sunday was Eid but in TZ it was a day later. So my question was there 2 Eid this years or is one group of people mistaken? Which group is mistaken?

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  9. The way this drama was going ,if the moon was sighted in Mbagala Bakwata would probably decline call it since it was not sighted in Kinondoni where its headquarter located.

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  10. Why do we make a fuss out of BAKWATA decision when we also know what Hadiths say? Now if Bakwata makes a wrong decision or right, let them suffer the consequence on qi Yama day. Why do we as a muslim doubt on their decisions.. We as citizens will not be punished for that.

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  11. If I live in Bukoba I will definitely follow suit with Uganda since they have better and reasonable policy in announcing moon sight even though is a land locked country. When God created the world, he did it without marking the countries boarders. Boarders were created by Mzungu in 19 centuries, so they should not be a determinant factor in choosing sides Eid day.

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  12. I agree it should be wise to follow the radial distance so that we don’t leave Muslim living in the border areas like Kagera in dilemma. We should also add astronomical calculation method to verify the sighting.

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  13. Here in Australia we have the additional absurdities of people staying up till 3am waiting to see what Saudi is doing so they know if its Ramadan in the following 2 hours or not. Confused new Muslims calling wondering what to do. Those calling at midnight to ask about the reported sighting in such and such a country. All this is despite the fact we have an organised, educated moonsighting body.

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