Ramadan End Date Remains Mystery to Many Muslims

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"We cannot simply go against the traditions set forth in the Koran and the teachings of the prophet," said Khalid Siddiq, director of Atlanta's largest mosque, the Al-Farooq Masjid.

The motions of the moon are deeply ingrained in the Islamic calendar. While the beginning of Ramadan also is based on the first visual sighting of a new moon, the dilemma is most acute during the Eid-al-Fitr and another moon-dependent holiday, Eid-al-Adha (Eed-ul-UD-ha).

Both are celebrated by joyous community prayer, acts of charity, visits to friends and family and in some places, the giving of gifts to children. Eid-al-Fitr is drawn from the Arabic words for words joy and charity.

Technology Instead of Tradition

While the meaning of the words remains consistent, many American Muslims are ready to use technology instead of tradition to end their month of daylight fasting.

"Why not just go that extra step?" said Khan. "The visual sighting of the moon was simply the most convenient method for the prophet's day and time. But we have to evolve with our time."

For now, North American Muslims divide into two groups over the moon-sighting issue. Some rely on visual sightings in the United States; others on a sighting in any Muslim country around the world. This has led to Muslim communities in Atlanta celebrating Eid on separate days on more than one occasion.

But the moon-sighting debate doesn't spoil the spiritual essence of the holiday.

"It's a matter of minor concern," said Riyadh Hassan, a businessman who lives in Atlanta. "If there's ever a time to set aside differences and celebrate our commonalities, it's this one day of the year. And we try not to ruin that."

Copyright 2001 Cox News Service

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