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.