My position on moonsighting vs calculation has always been simple: to you be your way, to me mine. Muslims should not squabble over the differences that arise every year about the start of Ramadan and the date of Eid, but rather should accept that there are differences in fiqh and entrust that the individual Muslim will make an informed decision as to how to observe these dates.
But I am compelled to point out that the unusual situation this year in Mumbai is unique to moonsighting. Put simply, Mumbai muslims are being asked to fast for one day after Eid:
Eid is meant to mark the end of the month-long fast of Ramzan, but if the Ruyat-e-Hilal Committee (Chand Committee) has its way, several Muslims will have to observe a day of fasting after celebrating Eid.
The cause of this confusion is the fact that the moon was sighted in Mumbai only July 21, because of which the Ramzan fast started on July 22 for many city Muslims. In other parts of the country, it started a day earlier.
Mufti Mehmood Akhtar, a member of the Chand Committee, said, “The moon is expected to be spotted this Sunday, so Eid will be celebrated on Monday. While in other parts of the country people will have completed 30 days of fasting by Sunday, many Muslims in Mumbai we will have fasted for just 29 days. Therefore, we have decided that after Eid, we will observe a day of fast.”
This is extremely unusual, to say the least. The crux of the problem is that the moon sighting on July 21st in Mumbai was probably a mistake; given that elsewhere in India, the moon had been sighted the day before, and this information was surely known to the Chand Committee, it seems that they deliberately ignored that information when making their ruling.
The decision to require a day of fasting after Eid is extremely unusual, if not outright bizarre. What is the logic? If the intent is to ensure 30 days of fasting, then there are already existing rules for making up a missed fast.
My community, the Dawoodi Bohras, began our Ramadan on July 19th and completed exactly 30 days of fasting to observe Eid on August 18th, so this does not pertain to our community. The Chand Committee’s decision is only authoritative for muslims who abide by moonsighting. I suspect however that there may be some reassessment of their authority for next year. Not everyone plans to follow their lead:
Mehboob Khan, a resident of Mohammed Ali Road, was equally vocal about his opposition. “While we are supposed to obey whatever our religious leaders tell us, it is really sad to see such confusion over fasting. It must end. Ramzan is a very spiritual time and I don’t think I will fast after Eid, even if my leaders ask me to,” he said.
Still, Mumbai muslims could have it much worse. At least they aren’t living in Finland!
Related: motalib, who is harshly critical of the decision. And here is Moonsighting.com’s compilation of reports worldwide for Ramadan 1433; the testimony from the various Indian observers is quite revealing (scroll down).