Islamic Society of North America declares end of Ramadan

Sunday, December 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (AP) _ North American Muslim authorities declared Saturday to be the final day of the holy month of Ramadan, meaning the feast marking its end will be held Sunday.

Fixing a date for the end of Ramadan is typically a last-minute affair that hinges on a visual sighting of a slender crescent moon after nearly a month of fasting.

But this year the Web site for the Islamic Society of North America, based in Plainfield, declared that Saturday is the 30th day of Ramadan and the feast, Eid al-Fitr, will be on Sunday.

``It will be 30 days, there's no need of a sighting,'' Sayyid Syeed, the society's secretary general, said Friday.

The Eid al-Fitr, or Feast of Fast Breaking, is a community gathering that combines prayer with the banqueting elements of Thanksgiving and the gift-giving of Christmas.

This year's holiday observances have been clouded by the fighting in Afghanistan and the worsening Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The date of the Eid feast is based on Hadith, authoritative traditions about Muhammad's practices. The prophet taught that the Eid comes the morning after the end of Ramadan has been confirmed by nighttime sighting of the new moon.

Many Islamic scholars insist that the only way to accurately follow Muhammad's instruction is to sight the crescent moon.

The final day of Ramadan has caused some confusion. The end could have come Friday, but a solar eclipse made viewing the moon an impossibility.

So, ``based on indisputable astronomical information'' the Fiqh Council of North America, a panel of jurists, and the Islamic Shura Council of North America, a coordinating body for four national Muslim organizations, selected Saturday, when the crescent moon should be visible in the southern United States, as the final day of Ramadan.