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
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
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
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
e. In future mosques will have only mud walls and simple
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
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.