The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has reached out to religious scholars for their opinion on whether it is acceptable to follow the Islamic calendar without physical sighting of the moon, officials of CII told DawnNewsTV on Tuesday.
Letters have been sent to Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia, Wafaqul Madaris al Sunnah, Wafaqul Madaris Al-Shia and Wafaqul Madaris Al-Salfia. Members of the CII will also be consulted on the matter.
The CII will call a meeting after Eidul Fitr to give its ruling on this issue that has sparked a debate between the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry. The ministry had asked for a ruling within five days but the CII deemed it impossible, saying that most members had gone for Umrah and would not be available in Ramazan.
Eidul Fitr's date will be announced by the Ruet-i-Hilal committee this year.
The moonsighting 'controversy' reared its head earlier this month when Chaudhry formed a committee of five experts from the ministry of science and technology, Meteorological Department and the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) to determine sighting of the moon for key Islamic dates and months scientifically.
The minister took the initiative after the National Assembly was informed that Rs3.06 million had been spent last year on the sighting of the crescent for Muharram, Ramazan, Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha. He had earlier been critical of the committee, saying that up to Rs4m was spent on the moon-sighting procedures every year and that it was time science and technology was utilised to end the controversy.
Chaudhry had questioned the wisdom of spending large sums of money on moon-sighting every year, saying the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee should do this task on a voluntary basis.
Last week, a letter from the ministry to the CII, a copy of which was obtained by DawnNewsTV, confirmed that the lunar calendar had been sent to the council to review.
"You are requested to accord your opinion in Islamic perspectives," read the letter, dated May 21. "If some clarification is required, a meeting of religious scholars and scientists may be convened, preferably within 5 days."
The announcement and comments of the minister had drawn a prompt reaction from Ruet-i-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman, who cautioned the former against commenting on religious matters and said the committee consulted experts while sighting the crescent.
Nevertheless on Sunday, the science and technology ministry launched the "first official" moonsighting website and a calendar showing main Islamic dates and months for the next five years based on scientific evidence. A mobile app is also being developed by the scientific committee.