Unity. We all need it. We all desire it. Without it, we have division, and in many cases, anger and conflict.

We pray in the same direction. We keep the same five obligatory prayers. We fast the same month. We all perform the same hajj. And the more we learn, the more we realise that in each of those matters we perform as a united body, there are clear variations.

There are valid scholarly differences of opinion on when the time for Asr prayer starts. There are differences of opinion of when the time for the throwing of stones at the jamarat starts each day during the days of tashreeq in Hajj. There are differences of opinion of when a person’s wudu would be invalidated during tawaf. There are even established differences of opinion on the start and end of the hijri months.

If you open up any book of comparative fiqh, either within the one school of jurisprudence, or several, the above will be evident. My purpose here is not to explain the different opinions nor to prefer one opinion over the other.

Rather, I seek to find a middle ground. An open plain where we as a community can come together with our differences (and many more factors in common) to acknowledge the opinion that seems contradictory. To accept the person who follows a scholarly position other than the one I choose. To recognise that as you have your scholarly authorities, others have theirs. To realise that as you feel comfortable in practising your faith according to knowledge that you have arrived at, others find comfort in practising their faith according to knowledge they themselves have arrived at.

We live in an age that is fast paced. Quick to react. Immediate to judge. We talk much. But we need to listen to one another more. It’s easy to claim that those who follow the ‘other’ opinion, whatever form that may take, are causing disruption and disunity. For some of us, it’s not intuitive that pointing the finger at a fellow Muslim and prejudging their opinion, is itself a cause of disruption and disunity.

In relation to the celebration of Eid ul-Adha, some of us may hold the opinion that since it falls after the Day of Arafat, the entire Muslim world must celebrate Eid ul-Adha on the same day as they do in Saudi Arabia. In fact, that’s an opinion that relies on an established position of global moonsighting. However, in another scholarly opinion, as equally valid, we are told that every region or land should resort to its own local moonsighting. My intention here is not to argue in favour of one opinion over the other. Rather, to explain that these are two accepted positions within our Islamic legal tradition.

When a fellow Muslim believes that the time for Asr begins when the length of the shadow of an object is twice its length, I wouldn’t see it fit to try convince them that they should follow the position within the Shafi’i school that Asr begins when the length of the shadow of an object reaches the length of the object itself. These are two opinions. One firmly grounded in the Hanafi school, and the other in the Shafi’i school. Whichever position a person chooses to follow, they are free to do so, and it should never be seen as a cause of disunity. Although it may be concerning if every day, the same person switches their opinion.

The official announcement of ANIC for the date of Eid ul-Adha falling on Friday 1 September 2017 is one that I have no hesitation in supporting. It is based on the well established position of global moonsighting. In fact, I have been invited by a local Sydney masjid to deliver a Eid Khutba this Friday at 8:30am. I acknowledge that for many Muslims following this announcement, it will be a day of Eid celebration. And I will share that celebration with them.

However, I have also collaborated with Daar Ibn Abbas to facilitate the confirmation of a venue to pray Eid prayers on Saturday 2 September 2017. Given there is a significant part of the Sydney (and Australian) community who are inclined towards local moonsighting, for a number of reasons, one of them being, that there is a practical difficulty in consistently following global moonsighting due to the geographical location of Australia in relation to the rest of the world.

This would manifest moreso in relation to Ramadan due to the sometimes 10 hours lag time in the moon setting in others parts of the western world. It doesn’t seem to pose much of an issue during Eid al-Adha, as the there are 9 days from the time the moon may be sighted worldwide, to the day on which Eid is going to fall. But for Ramadan, this issue of delay would be critical.

The Eid prayer event on Saturday of which I am helping to facilitate is part of my obligation to another significant part of the Muslim community, who prefer not to follow global moonsighting (or astronomical calculations). They are consistent in their approach, month in, month out, every single year. It follows the well established scholarly opinion of local moonsighting, and is rejected by no scholar at all.

If I can make anything clear, it is this: I recognise and acknowledge the validity of Eid ul-Adha on both Friday and Saturday in Australia.

That might sound strange and confusing to some, but I cannot deny the positions of both scholarly opinions. To celebrate on the same day would be nice and neat. I pray that day will come in our lands, sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, I have been taught by my teachers to always hold a good opinion of my fellow Muslims. Never to make assumptions regarding their actions and scholarly opinions.

So my final advice is this: if your family is celebrating this Eid on Friday, go ahead and do so. Don’t make a scene, don’t argue, and immerse yourself in the blessings of the day. Go ahead with the announcement of ANIC and don’t waver. Your recommended day of fasting would be Thursday, coinciding with your 9th day of Dhul Hijjah.

And if your family is celebrating this Eid on Saturday, then go ahead and do so. Don’t make a scene, don’t argue, and immerse yourself in the blessings of the day. Your recommended day of fasting would be Friday, coinciding with your 9th day of Dhul Hijjah.

This issue has been around for centuries, and it could be around for some time to come. Our obligation is to love and acknowledge everyone, no matter what opinion they follow, as long as it is within the rich scholarly tradition of our Islamic jurisprudence.

I love the Muslim community which I am greatly honoured to be only a small part of. And I know people, in great numbers, who will be celebrating Eid on different days.

The reason I have written this article is in response to my dear and beloved uncle, as well as my father, who have both taken the liberty to discuss with me at length the confusion some people had when they saw a flyer stating I was involved in Eid activities on Saturday rather than Friday. Confusion was never my intention. Nor was disunity.

I hope these words have served to clarify some of that confusion, and I ask Allah to grant us all the wisdom in dealing with differences of opinion and to grant us the strength to unite. The first step to unity is holding respect and showing honour to those who differ with our positions. If we can do that properly, then perhaps Allah will cast in our hearts the capacity to arrive at a position which not only unifies the inward hearts of our community, but also the outward practises of faith.

Wishing you a blessed day of fasting on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, and a joyous Eid al-Adha. This year, and for many years to come.

With peace and much dua.

Ahmed Abdo
30 August 2017