Chairman Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneebur Rehman on Saturday announced the sighting of the moon for the month of Shawwal, saying Eidul Fitr will be celebrated across Pakistan on Sunday.
He made the announcement at a press conference after chairing a lengthy meeting of the committee held in Karachi.
Separate meetings of zonal Ruet committees were also held at their respective regional headquarters.
Rehman said the committee received multiple testimonies of moon-sighting including from Chaman, Pasni and various other places.
He added that the judgement of testimonies received from areas where the moon was expected to be sighted took "quite a lot of time".
The Ruet committee chairman said the moon sighted today was "very sensitive" and therefore the body had focused on the southern areas where it was expected to be spotted.
After the body deliberated upon the matter, it was decided that the crescent has been sighted and "Eidul Fitr will be celebrated tomorrow, May 24."
Speaking about the precautions that people should observe on Eid in view of the coronavirus pandemic, Rehman said the guidelines issued by medical experts should be followed because the virus can be transmitted due to close contact.
He recommended that people exchange verbal greetings after offering Eid prayers and avoid hugging or shaking hands.
Earlier in the day, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry had said that Eidul Fitr will be celebrated in the country tomorrow (Sunday), citing calculations made by his ministry.
Asked about the minister's announcement, Mufti Rehman said: "Fawad Chaudhry has no standing. We are bound to the shariat."
He added that Chaudhry "should not interfere in [matters of] religion" and demanded of the prime minister to stop him from doing so.
"He (Chaudhry) had said that we will send the first Pakistani to the moon by 2022; perhaps he should focus on that," he said, adding that the minister should also fulfil his pledge to carry out mass production and export of quality ventilators.
"But he should not target the religion due to some of his deprivations and disappointments."
Rehman said the committee "strongly condemns" Chaudhry for interfering in matters of religion. "Fawad Chaudhry should be bound to keep himself limited to his ministry," the mufti said, adding that due to some "unknown issues within the government", various members of the cabinet pursued their own directions.
Rehman also said deciding matters about Eid was the job of people "who fast, pray and can attest to the same publicly".
Fawad stresses use of technology
Addressing a news briefing in Islamabad earlier, Chaudhry said his ministry wanted to end the conflict over moon-sighting by relying on technology, adding that he rejected notions that technology should not be involved in moon-sighting.
"Islam is a religion of knowledge and intellect. Whoever says technology should not be involved in moon-sighting, we reject their perspective. When you wear glasses, this is also technology. How can you say if I see with glasses, it is halal but if I see through telescope, it is haram?" he questioned.
"[The government] is always trying to accommodate different religious groups which has resulted in empowering sectarian groups. We see that our state accommodates religious groups during the Eid conflict every year even though we should pay heed to the Constitution, law and human intelligence in some matters.
"Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, who heads Peshawar’s Qasim Khan Mosque, makes a different announcement, the Ruet-i-Hilal committee makes another, so we decided this year [that the science ministry] would use technology to determine when Eid should be celebrated."
He said the ministry of science and technology had formed a committee comprising members from the space technology department, mathematicians and officials from the meteorological department, which concluded that Eidul Fitr in Pakistan will be tomorrow. He added that the committee also took opinions of ulema into consideration.
Chaudhry said his ministry had identified eight areas across the country where the moon could be seen. Explaining further, he said there was a certain waiting period after sunset for the moon to be seen.
"Saudi Arabia declares that the moon has been sighted only if they can view it a minute after the sunsets. After conferring with experts, the first principle we decided upon was that the ministry would wait for the moon to appear 38 minutes after sunset.
"The height of the moon should be 6.5 degrees and the minimum angle at which the moon can be seen should be nine degrees."
He refuted the perception that the moon needed to be sighted to declare Eid. "This is not necessary as shown by teachings of Imam Hanbal and the religious scholar Javed Ahmed Ghamidi".
He added that his ministry had created a mobile application — The Ruet — through which people could see the position of the moon. He added that according to the app, after sunset on Saturday evening, the moon would be visible in Sanghar, Thatta and Badin areas of Sindh between 7:36 to 8:14pm.
Chaudhry said it would be the first time that Muslim countries all over the world would celebrate Eidul Fitr on the same day.
"A very interesting and important thing is happening this time [...] that the four big groups of Islamic countries, the Arab groups — Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Arab countries, Turkey, Iran and Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei will all celebrate Eid on May 24," he said.
"Pakistan should also celebrate Eid tomorrow," he said, adding that it was irrelevant whether the moon was sighted or not.
"The Met office says we won't be able to see the moon because of bad weather, that is irrelevant. Even Saudi Arabia has scrapped its Ruet committee because of the pandemic."
Chaudhry added that although Mufti Popalzai had declared Eid on Sunday, the moon would not be visible in the area today as well.
He said his ministry had forwarded its recommendations to the Prime Minister's Office and would follow whatever decision was taken.
'Decision on Eid to be taken by ulema'
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri said on Saturday that the decision on Eid would be taken by ulema.
In a statement, he said that the government and people of Pakistan would celebrate Eid according to the decision taken by the Ruet-i-Hilal committee.
Qadri added that Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry had also been included in the central committee this year.
He said "help of science and technology could be taken" but clarified that sharia relied on witnesses for moon-sighting.
Additional input by Javed Hussain.