In Madina Zongo, Muslims and Christians live side by side. We share compounds, attend the same schools and look the other way when Ewes appropriate Waakye and Hausas do likewise to Gobe. The harmony we have is so deep seated, we celebrate each other’s festivals in one way or the other. When it is time for Eid ul Adha, Christians get invited for a bite at the sacrificial cow. Christians also call their Muslim neighbors to help them sacrifice their animals so the Muslim can deem it halal and fit for feasting.
As a child, I always wanted both of the Eid festivals to come after Christmas and Easter. That way, I could pay back any Kwame or Ernest who did not give me a slice of cake or a plate of jollof. There was a year in which my wish was met. Christmas came before Eid and all those who did not share with me were paid back in full. Vengeance was sweet as a child. But the following year, Eid came before Christmas. The next year the same happened and as the years passed by Eid ran further and further away from December 25th. I no longer had the last laugh on the neighborhood playground.
It was the scholar at my Makaranta (Islamic weekend school) who explained this seemingly anomaly. Muslims follow the lunar, not the Gregorian system. The start of a month depends on the sighting of the moon with each month consisting of either 29 or 30 days. This means there are fewer days on the Islamic calendar than the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the one currently in the year 2016 if this happens to be the first time you are hearing the word.
With the commencement of the fast predicated on the sighting of the moon comes the start of the Moon Wars. The month of fasting, Ramadan begins the day after the crescent is spotted. Islamic tradition teaches that once a person in good standing within the Muslim community sights the moon, fasting must commence the day after. It sounds all nice and dandy until the nuances of the Muslim community becomes apparent to you.
Islam is made up of a number of sects and the sub ideology the one sighting the moon belongs to informs others on whether or not to start the fast. When a Sufi in Kumasi sights the moon, chances are some Sunnis will question the truth in it. Nationality is also a factor here. I am yet to hear of the Saudis starting the fast when an African nation announces their sighting of the moon.
The Moon Wars, albeit not physical, have come to characterize the start and end of Ramadan every year. That happens to be the only time anyone ever cares about the moon. Thankfully we were saved from another bout of the Moon Wars this year. Everyone started fasting on the same day, even the group notorious for setting the date for the commencement of the fast weeks ahead of time.
We might have had some unanimity on when to start but you can wager your last penny that the end of Ramadan might not see such a luxury. After 29 days of fasting, some eyes see the moon everywhere and extending the fast to the 30th day becomes untenable.