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Muslims Come Together on Eid

3 October 2008 No Comment
By Mateen Kaul
On the roof of the blue-domed mosque at the Islamic Society of the East Bay, a group of men peered toward the horizon out west, searching for a glimmer of the new moon in the fading daylight of Tuesday, September 30.
A man sits atop the Islamic Society of East Bay on Tuesday, Sept. 30 in Fremont. Photo by Tyler Sipe

A man sits atop the Islamic Society of East Bay on Tuesday, Sept. 30 in Fremont. Photo by Tyler Sipe

“Look there!” one man said, pointing to a silver object in the distance. It turns out to be a jet plane, and that is the closest they got to a moon sighting.
“Does this mean we have to fast again tomorrow?” a child asked his father, sounding downbeat.
The new moon marks the end of Ramadan, the holy Islamic month when Muslims go without food and water from dawn to dusk. It also marks the start of Eid-ul-Fitr, literally translated as ‘the feast of the breaking of the fast,’ the biggest Muslim holiday of the year.
However, depending on where they are from, Muslims don’t always agree about when the new moon arises. Though the crescent was not spotted in Fremont on the night Ramadan ended, there were numerous sightings elsewhere in the country. So Eid was be celebrated the next day.
However, Fremont’s large Afghan community was already celebrating Eid on Tuesday.
“Our Afghan brothers won’t be coming as they are celebrating Eid today,” one elderly man said to another as they prepared for prayers at the ISEB mosque. They both speak the native tongue, Urdu, and wear the native dress, baggy trousers and long shirt, of Pakistan.
Most of the non-Afghan Muslim population in Fremont is of Indian or Pakistani origin. In those countries, it is traditional to celebrate Eid depending on the physical sighting of the moon. This is the criterion at the ISEB, which is the largest mosque in the East Bay. Though there was no sighting from the mosque roof, witness accounts from mosques in Chicago and Florida are proof enough, says Ahmed.
Despite the differences though, the Muslim community here is largely harmonious, said Ahsan Baig, chairman of the mosque’s outreach committee.
“There are always differences, but there is no conflict,” he said. There are differences in some of the religious methodologies that the two dozen nationalities the mosque serves, he said, “but the core remains the same.”
“Islam is a very natural religion,” Baig said. Looking at the moon requires no technology or education and is a simple way to tell when Ramadhan ends, he said.
“And if you don’t see the moon you can wait for sightings from other people, as we did here,” Baig said. Calculation of the moon’s phases using modern mathematical and technological methods is fine too, he added. “All these methods are permissible, whether you go by calculation, by moon-sighting, or follow Saudi Arabia.”
The harmony was evident the next day as Muslims wearing various kinds of traditional dress gathered for Eid prayers at the ISEB mosque, located on Lowry Road just off Alvarado Boulevard. After lining up in rows to pray, in separate areas for men and women, they hugged and kissed each other and wished each other “Eid Mubarik.”
One of the worshippers was Iqbal Saran, who came to the Bay Area from Bombay, India, 39 years ago. He said there are differences in the way Muslims from different countries celebrate the occasion, but their common faith brings them together.
“There are Indian Muslims, Pakistani Muslims, Arab Muslims, even Bosnian and other European Muslims … each celebrates Eid culturally differently, other than the prayers being exactly the same,” said Saran.
Some of the common ways Muslims mark the day is to donate to charity, get together with their extended families to break bread, and give children presents, often in the form of cash.
Amir Javeed, a student who recently arrived in the United States from from Hyderabad, India, was heartened to see other foreigners at the mosque.
“You see a lot of people here from all over the world, like me, and it’s good to see them all together,” he said.
Naweed Gardezi, a Fremont resident whose parents immigrated from Afghanistan some 25 years ago, is proud of the diversity in the the congregation. An aspiring hip-hop singer who writes lyrics about “Muslims and how they’re struggling to unite,” he said: “Islam is open to everyone. It doesn’t matter what culture or race you are.”

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