"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Riaz
Full Name: Riaz Jafri
User since: 25/Jan/2008
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Moon Sighting


 Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)


Maulana Popalzai has done it once again and has given rise to the same controversy that we have been living with almost ever since the inception of Pakistan. That is, to start the month of Ramzan a day earlier than the rest of the country and consequently celebrate the Eid ul Fitr also a day or two earlier than the rest.  Ironically, it is such a simple problem to tackle if we make use of the modern science and technology which we are unfortunately prohibited by the clergy to make use of in matters of religion!


The whole problem arises out of our insistence on Shahada by the naked eye which to my mind in this space age when we can calculate precisely in nanoseconds and millimeters the movement of not only the earth but also of other heavenly bodies looks a little comical to find out whether the moon would be appearing on a given horizon or not on a given date and time!! Incidentally, the Hindus have been predicting the Lunar and Solar eclipses since eons and that too very accurately down to the seconds!!  The Muslim scholars, mathematicians, astronomers and astrologers also did not lag far behind and propounded many a geophysical and astronomical theory that holds good even today. I don’t know why then we can’t make use of the modern scientific means and technology in sighting the moon? One sees all the members of the Ruet e Hilal Committee trying to sight the moon through the binoculars from the highest building of Karachi. Does the sighting of the moon through t! he binos or for that matter even through the ordinary spectacles not conflict with the seeing of it through the Naked Eye Shahada concept?  If the moon could be sighted with the aid of modern and scientific glasses and binoculars then what comes in its way to spot it through a, say, Radio Telescope and see its full image on the computer screen? It will determine exactly its presence or otherwise in a most certain way on a given horizon at the given time.


As most Ulema do not see the moon themselves with the naked eye and depend upon the Shahadat of a few Saleh persons – oooops Saleh men only (no women --), then why must they (Ulema) be the only ones to announce its appearance or otherwise?  It is again a known fact that unfortunately our ulema do not easily accept the supremacy of one aalim over the other. If the ‘sighting’ is to be announced only then why can’t it be entrusted to some person of authority in the government who would not be controversial (sect or belief wise) as was the practice before Ayub Khan instituted the Ruet e Hilal Committee, probably to seek the favours of the clergy.   


My second point is, “Is it really necessary to announce the appearance of the moon?”  We all know whether it is the Ruet e Hilal Committee or some other authority the local cleric is going to have the final word. So let’s take a little closer look at the issue of the start or the end of the lunar month on different days in different regions of the world. Our poor Ulema are having sleepless nights in working out a formula to unify the entire Ummah on celebrating the event on the same day not only within a country but also all over the globe.  Firstly, it is geographically NOT possible to have the event on the same day all over the world.  There has got to be time difference at different longitudes of the globe. I need not go into the details. We all know that the earth rotates around its axis and completes one such rotation in nearly 24 hours (actually in 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0916 seconds). As such at any given time during its rotation hal! f of the globe is in darkness and the other half lighted with the sun. There is always a place on this earth where the sun is either rising or setting at ANY given moment and second. Then we have long and still longer days at or near the poles.  Not in the very far off future when the space travel will be as common as the jet travel is today, imagine what would one do when he/she is orbiting the earth every 20 minutes or so?  There will be a sun rise and sun set every twenty minutes !!!!!  To cut the long story short it is just not possible to have an event on the same day all over.  Half of the world would be having the night and not the day.  For them it has to be the next day. PERIOD.


Now, as the religious scholars seldom believe in the scientific facts and arguments, allow me please to give them an argument of their own to understand what I want to say.


Is it not a Hadith that if you arrive at a place where the people are celebrating Eid and you were fasting, you should also break your fast and celebrate the Eid with the locals?  (And the vice versa also).


If it is there, then my dear Ulema, work it out yourselves how far could these two places be from each other where the people at one place are fasting and the people at the other are having Eid on the SAME day.  Take all the probabilities into account.  What time the fasting man started journey from his place -  immediately after Sehri or after some time – how far after, a few minutes or a few hours?  What mode of transportation he used, horse, ass, camel etc.?  What time did he arrive at the place where people were having Eid  -  after a few hours at the most?   What could, therefore, be the distance between the two places, 10, 20, 30 miles?  Now if during the life time of the Holy Prophet (SAWAW) two places hardly 30 miles apart could have two different stances about an event – Eid – why can’t we have them also here in Pakistan? Why must everyone from Landi Kotal to Gwadar (1500 miles away) start th! eir fast or have the Eid on the same ONE day?  It was clearly NOT done so during the life time of the Holy Prophet (SAWAW), in the context of above Hadith?


So, my dear Ulema and Aalims, please, do not create complexities or complications for yourselves in practicing a very simple and most practicable religion of the world. No Qiamat would fall if KPK observes fast a day earlier than the rest of Pakistan, or, if all of Pakistan observes it one or even two days behind the Saudi Arabia!!!!

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