Muslim Groups Can’t Agree on Idul Fitri Date

It seems Indonesian Muslims may not be able to celebrate Idul Fitri together, as the two largest Muslim organizations still differ on the official date to mark the holiday. Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, has confirmed Oct. 12 as the beginning of the holiday, while Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization, said it would wait until Oct. 11 to decide when the holiday should begin.

The dates were discussed Tuesday in a meeting between both organizations at NU’s headquarters, in Jakarta.

Muhammadiyah has based its decision on hisab; an astronomical calculation that has predicted the hilal, or new moon, will appear on Oct. 11. This means Idul Fitri will begin the following morning.

Meanwhile, NU has based its decision on rukyah, or the sighting of the new moon. If the hilal is not visible on Oct. 11, NU will announce that Idul Fitri begins on Oct. 13.

“We will hold a meeting on Oct. 11. If we can see the new moon then we can celebrate Idul Fitri together,” said Nasaruddin Umar, the general director for Islamic mass guidance.

Since NU uses a different approach to that of Muhammadiyah, the group is likely to celebrate Idul Fitri on a different date.

Indonesia is the only Muslim-majority country in the world that has set two different dates for the Idul Fitri holiday.

“In other Muslim countries, the governments have the authority to determine the date,” said Susiknan Azhari of Muhammadiyah.

In Indonesia, however, the situation is rather different, he said.

He added the NU and Muhammadiyah organizations existed before the Indonesian government, thus, to some extent they have authority over such a decision.

Both NU and Muhammadiyah have said they will try to minimize differences between the two in the future, especially in regard to deciding the beginning and end dates for Ramadhan.

The meeting highlighted the urgency for astronomy training for organization members.

The formulation of an Islamic calendar independent from the lunar system was also recommended in the meeting.

The government will announce the date for Idul Fitri after a meeting on Oct. 11, which will involve both Islamic organizations, said Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni.