There’s confusion this year about Eid-ul-Fitr, the day Muslims break their month-long Ramadan fast.
“Some Muslims in North America, Europe and the Middle East say the holy day falls Tuesday,” reports Tom Wright for the Wall Street Journal. “Others, including those in India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia, are likely to hold out until Wednesday.
The reason, explains Wright, “is an argument over how to determine the arrival of a new moon cycle which marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan and the arrival of the following month of Shawwal. Islamic tradition states that a new lunar month begins with the physical sighting of a sliver of the new moon at sunset. Islamic months begin at sundown.”
In the past, Muslims in different parts of the world would have seen this waxing crescent moon on different days due to geographical position, cloud cover and other meteorological factors. Without global connectivity, this hardly would have mattered, noted Wright:
But today, different Islamic authorities are keen that their interpretation of when Eid-ul-Fitr falls is taken up across the world so the faith’s 1.2 billion people can celebrate together.
Many countries take the lead from Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam’s holiest mosque and the closest equivalent the Muslim world has to the Vatican. The Saudi Supreme Court, which typically makes a call on this based on the sightings of official astronomical committees, has not yet come down for Tuesday or Wednesday.