Why is Eid being celebrated on different days in Scotland?

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Glasgow Central MosqueImage source, Getty
Image caption,
Glasgow Central Mosque announced that Eid would be celebrated on Wednesday

Scottish Muslims are celebrating Eid, but while many celebrated on Tuesday, those at Scotland's biggest mosque marked the day on Wednesday.

The "festival of the breaking of the fast" marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and begins when the Moon rises on the month's final day.

UK Muslims wait for their mosque to confirm that the Moon has been seen.

While many announced Eid for Tuesday, Glasgow Central Mosque said it would celebrate on Wednesday.

The decision to mark Eid a day later was not without its critics, with some worshippers at Glasgow Central Mosque (GCM) taking to social media to say the festival should have been marked on Tuesday.

How is the start of Eid determined?

Image source, Getty Images

Islam follows the lunar calendar, based on phases of the Moon. Ramadan - during which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset - starts in its ninth month.

The end of Ramadan is marked by the key religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which falls on the first day of the 10th month of Shawwal.

There is debate within Islam over when this begins. Muslims in many countries rely on news of an official sighting of the new Moon.

Some follow a set lunar calendar, while others use astronomical observations to announce the arrival of the new Moon. There are also those who mark the new month only after personally seeing a crescent moon in the sky.

In the UK, most Muslims wait for announcements on when Eid will begin from community leaders.

But it is often not easy to see the Moon from the UK. In these circumstances, individual mosques decide when the festival of Eid will be observed.

A 'scholarly difference of opinion'

Omar Afzal, from the Muslim Council of Scotland, said the discrepancy around when Eid was celebrated in Scotland was down to a "scholarly difference of opinion".

It centres around whether the Moon is sighted locally - which he explained in the UK would mean referring to Morocco as the nearest Muslim country - or whether sightings from elsewhere in the world are taken into account.

Mr Afzal explained that the mosques who follow the latter "tend to simply announce their festivals and months along with Mecca".

He added: "This can occasionally mean that Eid in Scotland is celebrated over two days instead of everyone celebrating on the one day.

"In Glasgow over the last 15 years there's been a real effort to try and come to a consensus between two positions for a unified Eid.

"This year, however, despite the imams' best efforts, a unified position didn't transpire and the community has been celebrating over the two days."

He added that the "vast majority" of Muslims on the east coast celebrated on Tuesday, with most in west central Scotland celebrating on Wednesday.

'Clouds in Glasgow'

The announcement on Glasgow Central Mosque Facebook page attracted criticism from some worshippers who wanted to celebrate Eid on Tuesday when the majority of Muslims across the UK marked the festival.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The festival of Eid begins when the Moon rises on the month's final day

On Facebook, Chancelier Med said he appreciated that the clouds in Glasgow could make it difficult to see the Moon, but that he wanted to celebrate Eid on Tuesday since the moon had already been seen in so many places.

He wrote: "If the moon [has] been seen in so many places, why couldn't we celebrate Eid today because that's the same moon we all are following.

"It's not nice to celebrate Eid on two different days", he added.

Shan Haq called the decision "confusing". He acknowledged that the mosque "probably [had] good reasons" for their decision, but added: "It doesn't do any favours for the general public, particularly in cases where some family members celebrate it one day while others celebrate it the next day."

However, some were happy with the day chosen - Asam Ghaffar said it was the "correct decision".

***Eid Al-Fitr 2019 – 1440 AH Announcement*** Following the Imam's meeting tonight, GCM are pleased to confirm that Eid...

Posted by Glasgow Central Mosque on Tuesday, June 4, 2019
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On Twitter, Amna Saleem wrote: "Called home to wish my family Eid Mubarak only to be told that the Central Mosque won't confirm it, so it's Eid basically everywhere except Glasgow.

"Like, it's Eid in Edinburgh right now but not Glasgow. My maw is pure ragin."

Room for different opinions

Irfan Razzaq, general secretary of Glasgow Central Mosque, said that it was up to individual mosques how to verify Moon sightings.

He explained that it was not usually possible to see the Moon from the UK and that many mosques would follow the lead of other Islamic countries who had verified a sighting.

Glasgow Central Mosque does not follow a particular country, but met with other mosques across the west of Scotland on the 29th night of Ramadan to consider when to celebrate Eid.

The decision taken by Glasgow Central Mosque and many of the others in the area was to celebrate on Wednesday, Mr Razzaq explained.

He acknowledged that some people would prefer Eid was the same day across the country - and while he said that is always the intention - there was no right or wrong answer.

"Within the religion there's room for different opinions", he added.