World Bulletin / News Desk
Mehmet Gormez said Muslims should not necessarily follow Saudi Arabia’s lead in determining the days of religious festivals such as Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday that follows the fasting month of Ramadan.
Referring to the Muslim world’s top sacred mosque in Mecca, he said: “The Kaaba is our qiblah [the direction of prayer], not a place for determining time. These times are determined by the [appearance of] new moon and the sky.”
In an exclusive interview he added: “The fact that the Kaaba, the Masjid Nabawi [Mosque of the Prophet] and the Hajj pilgrimage are administered by one country does not mean that we will change the laws and rules of Allah.
“Islam is a universal religion, which was revealed not to a particular geographical region but to the whole world and all of mankind.”
The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle so Ramadan ends with the appearance of the new moon, which also signals the beginning of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
Since the new moon does not always appear on the same day in different countries, disagreements occasionally arise over exactly when Eid should begin.
Most of the Arabic-speaking world follows Saudi Arabia's lead. This year, while Turkey and Muslims in the Balkans marked the first day of Eid on Tuesday, several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East -- and others such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Malaysia -- began Eid on Wednesday.