‘Breakaway’ Blackburn imams launch campaign for ‘one Eid day’

Shared by: abu mohammed
20th June, 2023 | www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk
‘Breakaway’ Blackburn imams launch campaign for ‘one Eid day’

In an unprecedented move, leading imams and scholars from Blackburn have launched a campaign urging people to follow local moonsighting criteria when deciding when to celebrate Eid.

It comes after growing concerns by some scholars that Muslims in Britain were ‘blindly following’ the announcements made by Saudi Arabia.

In recent decades, Muslims across the UK have commenced the holy month of Ramadan and hosted Eid celebrations on different days.

These differences are dependant on the sighting of the new moon as per the Islamic lunar calendar.

The almost yearly disagreements and controversies have led to neighbours and families celebrating Eid and beginning Ramadan on different days.

Much of this has been due to differences of opinions amongst imams and scholars and therefore the mosques.

In 2022 about 150 people in Blackburn with Darwen held Eid prayers, according to a local moonsighting criteria.

At the most recent Eid ul Fitr in April, this number increased to around 350.

Ahead of Eid ul Adha, it is expected this number will increase again.

The Blackburn Moonsighting Working Group (BMWG) which comprises of eight scholars from Blackburn said this was not a ‘numbers game’ but a campaign to educate the wider Muslim community on why local moonsighting matters.

The group said they had the full support from prominent Muftis and scholars and a further 32 scholars have supported the cause from within Blackburn.

They said the ‘lowest common denominator was to follow local UK only or Morocco moonsighting’.

A statement read: “All the scholars unanimously agree that there is nothing at all wrong with that.

"Saudi Arabia was only used for convenience purposes. That reason does not exist anymore.

“First and foremost, every effort must be made in the UK on the 29th of every Islamic month to try and sight the moon with the naked eye.

"Once all efforts are exhausted, then we will take the moonsighting reports from the nearest Muslim countries like Morocco that are in the same or similar time zone and have a very rigorous moonsighting system in place.

“Saudi Arabia is very blessed, as it houses the holy cities of Makkah Mukarramah and Madinah Munawwarah. There is no denying that fact.

“However, when it comes to the issue of moonsighting, our Shariah advises us to look for the moon locally and if not sighted, then to follow the nearest Islamic country, which has a robust reliable system as regards moonsighting.”

The BMWG is made up of Moulana Hashim Limbada, Moulana Sulaiman Palanpuri, Moulana Shabbir Limbada, Moulana Yusufali Makda, Moulana Hanif Dudhwala, Moulana Rafiq Sufi, Moulana Saeed Nagori, and Moulana Master Shakil Patel.

Since the arrival of the Muslims into the UK from the early 1950’s through to 1984, the majority, if not the whole of the UK Muslims, were following sighting from Morocco.

The statement adds: “That was the ruling issued by the scholars of the sub-continent at that time and that is the criteria that we are adopting today.

“South Africa also has a very robust moonsighting system in place and scholars have allowed the UK Muslims to take the news from South Africa as well. However, that is very rare.

"Predominantly, the moonsighting reports are either from the UK or Morocco.”

Over the years, there have been concerns that the news received from Saudi Arabia would at times ‘contradict astronomical calculations and observation charts’.

The group said: “Our Shariah does not allow us to base our Islamic months on astronomical calculations or observation charts. The teachings are very clear. The moon must be sighted every month with the naked eye.

“Having said that, there is no harm at all in taking assistance from the astronomical predictions when ascertaining if a sighting claim is credible.

“Saudi Arabia’s sighting reports do not take this point into consideration and accept the testimony from a handful of individuals even when it is contradictory to astronomical calculations that state it is impossible for the moon to be visible to the naked eye for that certain day.

"Because of this stance, Saudi Arabia’s moonsighting becomes doubtful.

“In matters of doubt, our Shariah advises us to leave the doubtful in favour of the undoubtful. Hence, we err on the side of caution and do not follow the sighting news from Saudi Arabia.”

The BMWG said ‘over the last 35 years, the news from Saudi Arabia has become more and more doubtful’.

The group added: “One of the most important points to note is that the move in 1984 from Morocco to Saudi Arabia was only because of the inconvenience caused by the late arrival of news from Morocco.

“We had the push-button telephones and fax machines. Alas, we have moved leaps and bounds in terms of technology and communications.

“Hence, information from Morocco is received within an hour of sunset at the latest. There is no more inconvenience left.”

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