How to end the confusion about the sighting of the moon
By Muhammad Abd al-Hameed
Americans might have walked on the moon but our mullas have the will power to make it appear on the horizon whenever they want.
Every year, the mullas in NWFP manage to make the moon appear in parts of their province one day ahead of the rest of the country. At least in this matter, the NWFP alone enjoys full
provincial autonomy. In fact, its Provincial Assembly some time ago recommended the abolition of the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee so that the federal government ceases to have any
control over the moon.
The present NWFP government wants us to follow Saudi Arabia in sighting the moon. But they have a secretive method that they never disclose. We could as well allow a free for all for
sighting the moon.
During the MMA government, according to the then provincial minister for religious affairs, Amanulla Haqqani, 40 people in the province saw the Ramzan moon. This year also about 40 pious people claimed to have seen the moon. Is it a coincidence or a minimum required number for sighting the new moon? some mystery
It must be a very shy moon indeed that so few could see it out of millions of people living in the area. Perhaps it came down to earth in the guise of a moon-faced damsel (chand chehra), wrapped head to toe in a burqa. It knocked at the door of everyone of those 40 pious people (who met the religious standards for giving reliable evidence), lifted the veil to show its face for a few seconds and then moved on to the next door.
Why does the moon alone cause so much problem-and that too on the beginning and end of the Ramzan? Let us consider some related aspects to put the problem in proper perspective and find a way out:
a. The Holy Qur’an does want us to see the moon with our eyes but it also wants us to see the difference between white and black threads before ending our eating at sehri. If moon has to be sighted with our eyes, why watches should be used for ending sehri?
b. Iftar is to take place after the sun has set in. Do we go on the rooftops to see when the sun sets in actually?
c. The times for daytime prayers are also linked with the sun. There were no watches for the first 13 centuries of Islam. Why do we only now calculate the times for prayers by watches and no longer depend on the sun?
d. In Sri Lanka, there is a public holiday on the 14th of every moon because the date is of great religious significance to the majority community, the Buddhists. The Government calculates the 14th day of every lunar month and announces in advance the holidays for the whole year. No holiday has ever been on a wrong date. The two Eids are also national holidays in Lanka and the Government declares their dates at the beginning of every year. The Muslims in that country never have a Eid on a wrong date, however carefully they may look for the new moon.
e. It is possible to calculate precisely the date of a new moon a thousand years in advance. We can easily have the calculations for every lunar month from the beginning of the Hijri calendar to the next thousand years. Unless we do that, we can never use the Hijri calendar in place of the Christian one.
The alternatives. The government should ask the mullas a straight question: Do they reject the use of all modern technologies, including astronomical calculations for determining
the sighting of new moon? If they reply in the negative and prefer to go back to the early days of Islam, the Government may take several steps to deny them the use of all modern
a. The use of clocks and watches in their mosques will be banned. The mullas will calculate the prayer times as was done 14 centuries ago.
b. The loudspeakers will be removed from their mosques and their use will not be allowed even for azan. Let the muezzin climb up the minaret and use the full power of his vocal chords,
just as muezzans did until early part of the 20th century.
c. For deciding the end of sehri time, they will observe a white and a black thread until they are able to see the difference, as specified in the Holy Qur’an.
d. Only oil lamps will be used in mosques, as electricity will be disconnected.
e. In future mosques will have only mud walls and simple thatched roofs.
f. The mullas will go for Haj only on camels or horses, via Iran and Iraq.
If the mullas come to their senses and conclude that they cannot live without modern instruments and technologies, the Government may
a. disband all central and zonal Ruet-i-Hilal Committees.
b. issue a calendar in the beginning of every year, giving dates for the start of all lunar months.
c. make it an offence to make any public announcement about the appearance or non-appearance of the new moon.
If some mulla violates the law, he may be sent behind bars for whole of the lunar month for which he makes the announcement.
Then we shall see whether he hates modern technology so much that he prefers to see the moon only with his own eyes and does not mind, as we say in Urdu, seeing stars in daylight in jail.