SHAFAQNA – As millions of Muslims worldwide prepare to celebrate `Eid Al-Adha, Indonesian Muslims remain stuck in the middle between the government and religious groups who are at loggerhead over the day to begin the major Islamic feast.
“We have decided that the month of Dzulhijjah begins on Sept. 14, therefore Idul Adha will take place on Sept. 23,” Ma’rifat Iman, executive member of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Islamic organization in the Asian Muslim country, told Jakarta Post on Tuesday, September 15.
Iman’s announcement came as the government in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, declared that the four-day `Eid would begin on Thursday, September 24.
The government decision was declared by the director-general of the Islamic Society of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, Muhammad Machasin.
In a statement via a live broadcast on local television stations, the authority set the date of 10th of Dhul Hijja 1436AH on September 24, based on the moon sighting.
“Hilal \[the crescent moon] has not been spotted yet above the horizon from Papua to Aceh, therefore we have decided that Dhul Hijjah will start on Sept. 15,” the ministry’s Islamic development director general Machasin said on Sunday.
The date was different from that set by Muhammadiyah a month ago which set September 23rd for the first day of `Eid.
The Muhammadiyah announcement was based on astronomical calculation, unlike the government’s moon sighting.
On the other hand, the Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization, followed the government’s moon sighting in determining the date of `Eid Al-Adha.
Machasin, however, said that the government gave Indonesian Muslims the freedom to choose the date to celebrate `Eid Al-Adha.
`Eid Al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice”, is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Fitr.
After special prayers to mark the day, Muslims offer unhiyah, a ritual that reminds of the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of God
Festivities and merriment then start with visits to the homes of friends and relatives.
Traditionally, everyone wears new clothes for `Eid, and the children look forward to gifts and the traditional `ediya (cash).
Moon sighting has always been a controversial issue among Muslim countries, and even scholars seem at odds over the issue.
While one group of scholars sees that Muslims in other regions and countries are to follow the same moon sighting as long as these countries share one part of the night, another states that Muslims everywhere should abide by the lunar calendar of Saudi Arabia.
A third, however, disputes both views, arguing that the authority in charge of ascertaining the sighting of the moon in a given country announces the sighting of the new moon, then Muslims in the country should all abide by this