The Perpetual Moon Controversy

The moon-sighting controversy which has become a regular feature started in the early sixties when the people of Karachi celebrated two Eids. President Ayub Khan expressed surprise and said that people should know that the science of astronomy could accurately predict the appearance of the moon. However, the mullahs did not believe in astronomy because they thought it was an invention of the Christian West and for some years, the residents of Karachi used to observe Eid a day after the official Eid announced by the government. In a way, this was an expression of resentment against the unpopular president.

But for the past few years, for some strange reason the moon has always been sighted in the north of the country a day earlier than in the rest of Pakistan, although (as in the case this year) both SUPARCO and the MET Department ruled out the sighting of the moon throughout the country.

In fact, in 1973, when I was in Peshawar, people celebrated two Eid-al-Azhas (the date for which had been fixed ten days before), as some men from the mountains arrived the night before and announced that they had sighted the moon a day before the government did. And after what happened this year, it’s clear that the illiterate clerics in the NWFP would rather accept the evidence of unreliable villagers instead of scientific proof to the contrary. A pity, really, because the infidels have already reached the moon and are now planning visits to other planets like Mars.


10 thoughts on “The Perpetual Moon Controversy”

  1. @SL, there is no problem with consulting the Met dept. to determine when the Moon could be sighted. However the actual sighting must be done to comply with Allah’s law. The traditional alternate method as suggested by umm-ul-mu’mineen Ayesha’s (RA) hadith is to begin a month earlier by determining the previous month of Shabaan and keeping a count of its days.

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  2. The problem of disagreements arises from ignorance and not applying Islamic law arrived by Ijma (scholarly consensus) with Ijtihad (process of deriving law from the sources of Qur’an and Sunnah). Ijtihad cannot override the Qur’an and Sunnah. What I have stated in previous posts above are not my opinion, rather the stand of the scholars based on established sources. Let’s stick to the Qur’an and Sunnah brothers & sisters. I see such difficulties arising among the Ummah as alarm bells suggesting that the Ummah must get aware and turn to learning their religion including “Fiqh ul ikhtilaaf” (science/ laws/ etiquettes of difference in opinion).

    @Javed: JazakAllah khair for your sincere effort. However what you suggest has to be considered by scholars through the due process of Ijma with Ijtihad (of course without contradicting the Qur’an and Sunnah which are quite clear on the subject). Blogging on this subject to the common audience devoid of adequate knowledge would only create confusion and fitna (turmoil).

    Regarding the hadith that says “we are an illiterate nation”, the word used “Ummi” has multiple connotations in the Qur’an itself. The word ummi (unlettered or illiterate) comes from the same root as the word ummah (nation or common brotherhood). It refers to one who is not distinguished from the rest (by having ability to read or write). In other words ordinary or common or simple. Hence as Ibn Taymiyyah (Rahima-Allah-alaihee) has correctly alluded it should be understood as – we are a nation of simple methods devoid of complexity (where possible).

    Time and space are creations of Allah, in any case there is a gap of 12 hours, effectively half a day between time of people in opposite hemispheres, so you cannot wish Eid to a people across western longitudes, who might still be fasting while your country declares Eid at Sunset. It would help to check if it is Eid for people in another country while we phone call to wish.

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  3. The problem is actually the NWFP mullahs who are still living in the Stone Age. Even though the Met Department and SUPARCO announced that there was no chance of the moon being sighted anywhere in the country, the NWFP mullahs used the testimony of some unreliable people to announce the sighting of the moon. Remember, astronomy can predict the appearance of the moon as well as solar/lunar eclipses well in advance. As for Saudi Arabia, even before Pakistan became independent, the moon was always sighted there a day (sometimes two days) earlier than here. So the question of the government deliberately declaring Eid on the same day as Iran does not arise.

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  4. @Mohammed: The problem is that the Ulema have said they have sighted the moon. Allah SWT Alone knows the truth.

    Coincidentally, the government of Pakistan always announces Eid celebration a day later than the rest of the countries (especially the Middle East). It is well-known that the authorities in Pakistan have affiliated all Islamic events with Iran where holy days are always marked a day later.

    The Ulema say they sighted the crescent, the government wants the crescent to be larger in size…more visible…
    May Allah SWT guide us all, ameen.

    It is said that as the ruler/government decides, the country should follow…that is considered the best opinion among the scholars. This is a matter of perpetual differences in opinion.

    This is the best solution:

    “If someone sees the moon and his testimony is not accepted by the authorities that person should stop fasting (without making it a public issue) because of the Quranic verse, but his testimony is not binding on the community.”

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  5. Immediately after Iftar, many witnesses in NWFP came forward to say they had sighted the moon. Since only two witnesses are required, why did the NWFP mullahs and government delay the announcement of Eid until 11 p.m., and only after Saudi Arabia announced that the Shawwal moon had been sighted there? Was it because the mullahs were scared that if the moon was not sighted in Saudi Arabia, their credibility would be reduced to zero? isn’t it apparent that this whole drama is purely political?

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  6. The requirement of the witnesses is simple too – 2 witnesses who have never lied under oath (their witness is invalid for any legal case too). If the witnesses lie in the matter of the eid, it is between them and their lord, the community has met the requirement of the law. The responsibility of declaring Eid or Ramadan is on the wali al Amr or the ruler or the Muslim government. If someone sees the moon and his testimony is not accepted by the authorities that person should stop fasting (without making it a public issue) because of the Quranic verse, but his testimony is not binding on the community.

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  7. Islam makes this subject very simple, however uninformed people (including some so called ulama, who are not really aalims, at least certainly not on this subject) make it difficult.

    First it must be understood that law in Islam is determined through a process called ijma (scholarly consensus) and the basis or source of the law is the Qur’an (book revealed by Allah) and the authentic Sunnah (the words & practice of the prophet peace be upon him).

    The Qur’an states (translation):
    “… So whoever among you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadaan), he must observe sawm (fast) that month…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]

    “They ask you (O Muhammad) about the new moons. Say: these are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage…” [al-Baqarah 2:189]

    Moreover the prophet of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Fast when you see it [the new moon] and stop fasting when you see it, and if it is cloudy then complete the month with thirty days.”

    On this basis, not sighting the new moon at the time it rises on a clear or cloudy night requires completion of the month (of Sha’baan) with thirty days. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/100). The sighting of the moon is an obligation on the community; it is a sin on the community if none bother to see it.

    According to scholars it is permissible to use modern equipment to sight the moon e.g. using telescope or helicopters to view from higher altitude. However not sighting at all is violation of the law.

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  8. It appears that some mullah are supported to create havoc in the society. Government lacks will to tackle the issue where the solution is simple. We do not hesitate to bomb innocent people to establish so called authority but can not stop the mullahs to declare unislamic announcements.

    Mushrooming of media also plays important role in spreading this evil. A simple media blackout of such mullahs would solve the problem if anyone is interested to solve the issue.

    May Allah unite us and make us understand the true message (Ameen)

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