Tuesday, September 30, 2008

moons(f)ighting and kayaking- linked?

Eid Mubarak!!

I know that some celebrated the end of Ramadan today and some intend on celebrating it tomorrow. For those who are confused as to why that may be- let's just say, it all boils down to the politics of moon sighting. Regardless, I hope everyone enjoys theirs and really tries to celebrate it. That can be difficult considering things like school and work go on, but whether you decide to take the day off to soak it up or even if you don't, try to at least spend a moment to reflect on your Ramadan and how it went- did you accomplish your goals?

I briefly spoke to a friend today; our discussion veered towards "moon fighting"- why some Muslims choose to follow the lead of others (Pakistan, Saudi, other Muslim countries) in determining Eid, some others choose to follow the calculation method, and still others wait for their community leaders to sight the moon themselves. But she brought up a great point for sighting the moon- it's one of the ways Muslims stay connected to nature. Traditionally, and before such things as globalization and lunar calculations became the norm, we had to rely on nature's signs in order to determine our schedules, our lives. And how as we let go of that tradition, perhaps we're also letting go of our connection to the natural world.

Me? Well, I agree and I disagree. Yes, it (calculations, in this case) *could* mean distancing ourselves from things more organic, but I don't think it has to be that way. I personally believe that human innovation is what makes us, well, human; there's no turning it off and there's no turning back. Adam and Eve chose to- well, they chose. And as you've probably read in countless books and watched in countless movies- we can choose to do good or we can choose to do evil. We also know most things aren't black and white- so let's just say that we can choose to do things that have mostly good in them, or we can choose to do things that have mostly evil in them. And for the record- I think that all the above outlined options for determining Eid can be argued to be valid. Ah, the beauty of Islamic law.

part two of the title- and no, i couldn't think of a clever way to link the two topics. tides, maybe? sure why not. dc green muslims are going kayaking this sunday! now i know many haven't been kayaking or don't have reason to believe it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if you want to rely on me as your sole source of opinion (though i don't recommend it and remove myself from all liability)- it is. kayaking is an activity native to the good old you 's' of eh, and most especially to the east coast. there are of course vast differences in the craft nowadays versus a few hundred years ago- kevlar, carbon fiberglass, personal flotation devices, all come to mind. (versus wood). but it's a great activity nonetheless, an even greater arm workout, and ya just can't get closer to the water without being in it, than from the seat of a kayak. i highly recommend you give it a try and let me know what you think. i recommend even more the thought of joining us this sunday in dc- feel free to e-mail me if you're interested.

-until next time :)


Heather said...

That's something I love about Islam, that our prayers are in tune with the movement of the sun throughout the day, and our calendar with the movement of the moon throughout the year. I see both sides to the moon discussion. I think most of us use calculations for our prayer times - is this distancing ourselves from nature, or is it in fact bringing us more exactly in rhythm with it? I think that if we want to go with sighting the moon, then it should be done in each of our countries, rather than hearing it was sighted on the other side of the world. I've heard many people say things like "I'm fasting with Turkey", or "I'm fasting with Saudi"...yet they're in America. It seems so out of balance with nature. Just my opinion, Alahu Alim. I know there are good Islamic arguments for both moon-sighting and calclations, but I don't know much about either. =)

Mohamad A. Chakaki said...

interesting point about the prayers and calculation. we do, indeed, take that for granted.

what would it be like if we, or someone close at hand, sighted the sun (or lack thereof) 5 times a day for salat?

honestly, i can't remember the last time i saw the sunrise or set. it's sad.

salaam :)

Mohamad A. Chakaki said...

p.s. i'm in damascus now, with minarets all around. i'm fascinated by these towers.

traditionally, this is where both moon and sun-sighting happened from, right?

the muezzin was the neighborhood or town's timekeeper.

i wonder what our modern-day minarets (literally, sources of light) are in that regard?

hijabihoodlum said...

i didn't know that about minarets- my understanding was that they were high up so that the muezzin's call could be heard for a distance. but that does make sense (using the height to also help tell time).

http://www.time.gov/ ?

Sanjana said...

using the minaret to also look for the crescent moon makes sense. at home, we would always try to look for the moon and i was really excited about doing it again this year. but i had forgotten about the many hills and trees in east TN that block your view -- unless you are really high up (like a minaret or mtn peak), there's no way you can see the horizon where the sun has just set (and where the moon is likely to be seen).

insha'Allah God accepts our intentions...i'm not giving up my TN hills for flatland ;)

Rusha Latif said...

I imagine daily sun sightings would cause some serious eye damage? :) I believe traditionally, time-keepers relied on sundials to determine prayer times, usually placed in courtyards or on minarets, perhaps depending on the type of sundial. Either that, or Muslims would determine dhuhr and asr prayer times based on the length of their shadows (which i find particulary cool!) For the other prayer times, fiqh texts elaborate on indicators. For maghrib, for example, most people tend to look to the west to see if the sun has set, but we’re actually told to look for a gray strip on the eastern horizon, the first sign that the sun has fully set and the evening has indeed come in. They were in sync with the heavens, those jurists! :)

Rusha Latif said...

About moon-sighting… Titus Burkhardt, discussing his experiences in Morocco in the 1930s in his book “Fes, City of Islam,” describes a moving scene: rooftops crowded with people watching the sky impatiently to see if the Ramadan crescent would appear and the cry of joy that broke out in the city as an increasing number spotted it. I remember reading this when I was 17 and wishing I lived in Morocco :) Turns out I didn’t have to go to Morocco to feel the hilal rush. Since then, I’ve experienced that same joy with family and friends (and even non-Muslim passers by) on west-coast hilltops where I’ve been blessed to see the Ramadan crescent many times. I find it sad that as a community, we’re trading in this experience for the convenience of calculated dates. I can’t imagine a more fitting way for us to celebrate the Ramadan promise of rebirth than by experiencing a celestial event that signifies that very promise.

I’d really like to see this tradition revived again in our families and communities… especially for the sake of our children, who need traditions that excite them about their holidays, ones they can have fond memories of when they are older. Any thoughts?

Heather said...

I agree Rusha! I also would prefer a moon-sighting method, rather than the use of calculations. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf wrote something that I'd like to read (but haven't yet) called "Caesarean Moon Births" - it's his research into the matter based on traditional sources. He is for sighting the moon, rather than calculations. I personally think there may be a higher wisdom behind why we can or cannot view the crescent, even if calculations tell us it is 'there'. Anyway, here are some selections from "Caesarean Moon Births"...

"Indeed, it could even be argued that connecting people with the natural phenomenon in our selves and on the horizon—which is where we must look every month for the new moon—is a central aim and purpose of the religion itself."

"The Abrahamic religions are rooted in the mystery of time; sacred timekeeping is central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The original Abrahamic way was entirely lunar. The Jewish ritual experience was centered around the lunar months. As time passed, the Jewish community moved from a lunar to a solar-lunar calendar. The Christians, who emerged out of Jewish tradition, abandoned the Jewish lunar calendar for a Roman solar one. Islam, uniquely, has maintained this ancient tie solely to the celestial phenomenon of the lunar month."

"The contemplation of the celestial orbs and their movements provided early man with the most direct connection to his Lord. In the Qur’anic story of Abraham, it is his observance of heavenly phenomena that leads him to his certainty of God’s unity and transcendence."

Shaikh Hamza also notes in a footnote the reason behind the title - it is very interesting, and also pertinent to our position as Muslims living under non-Muslim rule...

"The title “Caesarean Moon Births” was chosen for two reasons. Like a
caesarean birth, the early announcements of the lunar months that have historically accompanied a calculated new moon are primarily the result of conforming to the scheduling requirements of modern bureaucratic societies. Also, it was the edict of Caesar that was instrumental in forcing
the Jews to abandon their lunar calendar based on actual sighting and resorting to one based on calculations."