Sunday, October 14, 2007

Should the Ru’eat-e Hilal Committee not be disbanded? It serves no purpose, other than making the nation poorer every time it meets, which is twice a year. The only beneficiaries are the mullahs, who revel in the importance of the occasions. This year, we are celebrating Eid on three different days, owing to the tendency of some people in the northern areas of the country to see the moon when it is not there.

If we wish to celebrate Eid on the same day throughout the country, the best course is to wait until the moon is sighted in Saudi Arabia. Since there is a two-hour time difference between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, we can delay the taravih prayers on the eve of Ramadan, and again wait for two hours when the Eid moon has to be sighted. Another option is to devise a lunar calendar for Pakistan, just as the Fatimids of Egypt did for Mecca a thousand years ago. This calendar, known as the Egyptian calendar, is being used by the Bohra community for many years now and I have observed that they invariably celebrate Eid on the same day as Saudi Arabia does.

The science of astronomy, which was mastered by the ancient Arabs, is very accurate in predicting the appearance of the moon, as well as solar and lunar eclipses. Why shouldn’t we ask astronomers to fix the date of the sighting of the moon beforehand? This is being done in many Islamic countries where there is no need for a committee to waste precious national wealth on meeting to sight the moon when science can tell you whether it can be sighted or not on a particular day.