Information Overload on Eid

Well, ISNA’s saying it’s Sunday, but my local mosque in Athens and the biggest one in Atlanta (Masjid al-Farooq) have declared Saturday Eid al-Adha, so Eid mubarak, folks.   

For those of my dear infidel friends who are not in the know, Eid al-Adha is greatest of the Islamic holidays.  It commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s (AS) willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command.  A familiar story to Christians and Jews (who refer to it as the Akedah or "binding"), but with the twist that Muslims believe it was the Patriarch’s firstborn Ishmael rather than Isaac who lay on the altar when the angel stayed Abraham’s knife at the last minute.  This holiday concludes the Hajj ritual each year for the pilgrims who’ve gone to Mecca.

We tend to think of the intellectual consequences of Globalization as exclusively positive, but here’s one that’s negative and disruptive.  The wonders of the mass media  complicate immensely what should be a very simple thing.  As I understand it, in the old days the moon was sighted in your area, confirmed by the appropriate authorities, an announcement was made, and that was it.  There was no second-guessing (however well intentioned) based on charts, or what people in other regions (much less countries or continents) were doing.  And there was no guilt or anguish over whether one was celebrating in perfect unison with the Ummah because you probably had no way to know what people in the next town much less the world were up to until after the fact, anyway.  Nor did you–unless you were an astronomer–probably find yourself feeling the need to take stand against a debatable decision by some body and go it alone.  Unity came naturally.

Like many in the Muslim diaspora  I lament ever year how
complicated this has become, but I don’t buy the line that this is simply because we "lack unity" or "lack knowledge" (though many of us, myself foremost of all, certainly do).  Those are real problems, but this perrenial confusion does not spring from them in my view.  It’s an inevitable consequence of the way the modern world works, which means it’s doubtful that a solution is
possible, much less imminent. 

In the modern world  people are too independent, up to the minute astronomical data is too accessible, and our worldview is too macro-oriented
for the masses to fully accept a traditional, localized system of moon sightings.   Unlike our forebears, we see the
world through the lens of nation states and other overarching geographical concepts like regions, which
necessitates centralized decision-making that override or at least
implicitly call into question the authencity of local determinations.

And even when people do in principle accept the traditional system,
the modern (and in this case quite disruptive) phenomenon of instant
global communication sows dissent and doubt, no matter what our intentions are.

Sometimes, less knowledge is better.  A new dimension to the iconic intellectual scourge of our time, "Information Overload".  All I need to know is what my local mosque is doing.

In other news,  my local mosque not only does not have Eid prayers info posted on its website.  (Remember my complaint a few months ago for Eid al-Fitr prayers?)  But luckily they have links to random articles on Islam on the web.  I guess people can read them while they should be praying and greeting people in the community.  Sigh…

I heard through word of mouth that we’re having it at the mosque, which bodes ill given how small it is, even with the modest recent addition. 

A hearty Eid mubarak (including a disembodied but warm hug if you are the proud owner of a Y chromosome), though.  Whether you celebrate it tomorrow or Sunday, enjoy it and spend it with friends and family.

Which is easier said than done in Western countries, but that’s a topic for another time.  Need to hit the hay to catch my one local Eid prayer.  Sleeping in on Eid is a luxury of spoiled big city folk.  We small town Muslims got one chance and one only.  (Could be worse, I suppose.  At least I don’t have to drive a long distance.  I wonder how many people in rural America have to get up hours in advance in order to make their local service.)

All I know is that I need to score me some sevian.  Need to worm our way into an afterparty with the local aunties.

Update (31 December 2006):  A few stylistic tweaks.

  • Rachel

    Eid Mubarak to you and Shabana and Raihana!
    And while I’m at it, I wish y’all a happy and healthy new year on the secular calendar, too. :-)

  • Abu Sinan

    Sometimes you get too wrapped up in the “Wahabi” label issue.
    I am not Wahabi, nor is my wife or any of our family, yet the only two days we celebrate are the two Eids, Fitr and Adha.
    As a matter of fact, none of our friends are Wahabi, and they dont celebrate any other holidays. Come to think of it, I dont know anyone who celebrates any other holiday and none of them are “Wahabis”.
    Time to slow down on the labeling and the generalisations. When you generalise you are ALWAYS bound to get it wrong.
    Interesting that we, as Muslims, hate it when people label and stereotype us, yet we can be so willing to do it to ourselves!
    Eid Mubarak to you and the family.

  • Svend

    Salaams, AS, and Eid mubarak to you and yours, as well.
    As usual, I mean no offense by use of the label. I am merely trying to accurately convey a certain reality within the community.
    The real problem here, as I see it, is that the term itself has become pejorative in popular usage, so any mention of Wahhabism tends to be perceived as a slam. That’s complicated matter that you and I have jousted a bit on in the past. You argue for transcending labels–I think to do so is counterproductive and misleading.
    As far as I can tell, modern opposition on theological grounds to celebrating the Mawlid (i.e., the birthday of the Blessed Prophet) is tightly linked to Wahhabism and Wahhabi-influenced modern Islamic discourses, so I don’t think I’m being misleading by putting it that way.
    I don’t mean this as an insult, but one of the consequences of the mass media in modern Islamic culture is how surprisingly few of those the many who are methodologically Wahhabi in some meaningful sense (at least compared to what I consider to be the historical norm within Sunni Islam) actually self-identify as Wahhabi. It’s a bit like how relatively few Americans consciously view themselves as libertarian, even many have somehow imbibed a libertarian worldview and ethos.
    The phenomenon of Pakistanis obsessing about shoulder-to-shoulder/foot-to-foot during prayers is a good example. In Hanafi fiqh it is not only unnecessary to physicaly touch your neighbor’s foot–it’s BAD ADAB. It’s not the norm in Pakistani culture, either.
    Yet somehow we have millions of non-Wahhabi people who probably consider themselves Hanafi around the world constantly straining and stretching to meld their feet with the next person. In my book, they are indeed “Wahhabi” on that particular issue and I think it’s safe to assume they got that persepctive from Wahhabi scholars, directly or indirectly.
    I would make a similar argument about anti-Mawlid sentiment. Ergo, I identify it as a Wahhabi stand.

  • Svend

    On further thought, I’ve decided that the point about Wahhabis/mainstream differences on the holidays is a distraction from the main point, so I’ve removed it.

  • Leila

    Eid Mubarak, Svend!!!

  • Abu Sinan

    Thanks for the comments Svend. You know, I guess it all depends on what types of people you hang out with.
    I wouldnt described myself as “Wahabi”, far from it, but I have known of those that do. More likely some would describe themselves as “Salafi” although even as Tariq Ramadan has pointed out, there are many different types of Salafi.
    The Muslims we have as friends and associates mostly come from the Middle East. Celebrating the Prophets birthday is not really a widespread practice in the Middle East, although I think it is on the “official calender” in many countries.
    I dont think this, in itself, would be enough to brand most of the Middle East as Wahabi or hardcore Salafi territory.
    Like I said, I dont know anyone who actively celebrates the Prophets birthday, and this includes long held friends that range in places from Lahore Pakistani, to Zaidi Shi’a from Yemen, to good ole Sunnis from the Maghreb.
    I think too many people place far too much emphasis on whaht this or that scholar says. One of the things that drew me to Islam is the fact that I have he right, and the duty I think, so practice Islam as I see fit.
    I dont trace non observance of the Prophets holiday to ANYTHING, but the fact that it is not mentioned in The Qur’an and I could not find any Hadith where the Prophet himself suggest or commanded us to do so. I have not found any indication that the holiday was celebrated during the time of the Prophet by those around him, nor by himself.
    If it is not mentioned in The Qur’an, and there is no Hadith to back it up, it is an innovation, hence no need to practice it.
    I think one of the MAJOR problems with Islam today is that far too many people are more than willing to listen to this scholar or that rather than use their own common sense.
    For me, Islam is about logic. If it is not logical, why do it? Celebration of the Prophets birthday has no logic in it, it has little or no religious value and seems to me to be a weak attempt at matching X-Mas and celebrating the founder of a religion.
    In Christianity’s case the belief is in the “birthday” of their God and exclusively owes its roots to a pagan past. Celebrating the “birthdays” of religious figures owes its roots to pagan roots as well.
    Is there a practice of such things in Judaism? Do they celebrate the birthday of Moses, Ibrahim, or David? If not, why not?
    This doesnt come from any “Wahabi” scholarship, rather common sense. Time to drop the all-enveloping worshop of scholars and time to adopt common sense.
    In this manner I think the Jews, and even Jesus had it right when both, at certain times, rebelled against over active legalism that strangled the religion. When are in desperate need of a similar strain of thought.
    Yet, to this day, we seem to be shackled to the chains of all consuming legalism and we are lost in the minutia.

  • OmarG

    Eid Mubarak Svend,
    >>In Hanafi fiqh it is not only unnecessary to physicaly touch your neighbor’s foot–it’s BAD ADAB.
    *Especially* when they have not clipped thier toenails!! Its like I got a guided missle-knife aiming for my poor pinky toe…

  • Irving

    Eid Mubarak and Happy New Year to you and your lovely wife and child :) May Allah give you all that you need.
    Ya Haqq!

  • Alex Lahoz

    Salaam ‘alaikum,
    Eid Mubarak to you and your family Sayyidi (and also to all your visitors).
    Ya Rasulallah!

  • Svend

    Thank you, Irving, Rachel, Abu Sinan, Omar, and Alex, for remembering us in your prayers. I hope you and yours also were blessed with a blessed holiday.

  • Yursil Kidwai

    as-salamu’alaikum ya Svend,
    Eid Mubarak from our family to yours ;)