Within a few hours, Eid in Uttar Pradesh got advanced by 24 hours, and the entire Muslim community was plunged into confusion.
On Monday evening, moon committees in Lucknow were unanimous that Eid would be celebrated on Wednesday. They changed their mind past midnight, and announced that the festival will be observed on Tuesday.
The position of the central moon committee on Monday evening was that the moon was not sighted, so Eid would be celebrated on October 25. Hours later, according to highly placed sources, under the pressure of Deoband, the panel did a U-turn. At 3 a.m., it announced that Tuesday was Eid day.
Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli, general secretary of the panel, defended the decision. He said confirmation about the moon sighting from some places in UP reached quite late, which was why the panel was forced to change the date. Rashid said he tried to contact the Shia clergy to apprise them of the changes but they were not available.
Significantly, the Barielvis did not celebrate Eid on Tuesday.
However, vice chairman of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and prominent Shia cleric Dr Kalbe Sadiq, said: "It was result of clash of ego among the Muslim clerics." Dr Sadiq had announced nearly a month ago that astronomically Eid moon would be sighted on October 24, which meant the festival would be observed the next day. This apparently did not go well with the traditional mullahas.
Dr Sadiq alleged that the clerics were not ready to accept changes. "Ulema ki aankhe der mein khulengi" (the eyes of the clerics will open late), he said.
Pointing out that it was easy to calculate the appearance of the moon scientifically, Dr Sadiq said traditionalists were unwilling to step into the computer age. He hoped the tradition of moon sighting would end when the community's new generation gets fully computer literate.
Since the last few years, Dr Sadiq has been making efforts to scientifically predict the Eid moon, so that the festival date could be announced at least a month in advance.
The Eid moon controversy took a violent turn as some people stormed the Juma Masjid and chased away the namazis who had assembled there to offer prayers. The police had to intervene to control the situation, as both sides came to blows in the mosque premises.
Those who disrupted the prayers said that since Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Javad had not announced the sighting of the moon, they would not allow prayers in the mosque.