Columbia mosque sticks to traditional method to determine Ramadan's end

Thursday, August 8, 2013 | 5:35 p.m. CDT; updated 7:52 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 9, 2013

COLUMBIA — When Muslims reach the end of Ramadan, they look in the sky for the crescent moon, which signals the end of their fast.

There are two ways to determine the end of the fast. Some Muslims wait for the crescent moon to be observed locally. Others use a more scientific approach and mathematically calculate when the crescent moon appears. 

Here in Columbia, Muslims still rely on local leaders to observe the moon for the official date of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday recognizing the end of the Ramadan fast, said Adam Zino, outreach officer at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri.

But for some Muslims, the potential different times for Eid al-Fitr around the world can be confusing. Mohamed Gumati, owner of the International Cafe, said it can be confusing planning what day to close his restaurant for the holiday.

"I wish I would know ahead of time," he said. "If you want to make plans, and you don't know exactly when it is, it can be confusing."

On days when the sky is very cloudy, it can make it even harder to determine the moon's phase, Gumati said. 

Zino said the Islamic Society of North America is one group that determines the crescent moon from astronomical calculations, rather than visually. But in Columbia, a council of leaders at the mosque determines the start and end of Ramadan completely from their own observations of the moon.

The moon was spotted Wednesday, so the council decided Eid al-Fitr would be Thursday, Zino said.

"Basing it off visual sighting of the moon was a practice that was practiced by our prophet, Muhammad, so that's the method that we follow," he said.

But Zino said both methods are valid because they are both ways that can determine the start of the new month based on the lunar calendar.

"My feeling is that we should just follow Mecca (in Saudi Arabia)," Gumati said. "Because that's where we pray."

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